Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ochocos-Twin Pillars Hike

It was a blistery day with temps around 5-15 degrees, but it was dry. The dry air made the snow fall like I hadn't seen before. Think of when you're in your house with the sun shining thru' a window. You fluff a pillow and the dust glimmers in the sun, falling ever so slowly. That's how the snow fell on this day. Travis and I embarked from Wild Cat campground above Prineville to get a snowy view of the Twin Pillars.

A 5 mile one way trip through the light snow was pretty easy along the Twin Pillars Trail following the East Fork of Mill Creek. As you can see, the snow wasn't even deep enough to warrant snowshoes.

The Twin Pillars are a unique formation. The Ochocos (o-cho-co-s), now 175 miles from the ocean were originally formed as volcanoes along the coast about 50 million years ago-long before the High Cascades (Three Sisters, Hood etc) existed. About 25 million years ago, the Ochocos stopped erupting and the Old Cascades (now the worn foothills east of the Willamette Valley) erupted and buried Central and Eastern Oregon in ash. These ash deposits hardened over time.

After millions of years, the majority of the ash has eroded away. Several places, Whistler Point, Steins Pillar and the 200 foot tall Twin Pillars are what remains of the hardened ash.

Here you see the pillars rising up out of the ridge above the Mill Creek Watershed.

Fires in the area several years back have left the forest looking barren, but starkly beautiful in the winter.

There were quite a sight to see up close-giant rock jutting out of nowhere. There's not much like this anywhere.

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