Friday, May 22, 2015

badlands rock -- yeah, man

Mark this date on the calendar.

The Cotton boys went on a road trip and actually treated it is a traditional road trip -- complete with stops and new experiences.  See the sign at the top of this essay?  Both of us have driven past it multiple times.  On Wednesday, we stopped to read it.

That is remarkable for two guys who treat driving as a way to get from point A to point Z.  Usually, it does not matter what the alphabetical treasure trove in between might offer, we stop only at point Z.

Not on Wednesday.  We actually drove and stopped and drove and stopped and -- well, we made two stops.

Other than the sign, we decided to take a hike through the Oregon Badlands Wilderness east of Bend.  The "wilderness" designation is new.  2009, to be exact.

But the "badlands" designation is much older.  The area's origin is volcanic.  What appears to be sand is eroded lava and ash.

I wish I could say the area is beautiful.  It isn't.  It is rather stark.  Volcanic rock formations.  Juniper.  Lots of sagebrush.  It looks a lot like the desert that stretches from The Dalles in the north to Klamath Falls in the south.  It is also easy to see why the homestead on this land failed.

Darrel and I decided to tackle a 6-mile round trip hike that would take us near the middle of the wilderness.  Badlands rock (which sounds like some sort of teen energy drink) was our destination.

Neither of us had read up on the rock formations.  So, we had no idea what we were expecting to see -- nor did we have any idea how we would know we had arrived.

But there was plenty to see on our hike in and out.

Juniper is the bane of farmers.  As far as they are concerned, it is a weed that sucks all of the water out of the ground, leaving the cattle little to graze.

However, they are a photographer's dream.  I have always imagined the twisted shapes of Juniper trunks to be evidence of trees that long ago escaped from Fangorn's dark recesses.

Some of them may even have been wizards during some ancient era.

The lava, though, presented just as many shots.  The day was overcast.  And that was great for hiking.  But it rather flattened most of my images.

With that caveat, I bet you can still spot the humpback whale in this swirl lava formation.

We were a bit concerned that we were going to be caught in a rainstorm at the far end of the hike.  The clouds certainly promised a bit of rain.

This time of year, Bend usually has clear skies.  While I have been here, the weather seems far more like the Willamette Valley rather than central Oregon.

I am not complaining.  Rain, mist, and cool temperatures are perfect for me.  I have worn shorts and sandals most days.

It turns out it is perfect weather for the desert, as well.  The sagebrush is putting out new growth.  The wild flowers are in bloom.  The sparse grasses are struggling to seed.  The mosses have sopped up rain water.  It is probably the prettiest stage of the desert.

But, as you can see, the beauty is rather stark.  No amber waves of grain here.  Even though we could spot the purple mountain majesties in the distance.

When we finally arrived at Badlands Rock, we experienced one of those anticlimactic moments.  That's it?

Until we climbed its heights.  Like most volcanic formations, the rocks themselves are impressive.

But it is the view through the rocks that makes the climb worth it.

I was not certain if we were up to a 6-mile desert hike.  It turns out that we made it with no trouble.  Even though we have both sought out warm bags to sooth our muscles.

This may have been one of our best road trips ever.

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