Thursday, February 16, 2012

A caving we will go

Also with Wanderlust Tours, we went caving. I guess it was more like "lava tubing," but that's difficult to say.

We drove to Boyd Cave, which is the only one they visit in winter, though they do lots more in the summer. There was a wet fog the night before, and it blanketed the high desert with hoarfrost that was just mesmerizing. Bend's diversity in landscape is amazing, since it's nestled right between high desert and mountains — never a dull moment when you're driving around.

So since the cave was in total darkness, we had to wear headlamps on our helmets (which also means there's basically no photos from inside). We saw a couple hibernating bats inside while we learned about the volcanic history of the region. I love volcanoes.

So anyway, here are some pictures of the hoarfrost-covered vegetation on a cold winter morning.

After we returned from the end of the cave, we were greeted by this view of the cave opening. There's some metal, rickety stairs off to the right, but this view lets us see it without the manmade structures, and it looks pretty mysterious, doesn't it?

Though it was warmer and sunnier by the time we emerged, there was still frost all over most of the plants. It felt soft like snow, if you can believe it. It looks so harsh.

And us, the intrepid cavers! Photo courtesy of our guide, Jeff, who was a geologist and knew SO MUCH about caves, and volcanoes and local wildlife. Notice the intense amount of dust on my pants, thanks to crawling around on our hands and knees. Ha.

That afternoon we visited the High Desert Museum, which was honestly one of the best museums I've ever visited. It was newly renovated, beautifully-done and so interesting. Plus they had birds of prey, which are totally some of my favorite animals out there. I could have watched that golden eagle and red-tailed hawk all day. We spent about 2 hours there, despite everyone saying it was a "small" museum — and it only cost $10 for adults to get in, which truly shocked me. Museums have gotten quite expensive these days, and this seemed like a steal.

The next day we just wandered around the downtown area (which had lots of restaurants and shops), then toured Deschutes Brewery (it was FREE and included samples)! Deschutes makes our favorite beers, from pale ales to IPAs to imperial stouts, and the brewery was so scientific and fascinating. It was huge, first of all, considering it's a micro brewery (albeit one that ships to half the U.S.). Equipment was everywhere, looking all shiny and sterilized, most people working there were guys (on the floor at least, as the tour guide said one of the women who worked there was just upgraded to a master brewer), and it was humming much faster than that opening credit footage on "Laverne and Shirley." It smelled a faint but delicious cross of bread and beer.

They reuse all of their hops, wheat, grain, etc. that are used in crafting the beer. When we ate at Deschutes Brewery the night before, the incredible pretzel we had as an appetizer was made from leftover grains, as were the burger buns. Pretty cool stuff. They're slowly taking over the world, and I'm OK with that.

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