Crack In The Ground
We arrived on a snowy day in April. In the car we layered jackets over the Spring clothing that had been just fine for the low altitude region we left that morning. Outside in the flurries we noted that there were more cars than we’d expected. After all, the weather wasn’t ideal, it was a weekday, and the place was so remote. Despite that, the parking lot was filled with vehicles, including a news van. We’ll come back to that later.
Crack in the Ground is located in the Southwest corner of of Four Craters Lava Field in the Deschutes National Forest. Scenery on the drive in is vast, dusty scrubland punctuated by hay farms. It’s a gravel road journey that ends at a simple sign, an enclosed pit toilet, and a handful of parking spots. And then the landmark is right there. The name’s very on-the-nose. It is a crack. In the ground. Specifically, it’s a volcanic fissure, two miles long and 30 feet deep, and just wide enough at the bottom for foot traffic.
The descent is gentle, and from there it’s an easy hike, with minimal clambering over rocks. However, because of the weather and the added effect of temperatures being cooler below ground, there was some ice we had to be cautious of. The only vegetation down there is a bit of moss. Otherwise it’s all grays and browns. The walls are incredibly textured. It’s as if someone snapped a huge cookie in two, and you get to stand between the halves and admire the cross sections. Moreover, the walls’ irregular contours allow for some beautiful plays of light and shadow. It feels cozy and secure weaving along the bottom of the cleft. Though generally straight, there’s a bit of zigzagging, so you don’t always see what’s around the corner. The sky, though, is always in sight. There are birds that nest in the crack’s walls, and sometimes you’ll also see them flying overhead.
The day we visited Crack in the Ground, we were very pleased with our decision to include it in our road trip. We were enjoying the hike, taking in the scenery, and snapping some pictures. We did not expect it to get any better. But then we ran into Andy Carson from KPTV’s Andy’s Adventures. It turned out that we and their crew had chosen the same day to stop there and explore. Here’s the segment if you want to check it out: http://www.kptv.com/clip/14271608/andys-adventure-at-crack-in-the-ground We’re on camera for about one goofy minute, during which I managed to get a plug in for this website. So, we’d say that’s the most high profile moment 100 Places Oregon has had. So far!
Crack in the Ground is actually not one continuous fissure. The trail leads you up and out. And then there’s a flat patch of earth above ground just big enough for a shady tree and picnic table—good engineering, nature!—before the start of another crack. This second entrance is a bit more technical, but still very doable for the able bodied hiker with good footwear. Of course, you’ll see people walking from both directions. There’s also the option of walking a trail alongside the crack, peering down at it from above.
The geological phenomenon is open year round and accessible by foot only. No bikes or horses or hoverboards. Campsites are available at the nearby Green Mountain campground, and the town of Christmas Valley— two grocery stores, two motels, four restaurants, and a gas station—is about seven miles away. There are other worthwhile destinations in the area, so if you’re there also check out Lost forrest, Fort Rock, and Hole in the Ground.