On my recent writing retreat in Bend, Oregon, I spent part of one afternoon driving the Cascade Lakes Byway, proclaimed (by whom?) to be one of the top ten scenic byways in the U.S. I would have to agree that it’s in my own personal top ten — but have I even been on more than ten scenic byways? It’s hard to say.
The drive starts out with Mount Bachelor, majestic and spectacular in all its snow-covered glory. I don’t know why it is that snow-covered peaks are majestic, whereas rocky ones are rugged and jungle-covered ones are lush, but that’s just the way it is — there is no other word for the Cascades but majestic.
Now, I read before going on the drive that just around the bend from Mount Bachelor I would pass a lake with a perfect reflection of Mount Bachelor that rivals that first glimpse of the mountain in its majesty. I cannot attest to the veracity of this claim, however, having made my drive in the middle of June, when many of the lakes on the north end of the byway are still covered in snow.
I’m sure the drive would be all the more breath-taking later in summer when these lakes are no longer frozen, but this Texas girl is still impressed with vast expanses of snow that locals to this area might not find all that interesting. It was such a treat to me to drive along a road with plowed snow packed to within a couple feet of my lane.
Elk Lake was the first of the lakes I came to that wasn’t covered in snow or frozen. The views of the mountains weren’t as stunning as I would have hoped, with a layer of clouds settling in over the peaks, but I took what I could get.
Several miles on, I came to what I think might have been part of Crane Prairie Reservoir. This is the best I could get on my phone’s camera without distorting the picture — the white birds in this photo are cranes (or pelicans or storks, I honestly don’t know, I’m sort of making this up) hanging out with some Canadian geese.
After I took this picture, I noticed a huge dark bird circling directly over my head. It perched in a tree right above me and didn’t take off again until I began to drive away. I got a good look at its white throat and belly and consulted the North American bird app on my phone (don’t laugh — it’s come in handy several times, except as far as cranes go, but that’s a topic for another blog post) to decide that it was an osprey. I swear it winked at me as I headed on down the byway.
Somewhere along in that stretch of road, you begin to see miles and miles of lava fields — lava flow frozen in time. Miles and miles of black lava. It’s fascinating to think of the volcanos that produced this rock, once burning hot, now solidified in a 100-foot tall river of rock.
There you have it. Go drive the Cascade Lakes Byway the next chance you get.
(Still to come: North of Bend, Lava Butte, and the Painted Hills)