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Chris & Allyson vs. Oregon (2018)

Day Six: Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Lava Butte. Lava River Cave. Portland: Timbers game and a McMenamins.

Hawaii hogs the headlines when it comes to volcanoes, because its volcanoes are constantly spewing lava and destroying lives. In geologic terms, Oregon is hot property -- its volcanoes are young, and relatively sexy! But we haven't seen any major explosions since white people moved there. The U.S. government, at least, is doing its part to raise awareness of Oregon volcanoes. The Beaver State is actually a volcanic wasteland decorated with pretty trees, and the feds want to tell you all about it.

At the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the responsibility falls on the U.S. Forest Service. They are there to tell you all about Oregon's explosive past, and also sell you refrigerator magnets if that's your thing. The monument is pretty big -- it's part of Deschutes National Forest, not far from Bend, and it covers as much territory as Rhode Island.

We didn't have all day, so our visit was targeted. The first stop was the visitor center, for a quick primer on the volcanic landscape. Then came a very pleasurable stroll on the "Molten Land" trail, a painstakingly paved path through the lava field surrounding Lava Butte. That cinder cone supposedly formed during an eruption 7,000 years ago, dumping igneous rock for several miles. The landscape is pretty alien -- it's all jagged chunks of rock -- but life is finding a way. A few hardy plants and trees spring out from the rock piles, and ground squirrels pop out from the shadows in search of free food.

A mile away is Lava River Cave. Lave rivers, not unlike "normal" rivers, tend to move faster on the bottom. When the top cools and hardens before the rest of the river, it creates a rock tunnel. This particular tunnel is walkable for about a mile. The inside is a constant 42 degrees, and it's pitch black. It was used as a natural refrigerator for centuries, and now it's a tourist attraction -- you can stumble around blindly if you want, but they'll kindly rent you flashlights if you don't want to tangle with CHUDs. The rangers on duty will lecture you about white nose syndrome, then send you into the abyss.

It's a true natural wonder. The ceilings are as high as 58 feet, and they're covered with baby rock formations -- 7,000 years isn't enough time for intruding water to make a proper stalactite, but there are nubbins and streaks. Softer features made out of damp sand have started to stack in castle-like formations, in the few spots where humans haven't interrupted their progress. We tripped only twice (once each) while marching the full length of the tube. It took a little longer than expected, but we did make it out before the 1:30 p.m. lava show.


Portland is a very white city, so it stands to reason that it would have a soccer team. And since loving a "foreign" sport is the No. 1 way for progressive white people to make sports fandom socially acceptable, Portland's soccer fans are INSANE. In a good way!

The Timbers play in Providence Park, close to the center of Portland. It was built for soccer, so the sightlines are pretty good from all over. The "seats" in the cheaper sections are benches, but they weren't counting on anyone sitting for long. Our seats were behind the "Timbers Army," the fanatical supporters group. Everyone not only stood the entire game, but also yelled the entire game. A few generals in the army stand at the front, their backs to the field, calling out chant after chant after chant. And no one ignores them. There was a wall of noise the entire game.

Best of all, when the team scores a goal, a man in flannel fires up an actual chainsaw, cuts a slice off an enormous log draped with soccer scarves, then presents the slice to the crowd like it's Simba at the start of "The Lion King." Meanwhile, someone fires up two smoke pots to produce clouds of green and yellow smoke -- the team colors. I don’t know if it’s possible to "make" people into soccer fans, but the Timbers Army is giving it one hell of a go. The only disappointment was that the Timbers scored only twice in defeating Toronto, 2-0. We wanted more chainsaw.

The neighborhood around the park is full of fine watering holes in walking distance. Waiting for traffic to clear out, we settled on the bar at the Crystal Hotel. It's operated by McMenamins, a well-known bar / restaurant / brewer / entertainment brand in the Pacific Northwest. If you go to Portland, you have to visit at least one McMenamins. It's the law. Also, if you're in the city, you have to have at least one full-size beer on your vacation. Even if you're Allyson. It's the law.

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