If you’re looking for something that will appeal to 34 out of 34 travelers in the 8-month to 74-year-old range, try hiking Spark Lake’s 1.6-mile Ray Atkeson Trail to Davis Canyon, made famous by the late, great landscape photographer and Oregon laureate. Spark’s Lake was rated #1 on our list of 24 attractions in Bend, Oregon,
where we held our family reunion last week. This pristine lake is just 25 miles west of Bend on Cascade Lakes Highway 46 and nestled below Mt. Bachelor (9,065′). It’s an emerald green lake filled with transparent waters and the grandeur of Broken Top (9,175′)and South Sister (10,358′) painted in the background. Although Sparks Lake is a modest 370 acres and extremely shallow (the average depth is a mighty one foot and the maximum depth is only seven to ten feet deep, depending on the season), it’s surrounded by another 360 acres of woods, streams, & meadows dappled with yellow Indian pond lilies, scarlet columbine, and purple larkspur.When Mt. Bachelor erupted many millennia ago, it formed a lava dam and lava basin that filled with snow melt from the surrounding mountains via Soda and Fall creeks, but Spark’s Lake doesn’t directly feed into any outgoing stream. Instead, groundwater filters out of the lake through cracks and fissures in the volcanic rock that becomes part of a subterranean ecosystem thought to be the source of the Deschutes River. It’s said that you can actually hear eerie gurgling noises at some points where the water seeps out, and often by mid-August boaters get stuck at places and end up having to walk their boats out of the shallow waters (which is hard on the nymph population and fragile plant growth). Our family reunion group of 34 eager beavers traversed the trail last week at the end of July on a gloriously blue-skied day. Alan always says that trying to get his 60+ psychiatrists to agree on hospital policies is like trying to herd cats. My oldest brother, Rob, was rumored to say that trying to get the 34 members of our reunion group to agree on a single time, place, and direction for an adventure was like trying to herd butterflies. In fact, Alan and I left early to hike the trail with our brother Wolle, because he had to leave before the others could arrive in order to pick up his daughter, Dr. Dawn Ward, who was just able to fly in from Mexico for a few days. The entire loop can be hiked in less than an hour, so Alan and I were more than ready to go again by the time the rest of our hearty explorers arrived. However, some had no kids, some had 2 teens, and some had 2/4/6 youngsters in tow, so the group straggled and strained until one group had departed to the left, another to the right, and the last was left unsure of which way to go. (That included me, sympathizer with the “none left behind” philosophy.) The Atkeson Trail is geologically diverse and truly fascinating (note that snow was still present in the bottom of some of the deepest fissures), but it’s also a simple trail—if you start to the right just keep turning left, or if you start to the left, just keep turning right—and you won’t get too lost for too long, Eventually, we passed each other, and we all had a glorious trip, ending back at the boat launch (which is the trail head, unless you’re camping) at the same time for a starving artist picnic and a cooling splash in the lake. As far as I know, everybody from the oldest to the youngest butterfly did manage to find their way back smiling and safe, albeit smudgy and somwhat sleepy too.So, I think we couldn’t really herd our butterflies, but we certainly enjoyed flitting with them from beauty to beauty during the reunion. Thankfully, there is One who can guide us whether we’re a sheep, a cat, or a butterfly!“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me” (Psalm 31:3).
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2).