We made our first camping trip in our little trailer last weekend, and really enjoyed ourselves.  We have both been working hard, since long before we moved to Oregon last winter.  The trailer worked out well, and this short trip gave us an opportunity to find what we needed to make it more convenient for longer trips.

We recently joined a local treasure hunting club, and went with them on an outing to a place called Glass Buttes. There is a lot of evidence of volcanic activity in Central Oregon, and this location is cited as the best place to locate obsidian, commonly called “black glass,” and a by-product of volcanic activity.  Obsidian was used by early man (and later Indians), as material for arrowheads, spear points, knives, and other cutting tools.  It has strong cleavage, and is as sharp as any manmade glass.

Photo right: Glass Buttes area

 I have been to several locations where obsidian is found, including a large wall of columns located in the High Sierras, but I have never seen a site such as this!  Obsidian litters the ground for miles over hill and dale, and comes in several colors.  While the normal black color is most common, there is also a lot of what they call “mahogany” obsidian, which is of a brown shade similar to the tone of mahogany wood.  There is also some that is gray, and some that is translucent gray that I am told is called midnight lace.

 Located in Central Oregon’s high desert between Bend and Burns off Highway 20, this is truly high desert.  At an elevation somewhere around 5000 feet, the sun was bright but an almost constant breeze kept it cool in the area.  While traveling the highway the view is of an extremely large, mostly flat basin that does not appear to have much except sagebrush and an occasional Juniper tree.  There are buttes and mesas in the distance on both sides of the highway, and where you turn off to go to Glass Buttes is near some low hills.  Soon after turning off the landscape was dotted with large Juniper trees and the sagebrush was lush and thick, and growing taller than the vehicle in some areas.  The road soon began winding through a narrow canyon that was without running water, but was lush and green at the bottom, with tall grasses and an abundance of wildflowers at this time of year.  There were many pretty places to camp near the road, and the club had picked a large one that would accommodate a group, with a view of the surrounding green hills with deep red rock outcroppings.


Photo: Desert wildflowers of Central Oregon

As we slowly wended our way through the canyon, obsidian littered the ground. That continued to be the case where we stopped, and for miles surrounding the area.  There were a lot of roads in the area, and this was a perfect site in which to explore on an ATV.

 Most of the others in the club had their four-wheelers with them, and were busily exploring on them almost the entire time they were out there.  Jim and I were somewhat limited, but with our 4WD truck we were able to find many places we could get to.  There are more than enough good specimens to be found within a short area of where we were camped, right along the road.

Jim had picked up the wrong detector bag at home, and had not brought his detector... he brought my White's XLT.  This gave him the opportunity to try it out, and there were some people there who could help him with that, so he also entered his first detector hunt, and found some coins.  This was followed by a potluck, and then everyone scattered again to explore and gather obsidian.

Photo right: Mahogany obsidian

 Sunday morning was a repeat, with everyone heading out to a collecting site right after breakfast, including Jim and I, who wended our way over to some mines in the hills where we did some exploring, and then followed another road back out to the highway to come back.  By the time we got back to camp we were the only ones still there. We weren't really in a hurry, however, so we had lunch and relaxed a bit before starting back.  With everyone gone, the silence out there was complete, except when another vehicle came through.  It is a very serene place.

We saw some animal life out there, the largest being Pronghorn Antelope… one of which was curious enough that Jim almost “talked” it into camp, and it grazed nearby for several hours.  We also saw a herd of nine of them grazing in another location.   There were ground squirrels, chipmunks and/or prairie dogs aplenty, and Jim met his first scorpion while turning over a rock.  We also saw jackrabbits and cottontails, so I imagine there are quite a few coyotes and/or foxes in the area.  All the animals we saw, including cattle grazing, looked very healthy, and there is much lush plant growth here, including grasses of many kinds. 

Jim is not familiar with the desert, so it was all very interesting to him; the deserts I am used to, in southern California and southern Arizona, are quite different from this desert, so it was also very interesting to me.  Although there was almost a constant breeze, and a lot of plants were blooming, the air was clean and fresh.  No dust blowing unless a vehicle passed, and no pollen irritating my allergies.  Just fresh, clean air, and beautiful skies.

Photo above: A ground squirrel (or, a "Varmint" in western slang). 
 Photo right: A beautiful desert sunrise.

Now for the bad news.  Somehow, neither of us even thought of the camera, so of course we came across wonderful photos to be taken the entire weekend.  As we explored the area and climbed to the top of one of the hills, the view of the camp sitting at the bottom, a nearby pond, and the surrounding green hills bright with wildflowers, was just gorgeous.  So, I am off to try to discover some photos on the internet that can be used to help you picture this place… and I certainly won’t forget the camera!

Well, as you can see, I found some photos on the internet that will help picture the area, and the obsidian.  As soon as I have time to clean up the specimens we brought back I will post another page with photos of them, and perhaps I can find someone else who took some photos of the outing that I can get.  

We leave here again in just another week or so, and will be heading clear over to the eastern edge of Oregon, this time.  I haven't been in that area for about 20 years, but remember it as beautiful.  We hope to have time to do some exploring in the John Day area on our way back.  Since we'll be gone a few days Missy will be going with us on her first camping trip.  Wish us all luck.  It is a small trailer.

Until next time,

June 14, 2004

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