The final full day of our trip was mainly spent driving from Sunriver back to full fledged civilization on the western side of the Cascades. It's strange how you mentally adapt to a location and normalize it. For a week we were used to the arid high desert landscapes of central Oregon, mainly surrounded by pine trees, prairie grass, and long haul semi's. Rather than take the main highway from Sisters back to Eugene, we took the back roads, allowing more time to adapt to concepts, like traffic. Our first stop of the day was along the lava fields just outside of Sisters.
The viewpoints remind us once again that Oregon, cold as it is in winter, is a very volcanically active place. For me, normally I would associate volcanos with Hawaii, despite living through the Mount St. Helens blast during the 1980's. We stopped at a hiking trail when we saw a sign for the Pacific Crest Trail. It was our final opportunity of this adventure for a heroic picture along the trail. There, we built a couple rock statues at the trail sign. I doubt they're last more than a year, but perhaps a hiker or two will stop to notice them.
Further up the road (literally) was the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit of McKenzie Pass. This observatory was built entirely out of the local lava field rocks by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the great depression. In the central turret you can stand at the center of the room and look out little holes that have labelled openings for the various mountains surrounding the area. Unfortunately with 400 speed film I wasn't able to get a picture of the room - there just wasn't enough sun that day.
Also, at the top of the turret there is a compass from 1937 that points to the various mountains. Now that I look at the compass I can see that the road points west, but from the orientation of the lava fields it feels like south. Maybe it would have helped if we had more sunshine that day. Some crazy cyclists were defiantly biking up the road to the observatory in shorts in 40-something degree weather, which made us ask if they were from California (or somewhere they don't believe in layers).
After a brief stop in Eugene we headed to our final destination of the trip in Salem. Doug and Julie Zander hosted us for the night and Julie prepared a nice breakfast in the morning. Continuing my goal of trying to capture food pictures, we laid out the spread for a quick photography session in the morning. Julie is an old friend my mom's and I used to go cycling in Washington with Doug. We even did the Seattle to Portland bike ride together once. They recently moved back from Florida to Oregon after offloading their kids and missing the Pacific Northwest for many, many years. My mom insisted on getting pictures of them at the local park before we left.
People from other parts of the country, especially southern California, only talk about the rain when discussing the Pacific Northwest. They just don't understand. The Pacific Northwest is it's own very deliberate lifestyle and environment and that's the way people who live there want to keep it. It rains...which is OK. That's what creates the calm, natural beauty of the place. Just like in Sunriver, we learn to adapt to our environment.