Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument

The Other Half and I decided for our most recent anniversary to celebrate both our love of the outdoors and our relationship with a trip to knock something off the bucket list: seeing an active volcano.

Okay, no, there wasn’t lava bubbling and spewing forth from a cone, nor were there sacrificial rites or even a vaguely smoking shoe sole. As a matter of fact, the volcano in question hasn’t even erupted in the last 1300 years. Despite this, however, there remain enough hot springs and seismic activity for Newberry Volcano to maintain its label as an active volcano.

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Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a shield volcano with a variety of lava types,  including a large obsidian flow which dominates much of the surrounding landscape. The main caldera has a gentle slope to it which gently cups two lakes, East Lake and Paulina Lake. When we visited in early fall, very few people were enjoying the boating and dusty trails the lakes offer. We took advantage of the relative solitude by wandering the area, sharing the trail with only the local wildlife.

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Douglas squirrels, chipmunks, mule deer, and grey jays abounded in the lower forested areas, while the windswept switchbacks of the Crater Rim Trail were barren of all life except for a few brave locusts and the old faded hoofprints of past equestrian riders. Travelling up the steep trail to Paulina Peak (or, y’know, just driving up the road in your 4WD) gives a brilliant view of the surrounding countryside, highlighting the sheer number of cinder cones which have cropped up around the central volcano in the last several thousand years.

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Every little mound and hill travelling off into the distance is one of several hundred previous little eruptions venting from the tectonic activity of the surrounding Cascade Range. Even the inside of the main caldera has smaller cinder cones within:

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And of course, the water from the lakes has to drain somewhere from this highland area. Water flows from the lake and out over a falls from the edge of the caldera and into Paulina Creek. The falls is beautiful, especially when yellow-rumped warblers and American dippers flit through the area near sunset. Paulina falls does seem to be a bit over-advertised for the flow which actually comes over the falls, though the short walk along the creek is well worth it.

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Unfortunately for us, we discovered how afraid the dog is of owls when we set up camp at the Cinder Hill campground for the night. Rummaging creatures and the hoots of a large owl kept him, and therefore us, awake into the wee hours of the morning. Turns out he’s more of a car-camping kind of dog: he settled right in once we gave him access to the back seat.

Well, I guess you can’t win them all.

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