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Lava tubes and vintage trailers

As we approach the big rally, we are seeing more and more Airstreamers, and as a result our days become odd hybrids of tourism, work, and parties. Today was an example.

After a few hours of work on the computer (while Emma was sleeping), our first stop was the Lava Lands Visitor Center at the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument. This site is adjacent to the Deschutes National Forest, where we visited a waterfall the day before, and hence it is under the $5/day access fee program that I ranted about yesterday — even for the Visitor Center. It’s not a “National Park” in the sense of being under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service like Crater Lake, but we collected a stamp for our National Parks Passport book anyway.

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Lava Lands, looking west. Click for larger.

At Lava Lands you can hike a short paved trail up and around a 6,000 year-old lava flow that covers hundreds of acres along the Deschutes River. The views of the nearby mountains (Mt Bachelor, North Sister, Broken Top, Middle Sister, and South Sister) are very good. Those mountains top out around 9,000-10,000 feet.

We are big fans of caves, so we wanted to check out the Lava River Cave, which is a nearby “lava tube” about 3,000 feet long. This is one of the longest in the world. They are formed by lava flows that cool at the top and leave a river of lava flowing underground. As the lava level drops, an empty tube is left behind.

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Eleanor and Emma following a few people out of Lava River Cave.

If you go, be aware of a few things: the hike is tricky due to a very uneven floor, the interior temperature is about 40 degrees, and there is no lighting at all. You can rent a lantern at the entrance, which I highly recommend. We used headlamps and they turned out to be inadequate to really see most of the features of the cave, even though we’ve successfully used the same headlamps in smaller caves back east. The hike all the way to the end of the cave and back takes about an hour or more. We were pretty cold and tired by the time we got out!

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But in the busy world of Airstream society there is no rest. We had just enough time to get some groceries before heading 20 miles east to Sisters, where a large group of Vintage Airstream Club members were gathered for a “rendezvous.” (They called it a rendezvous instead of a rally because, they said, “We only want two rules: (1) Have fun; (2) Cold beer.”) We were introduced and spent the rest of the afternoon talking to very enthusiastic people about Airstream stuff, over sandwiches and soup.

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In the evening we hooked up with two new friends, Roger and Marion, who have a brand-new Safari Special Edition 28 and are out on a 3-4 month trip in it. We hit a local restaurant in the quaint downtown of Sisters for ice cream sundaes and shakes all around.

This is how it goes during rally time. The trick is to pace onesself, otherwise you end up need a vacation after the rally is over. At our first few major rallies we ran around trying to see everyone and do everything, and ended completely exhausted after a week. There are a lot of people to meet and plenty to do if you use your imagination (and don’t rely on the official program).

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