Volcanos & Rain Shadows – The Cascades Range, OR

The Oregon Cascade Range

We’ve made it to Oregon!In the spirit of the early pioneers we’re rather relishing the cool, temperate weather and the thick rich pines, highlighted beautifully by the white-capped mountains of the Cascades. Oregon is a coastal state, but has a far more complex geological history and it all comes together right here in a story of volcanic eruptions, lava and rain shadows.

As they say it all started long, long ago. The NW has a million-plus year history of volcanic eruptions many of which have left deep marks on the landscape. Most people know about Crater Lake or have heard of Mt.St Helens, but the Cascades hide their own little story too. Newberry Volcano, centered about 20 miles southeast of Bend, Oregon is one of the largest Quaternary (that would be the period of 1.8 million years ago to the present) volcanoes in the United States. Spanning an area of 500 square miles it boasts 2 large volcanic lakes, hundreds of cinder cones/vents and  the Big Obsidian flow,  a very recent (only 1,300 year old) eruption that’s left a large, black lava-flow near the summit.

Hanging out by Paulina Lake at the Newberry Caldera

The whole hot history of this place has also shaped the landscape. Surrounding soils are high in pumice and acidity lending themselves to Ponderosa Pine and Bitterbrush. In fact, Oregon’s largest Ponderosa on record (162 feet high) is right here at our park.

The other amazing development is that it’s split the landscape in two -> A wet and a dry side. Oregon has one of the most marked “rain shadows” in the West separated by just this single line of mountains. West of the Cascades areas of the coast can get up to 100″ per year, while East of them it can get down to below 10″. Gives a whole new meaning to splitting the difference!

The Big Obsidian Flow

But all this wonderful history doesn’t tell you that this is also pooch paradise. When we were struggling to find paw-friendly spots on the FL coast last year, I had a poster tell me “come to Oregon, this place belongs to dogs!”. So far paw-dreams are coming true and Polly has been welcomed like a grand queen. Our State Park has a dedicated dog play-area and Rangers even asked if she’d had a chance to swim in the river (and gave us hints on where to go). She was given a dog biscuit when we paid our day-fee for Newberry Caldera, and she’s been going simply banana’s from the mass of squirrels and chipmunks hopping around our site.

We’re relaxing here for a few days before our final push to the RV repair center and my jet-setting off to Europe for my family reunion. You can look forward to a few more park reviews, some pics from my new camera, possibly a guest blog post and hopefully news on the RV slide. Keep your paws and toes crossed for that last one for us, will you?

Did You Know?-> Ponderosa Pine smells like butterscotch. Give it a try!

Big and beautiful Ponderosa Pine
By the river at LaPine State Park
Polly meets a ground squirrel. A beyond exciting moment!
Moonrise amongst the pines on the dry side of Oregon
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    I thought we moved around a lot. You guys are taking in a big part of the U.S. Has it been at least 5 or so states in the past couple months?
    We will be back on the road after our 1st granddaugther is born tomorrow. We will heading out Oct 5, from Cedar City Utah heading east.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, we’ve definitely been paving the road this year, a bit more than anticipated because of our need to get to OR and repair our slide. Still, it’s been wonderful and we managed to slow down quite a bit mid-year in New Mexico when we spent 2 months there.
      Congrats on the up-coming grand-daughter by the way! Looking forward to your posts back on the road.

  2. says

    Nina, you two are in one of our favorite campgrounds! We are just a couple hours south of you at Rocky Point. Love reading about our home state through your eyes. I always thought it was vanilla…:)

  3. Sandie says

    Fingers crossed for the slide. Sure hope it’s an easy fix. Polly and Scooter would make an awesome squirrel chasing team. For having really short legs she can move right along. Lots of great info on Oregon.

  4. says

    oops, for some reason I thought you were still at Paulina, reading again, I see you are in LaPine. That is also a great park, especially for dogs. The Deschutes has some great kayaking as well, although back somewhere in my blog is the funny story from last July when we paddled upstream for an hour and down in ten minutes!

    • libertatemamo says

      It is a beautiful area. Now, I’m gonna have to go get that story from your blog!!

    • libertatemamo says

      We’re hoping to spend a longer period at Crater Lake too! It’s definitely on our list of sites we’ve just gotta see.

  5. says

    I never heard of rain shadows. Thanks for the link…very interesting. We can’t wait to get to Oregon next year. I would LOVE a shipment of those pine needles! They make beautiful baskets. Next year…look out Ponderosa Pines.

    • libertatemamo says

      There’s definitely a boat-load of those pine here. Can’t wait to see what you make out of them next year. You’ve got a gift there!

  6. says

    I’ve been following your progress to Oregon, wondering if our paths will cross. I see you are currently at Armitage County Park in Eugene! We, too, have RV work to be done there, arriving next week (8/24). Rig goes in for maintenance on 8/25, but we’ll be staying in the park until the following Monday. Think you might still be around? BTW, Eugene has the BEST farmer’s market downtown on Saturday morning. Not to be missed.

    Safe travels,
    Laurie (and Odel)

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh AWESOME!!! I’m actually flying off for a family reunion, but Paul is booked here for 2 weeks (up until the 30th) so he’d LOVE to meet-up! Actually the whole reason we’re at this park is because of your review of it (oh, and we snagged your site #30 too!). I’ll e-mail you his number too. DO come meet him.

  7. Lynne says

    How many miles have you done so far on your rig? A lot, I bet. Probably about time for new tires, eh?
    We’ve done 6,500 miles since June 16, and have had 3 flats on our car hauler(but none on the rig yet). What is your favorite state so far. My fav so far is NM (too many bugs in Colorado). Planning to winter in SC, and I think my hubby will fall in love with it.
    Hope you enjoy Oregon. After living in Alaska so long, I admit I am not so impressed with mountains, but I am totally in love with beaches and the desert. No allergies or joint pain in the desert. Now I know why all us old farts end up in the desert. :) Where do you think you will end up finally? Any runners up, or just fulltiming forever? TTL
    Definitely not going to choose Texas. The heat there killed our beloved pug Buck Chewie. We were devastated. 110 degrees for 3 weeks, and his little body gave out. :(

    • libertatemamo says

      So far we’ve only put ~10,000 on the rig in 2 years. We won’t replace our tires until the 6 yr mark. I wrote about it HERE. And as for timeframe for fulltiming, we’re leaving it open. No plans to stop yet.
      Glad you’re enjoying the ride.

      • says

        Yep already read that article. The trucker tire guy who fixed our trailer tires said the psi on the tire is the ‘minimum’ that should be put in. He said most of his repairs on RV and truck tires are from underinflation. Hmmm. This was interesting info, I thought.


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