i woke up monday morning about 25 minutes after i would normally have to be at work. this feeling was awesome. i had skipped most of the features of the Newberry Caldera the day before in hopes of finding a campsite with a water view. mission accomplished, plus all the good stuff saved for the next day. delayed gratification isn’t usually my thing, but it worked this time…

my first stop was BIG OBSIDIAN FLOW: this consisted of a 3/4 mile loop trail through an alien landscape of volcanic rocks. it was not uncommon to pass rocks the size of a small datsun coupe.

it was lovely and strange to see the contrast between the adamant shine of obsidian and the downy pitted surface of the pumice. down in the crater there were no recognizable signs of life, only hard surfaces and jagged thrusting edges against the grey sky.

at the peak of the trail i could see 2 lakes, the caldera in all its glory, and the track the obsidian flow had taken when it burned its way over the landscape 937 million years ago. once again, signs telling me not to take anything away made my fingers itch.

after this brief hike i was ready for something a little more ambitious, in a manner of speaking. it was time for Paulina Peak: Klaus Goes Offroad i didn’t realize when i started up the 4 mile trail up to the summit that the vast majority of it would be gravel and graded to keep people like me from roaring up the hill at 35 mph. i tried, but the teeth rattling was too much for me. this was Klaus’ first trip of any length down an unpaved road. he took it like a champ, although it was a little nerve wracking at times.

also rather unsettling; the utter dearth of anything decent on the radio. for whatever reason this peak allowed me to recieve no less than 25 different radio stations, which would normally be AWESOME… however, my seek button usually yielded the following:

  • “The lord, he WANTS you to underSTAND (seek)
  • “Come on down to the LARGEST TRACTOR PULL IN (seek)
  • i lift up my life to the (seek)
  • when we come together to praise (seek)
  • “It’s the 1968 class reunion weekend! Another Beach Boys classic! (seek)
  • “What most people overlook is that submitting to the wisdom of Jesus (seek)
  • garbledelectioncoveragewhichiswhatiwanttohearwhenitcomesinclearlywhichitmostlydoesnt (seek)
  • “Come on down to the prayer meeting in LaPine (seek)
  • you know i live for loving my pickuptruck (seek)
  • and Jesus touches meeeeee (seek)

etc. blech.

also a source of some consternation was the realization that this rather tough climb was unlikely to reveal much in terms of a vista since the clouds were hanging so low around the peak as to obscure a view of anything other than said clouds. sigh. plus, it was ass fucking cold up there. had my hat AND mitteys on. no joke, yo.

trucking back down the hill was slightly less jarring, though just as scary as other intrepid peak seekers were wending their way up as i wound down. yipes.

next stop on my list was the Paulina Waterfall. the guide described the waterfall as “Stunning and only a short walk from the parking lot!” they really know how to sell a scenic viewpoint down on the caldera.

to be fair though, it was really lovely. and it was only a very brief stroll down to the falls. i almost felt guilty at the lack of exertion required of me for all of this scenery. wandering around a bit, i found another slightly longer trail leading down to the pool of the falls. in an effort to feel like i’d earned some of this beauty, i RAN full tilt all the way back up the hill. i almost passed out. guilt assuaged.

having exhausted myself and all of the scenic opportunities the Newberry Caldera had to offer, i got on the road again. the road, in this case, was the “Oregon Outback Scenic Byway” ooh. i had high hopes for this drive. although, to be honest, at first, it was about the least scenic driving i’d been doing thusfar. lots of lodgepole pine and red clay soil. meh.

i didn’t really have much of an agenda this day. my camping plans were in flux as it was becoming clear that nothing was taking as long as i thought it would and i was even further ahead of schedule than before. i was beginning to rethink my plan to camp for two more days. funding resources were also becoming a concern. doing math in my head i began to realize that if i followed the route the i had originally planned down through the Lassen Volcanic National Monument (more volcanoes!) i would not have enough gas money to make it home. herm… all the road signs i was seeing along the scenic byway were happy to tell me it was less than 200 miles to Reno. so i made a command decision (sounds so much more forceful than a whim…) to camp one more night and then drive straight to Reno, stay Tuesday night, enjoy the show on Wednesday and then drive home through the night. ok then.

perusing my map, i noticed a short detour from the scenic highway would lead me out to Fort Rock. i had no idea what the hell Fort Rock was, but i was curious enough to go 12 miles out of my way…

sort of amusingly, this ended up being one of the best stops i made. i climbed over every surface, ridge,  and outcropping. i wandered and poked, took 9 million pictures. was scolded by the ravens when i perched myself too close to their aerie. i contemplated the distance. sat buffeted by the wind. inspected the rocks and the lichen growing upon them.

i enjoyed pretending i was climbing something, even though, really, it was mostly walking with intermittent scrambling. rock climbers are hard core. i am fundamentally not. it was fun to pretend to be hard core for a minute.

i was, by this point, missing the pleasures of plumbing in my life. taking a sink bath at the state park just doesn’t cut it. but on the map… just a few more hours up the road, was the Summer Lake Hot Springs! Hells Yeah.

oh, to shower. oh, to immerse oneself in steaming water up to the chin.  to float around naked while staring out at the deep blue sky through the open rafters. to listen to the amusing banter between the retiree and the burning man attendees in the bath. oh these things, all of them good.

it seemed to me then, that i had not had enough of the company of my fellow man. after 3 days pretty much all on my own, i was feeling suddenly gregarious. coming into Lakeview i had a hankering for pub grub and a conversation. thus: The Eagles Nest.

this place was awesome and terrifying in a special and wonderful way. they didn’t have Heineken. just too upmarket for this place… so i went with the brew from the land of sky blue waters instead. Hamm’s, the beer refreshing. every person in the place seemed to fit some mold; the middle-aged waitress, unfettered breasts swaying when she walked, whistling through the space where her tooth used to be. the large bearded man who said to me “i run a body shop, so i know a body that’s looking like it should” (rim shot). the array of young thick-necked behatted men who all clearly wanted to say something equally provocative and just as charming, but who couldn’t get around Bubba the Body Shop owner to talk to me. they complained about it as i was leaving…

a bit at loose ends now, i had no idea where i’d camp that night. looking at my map (which ended abruptly at the Oregon border) i saw an icon for camping at Goose Lake. seemed promising. kept with my theme of having a water view each night… however, when i investigated, the campground had the ambiance of a parking lot and no water in sight. boo. so, i struck out on the highway again and decided to see what i might stumble across.

after i stumbled across the border i found myself in the Modoc National Forest. and signs tell me that six short miles away i can find the Cave Lake Campground. this, i think, sounds promising. and so Klaus and i once again, venture off road. when i finally made it up to the site, it seemed well worth the long slow crawl up the forest service road. the place was utterly deserted. lovely, down in a small vale surrounded by cliffs and trees. it was time for a campfire.

and how! after all the firewood i packed, and not enough chance to use it, i decided to go all out and have a rager. the flames were higher than my head for a bit. then i decided it was time to ease off and bring it back down to marshmellow roasting size (though i would never actually roast a marshmellow because they are gro-ess) and sit beside it with livingston awhile. as i sat there watching the sun fade and the stars come out i was struck by how lovely it was to be there all by myself, with nothing but my voice for company. and then it occurred to me this was the perfect opportunity to take naked pictures!

so that killed the last of the daylight.

then it was time to turn in. and suddenly i was TOTALLY FUCKING TERRIFIED OF BEING SO FAR OUT IN THE WOODS ALL BY MYSELF. seriously. i gave myself the hoo-doos. hard. here is a sample of my internal dialouge:

i mean i KNOW that i’m six miles from the road and no one knows i’m up here so why would i think someone was up here to bother me but i’m SIX MILES from the road and if someone does decide to attack and/or mutilate me i am SIX MILES from any possible help


unfortunately, logic was not effective in this moment. the primal need to defend myself from the encroaching forest and its possibly imaginary inhabitants was utterly undeniable. playing with my nintendo only managed to distract me for about 45 minutes. frantically, i began casting around mentally for some way to defend myself from the encroaching forest and its possibly imaginary inhabitants. lo! in the console between the seats, the most useful and wonderful item i could ever hope to find in the console between the seats: my Leatherman® multi-plier tool. awwww yeah. mess with me i’ll stab your eye out with my PLIERS!! bitch! and so, clutching my multi-tool in my triumphant fist, i slept.

thus ended the most wonderfullest vacation day i had ever had.

NEXT: The Biggest Little City in the World