Fort Rock, South Ice Cave and Cabin Lake Adventure

One of my sisters set her wedding day for April 21 so I had been checking the weather nearly everyday because her first choice of site was at Sahalie Falls. Until the week before her wedding I was convinced that we would be having a typical, rainy outdoor Cascadian wedding. . . I couldn't have been more excited that she was going to likely be married on the first 80+ degree day of the year!

I love sunrise in the desert

Once I realized how nice it would be I pulled out my copy of Camping Oregon by Rhonda and George Ostertag. Craving that incredible sweet smell that a ponderosa pine forest has on a warm day I searched east of the Cascades. The Fort Rock area has always interested me and when I found a 'campground' only a few miles north of it that was among the ponderosa pines, I had to check it out. 

Cabin Lake is on the boundary of Ponderosa Forest and Sage Scrubland

After the wedding up the Mckenzie my girlfriend and I headed east. Making our now traditional last minute stop for beer and other goodies at Ray's Food Place in Sisters. The beer selection is awesome, and relatively cheap.

Beer at Ray's Food Place in Sisters, Oregon
I left the task of figuring out which way we should take to the campground to my girlfriend. We missed the turn for Finley Butte Road in La Pine, which turns into Forest Road (FR) 22, so we decided to take the less direct, dirt road path to our camp for the night. I do not suggest the route we took for cars, it was fairly rough and had a lot of washboard sections. That was FR 2424( north off highway 31), which you'll have to keep right at road 100, which leads you on to FR 2435. I highly recommend taking FR 22, then FR 18 south to Cabin Lake Campground, it's paved most of the way. Here is a map of the area to help.

Along FR 2435 Approximately 6 miles before Cabin Lake
We got to camp shortly before dark, so we quickly found the best campsite, that was the farthest away from the 4 vehicle camp near the water tank. There was a nice flat among large Ponderosa Pines with a large cider block firepit. It was just what I was looking for. A little warning about this place, there is no water and no restroom, so don't forget water or toilet supplies! Also there isn't a lake here. 


Ninkasi Tricerahops: The perfect end to the day
Sadly because of work and school we only had Sunday to explore, so we got an early start to the day. First on our list to explore was the now closed Cabin Lake Guard Station. Apparently there are plans to renovate two of the building for rental to citizens. Staying out here in a cabin definitely would be awesome during winter. 

Cool old gas pump

One of the homes the Forest Service would like to turn into a rental

I had always wanted to check out the South Ice Cave that was near Fort Rock, but had always been over in winter so the roads weren't assessable. After calling the The Restaurant and Pub in Fort Rock confirming that the roads were clear I got pretty excited. From my experience the Forest Service doesn't provide very reliable road condition information, they lack the staff to really get out there, so they depend on trip reports from citizens. This leads me to always double check what they tell me by calling a local hangout. 

Entrance to South Ice Cave

The southern most ice cave

Close up of the entry to the cave

There were 2 small caves that we checked out, neither of them were very deep, but it was nice to cool off in them. I was hoping they were deeper, but it was still interesting. If I would have known that the South Ice Cave had a restroom and a sweet campsite I would have likely camped here. 

The nearly full pit toilet

Campsite/ Picnic area at South Ice Cave

Traveling south on FR 18 towards Fort Rock is an awesome transition. You rapidly leave the ponderosa pine forest for the nearly flat, ancient lakebed that makes up the greater Christmas Valley area. Fort Rock becomes more and more imposing as you drive south on FR 18. 

Fort Rock it's self is well worth the trip out here. I have spent nearly 5 hours scrambling around the rocky out cropping. It developed it's strange shape because of the massive inland sea that once lapped on it's south side. The oldest shoes ever discovered in North America were found not far from the State Park at Cow Cave, which is on private land. The Fort Rock Historical Society are a great resource for information about this area.

Fort Rock

Information kiosk at Fort Rock State Park

This trip left me wishing that we had more time to explore this lightly populated and wide open area of Oregon.  More pictures

Northwest view from Highway 31

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