Sunday, November 13, 2016

Glass Buttes, Oregon and Driving to Moab, Utah

Our last stop in the Pacific Northwest is at Glass Buttes in Oregon, a BLM area that looks unremarkable from the highway. What we expect to be an overnight stop becomes a week and a half visit. Rain plays a big part in the decision to stay, thinking we can wait it out, but in the end Mother Nature wins and we move on. It rains for 4 or 5 days straight! Welcome to fall in Oregon!
Glass Buttes
Camping at Glass Buttes, OR
We snag a beautiful campsite a little over 2 miles from the highway along Obsidian Road. That's Big Glass Butte in the background, and it's not on fire. That's just a fiery sunset. Grady loves it here and enjoys long walks in the pinyon pine forest.
Brad flint knapping
Much of Oregon's and the PNW's geology is the result of volcanic activity. Glass Buttes is an area where outcroppings of obsidian (lava that has cooled quickly without forming bubbles, so it resembles glass) can be found. Here's Brad practicing a technique called "flint knapping" where you strike the outer, duller coating off the chunks to reveal the shiny, smooth interior.
Mahogany Obsidian collected at Glass Buttes
Besides the typical black obsidian, we find a lot of mahogany obsidian (pictured here) thanks to a friendly local hunter who leads us to a large pit full of the attractive brown and black pieces. Other specimens include red, sheen (greenish-gray), rainbow and the ever elusive fire obsidian, the latter which is known to be found only in this location. It becomes iridescent when white light is shone through the polished pieces. A fellow camper and retired geologist shows us several pieces of fire obsidian which he previously collected here.
Driving through Oregon, Idaho and on to Moab, Utah
Rainbow over Idaho mountains
A beautiful thing happens as we drive across Idaho to meet with friends in Moab, Utah. This rainbow appears. We get a few drops of rain from this cloud, but most of the moisture evaporates before hitting the ground. Unbelievably, the rainbow lasts for about 15 minutes. This photo is actually taken from inside the truck while I'm driving (Brad snapped the pic).
Verga, mountains on Idaho/Utah border
The next morning (the drive from Burns, OR to Moab, UT is over 800 miles and takes 2 days), rain clouds still surround the mountains along the Idaho/Utah border. The moisture is called verga - rain that evaporates before hitting the ground. With the snow-capped mountains, it makes for a very dramatic photo.


  1. I am so jealous of Brad's rocks!!! LOL
    I have been looking for a good place to collect Obsidian it is so beautiful and all I can find is small pieces. Need to find out where that spot is!

  2. amazing rocks!!!! Looking forward to seeing you guys soon! PS I think your post posted twice.