The original concept was for a five-day camping getaway for myself and three grandsons, ages 13, 11 and 6. But baseball playoffs and football camps got in the way, as did their parents’ desire to spend time with their own children, and soon my plan was whittled down to a three-day weekend, which I was happy to achieve.
Three days doesn’t give you much time to explore, so I backed off from the Steens and Pueblos and focused on sites closer to their Bend home.
The car ride itself was great fun. We practiced classic road songs like “Dead Skunk,” “What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?” and “Duke of Earl,” all while searching for various forms of wildlife, each of which was accorded a certain number of points based on its rarity. Wolves, grizzly bears and elephants were all 100 pointers.
Pine Mountain Observatory was our first stop. The University of Oregon facility consisting of three telescopes is situated 30 miles east of Bend on a beautiful, Ponderosa pine-covered hillside. There wasn’t much going on in the middle of the day but the location gave us reason to conduct an extensive conversation about the relationships of sun, moon and earth.
“OK, Gage, you stand there and be the sun. Smile brightly, now. Easton, you be the earth. Turn in circles while you walk around Gage. Each circle is a day, each complete revolution is a year. Ryder, you be the moon. Turn in circles while you walk around Easton. Now, do you understand the phases of the moon? Hey! Stop kicking dirt!”
I’m not sure how much astronomy was learned, but it was a good way to get dizzy and dirty at the same time.
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Then we were off to Glass Butte, another 30 miles east. Glass Butte actually consists of two prominent and several smaller hills containing extensive flows of different types of obsidian. We chose the larger one and settled into a primitive campsite near the top. A bunch of obsidian was collected before we noticed storm clouds growing and made pitching the tent a priority. At this point I became reacquainted with a concept probably best known as grandpa math. My six-man tent, which takes 10 minutes for my son and me to pitch, including stakes, takes me almost 30 by myself. With three grandsons to help, it took just over an hour.
We had it up just in time for the clouds to pass us by and leave a clear evening sky, under which we enjoyed a minimalist dinner menu. Freeze-dried everything, but with exotic appetizers, including my special favorites: pickled pigs’ feet and smoked oysters. All of my children and grandchildren have learned to enjoy those delicacies, although their willingness to try them sometimes requires a little incentivization. “Everybody who wants any of Grandma’s brownies needs to eat at least one foot and one oyster. And no gagging, Ryder!” Just doing my part to help a new generation learn to enjoy a wide variety of foods.
The boys were up early, when I fired my .243 just outside the tent yelling “Lookout-- bear!” The boys’ father had warned them, though, which took a lot of the excitement out of the event. Now I’m going to have to wait for great grandchildren, so I can surprise a whole new generation. Soon, we were off toward Summer Lake, where we fished and swam in Ana Reservoir, caught one trout and scared several others.
With storm clouds threatening and heavy rain forecast, we bought dinner at the Summer Lake Lodge and spent the night at a motel in Christmas Valley. The boys were disappointed to have abandoned the tent, but they didn’t seem to miss the pickled pigs’ feet.
I don’t know why.