Saturday, August 31, 2013

McKenzie-Santiam Scenic Byway- Central Oregon

This past week John and I drove south through central Oregon.  It was a two day trip that we took in our tow car and which necessitated us to spend one night in Bend, Oregon.  Initially we drove through very dense forests Douglas firs, cedar and hemlock.  Being a fairly wet area, there are also many ferns which dot the roadside.  This is the western side of the Cascades, which receives about 40-100 inches of rain a year.
We climbed Santiam Pass and found ourselves looking at a very different landscape.  This is the eastern side of the Cascades, which receives 10-25 inches of precipitation a year.  Here the land is covered by sagebrush, Western juniper and bunchgrass.  We stopped in the small town of Three Sisters, which was named after the three mountains above.  Middle and North Sisters are on the right, and the South Sister sits off to the left of them.  They were originally called Faith, Hope and Charity by Methodist missionaries in the 1840s.  In Bend Oregon we found a place to stay for the night and then proceeded to the popular scenic viewpoint of the town, which is Pilot Butte.  The high hill is a cinder cone volcano.  Every hill or mountain of the Cascades rests upon ancient eroded peaks.  From the top of the butte we could see the Three Sisters again, as well as other mountains in the Cascade mountain range.  Pictured below are the Blue Mountains of Oregon, which are in the northeastern corner of the state. In the foreground is the town of Bend.
That evening, in Bend, we saw the movie The Butler, which I was anxious to see it before it left the theaters.  The movie did a fairly good job recounting the history of our nation from the 1950s to the present time, but it does have its shortcomings in telling that history through the life story of a White House butler.  The next day, the second day of our trip, we drove out of Bend to the High Desert Museum.  The museum has indoor and outdoor exhibits exploring the culture, history and wildlife of the area.  We got there in time for the feeding of river otters by a docent.  After their meal the otters climbed onto the banks and lolled around, very happily sated from their meal of fish.  We spent the rest of our day touring the Newberry Caldera, more on that in my next posting.

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