After coffee one morning I told my family I was interested in going to explore a Kipuka down Hoffman Island Trail.
My 6 year daughter set her iPad down. “Are we going to Hawaii?” She was obviously intrigued.
“No, it’s only 10 miles away!”
A half hour later we arrived at the trail head and set out on our perilous journey to Hoffman Island. Rust colored pine needles crunch under our feet. Manzanita and Old Growth Ponderosa Pine surround us, rich bark and ripe berries fill the air. It is quiet here, still.
A giant Willow greets us at the edge of the forest. Behind it’s lithesome branches looms a long, treeless path across a river of lava. A quick wind whips down the corridor of rock. A hawk caws as we step foot onto an old logging grade, built nearly a century ago by Shevlin Hixon.
Plump Red Current Berries mark the halfway spot through the lava. We rest here a minute under a bone-grey snag. Life on the rocks is hard; soil is scarce, water is scant, the wind tireless.
The berries almost seem too good to be true out here among the jagged rocks. A bear quickie-mart along a lava highway? I won’t stick around to find out.
At the edge of Hoffman Island lives a family of thick and twisted Aspen. They rattle a hello, their little leaves flickering like parade flags. We have made it to The Kipuka, Island Of Trees! This self contained eco-system is completely adrift among a sea of hardened magma. 7,000 years ago a spew of molten rock erupted from the North West flank of Newberry Volcano. The lava flowed fast and furious down the canyon incinerating all that lay in it’s path. Hard casts of an ancient forest were formed as the lava cooled around burning trees. Casts and lava tubes can be seen here if you look.
Hoffman Island was named for Bruce Hoffman, a logging engineer who worked out of Portland, Oregon in the 1920’s. This island, or butte, was logged during the same time. Some of the Old Growth stumps found near here could showcase a small car!
The biggest trees growing on the lava are nearly 200 years old, they’ve doubled in size since the loggers first came here. Practically alone on the terrain they become lightning beacons! This tree was struck sometime in the last century, it’s top shattered in a perfect circle all around the remaining trunk. It’s limbs lay undisturbed, baked on the rocks.
The trails end about a mile and a half out at the edge of the island. Beyond lies a vast expanse of barren lava, several more kipukas stand in the distance. To the west is Mt. Bachelor, from here I am reminded that it is full of lava. Strange, stunted trees grip the rocks and contort up and towards the sun. This land IS as exotic as Hawaii and yet it is the very definition of my home: a logged and recovering lava-shaped forest.
Hoffman Island Trail is located within The Newberry National Monument, 8 miles East on the road to Lava Cast Forest
(across from The Sunriver Offramp, Highway 97)