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Archive for August, 2011

It was an easy drive to Oakridge, a small town in the Cascade Mountains. Our Black Canyon campground was amazingly jungle-like and 40 shades of green. Of course, that meant not much solar power for us, but hearing the Willamette (dammit!) River flowing about 30 feet away makes up for any other dearth of amenities. After setting up camp, we repaired to the nearest Dairy Queen (it was hot out!) and had wonderful ice cream sundaes. No, it’s not Mitchell’s Ice Cream, but those DQ people know how much hot fudge to apply to ice cream. There’s still a few mosquitos buzzing around the campground, forcing us to apply bug spray. Yuck, I hate that stuff. By the way, the “Willamette, dammit” not only tells you how to pronounce the name of the river, but it comes from a song, “Eugene” by Greg Brown. Check it out, it’s great.

The next morning we got a late start. The nearby trains whistled through our valley several times during the night. It’s amazing how many towns and campgrounds we’ve stayed at where you can hear the trains go by. Our drive for the day was 62-mile Aufderheide portion of the West Cascade Scenic Byway. It runs by the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. (To say Oregon is full of rivers is an understatement. The area of the Cascade Mountains we’re in gets an average of 72 inches of rain per year. That compares to 22 inches for San Francisco.) It’s a very verdant, pretty road, but we ran into our usual problem: it is very difficult to photograph.

The Forest Service lends out a CD that explains what you’re seeing as you drive up the road. It’s got some interesting information: how much trial and error they have had to optimally re-grow logged areas; how much trial and error they have had to not kill off salmon populations after a dam was built. It sounds likes it’s been more error than trial, but they’re still working on it, and are admitting their difficulties.

Oregon also has a large number of covered bridges (logical, since they have so many rivers) and we will be attempting to photograph any number of them in the upcoming weeks.

We moved to a nearby RV park on Saturday, so we could catch up on communications, electrical charging and laundry. Ho hum. Sunday, we went to see Salt Creek Falls, 258- feet high and quite dramatic. From there, a 3-mile hike took us to Diamond Creek Falls, not so high but quite wide and full of mossy boulders. It is fun to see these waterfalls running at high speed in August. Usually, they are pretty insipid this late in the year, but not in Oregon. It’s been a nice stay here, but I’m ready to see the Oregon coast. We head there tomorrow.

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Last Monday, we were relieved to find out that the owner of the store at which Dave bought a new surge protector, would take it back. Since Dave had left it at the store on Saturday, there was no final drive to Redding. Hurrah!! Unencumbered by mechanical woes, we headed out to Crater Lake, but first stopped in McArthur Burney State Park to see 129-foot-high Burney Falls.  It was beautiful and cool on a hot day.

After our short hike, we finished the drive to Crater Lake and found a nice, sunny campsite. We lounged around and didn’t drive the 7 miles to the lake until the next morning. Boy, is that lake blue!! The light was good and the lake was flawless. We did the 35-mile drive around the rim and got all the views of the lake we could possibly want. Now we just want to photograph it under different light. Nearly every picture we took has little white dots in it. That’s because the White Pine Butterflies came out a few days ago and they are everywhere. They are cool looking – white with fancy black trim on their wings.

Pull my finger!

To get some exercise, we did the 2-mile hike to Plaikni Falls. It was warm, but the trail was fairly level and was shaded by the pines. There were quite a few people taking the trail, several with young children. We all were rewarded at the end with a cool waterfall surrounded by fields of wildflowers. An additional surprise were little blue butterflies, clustered in little bits of bare earth near the stream. Perhaps they were drinking the fine mist that was thrown off or perhaps they were showering. They seemed quite content there. We finished off the day at the Park Ranger’s talk on the stars. The moon wasn’t up and more and more stars became visible as it got later. I saw 3 satellites but no shooting stars.

We got up earlyish Wednesday and headed for Crater Lake. The sun rose and blew out the images of the lake we would have taken. But there were clouds and a few short hikes we hadn’t taken, so we headed around the rim drive to the East. We did the Castle Crest Wildflower Trail and were immediately set upon by voracious mosquitos, as many as we experienced in Alaska 29 years ago. It was hard to focus with them landing on our face and hands, but the meadow was so pretty, we persevered. We then went back to Plaikni Falls, hoping the sun would not yet be on it and we could take longer water exposures. We got some nice images, but the mosquitos still plagued us. As we left there and headed back to the lake, it began to sprinkle. So the lake became steely blue and gray; much more somber than Tuesday. More somber yet were the park rescue people heading to high spot overlooking the lake around 5 p.m.  We didn’t hear the entire story, but apparently someone went climbing around the steep, steep incline and had disappeared. His friends hadn’t seen him fall, but he had been missing for a while. We don’t know the resolution of that story. We were hoping for a gorgeous sunset, reflecting in the lake. We got a lovely sunset but it didn’t reflect in the lake.

Thursday was departure day. We drove north, past Crater Lake and got a final morning view with some puffy clouds enlivening the scene.

 

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Four days in Lassen and we got 3 hikes under our belt (along with all the other stuff under our belts). We left home Sunday morning and it was an easy drive on I-80 and then north on I-5 to Red Bluff. We stayed in a pleasant RV park and ate dinner outside in the balmy evening weather. It was a short drive to Lassen on Monday, and we drove halfway through the park to our campground at Summit Lake. It’s a beautiful campsite, reserved a month ago. It looks through the trees to Summit Lake, and it is warm in the sun and cool in the shade. We’re getting enough sun to charge up the batteries thoroughly. So we’re good.

We took it easy Monday afternoon. The campground is at 7,000 feet which means we need to acclimate before we start doing long, uphill hikes. So we took a walk around Summit Lake (about 0.75 miles) and saved our first real hike for Tuesday. I was sitting outside reading when a Stellers Jay landed about 10 feet away from me and did something I’d never seen before. He was in the sun with his back to me, and he laid on his belly and spread out his wings and tailfeathers. He stayed that way about 2 minutes, then preened a little and flew off. I know birds dry their wings by stretching them out, but I’ve never seen one spread himself out on the ground like that. It was really neat because I got a really good look at his plumage, which was iridescent deep blue.

The trouble with most of the trails in Lassen is that that they start out by going downhill anywhere from 300 to 2,000 feet. So you’re going downhill at the beginning when you’re fresh and uphill when you’re tired. We aimed for a short 2.5-mile hike to Crumbaugh Lake and it was nice, but then we decided to add another 4 miles and ascend to Bumpass Hell, a geo thermal area with fumeroles and boiling mudpots. The trail, which ascended about 700 feet over 2 miles, was absolutely gorgeous, with great views of Crumbaugh Lake and Lake Almanor (way beyond Lassen) and fields thick with wildflowers. We spotted a marmot sunning on a rock. We traversed a few sections of ice that hasn’t yet melted. Bumpass Hell had wonderful pastel colors, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Yellowstone. After a rest, we hiked back down the trail, which went well until I crossed a small stream and slipped, twisting my side. Luckily, I was only shaken up, but that incident generated a big jolt of adrenaline and I was shaky and tired on the rest of the trail. Some Advil, spaghetti and a nice Syrah for dinner perked me up.

Wednesday, we drove the southern half of the 35-mile road through Lassen and stopped at Helen Lake, fascinated by the ice floating in the water, with blues varying from the palest aqua to the deepest cobalt. Beautiful. We then went a short, but hot and sweaty hike to see Kings Creek Falls. The falls were running well, cascading down around 50 feet, but the light was not optimal for photography. We returned to the campground, ready for fajitas. (Notes: Mary and Rick: thank you for the peaches – they are wonderful. Jeff and Betty: thank you for the Lemoncello – it’s finally warm enough to enjoy its lemony coolness.

Thursday, we got going a little earlier and hiked the Paradise Meadow Trail, which runs alongside Hat Creek. We were enjoying a large number and variety of wildflowers and a cushy trail that ran uphill very gently, when I heard a noise. Pinecones and other things often fall from trees so I didn’t pay too much attention. Then I heard an even sharper crack and looked around, spotting a small brown bear, about 25 yards off the trail, tearing into a downed log, looking for grubs. Dave was a little ahead of me on the trail, so I rushed to catch up with him without yelling “Dave, a bear!!” We peered back, looking to see if there was another (mama?) bear and watching the small bear in action, but couldn’t get an unimpeded view. We continued up the trail and saw some braided cascades on the Hat River. We soon reached Paradise Meadows, which is a little past its prime for wildflowers, but is still spectacular, set in a large cirque in the mountains.

Later on, we went back to Helen Lake to see what the ice looked like in the afternoon light. We found that a lot of the ice had melted, but all the shades of blue were still entrancing. We were also high enough so that we had phone reception and got our emails. We’re probably going to be incommunicado quite often on this trip.

When we got back to camp, our neighbors told us about their day. They are older than us, but very healthy looking. They had gone on 2 hikes that day. If the trail up to Mount Lassen was open, they would have done the 2,000-foot ascent on that. (We didn’t even consider that hike.) They had hiked down to Bumpass Hell and saw the rangers and EMT’s helping a man who had gone off the boardwalk and one of his legs broke through the surface and sank into the hot ground. He was badly burned. There are warnings everywhere to stay on the trails, but I guess people think it doesn’t apply to them.

Our final night at Lassen was interrupted at 8:30 when campers arrived with reservations for our campsite. The system at Lassen is that half the campsites are reserved by phone or online at least 3 days in advance, and half are on a first-come, first-serve basis. We had reserved our site for Monday through Wednesday night. We wanted to stay there Thursday and tried to ask various park officials if we could just pay for the additional night, since there was no indication anyone had reserved it for Thursday. So we paid and stayed, but apparently the park people don’t update their reservation indicators or check to see if there’s duplication. So we were rousted out just as it was getting dark by the rightful owners. Luckily, we went into an empty space nearby.

We were all perky on Friday, ready to drive a few miles to an RV park in Hat Creek and do electronic catchup. We pulled into a very pretty campground and plugged the RV into the shore line. Nothing. We moved to another site and tried it: nothing. Soon we collected a campground manager and various and sundry guys who tried various things: nothing. It was hot and sunny, so we had power from our solar charger, but that’s not strong enough to run the air conditioner. Finally, Dave thought it must be the surge protector and drove 100 miles to Redding to buy a new one. He returned and installed it: nothing. He finally got the power on by totally removing the surge protector, which is a little scary because if you get a bad power connection, it can fry all your electronics in the RV. Today he is driving back to Redding to return the surge protector he bought yesterday. So RVing isn’t all fun.

 

 

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