Larch Mountain   Leave a comment

An evergreen forest stretches
across the foothills west of Mount Hood in Oregon.

 

A quick break from the Africa roundup to say how great this place is, a stunning viewpoint not far from my house: Larch Mountain. It is an enormous extinct volcano that is easily visible from Portland, but often goes overlooked. People generally underestimate shield volcanoes, but they are Earth’s (and the solar system’s) largest mountains.

This particular shield volcano is only of average size, but it is still a very broad, 6000-foot mountain that takes up a lot of space. They are made from basalt, which because it is a very dense lava, and very fluid when it flows, forces the volcano to spread out as it forms. The largest one on Earth makes up most of the island of Hawaii, and the biggest one in the solar system is Olympus Mons on Mars.

Lying as it does above the western end of the Columbia River Gorge, and with a paved road to the very top, it is easy to drive up there (takes about 40 minutes from east Portland) for a sunset view. The top of the peak has a 365 degree view, including the in-your-face view of Mt Hood (above). It also allows you to look down the Columbia River towards Portland, as the sun sets in the west (below).  I saw a total of 5 other volcanoes from the summit of Larch: Mount Hood (Oregon’s highest), Mounts Rainier, St Helens and Adams in Washington, and Mt Jefferson in Oregon.  These stratovolcanoes are steeper, more spectacular, but ultimately smaller (in terms of volume) than shield volcanoes.

The Columbia River flows west below the foggy forests of the western Cascades in Oregon.

It was a chilly motorcycle ride back down after photographing at the summit last night. The Pacific Northwest has had a very cool spring and summer thus far, while the rest of the country bakes in the heat. Today again it is gorgeous, sunny and in the 70s, with a nice breeze. So I will end this short post and get back to Africa tomorrow.

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