Hole-in-the-Ground itself felt even more moon-like than Fort Rock, with its 500-foot-deep crater accessible to off-road vehicles via even rougher, steeper trails. Though the Cayennes are capable off-roaders, we didn’t venture in; our rims were shod with summer tires, and we were miles from civilization and cell towers. It was the Oregonian equivalent of the far side of the Moon, and I didn’t want to be stuck there.
Navigating north towards Lava Butte before heading back into civilization, we were trying to beat the clock — and very nearly did, thanks to the fact that the E-Hybrids use the same power management system developed in the legendary 918 Spyder hypercar, which first transitioned to series production Porsches in the Panamera E-Hybrid sedan a few years ago. (You notice this most, of course, in the V8 model Cayenne.)
Sadly, we missed the closing time of the park near Lava Butte, but were able to still grasp its vibe from a distance; indeed, we managed to scramble our way onto a lava prominence for a better view, helped along by the V8-only three-chamber air suspension. Given that Lava Butte is pretty much the direct opposite of Hole-in-the-Ground, it was similarly entertaining to envision the challenge for the Apollo crews. As with many lava flows, the slopes are consistent, but also consistently rocky — meaning not much in the way of paths or terrain you can follow to climb up and down. It’s just you and every loose and slippery lava rock ahead of you.
Lave Butte also was the first of our destinations to deliver that total-blackout look, but it was nothing compared to the lunar landscape around McKenzie Pass, our final stop. It was here that we spent by far the most time, watching as the color shifted from daylight to twilight, the menacing, light-absorbing hues of the flows deepening along the way. Any perception of distance faded, along with any sense of shape; everything was an amorphous, indistinct threat, broken up only by spindly pine trees that took root in the pumice. By day, such lava flows are barely manageable, but by night they’re total black holes.
We treaded exceptionally lightly onto the surface of the Moon for some photos as the sun went down, then returned to the sanity of asphalt, wondering just how on Earth the astronauts were able to pull off what they did on the Moon — whether on foot or via the electric rovers they wisely brought along in later missions. Unfortunately, they didn’t have actual Porsches up there to help out further.
We, however, did, and as we snaked our way out of the lava field along the glorious switchbacks and twisties on the way back to Eugene — the Cayennes easily absorbing the turns via their 48-volt active roll stabilization system, with the electric motors delivering millisecond head starts in torque delivery as I laid on the power — I realized this is about as close as I’d ever likely come to riding a rocket to the Moon.
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