Day 286 – Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, September 28, 2011
I made a quick stop at Oregon’s largest Ponderosa Pine in LaPine Recreation Area. It is approximately 500 years old and stands 162 feet high with a diameter of 8.6 feet. From here, I headed south to Crater Lake.
Back in May when I drove the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, the
snow was falling and several feet of snow lined the roadway. The two lane road to Crater Lake was only
snow plowed the width of one and a half lanes, so I decided to visit the park
upon my return home. This time the
weather was glorious: not a cloud in the
sky, temperatures in the high sixties, and a light breeze that had no effect on
the Crater Lake’s glassy surface.
Mt. Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago and after its discharge
of pumice and ash, the mountain collapsed forming a caldera which filled with
water over time. The result is Crater
Lake, six miles wide and more than 1,900 feet deep. The intense, sapphire blue lake lies
encircled by green forests. Even a few
patches of snow remained near its surface.
The lake is considered sacred by the Klamath Indians who refused to acknowledge its existence to outsiders. Not surprisingly, many Indian legends are associated with the lake including gazing at the waters was thought to be fatal. An outsider searching for gold, John Wesley Hillman, finally discovered the lake in 1853 and named it “deep blue lake”. Over the years, the name changed, but the 1869 name, Crater Lake, stuck and in 1902, Crater Lake became the nation’s sixth national park.
I sort of wish I made it to the lake when the cliffs were
covered in snow to compare the difference.
Today, it was hard to believe there could be any snow. I stopped at countless overlooks and each
view seemed more beautiful than the last.
The crater walls reflected on the lake’s mirrored surface as I chatted
with a couple from New Jersey. They were
traveling for ten weeks and had visited Glacier as well as Oregon’s coast
around the same time. They suggested
that I visit Mount St. Helen’s National Monument. I missed it this trip, but thinking about it, I
bet it is very interesting given the eruption was so recent.
After driving the circle around the lake, I turned southeast
toward Redding, CA. The last time I
stayed in Redding, I awoke to the circus coming to town near the convention
center where I was parked. This time, I
parked at the Wal-Mart despite the posted signs “No RV Parking” and I found
several fellow campers. I asked a long
haired, blond man whose dog ran across the parking lot if he had camped here
before, as I didn’t want to get set up just to be chased out.
He replied, “Oh, yes ma’am.
It’s pretty quiet.” As he pointed
off to the right, he said, “that guy lives here.” I felt like I was joining a small little
community. I would have been more
social, but my head was pounding while I was trying to adjust from 25 degrees
this morning to 90 degrees this early evening.
Tomorrow, I plan on visiting Lassen National Park which was completely
closed in May due to snow. Being from
Texas, it’s hard for me to think of May as winter and September as summer. But that is what it is like here…ETB
Day 285 – Cascade Lakes Highway, September 27, 2011
The skies were clear in Bend when I headed west into the
Deschutes National Forest via the Cascade Lakes Highway. Once I got into the mountains; however, it
was a different story: overcast and
misty. I can only imagine the beauty of
Sparks Lake in the sunlight. I rounded
the bend and came across a golden prairie, perfectly flat like a parking lot,
situated in between the evergreen covered mountains. It was such a stark contrast that it was
simply remarkable despite the poor weather.
At first, I didn’t even see the lake, only a narrow stream which wound
through the meadow. In fact, when I
stopped to snap a photo, a placard claimed the Ray Atkeson, a professional
photographer, felt this was the most stunning landscape in Oregon.
From Sparks Lake we moved a bit further to Devils Lake which
normally presents visitors with an eerie optical illusion. Its crystal clear waters and shallow white
pumice bottom makes it seem as if boats are floating in midair. Today, I couldn’t see the bottom, but its
waters changed from brown to emerald green to aqua from one end of the lake to
the other. This area has historic
significance due to the inhabitance of Indians for the past 10,000 years as well as a
rock from this area was taken to the moon by astronaut James Irwin.
Our drive continued past more lakes including Elk Lake, Lava
Lake, and Little Lava Lake. We found an
old guard station as well as a few deer hiding out under the bushes. Once we turned south toward Crane Prairie
Reservoir, the skies cleared for Petey and me to take a walk at Osprey Point.
The information sign claimed Osprey stayed around the area
until early October, but in late September, I didn’t see signs of any. While the birds weren’t diving into the water
for fish, their primary source of food, the chipmunks were actively scurrying
around with nuts preparing for the winter.
Upon return from our stroll through the woods to the open grasslands we
visited the grave of William Quinn, a 25 year old pioneer who died when accidentally
being shot during a hunt.
From here, we turned east toward Newberry National Volcanic
Monument. The line of trees edging the
highway looked as if someone had driven by with a blow torch and burned the
center of them. They must have survived
a fire at some point in their lifetime with their base and tops green.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is home to Newberry
Crater. Now dormant, this huge,
partially collapsed volcano has formed a five-mile-wide caldera. Inside the caldera are a 100 foot waterfall,
two lakes, and an obsidian lava flow. We
took the walk to Paulina Falls first and enjoyed the view from both above and
below the falls.
Next we followed a very rough road four miles up to Paulina
Peak, the highest point on the rim at 7,985 feet. The
summit provided a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape which was
absolutely magnificent despite the ferocious wind.
We bounced back down the road and continued to the Big
Obsidian Flow, Oregon’s youngest lava flow aging 1,300 years old. A mile loop led me through the piles of
pumice and obsidian. The surface of this
lava flow cooled before the atoms had time to organize into crystal thus the
flow is essentially glass as it contains 73% silica just as in a window. The flow is about 150 feet high and covers
1.1 square mile or 400 soccer fields. At times I felt like I was walking on the moon.
Obsidian is so sharp, it has been used as a scalpel and the incisions
cut by the obsidian healed better than those made by the steel scalpel. Perhaps I should have had the branch cut out
of my leg with obsidian!
Day 284 – Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September 26, 2011
We awoke to another dreary day which kept me from any hikes
first thing in the morning. Just along
the highway, we made our first stop at the reconstructed Barlow Road Tollgate. Opened by Sam Barlow in 1846, this passageway was the first toll road on the Oregon Trail.
Prior to the opening, pioneers had to convert their covered wagons into
rafts and ride the rapids of the Columbia River. Travelers paid 25 cents to pass through the
gate and meeting the toll man was even a social occasion as they hadn’t seen
anyone for miles.
After visiting the tollgate, we turned off the highway to
follow a road to the north that climbs six miles past a handful of waterfalls
to Timberline Lodge for a close up view of Mount Hood. The lodge was built during the Great
From the lodge, we returned to the highway and continued
east through the forested mountains to Trillium Lake. The drizzle had subsided, so Petey and I
strolled around the lake’s edge while a few folks tried their luck at
fishing. On a sunny day, Oregon’s
highest peak (Mount Hood) reflects in its waters. Today was a different story. The cloud covered Mount Hood wasn’t distinguishable
in the lake’s rippling surface.
After our short walk, we turned south toward Bend. Within ten miles, we had gone from the lush,
fern covered forest to golden prairies peppered with lava rock as the cool,
damp air turned warm. We reached Bend
after a 100 mile drive and stopped at Lava Lands where we spiraled up a road
that wrapped around Lava Butte, a cinder cone standing 500 feet above sea level. The windy summit offered superb views of the
surrounding desert and cinder cones.
I wandered around the summit for a few minutes before taking
cover from the whipping wind and headed toward Benham Falls, four miles
south. Petey and I took a lovely walk
across a bridge and along the Deschutes River though we never found the
falls. We did, however, find a river
ruler at the trailhead. The cableway,
installed in 1905, measured the river’s flow.
A little further south we found Lava Cast Forest. The lava cast forest was formed over 6,000 years
ago when Newberry Volcano erupted.
Pahoehoe lava flowed into the forest and as it cooled and encased the trees in
stone. Holes known as tree molds are
left in the lava. New shrubs and trees
are now trying to take hold in this lava covered area.
From the lava forest, we retraced our tracks back to Bend to watch the ugly
Cowboy/Redskin football game at a bar conveniently located across from a
Day 283 – Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September 25, 2011
Yesterday’s rest day got a little interesting around
4pm. I ran to the grocery store which
was next to the vet that Petey needed to visit for another urinary tract
infection. As I was walking across the
parking lot with two plastic grocery bags and a pot of mums for Casey, I
witnessed two guys chasing another guy holding a canvas basket about the size
of a laundry basket in both hands as he sprinted out of the parking lot. The chasers yelled, “Stop” and “Security”. A burglary was unfolding in front of me. I was somewhat helpless with my hands full
and an injured leg, but I noticed a beat up maroon car, which had briefly
squealed its wheels, pull out and drive toward the suspect. I thought, “Oh good, the long, strawberry
blond haired, blue eyed guy was going to help catch the burglar, but he turned
out to be driving the getaway car! All I
could do was give the two chasers his description as I heard them speaking with
the 911 operator. The burglar had stolen
$150 worth of merchandise from a beauty supply store, including Crest Whitening
Strips! I guess he was a shoplifter with
a getaway vehicle whose license plate wasn’t covered as was therefore turned into
the police. Hopefully the Portland
police are better detectives than the ones in Dallas who couldn’t find the
burglars that stole my shingles despite having the license plates and VIN numbers
to the vans they used to steel things from my home construction site!
So after a nice dinner with the family and breakfast the
next day, I slowly set out toward Mount Hood.
It was a rainy Sunday, and I have become a fair weather hiker as of
late. I know if I lived in Oregon, I
wouldn’t have that option if I ever wanted to do something outside, but I’m on
the home stretch, I think I’ve hiked for 300 days in a row. In addition, I had a bit of a headache, so instead
of hiking, I drove through Sandy, stopped at Wildwood Recreation Area briefly,
and then found a campground in Mount Hood National Forest where I parked
VANilla and after a nap, read a book. It’s
an old book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I also couldn’t resist snapping a photo of a
fellow camper’s site. The person put up
a hammock and tied a coconut bar and a purple lei to a post outlining the parking
space. Until tomorrow…ETB
Day 280 – Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September
Another great day in the gorge! Our morning started out at the sturgeon fish
hatchery. I was expecting to take a walk to
some sort of tank; see a giant, prehistoric looking fish; and then leave…a
fifteen minute stop or so. I spent an
entire hour there! One area was historic
and included several old white buildings, one which operated as an egg
incubator house. The hatchery incubates
15 million eggs to the eyed stage.
The hatchery purchases half a million pounds of feed to
nourish 10 million fish annually. Fish
is the main ingredient in the food which also includes proteins, fats and
carbohydrates. Fish may be tracked in a
variety of ways, but Oregon hatchery fish are tagged with a coded wire in their
snout and have their adipose fin clipped.
This particular fish hatchery raised salmon, steelhead, and
sturgeon. Sturgeon, between five to
seven feet and 120 – 150 pounds, hovered in the shaded ponds. Sturgeon this big are around 25 years
old. Females do not spawn until they are
over six feet and have reached at least 20 years of age. Male spawn once they have reached four feet
and twelve years. One pond included an
underwater viewing area where we could watch the tough skinned fish with rows
of bony plates called scutes feel their way along the bottom with help from
four barbells which projected from their snouts.
Ducks also seemed to enjoy the fish ponds. They flew from one pond to the next and
sometimes seemed to fight for their territory or companion as they played their
own version of duck, duck, goose while swimming in circles pecking at one
another. Occasionally, they raised up on
their tail, fanning their wings and quacking up a storm while others simply
rested on the rock wall between the pond and the flower gardens.
The salmon area wasn’t quite as tranquil as the sturgeon and
steelhead ponds. They swam into a maze
like cage area and smashed against wood planks from which the water was flowing
trying to follow the “current” upstream.
After visiting the hatchery, we stopped at Ainsworth State
Park for a hike up the lush hillside to walk behind a waterfall. The trailhead started at the base of
Horsetail Falls which was visible from the historic highway. In fact, many visitors parked in the roadside
lot for a quick view of the narrow falls which cascaded over a mossy rock into
a blue pool of water. Petey and I took
the somewhat steep, rocky path which switched back and forth up the hillside of
ferns and lush underbrush. With some
frequency at the beginning of our walk, we passed by slugs and objects that
looked like dog pooh covered in white fuzz.
There were so many of these objects with approximately the same amount
of fuzz, it had to be something else. In
addition, a few frogs hid in the greenery on the trail’s edge.
Eventually we made the half mile jaunt to the upper falls,
known as Ponytail Falls, which couldn’t be seen from the roadway. We walked behind the falls as it shot over
the rocky shelf into the pool before continuing down the hill.
From these falls, we made a quick stop at Oneonta Gorge
covered in an array of lichen. I had
hoped to take a trail farther into the gorge, but the only one I found was
rather over grown and being in poison oak country, I opted against trouncing
through the brush. Instead, we went on
to visit a few more waterfalls, the most
popular being Multnomah Falls. We found
one of the last parking spots in an enormous lot across from a visitor’s
center, gift shop, and bistro! It was a
little too commercialized for me as people were in the way of my photos! No, actually it was a very pretty, two-tiered
fall that I could barely fit into my camera lens as it plunged 620 feet over
the sheer cliff. A lovely stone bridge
crossed its path at the midway point to provide glorious views.
Our next waterfall stop was called Kahweena Falls. From the highway it looked a like a creek
rolling down the hillside, but after a short walk up the path, we came to
another bridge where the falls tumbled over a mossy edge and sprayed the bridge
and surrounding area which proved challenging to get a photo without water
We took a break from waterfalls and made our last stop of
the day at the Vista House, an observatory perched on Crown Point, 700 feet
above sea level. The construction of the
sandstone, temple-shaped building began in December of 1916, six months after
the highway was completed. The insides
are of marble and the roof is made of matte-glazed green tile. Needless to say, the location alone offers
tremendous views of the gorge and it is home to a geocache. Unfortunately, someone was sitting by the
hide, so I had to log a “did not find”, but in retrospect, I think it was
another cacher. Oh well!
All in all, we enjoyed another sunny, breezeless day in
Oregon; a rare treat! In fact, I’d go
out on a limb and say it was hot in the balmy mid-eighties. I’m certain my Texas friends and family would
have been wearing a sweater. I ended the
day at Casey’s again…my third time in a week.
Little did she know she was signing up to house a patient. I’m so indebted to her! She called her friend Sharon, an ER nurse,
who removed my stitches and steri-stripped my wound. I’m SO glad she was able to do it as it
appears to need a little more help healing, and she suggested I rest a
day. I suppose that is what I’ll be
doing tomorrow. ETB