Volcanoes are both scary and fascinating. The thought of being near an exploding volcano is frightening, but as I stood on the floor of Newberry Caldera last week and thought about how this very large caldera was produced as a result of a volcanic eruption 75,000 years ago, my mind was blown away!
Newberry Caldera, in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, is located on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains in the Deschutes National Forest of Oregon and encompasses 54,822 acres. When Newberry Volcano exploded, the violent eruption produced two lakes - East Lake, pictured above, and Paulina Lake which is about one mile west of East Lake. Newberry Volcano is, to this day, an active volcano with both seismic and geothermal activity!
Last week our family took great pleasure in escaping city life for a three day camping adventure in this captivating environment. For three days and two nights, we basked in warm sunshine and breathed clean dry air, surrounded by volcanic mountains, a variety of tall conifer trees, clear cool water and a fair amount of wildlife such as birds, mule deer, ground squirrels and chipmunks.
Our campsite was situated amongst many pine trees and located near the shore of East Lake, in the Cinder Hill Campground. There's about one hundred yards between the camp and the lake, with willow bushes, tall grasses and sandy soil between the two. Of particular interest are the red, white, and black 'cinder bombs', or volcanic pumice rocks, that litter the floor of the caldera:
The campsite had ample room for our three tents and included a large picnic table where we set up the campstove. (That's Jim tending the stove.) There was also a fire pit which we used during the evenings for light, warmth and cooking.
There were also some very simple meals:
On our one full day in this beautiful wonderland, relaxing and exploring were on the agenda. Audrey relaxed in the sun with a favorite book on the shore of East Lake and took occasional cooling dips in the calm water. Takeo explored the variety of interesting rocks that lay within the waters edge.
A hike was also a priority and Takeo, Jim and I did just that. We headed straight up the hill from the lake and found an animal trail to follow. We saw ancient volcanic rock formations, skeletal-like dead pine trees, and many new pine trees bursting with cones.
It was a great pleasure to be able to sit quietly on the mountainside, soak up the magnificent view, and breathe in the fresh pine scent. To listen, watch, and observe. As I sat watching a flock of Clark's Nutcrackers flitting in and out of a snag (dead tree), communicating through call and response, I thought to myself: these are the moments to live for.
As is characteristic of all of the National Parks we've visited here in the Western United States, one of Newberry Volcanic Monument's primary missions is its focus on recreation, and that is exactly why our family made the trip. Of course we all understand recreation to mean something we do for fun and is not work. But recreation also refers to a mental or spiritual consolation, or a source of comfort. On each of the two nights we camped, I lay in our tent, looking out its screened window at the silhouette of the trees against the sky at dusk, listening to the quiet stillness of the forest as the last of the evening light faded into darkness. That view and the tranquility of that moment came home with me and still resides in my mind's eye.
"Keep close to Nature's heart. Break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."