Going to No-Man’s-Land – Day 2

glassbutte

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Carl Sagan

 4 September. Day 2. A biggie. Lots of driving. Hit a lot of the sites at Paulina Lake. Then headed deep into the outback. I’m spending the night at the base of Glass Butte. I’ll have to see how far I fair in the morning as far as rock hounding goes. At this point i’m ready to drive straight to Hart Mt. for some hot springs action. I’ll probably have to hit a store to get an axe. Maybe drive into Burns. Or maybe not. So deliciously quiet out here. If I can get up and get going early I can make it to Hart before noon and just chill the fuck out. I think that’s super important for the next couple days. Sun will be going down soon and I should get things tended to. Last night I drank way too much wine for the altitude and was kinda hurpy all night so I wanna give plenty of time to digest tonight.
Road to Paulina Peak.
Road to Paulina Peak
Big Newberry Flow.
Big Newberry Flow.
Obsidian & pumice.
Obsidian & pumice.
Hill o Glass.
Hill o Glass.

Woke up early in the morning, packed up the car and headed immediately to Big Obsidian Flow just down the road from the campground. It’s a fairly short hike up the flow, and my geology nerd was about to come out big time. Marvelous magical morning sunshine glimmering across the face of the flow – impossible to capture with my camera. The place was dead quiet in the crisp morning air, only 3 people on the flow.  Impossible to imagine yourself standing on top of 1.1 square miles of glass until you’re there completely surrounded in dark black obsidian and swirly gray masses of pumice.

Paulina Lake from Paulina Peak, 7984 ft.
Paulina Lake from Paulina Peak, 7984 ft.
Big Obsidian Flow from Atop Paulina Peak.
Big Obsidian Flow from Atop Paulina Peak.
Central Cascades from Paulina Peak. I see volcanoes!
Central Cascades from Paulina Peak. I see volcanoes!

Drove up to Paulina Peak on a whim passing a couple mountain bikers along the way. Bet that was a fun ride down. The road is steep and curvy. One of those “Pavement ends here” kinda roads where the adventure begins. The view at the top is incredible. You can see most of the central cascade volcanoes, but the most impressive sight is the concentric pressure ridges on top of the Big Obsidian flow. Imagine that huge block of molten glass moving across the land, and it only erupted around 1300 years ago.

Paulina Falls.
Paulina Falls.
Hole in the ground. A maar.
Hole in the ground. A maar.

Took the short quarter mile hike down to Paulina Creek Falls before heading out of the caldera. Beautiful falls that refused to be photographed well in the available light. The next stop was Hole in the Ground (very no-nonsense naming round here), a mile wide maar in the middle of nowhere. I made a PBJ and ate lunch while watching tiny lizards skittering through the sand from one sagebrush patch to the next. This would be a great place to camp overnight, and do a hike across or around the hole.

Lonely Fort Rock.
Lonely Fort Rock.
Fort Rock.
Fort Rock.
Fort Rock lunarscape.
Fort Rock lunarscape.
Fort Rock - a tuff ring. People used to live in caves inside the "fort".
Fort Rock – a tuff ring. People used to live in caves inside the “fort”.

One of the first things you see when travelling east towards Christmas Valley is Fort Rock, an impressive tuff ring that stands as sentinel above the otherwise flat basin. A trail to the interior of the ring leads you into a landscape resembling Mars. Apparently humans occupied caves within the ring ~10,000 years ago. Now the red walls are stained with white bird poop.

Crack in the ground. I wanted to hike the whole thing, but didn't have time or energy.
Crack in the ground. I wanted to hike the whole thing, but didn’t have time or energy.
Crack in the ground from above.
Crack in the ground from above.

The last stop in Christmas Valley was at Crack in the Ground. No-nonsense naming to the rescue once again. I only had a chance to explore a tiny bit of this three mile fissure, definitely need to come back and hike the whole thing. The trail through the crack provides a quiet and cool place to hike in the high desert sun. I had about 30-40 miles of lonely gravel road north from crack in the ground. Passed the free Green Mountain Campground – definitely on my to-camp list and had my first encounter with a skittish calf. The adult cows along the open range roads are generally pretty docile, the calves however stare you down and then go crazy spontaneously. It’s better to just stop and proceed very slowly until you’re sure what they are going to do.

Lonely road to Glass Butte.
Lonely road to Glass Butte.
Knappers camp on Glass Butte.
Knappers camp on Glass Butte.
The bone tree at the knappers camp on Glass Butte.
The bone tree at the knappers camp on Glass Butte.

After a final 6 mile drive down a true “adventure road” I ended up at a knappers camp at the base of Glass Butte about an hour before sunset. Only a few miles south of Highway 20 as the crow flies, it felt really out there. I dug around the piles of obsidian around the camp for a while, finding a few pieces with gold flecks and red swirls. I’ll have to come back to really rock hound the area, the choice pieces on the ground are long gone. Ended the eve watching the sun set over the valley, the number of cars and trucks dwindling as the hour passed, the light changing from golden to pink to purples across the desert hills. Had I made a mistake coming way out here by myself? It’s one thing to travel solo spending nights in the relative safety of campgrounds, and quite another to be miles away from anyone. Sometimes you have to give in to the impulse to push yourself outside your comfort zone and see where it takes you.

– Up next, part 3.