You might call the Big Obsidian trail in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument a (nearly) instant gratification hike since if you don’t dawdle you should be able to get to the view point and back to your car in half an hour. Dawdling, though, is half (or all) the fun. First you climb stairs and then a gravel path between jumbles of rocks and not just any rocks, but a strange mix of very hard, sharp-edged and gleaming obsidian, and porous pumice that is light like styrofoam. These rocks once were molten and flowing. The black obsidian reflects light while the rough pumice absorbs light. There is much to ponder in this jumbled landscape, and a view of Paulina Lake at the end of the trail. The obsidian reminds me of black glacial ice.
Even after 1300 years, few plants, except lichen, grow among the rocks and even the smallest pines seem to be old.
As I mentioned in my last post, the only wildflowers I noticed along the Big Obsidian Flow footpath were Penstemon and a Silene, both ground-hugging clumps.
Note: The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is south of Bend, Oregon off of Highway 97. You have to pay or have a pass to get into the Monument and then have another pass to park in areas along the road inside the Monument. I recommend doing research ahead of time if you aren’t familiar with the dual fee system: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5300659.pdf also the U.S. Forest Service page for the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.