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Black Lava-Mazama Ash-Tumulus Loop (Oregon Badlands Wilderness) 3-26-21

Posted: March 30th, 2021, 5:59 pm
by bobcat
I spent a day in the Badlands Wilderness, basically slogging 15 miles through sand (actually Mount Mazama ash) with views of the Cascades and distant buttes but with little relief in terms of the scenery. The trails at the north end of the wilderness do not feature the more rugged lava prominences of those in the south, so the route, which is not frequently traveled, is more an exercise in “desert immersion” than specific objectives.

I first made a short loop around Reynolds Pond, which acts as a catchment basin for overflow from the Central Oregon Irrigation District’s canals. Apparently, there is good fishing for sunfish, bass, and bullhead here, but no one was around when I visited except a regatta of swans, a gaggle of geese, paddlings of mergansers, rafts of ring-necked ducks, and a cluster of red-winged blackbirds.

View over Reynolds Pond, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Goose pair, Reynolds Pond, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Tundra swans, ring-necked ducks, coots, mergansers, Reynolds Pond, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Red-winged blackbird,  Reynolds Pond, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Broken Top and South Sister, Reynolds Pond, Oregon Badlands.jpg

Then I began walking down the Carey Act Trail, actually a maintenance track that runs along a major branch canal of the Central Oregon Canal, which siphons its water from the Deschutes River at the south end of Bend. The Carey Act of 1894 was an incentive offered by Congress for western states to irrigate desert lands and allow private companies to operate irrigation “districts” for profit. Irrigation season hasn’t begun yet (water is taken from April through September), so the canal was bone dry, basically a two-foot deep ditch scraped down to the layer of black lava beneath. Through the junipers, there were glimpses of the mountains, Mt. Bachelor north to Mt. Jefferson all snowy under a clear blue sky.

Control gate, diversion ditch, Carey Act Trail, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Mt. Bachelor and Tumalo Mt., Carey Act Trail, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Diversion ditch, Carey Act Trail, Oregon Badlands.jpg
Middle and North Sister, Carey Act Trail, Oregon Badlands.jpg

I hopped across the canal, effectively the boundary of the wilderness here, when I spotted a sign at the junction of the Black Lava and Tumulus Trails. Following the Black Lava Trail into the wilderness, I soon encountered low lava domes and tumuli. The lava features have eroded little since the fissuring of 80,000 years ago, the wide cracks down the middle of most of the domes having occurred during the cooling process. This is a one-species forest, and at this time of year some of the junipers are absolutely blue with berries. The old-growth trees have a lovely reddish-brown hue: some are supposed to be over 1,000 years old. At one point, I passed an old corral in the lava, and at another, there was the rusted detritus of a stock camp. Cattle have not been run here since wilderness status was granted in 2009, but there are still perfectly preserved patties scattered about.

Juniper berries, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Old juniper, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Tumulus, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Old corral, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Old camp, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Mt. Bachelor to South Sister, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg

The Black Lava Trail becomes less distinct the farther south you go, and when I reached the junction with the Mazama Ash Trail, I hooked east on the next leg of the loop. There were no recent human tracks here, just the odd coyote, deer, or ground squirrel leaving its prints. There are a few cairns placed along this route to aid the desert traveler.

Gate in fence, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Ropey lava, Black Lava Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Tumuli, Mazama Ash Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Juniper and cairn, Mazama Ash Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg

At the Tumulus Trail, I turned north again. This was probably the most obvious route, and the last few miles went by without a hitch, the profile of Powell Butte direly ahead with the low hump of Bear Creek Buttes on the eastern horizon. From 28 degrees in the early morning, temperatures had risen to 62 by the time I got back to the trailhead.

View to Powell Butte, Tumulus Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Broken lava dome, Tumulus Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Anderson's larkspur (Delphinium andersonii), Tumulus Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Crack in the lava, Tumulus Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg
Juniper growing out of lava, Tumulus Trail, Oregon Badlands Wilderness.jpg

Re: Black Lava-Mazama Ash-Tumulus Loop (Oregon Badlands Wilderness) 3-26-21

Posted: March 30th, 2021, 7:30 pm
by retired jerry
do you think reynolds pond is drinkable? (if treated that is)

that must be the only source of drinking water

and you could probably get water from the canal April through September, but I think it would be too hot then

Re: Black Lava-Mazama Ash-Tumulus Loop (Oregon Badlands Wilderness) 3-26-21

Posted: March 31st, 2021, 9:32 am
by bobcat
It has no outlet and is overflow from the canal. I'd expect a fairly high concentration of ammonia from bird poop although obviously fish survive there. The canal is Deschutes water and I'd expect some agricultural chemicals but maybe not as bad as farther north. My own intuition would be to bring all my own water; drink this in an emergency only and then from the canal, not the pond.

Reynolds Pond is unique in the area in that you are allowed to car camp at the trailhead. I saw people setting up in the junipers. There is no toilet, however. A better experience for people with RVs.