In mid-August I headed up to a nearby part of the Cascades
to which I had never been before: McKenzie Pass.
It is reached by Oregon Route 242,
which is generally closed between November 1 and July 1 due to the heavy snow which blocks the unplowed road.
The map I consulted indicated that the Dee Wright Observatory
is situated at the top of the pass. I had imaged that it was an astronomical observatory,
similar to the ones I had seen on Pine Mountain.
But when I arrived after a three-hour drive (including my usual breakfast at McDonalds), I was surprised to find it was a circular lava-stone structure built on top of a huge pile of more lava stones. It for sure didn't seem like it was housing a telescope!
After following the path to the building, I took the stairs to the rooftop, where I was treated to a wonderful 360-degree vista of the surrounding peaks of the high Cascades:
Going back down the stairs to the ground level, I was amazed by the incredible views from inside the observatory. A number of openings had been made in the wall, giving gorgeous glimpses of the landscape, framed by the volcanic rock "windows." In addition, there were a handful of smaller openings — less than one foot square — which were positioned in such a way as to give an isolated view of each of the major surrounding peaks.
I was quite enthralled, never having seen anything like it. I was so delighted that I ended up taking 90 pictures from here, even though it was just a stop on the way to my final destination! After 70 minutes of shutter-pressing, I finally pulled myself away so I could eventually start my hike. I wasn't planning on making two separate albums from this day's outing, but I got so many nice pictures at the observatory that I decided to put the resulting 36 images into their own McKenzie Pass 2012 photo album.