Research & Discovery


There is a lot of jagged, very striking rock in Central Oregon. A lot of volcanos in the distance, white-capped with snow, and boatloads of buttes. Last week RK was here delivering bikes and plants and we walked around a bit in the Ochocos (stay tuned for more visits to the Ochocos!!), a small mountain range that is not volcanic. But mostly there is a lot of lava.

I’m still working on my internal compass. It’s hard to find trails that go up. I keep getting scolded for trying to pump my own gas. I leave things on the hot electric stove and walk away. Marmots sunbathe on the city sidewalk. My new physical therapist told me I should stretch 3 times a day and go fishing (old PT was a tad more conservative). He is, however, also wary of me getting back on the mountain bike too soon.

Saturday, I did my longest trail run since shoulder surgery, at 8.1 miles. It was flat and “shoulder friendly,” but it felt great to get out of the small canyon near my house and get disoriented in the junipers and lava rocks. I even had the opportunity to give bad directions to a lost trail runner! Sorry guy! I’m still learning how to navigate trails with mysterious signage, small rocky sections, and mossy junipers as visual cues.

Mountain biking at Maston
I know it look like I am mountain biking at Maston....

Yesterday, I went to the top of Paulina Peak (pronounced Paul-eye-na, according to the USFS intern in the parking area). Paulina, by the way, was a Northern Paiute warrior who was apparently fairly badass in his defense of native land until a white settler managed to track him down and kill him. Paulina Peak is the high point of Newberry Volcanic National Monument (Newberry was a geologist who never actually went to the volcano). I hiked from Paulina Lake to Paulina Peak. The trail is legitimately steep and sparing with switchbacks, but a fairly straightforward jaunt through the pine forest. The views, though! Lots of them — lakes, obsidian flows, craters, volcanos! My recommendation to you is to stop half a mile below the summit, just where you can see the wooden fence of the parking area at the top. The views are almost as awesome, and you won’t have your steep-hike-buzz killed by bossy man voice, crying children and the choking sound of purse dogs pulling on their leashes.

Back at the lake I walked knee-deep into the very cold lake to cool my feet and admired the ducks and the aqua blue water that filled the crater, apparently 249 feet deep!

Emma the dog in the Ochoco mountains
Emma in the Ochoco Mountains

I am making decisions now based on intuition and innocence. For the weekend’s adventure should I go south? North? West? I have very little information to inform my choices, would rather go than research on the internet. One of these days I will find my groove and inevitably feel at home, but for now, I am a wide-eyed newbie. Cross your fingers and let’s hope there will be fishing tales to be told by the end of June.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA