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Old-Growth Alaska Cedars in Echo Basin

Fifteen thousand years ago, the Cascade Range was covered with a massive ice cap, up to a half-mile thick and extending 170 miles from Mt. Hood south to Mt. McLoughlin. As the climate warmed, a disjunct population of Alaska yellow cedars was left behind in a unique glacial bowl, known as Echo Basin, where cold air collects and pools. Just an hour’s drive from Bend, this basin and its old-growth cedars can be explored on a 2.5-mile loop hike, along with alpine meadows and glorious wildflower displays in late spring and summer.
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Hiking the Pioneer Santiam Wagon Road

There’s nothing quite like walking an old pioneer wagon road to bring immediacy to Central Oregon’s history. One can almost hear the creaking of the freight wagons and the “hee” and “haw” shouts of the mule drivers. Operated as a private toll road, the Santiam Wagon Road was a vital route across the Cascade Mountains from the late 1860s to the 1930s. Today, from late spring to early fall, one can walk a well-preserved section of this pioneer road on a shady 3.0-mile hike, which winds through stately groves of old-growth Douglas fir.
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View of Old-Growth Fir at Candle Creek

Old-Growth Douglas Firs at Candle Creek

When Central Oregonians think of Douglas firs, we usually envision the majestic coastal firs. But Central Oregon has a distinct inland variety, the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir, which is morphologically and genetically different from its coastal cousin. Occurring from British Columbia south to New Mexico, these cold-hardy trees can grow up to 150’ in height, 6’-8’ in width and can live more than 500 years. A 30-acre grove of these old-growth firs is found on a short, easily-accessible hike at Candle Creek in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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Panoramic View of Ponderosa in Kipuka

Kipukas - Forest Islands in a Sea of Lava

One of the more interesting geologic features of Central Oregon are kipukas (meaning “a variation or change in form” in the Hawaiian language). These are islands where lava has surrounded patches of older terrain, isolating them from the surrounding landscape. It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic contrast between the dry, rocky, barren fields of lava surrounding the relatively moist, shady islands of forest.
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