Locals who help preserve the Badlands Wilderness, 15 miles east of Bend near Highway 20, call it "The Old One." The juniper trees found in this 30,000-acre wilderness are some of the oldest in the world. Some may have taken root during biblical times. Some 80,000 years ago, lava from Newberry Crater to the south poured over the area forming unique canyons and rock vistas where one can see the landscape for miles in all directions. One nearby tree has been verified by core samples to be 1,680 years old. But "The Old One" is bigger in height and girth.
Nobody knows for sure how old she is, but members of the Friends of the Badlands Wilderness speculate she could be nearly 2,000 years old. If so, she survived major historic and natural events. While Northern Europe was being invaded by Vikings, "The Old One" spread her roots. While the Black Plague was spreading throughout Europe, "The Old One" was sending out more branches and reaching toward the sky. While men were fighting the Crusades, "The Old One" and others like her were soaking in the sunshine of Central Oregon. When Europeans colonized America, "The Old One" was beginning to reach her height and girth while the lava landscape was eroding and forming the shape of what we see today. "The Old One" lived through it all—droughts, wars, and naturally harsh conditions that we as humans can only imagine.
The Badlands Wilderness is one of Oregon's newest wilderness designations and is the result of extensive collaboration by local ranchers, environmentalists, conservationists, and elected leaders. Obtaining wilderness status is no easy task. The proximity to Bend makes it one of the most accessible wilderness areas in the region. The hikes are easy, and the trail system is well maintained. In a half-day outing you can hike for miles to see these magnificent trees and still get back to Bend in time for a well-earned pint of your favorite microbrew. While many think of wilderness as lush, green forests in the backcountry, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness offers a different and unique landscape right in our own backyard.
You can view the landscape and "The Old One" in a short video on the Bent blog at bendsource.com.