News from August 2007

Waldo Lake

Occurred August 04, 2007 (Permalink)

Originally, my hiker friends and I had planned to take an extended backpacking trip through the Wallowa mountains this weekend. That fell apart when people couldn't get vacation time, so we went to Waldo Lake in the south of Oregon to car camp instead. Waldo Lake is about 75 miles southeast of Eugene way up in the mountains around 6,400 feet. The lake, being that high up, is fed by a spring and has just one outflow, which means that it is ultraoligotropic-- very few creatures living in the water. I arrived with Eliza just before sundown on Friday after dining at the local redneck burger joint and had just enough time to throw down a tent before I couldn't see anymore. Saturday, Dave pulled out the canoe and kayaks that he'd brought down and we took turns paddling around the lake. Because there's nothing growing in the water, it is extremely blue and clear--one can see at least 100 feet down! When night came a few of us went out with a star chart to have a look at the skies and spy constellations.

Google Maps Mashups

Occurred August 20, 2007 (Permalink)

Since I'm supposed to be a Web 2.0 "expert" (Pah!) at work, I decided to try my hand at creating my own Google Maps mashup with this site. Preliminary results are now available--any page where you see a "Map This!" button in the navigation bar has been tagged with map coordinates that will show up as markers in a GMap. For now, the only markers available point to the photo albums, though I'd like to do a similar thing for the blog. Also note that not a whole lot has been tagged at this point. See for yourself! (offsite)

Exploring Lava Tubes Around Bend

Occurred August 26, 2007 (Permalink)
Sinkhole Entrance
Sinkhole Entrance

Jeff, Jonathon and I piled into my car with a bunch of climbing gear and went southeast out of Portland towards Bend. The idea: scout out and explore a bunch of caves that I'd read about in a book at the Multnomah county library! Because of the Newberry volcano's various eruptions, there are some 15,000 lava tubes in Deschutes county alone; that seemed to make it likely that we'd find some hole in the ground to climb through. After a late start on Saturday, we got to Bend around 20:00, ate a quick dinner, then set out on the oddly named China Hat Road into the wild unknown. Given that the sun had already set, it was indeed very much unknown!

After rolling around on dirt roads for quite some time, we finally settled on a road that was marked "CLOSED". There was a short dirt road and a bunch of boulders blocking the road; a brief and blind search through the sand later, Jonathon had the brilliant idea to keep following the road to see if it led to a cave. Sure enough, it did!

There is a grate covering the entrance to Wind Cave, but there was a very narrow section where one of the slats had been taken out--enough space to slide a thin person though! Whether this meant the cave was open (or merely broken) wasn't clear, but in we went anyway. Aside from the heavy concentrations of broken beer bottles near the entrance, the cave had some cool features--enormous caverns, a healthy concentration of bats, and a skylight a few hundred yards in that let us peer upwards at the nighttime sky. However, that was the most interesting part of the cave--until the end, it was pretty much an unending line of rocks to scramble over. It's interesting for the first twenty minutes and monotonous for the remaining two hours.

End of Wind Cave
End of Wind Cave

At the end was some rather intriguing stuff--someone had painted a large skull onto a rock, and there was a blue glow stick wedged up on the top of the rock wall. We took some pictures, scrambled out of the cave, and talked to some of the locals who'd come out with a pickup truck and were drinking out in the desert, who told us where there were more tubes. Because it was 2:00, we drove a ways away and set up camp under a tree.

(Later) Sunday morning, the three of us set out to explore some of the other caves in the area. We found Arnold Ice Cave, but (as the name implies) it has completely filled with ice! There were a few other sinkholes that lead to some impressive cracks in the ground (some with trees in them) and amphitheater-like areas, but we didn't find caves. At that point we decided to get back on the road and head south to the Lava River Cave.

Lava River Cave
Lava River Cave

The Lava River Cave is just like all the other lava tubes in the area, only this one has the distinct advantage of having staircases as well as a floor that is relatively free of big rocks. It starts a few hundred feet east of US-97 and heads westward into the hills. Quite a lot of sand has leeched in through the cracks in the ceiling over the centuries, leaving the floor flat. At some point in the past a lava flow went over the original lava tube, resulting in what the signs call a "tube in a tube"--one can stand at the bottom and look up at the collapsed ceiling of one tube straight into another above it.

Playing with Lights
Playing with Lights

Further on in the cave is a giant sandy trench. In the 1930s a couple of guys tried to dig some of the sand out of the cave, but the sheer volume of sand and the 5,000 foot length of the cave made _removing_ the sand difficult. As the cave ceiling dove to meet the sand, I crawled another 1,000 feet to the end and took some blurry photos; to feed our artistic tendencies we pulled Jonathon's LED bike lights out and danced around the cave taking long exposures. Since the cave is almost totally dark, the bike lights made quite an impression! After that we drove back to Portland via Detroit Lake, which turned out to be a good time to do it, because a big fire would start a few days later.

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