Anybody who toured the northwest during the summer of 2019 likely found that the travel plans were compounded by the Covid Pandemic and the rampant wildfire season. My own northwest travel plan involved going to only the lesser known destinations, where overcrowding would not be an issue. Since the highest percentage of mainstream tourist go to the National Parks, that leaves plenty of wide open spaces to choose from in the BLM Public Lands and the National Forests. The National Wildlife Refuges of the northwest were on the list too and oddly enough, solitude was very easy to find in these protected areas. I loaded the Jeep with 3 months of nonperishable food, so the only purchases made during the trip were for fuel and occasionally some beer. Minimizing human contact was the key and with my travel plan it was easy to accomplish.
Unfortunately, not every park that I visited in 2019 was open and many destinations only offered the basics, with no camping allowed. All of the visitor centers and ranger stations were closed, which complicated the information gathering process in remote areas where cellular communications were not reliable. I basically relied on GPS points of interest information during this trip, which can be like rolling the dice. The free camping websites on the internet also helped to find dispersed camping areas that are never closed. Needless to say, the 2019 northwest tour was a challenge, but the extra effort was well worth it!
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is one of several destinations where I was only able to take a brief look, before heading on down the road. First of all, I arrived during a lightning storm and walking around in a barren volcanic field is not wise to do in these weather conditions. The reason why it was best to not camp nearby till the rain stopped had to do with the 2019 California wildfire season, which was one of the most devastating in history. I had been camping in the central Oregon National Forests, which were bone dry from severe drought. It was easy to imagine that the conditions were just as dry in northern California, which was scheduled as the next leg of the trip. When I heard on the radio that a few wildfires popped up near the Klamath National Forest in upstate California, I immediately shifted into hurry up mode, which meant no waiting around for any reason. After crossing the California border it became more important to not spend time taking pictures, abandon the travel plan and just evacuate the area. I took two days to get to Reno, Nevada from the wildfire zone and by then the smoke was so thick that the tall buildings in that city were completely hidden.
With all this in mind, it is easy to see why I only captured a few views from the parking area at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This is one place that I wanted to thoroughly explore, so a return visit will have to be done sometime in the near future. The Deschutes National Forest Service manages this National Monument, which covers 54,000 acres. Newberry is a land of deep forests, lakes and massive lava flows, so it truly is a photographer's dreamscape. There is a lava tube cave and a distinct caldera in this park, along with many unique volcanic features that can be seen nowhere else, so spending extra time in this new park is worth it. Newberry National Volcanic Monument will require several days to experience, so be sure to keep this lesser known destination in mind when passing through the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon!
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