On the trip to and from Prineville we drove by way of Highway 242, perhaps better known as the “old” McKenzie Highway. This “highway” is a two lane winding road, a beautiful scenic drive that is closed in Winter thanks to snow. It has a very colorful history, and was once the only route between Eugene and Sisters.
At the summit of the McKenzie Pass, in the middle of a massive and old lava flow, stands the Dee Wright Observatory. An amazing structure of lava rock and mortar, with a winding blacktop walkway. From the Observatory, you can see an impressive number of mountain peaks throughout the volcanic Cascade Range. On a clear day, you can even see the top of Mount Hood.
The Observatory has two levels: A single room, with windows directed at various peaks, the size of the window only large enough to isolate the one feature; and an open deck with a lava rock pedestal in the center, topped with a large bronze “peak finder,” which points to the various peaks and other geological features within view.
I love this stretch of road, through the lava fields. The stark contrast between the black lava, white sun-bleached trunks of long dead trees and the verdant new growth never fails to touch my soul. I find it hauntingly beautiful… The persistence of life in the face of death and destruction.
Update: You can see these pictures larger by going to my new MySpace Blog, Look for the entry dated July 18, 2006.