“Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful.“
We set out to traverse the state of Oregon through the lens of the four elements, making stops at countless beautiful places alongside our talented storyteller friends, Jules Davies and Chelsea Parrett. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty. Stay tuned to Downstream because over the next few weeks, we will be unraveling this marvelous adventure – element by element. To explore through all of the elements, read the full Elemental Oregon editorial here.
ELEMENTAL OREGON: FIRE
The diversity of Oregon is incredible. As you drive just one to two hours in any direction you’ll find a continuous fluctuation of what seems to be completely new landscapes and ecosystems. From the luscious rolling hills of the Wallowas to the high desert of Central Oregon, there are no limits to the beauty of this majestic state. To continue our journey through the four elements, next we looked for Fire.
High Lava Plains
Probably the most expected of places to find Fire, we headed straight towards Newberry Crater in Central Oregon. Much of Oregon’s geological history is tied to the extreme volcanic activity of the Cascade Range, a series of mountains formed in a subduction zone that spans vertically through the Pacific Northwest.
Cascade Mountains in Oregon:
- Mt. Hood
- Mt. Jefferson
- Mt. Washington
- Three Fingered Jack
- Three Sisters
- Mt. Bachelor
- Newberry Crater
- Crater Lake
Unlike most volcanoes with one major peak, Newberry Crater is a “composite volcano” formed by an array of 400 volcanic vents scattered across the slopes of its 5mile wide caldera. Numerous lava flows surround it’s crater extending for miles which makes Newberry Crater the largest volcano in the Cascades.
This dynamic environment conjures up a sense of wonder as you imagine massive fields of hot lava flowing from their tumultuous chambers below. The most recent eruption that burned and charred the earth with this strangely beautiful dark scar happened nearly 6,000 years ago.
Paulina Lake Hot Springs
Sitting at 6,340 feet on the western edge of the Newberry Crater is Paulina Lake (pronounced: pauleyena), an idyllic blue gem surrounded by thick forests covered in electric green moss and glistening obsidian trails. Yes, the trails literally shine like glitter with tiny pieces of black obsidian that have been slowly chipped away.
In true Oregon fair-weather fashion, the night we arrived it was so stormy you could barely see 20 feet through the fog resting on the lake. A moody evening that left us no choice but to seek shelter and a delicious dinner at the neighboring lodge at East Lake. After dinner we quickly set up camp in the rain, went to sleep and hoped for a clear morning to hike to the hot springs.
Camp 101: Paulina Lake:
- Stay at Little Crater Campground. Find a spot by the water.
- Get dinner at East Lake Lodge, try the Tempeh Reuben or the Salmon. Yum.
- If you can, get there on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
- Set your alarm for sunrise. Seriously…do it.
Alas, sunshine! The intensity of color we woke to was astounding. It felt like a new season had arrived and we jetted out of camp in hopes of arriving first at the hot springs. The entire hike around the lake is an easy 7.8 mile loop, the perfect route for all levels of hikers, and at 1.2 miles there are a few hidden trails to the left that lead you down to a secluded beach of semi established pools dug out and formed with driftwood.
Lucky us, we had the entire place to ourselves for the first few hours of the day.
The act of soaking in such a natural hot spring truly feels transformative. This highly delicate environment, being fed warmth from the depths of the earth, offering us such a welcoming and pleasurable experience is unique and certainly wild. The element of fire we found wasn’t too hot to touch, it was just right just enough to warm our souls and heal our bones.
Our Hot Spring Tips:
- Clothing is optional, but make sure to bring your suit just in case
- LNT: Leave no trace! Preserving the habitat means everyone can enjoy.
- Sunrise or Sunset are optimal times to soak. Don’t forget a headlamp.
- Bring your camp coffee kit. Trust us.
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