Big Obsidian Flow

Much of our trip to central Oregon had been shrouded in fog. I was finding this increasingly frustrating and disappointing, because I came specifically to see things and I couldn’t, and there was nothing I could do to change that.

The older I get, the more bittersweet my travels become. I know that it’s very likely that we will not pass this way again. The world is too big, and there’s just too much to see and entirely too little time. So this feeling of having spectacular view just beyond my reach made me want to have a good cry on some park ranger’s shoulder.

This emotion came to a head when we went to the Big Obsidian Flow, which covers about a square mile, and overlooks Lake Paulina. Volcanoes produce obsidian when there’s a high silica content to the lava and it cools quickly with little or no bubbles. What you get is a shiny black glass that produces a sharp edge and is ideal for making cutting tools.

When we got to the parking lot of the site, I got really excited because the map showed the walk was a relatively short one. I imagined climbing up over the rim and seeing a mile of smooth black glass sparkling in the sun, with a painfully blue lake below.

Instead, what we got was a beautiful, crumbly hillside, partially covered in snow, leading down to tiny Lost Lake, which was slate grey due to the cloud cover. And there was a path leading up over the rim, but the hand railings had been removed and the path was roped off due to weather. My expectations of seeing the Big Obsidian Flow shattered like glass.

I stood there, wanting to scream, because we were there, dammit, and my sister and brother-in-law, in particular, had traveled nearly 3000 miles to come here. I was tempted to step over the rope and climb the stairs without handrails anyway, to at least look over the rim. But a) there were other tourists milling about, b) I’m pathetically prone to following rules, and c) I don’t ever want to be one of those idiots that gets injured in a national park due to my own stupidity. I’ve never wanted to own a drone so badly in my life.

Instead, I contented myself with seeing a few really large black glass chunks, and reading some informational placards, knowing that this opportunity would come but once, and it just wasn’t going to happen. Maybe my white privileged butt needed to be reminded that there are some things you just don’t get to see in this life. Some things will remain just out of reach. Them’s the breaks.

And then I came home and looked it up on Youtube, and it turns out that over the rim I would have seen another, albeit larger, hill of broken rock, composed of only 10 percent obsidian. So yeah. Life goes on.

I still enjoyed the company of loved ones in a really unusual landscape, and will have memories to carry with me that will make me smile. When all’s said and done, my problems are pretty first world. I really do have it pretty darned good.

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?

An Adventure Fraught with Pangs of Conscience

I try really hard to live gently upon this earth. I recycle. I eat locally as much as I can. I don’t use fertilizer or Roundup on my lawn (and shame on you if you do!) I boycott the most environmentally abusive corporations. I feel guilty every time I use my car.

But the other day, I went snowmobiling for the first time ever. At age 54. And it was… FREAKING AWESOME!!!!

I’ll probably go straight to hell.

After being fitted with an XXL helmet to fit my XXL head, we went to Crystal Springs Sno-Park, and since it was a Monday, we had the entire place to ourselves. We went deep into the Cascade Mountains, crossing Stampede Pass and Meadow Pass, and skirting the edge of Lost Lake. It was a beautiful day for it. Clear blue skies, perfect snow conditions, and not terribly cold. Glorious.

We covered 37 miles. I got to see parts of Washington State that most people never get to see. One of the things I love most about living out here is the pure majesty of the landscape. Just a couple hours outside the cities, you are in one amazing natural setting or another. I want to explore every inch of this state.

I knew I’d love the views. And why does food taste so much better outdoors? I absolutely adored the peace and quiet when we stopped and gazed into the valley.

But, heaven help me, I also loved blasting along the straightaways, a rooster tail of snow behind me. The roar of the engine sounded like I was riding atop a chainsaw. Woo hoo! What a rush! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so powerful in my entire life.

But at the same time, I was thinking about the environmental impact I was making, and I was feeling kind of ashamed because of it. (Some company in Canada is working on creating electric snowmobiles. I hope they catch on.) I also didn’t see much wildlife at all in that gorgeous place which should have been crawling with it. I’m sure the noise agitates them. Making a creature run away in the dead of winter when every calorie counts is really an awful thing to do.

It’s really hard to have this kind of fun as a human being without also being utterly selfish. Lightning may strike me dead, but I have to admit I want to go again next year. In the meantime, I think I need to go plant about 150 trees.

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?