09-17-2021 The Ending of a Summer

This blog has few words.  We are heading out for some time in Southern Utah red rock country.  My favorite thing.  Of course I will blog about our travels.  However, when I realized I hadn’t written a word about the time between our reunion at South Beach and our Utah departure, I thought I had better at least get something in here.  I know from past experience, when I think I am going to go back and write about some time that I missed, I almost never do.

Smoky smoky smoky.  What can I say.

Once in awhile the winds would blow the smoke away, almost.  The mountains to the north of our home weren’t often visible to us when the smoke was at its worst.

Hot summers mean cool food.  I can’t count the number of chicken cobb salads we had with the award winning Rogue Creamery blue cheese.

Kayaking this year was nearly impossible, with everything local almost empty, and we didn’t bother to try to head over the mountain to Klamath Basin because of the smoke.  Who wants to kayak in low water and smoky skies.

This is what 1 percent full at Hyatt Lake looks like

I joined a local book club.  This was our second get together, outdoors at Schmidt.  Before the big Oregon Covid delta variant surge.  We were all so optimistic about being vaccinated and beating the virus.  Ah well….it goes on, with Josephine County being the worst it has been throughout the entire pandemic. 

Check out the lovely young woman in the red shirt.  Kristin is my “newest” friend.  She reached out for a coffee date and we found we really enjoy someone new to talk to about stuff in general.  Kristin has three of the cutest little girls you could imagine, and a great husband who works at home so she can get a coffee date break every couple weeks or so.  Everyone in the group is interesting in their own way, with lots of diversity here in age and thoughts.  I am enjoying it, although the book was a bit fluffy.


Mo kept busy doing what she does, keeping up the maintenance around Sunset Hous.

Two of my daughters came to visit for an early birthday present, staying the weekend and taking me shopping to our local glass forge for some truly fabulous gifts.  Daughter Melody got in on the fun as well, with a remote purchase to add to the birthday treats.






Mo and I went to the Britt Festival to see Chicago.  Vaccinations and masks required at the outdoor venue.  It was fun, but smoky.  The music was some I don’t remember, and others that brought back memories of my kids listening to the radio in the 80’s.  It was great to get back to Britt though, more for the nostalgia than the actual event.  Mo and I have been going to Britt ever since we met.





We finally decided to add to our deck.  It required moving the plants from the herb bed I planted three years ago from 4 inch pots.

We were lucky to get Joel to do the work for us, same guy who did all the woodwork finishing in our house when we had it built almost 4 years ago.

Old deck was nice enough, but a bit too small to hold enough chairs and the bbq when we have guests


Mattie approves of the addition

Our friends from California, Nevada City, also approve.  Nickie and Jimmy stopped for an overnight on their way to the north coast. 

Yes, I stole the photos of our dinner time at the Taprock Grill.  Love enjoying the deck and view of the Rogue River.

As I said, few words and a fast post with only a few minutes until our departure time.  Edits can come later.

 


08-03 through 08-06-2021 August Reunion at the Beach

I was suddenly awakened from my blogging slumber when I read Janna’s blog this afternoon, Restoration Cowboy Style.  Blogging has become a chore for her and she is no longer going to blog about their great ranch life in Montana and Arizona.  After so many years, Janna’s blog remains one of the few that I still read and I am sad to see it go. 

I know that with my commitment to very little more than a post or two for each month my own readership has waned.  At least I suspect that it has, although the counters on the blog dashboard pages insist there are thousands of folks reading every time I post some mundane thing about every day life.  Bots, I am sure…not real people.

Still, I am not ready to give it up, in spite of the fact that it can sometimes be a chore.  For me, it is only a chore when I am thinking about doing it, but after I begin, most of the time it becomes a sweet delight.  Sad to say, I enjoy my own writing!  Is that embarrassing or what?  I write as I think.  My grammar and syntax aren’t always by the rules.  Incomplete sentences.  Incorrect punctuation.  Too many or too few commas.  Mo tries to keep me in line, reviewing the blog and making suggestions.  I usually edit accordingly but not always.  Hence, you get what you get.  But the better story is that I get what I want.  I get stories that remind me of how it felt to be doing whatever we were doing at the time.  So it is, my faithful handful of readers, that you still get my stories, and I have something fun to print in a book and read again as the years pass by.

We are in the deepest of the “dog days of summer”, with August burning holes in my brain with heat and smoke.  I check the fire and smoke maps on a daily basis, hoping for a hint of some relief.  Once again, Grants Pass is thick with smoke from the many fires in California, in addition to the chain of fires ignited by lightning along the Cascade crest to our east.  Winds are predicted to come to help clear out the smoke, but they have yet to appear. 

Most of the time there is a nice view of mountains in the distance beyond the trees when the smoke clears.

I walk around the property, the ground beneath my feet cracked and hard as cement except for the small patches of green grass that we tend carefully.  I know about xeri-scaping, planting drought tolerant species instead of water hungry lawns. We don’t water half of our property in the summer. 

I also know that when it is 105 degrees or so for days on end, those small patches of green make stepping outside the front door almost tolerable, a bit of an oasis.

I spend the mornings checking the well and the cistern levels, and calculating our water budget for the day.  With extended days of triple digit temperatures, everything suffers.  I ease my frustrations by going to the computer and looking at the photos of summers past, and hunting for the images that reflect that a change is in the air.  Maybe by mid-September?  Most certainly by the first of October, although rain may not appear until November and hopefully by then the fires will be snuffed out completely.

Such is life in the heat of summer in Southern Oregon.  Such is life in summers that each year break records for the hottest temperatures and the highest number of acres burned in the fires.

The big gravel driveway on the side of the property is great for getting in and out with the Motorhome, and for hosting guests occasionally.  It does capture a LOT of debris from our ancient black oaks. It is too hot to rake, even in the early mornings.

Still, there is a silver lining, or maybe I should call it a silvery gray fog lining.  Just a short distance west, the Oregon Coast waits with cool temperatures, foggy days, and only rare hints of the smoke that lies to the east. 

The Oukrop Family gathering had been planned for several months.  Roger, Mo’s brother, passed away just four years ago, but his wife Nancy took it upon herself to make reservations for the extended family at South Beach State Park once again, a favorite of Roger’s. 

Family members came from Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Colorado to gather at the beach.  We stayed in a mixture of motorhomes, trailers, yurts and local hotels.  A few members of the family couldn’t make it this time, including Mo’s sister Edna and her youngest brother Don and his extended family.  We missed them all.  I think we tried to count a few times and got up to 33 before losing count once again because it was hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time.

South Beach State Park is about 5 hours north from Grants Pass.  There are several options for crossing the coast range between I-5 and the beach, and this time we chose to travel north to Sutherlin and follow the Umpqua River Highway 138 toward Reedsport, turning north towards Newport on Highway 101. South Beach is just two miles or so south of the lovely coastal city of Newport, famous for the Newport Aquarium and one of the prettiest bridges on the Oregon Coast.

When we arrived Monday afternoon, the skies were surprisingly clear and surprisingly chilly at 59 degrees F.  A big difference from what we left behind at home!  I was surprised that even though I was craving cooler temperatures I had a bit of a time adjusting to the chill on that first evening.

Left to right: Rachel, Mike, Mo, Sue, Chere, Dan

Since much of the family was still in transit, Mo and I decided to go out to eat in Newport with brother Dan and wife Chere and their daughter Rachel and son-in-law Mike. Many of the restaurant choices in Newport were closed, with several reasons posted on websites.  Some said they couldn’t get employees, some said they couldn’t get enough food, some were closed completely due to the limitations of the past year of COVID.  We did finally find an open restaurant, The Taphouse Brewery at Nye Creek.  The wait to be seated was over an hour and with a chill wind blowing we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do during the wait.  The beach was just down the block, so we braved the wind and wandered down to watch the waves and the few people who were doing the same.

Our dinner was a mixed bag of not so good and absolutely delicious.  We were seated at a large table, with plenty of social distance between tables, but still had another hour or so wait for our food to arrive.  The ordered appetizers didn’t show up until after the main courses were delivered and seemed a bit redundant by then.  The sweet potato fries and french fries on some of the meals were literally cold.  Who knows my luck, but my sweet potato fries and fish tacos were hot and some of the best fish tacos with the most interesting condiments I have ever tasted!

“Semolina crusted NW Pacific cod, Taphouse slaw, chipotle aioli, pomegranate chili molasses syrup, avocado, lime, smoky tomato salsa and house made tortilla chips.”

I was in heaven.  In fairness, the server found some hot fries for the rest of the people at our table and took the cost of the appetizers off the final bill.  The entire evening was just a taste of what small towns are experiencing during this time of COVID shortages with food and personnel. Sad.

We settled in quietly that first evening, and slept well with the distant sound of waves and the foghorn on the jetty just north of the beach.  Tuesday morning dawned surprisingly clear.  I had somehow expected fog.  I offered to take Mattie for her morning walk and ended up following the path to the beach.  We were camped in the A loop, a choice I learned to love because the beach walk was just 1/4 mile from our site.  When we have camped in the loops to the north the walks to the beach aren’t paved all the way and are 1/3 and 1/2 mile respectively from the campsites to the beach.

That first morning was gorgeous.  I wasn’t up to slogging down the sandy slope that morning and with an empty beach it was easy to let Mattie off-leash to run in the sand.  If you have read this blog much in the past, you know that running in soft beach sand it Mattie’s favorite thing.

Look closely (click on the photo above to enlarge) and you can see Mattie running freely on the empty beach and my shadow at the top of the dune taking her photo

By the time I returned and Mo and I had coffee and a bit of breakfast, family members were gathering at Dan and Chere’s campsite with discussions of what might happen during the day.  Our choice was to walk back to the beach once again with one group while another group chose to visit Newport. 

Left to right:  Rachel, Susan, Danny, Marci, and her husband Jon, with Dan and his dog Sophie on the low far right in the distance.

Jon, Sue, Mo, Sophie, and Brother Dan

The wind was blowing and the temps were quite chilly, but the dogs and kids didn’t mind in the least.  I discovered that it was much warmer sitting in the sand and I realized that I could actually enjoy sitting at the beach rather than walking along the shore for miles and miles.  Learning to sit and enjoy and be quiet rather than having to be on the move all the time is quite a lesson for me.  I had to have help getting up, but it was worth it to just relax and enjoy with Mo’s nieces, Susan, Rachel, and Marci, and watching the younger kids play.

Rachel, Susan, and Marci

The afternoon slid by with a bit of reading and napping for Mo and I before we walked across the campground road from our place to Dan’s place.  Most of the family gathered for a meal with some folks bringing their own food in addition to the spaghetti that Chere provided. 

Mo’s niece Juli and her husband Hallie on the right, with another niece Angi in the blue hat.  Angie’s daughter Ashli and her beau Evan facing the camera.

We enjoyed watching Dan and Jon teach Mo’s great-nephews, Danny and David, how to chop wood and build a fire.  We didn’t last long that evening thanks to the chill but the fire was nice.

Mo with her great nephew, Susan’s youngest son, David

The next morning again dawned bright and sunny with no fog in sight.  That is rather unusual for the Oregon Coast in summer where a chilly marine layer often hangs over the beaches. The plan for the day featured some kayak time on Beaver Creek, a wildlife area where we have kayaked in the past when visiting South Beach.

We offered our kayaks to Susan and Danny , and Dan took the younger David on his inflatable kayak.  The group only had about 90 minutes on the water because it was important for them to get back to camp in time for the next exciting activity. 

Mo’s nieces Juli and Susan trying to get David into his wetsuit.  Right: David, Kalli, and Danny

Kalli,  (Mo’s great-niece), had arranged to rent skip boards and wet suits for ocean play.  The best entertainment of the day was watching the kids try to get the wet suits on and the biggest laugh of the trip was the moment when Danny suddenly realized that his wetsuit had a space for boobs.  He and Kalli had somehow managed to put on each other’s suits.

We all walked to the beach once again to watch the kids play.  This time however, I chose to remain high on the dunes and watch from a distance.  My rubber IBM legs were complaining a bit with all the walking I had been doing and deep, soft sand isn’t easy even when everything is working properly.

After a wonderful afternoon watching the kids play in the waves we meandered back home to relax a bit before supper.  Several of us thought it would be nice to get everyone together, so made a plan to meet at 5 at Dan and Chere’s place.  With different folks arriving at different times we did finally manage to have some time with the entire family together for a meal and a campfire.  Dan brought out an antique corn popper that Mo had given him years ago and the boys were delighted to try some real campfire popcorn, not something out of a microwave.

Different groups managed to enjoy some of the other sights along the coast, with side trips made by some to the Newport Aquarium, the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Depot Bay, and portside shopping in Newport.  Mo and I skipped the excursions since we have spent lots of time seeing the Oregon Coast.

Our last full day at the beach dawned foggy and cool. Once again the plan was to spend time on Beaver Creek with the kayaks. We left camp around 11, with the tides turning around noon.  It is helpful to go with the tides in the coastal waterways so that you aren’t fighting the tide coming out in addition to the natural current.

Dan took Kalli in his kayak and the four of us paddled about 3.5 miles up Beaver Creek toward the end of the wildlife area.  Even with the overcast, it was a beautiful morning with very little wind to trouble us on the trip back down the river toward the ocean.  We saw two eagles in the same area where yesterday’s group had seen them in the firs near the creek.  We also saw otters, and many ducks.

Once again I had an opportunity to exit my kayak without much difficulty in knee deep water at an easy launch without any current to fight and a smooth bottom.  Every year at the beginning of the kayak season I worry, and yet so far so good and I am grateful.

The rest of the day was quiet, with a walk to the beach and a quiet afternoon in camp. Some of the family played horseshoes and some folks gathered at Dan and Chere’s place with others at Mo’s niece Juli’s yurt.  Mo and I  gave up on visiting and hung out at home watching one of our TV series on Netflix cast on to the MoHo TV.  It is wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with family, but all the visiting, talking, and fun times wore us out.

The evening rain that was predicted never showed up, but the next morning Mo and I were still happy that we had packed up the outside rug and chairs the night before.  Breakfast was easy, and we spent a bit of time visiting with everyone before each group began the process of packing up and heading out.  The skies were gray with threatening rain that never materialized as we hooked up the Tracker and headed south on Highway 101 toward Florence.

Many years ago I discovered a wonderful quilt shop in Florence, Joy of Quilting.  Sadly, it was sold and I thought the owners went out of business.  Just recently on a Facebook quilt group I heard that they had opened a new store in Florence down in the old port area where the cute shops are located.  We arrived in Newport right at 11 when the shop opened and I delighted in the new shop.  It wasn’t as extensive as the old store was but they still had beautiful floral quilt fabrics that are sometimes hard to find elsewhere.

The drive home from Florence was easy.  We enjoyed the brilliant clear skies along the route beside the Umpqua River, savoring the 80 degree temperatures and the lack of smoke or haze.  It wasn’t until we gassed up the rig at Seven Feathers on I-5 that hints of the smoky conditions south of the Umpqua Divide appeared.  By the time we reached Sexton Mountain Pass north of Grants Pass it was apparent that we were returning from our cool, smoke-free, idyllic time on the coast the the heat and smoke that has been plaguing our part of Oregon for so many days. 

It was nearly 100 degrees when we arrived at home, and Mo and I for once decided that we didn’t need to empty the MoHo completely right away.  We got out the food and our night bags and escaped into the blessedly cool house.

That was ten days ago, and I have no idea how time has passed so quickly.  I have been completing the binding on the king sized quilt I made for daughter Deanna.  I also was under a deadline to complete a small lap quilt for daughter Melody’s birthday on the 12th.  Sadly, I didn’t make it in time, so her birthday present will be a bit late.  Lucky for me, she had somewhere to go for her long 4 day birthday weekend so a late present isn’t quite as awful as it could have been.

The rest of the time we have been managing the well, hand watering mornings when the cistern is full, and scheduling laundry loads between weekly shrub waterings.  As I write, at this very moment, a slight breeze is beginning to blow some of the smoke from our valley. I just stepped outside and I can see the peak Mo and I lovingly call “Pointy Mountain”.  I haven’t seen that peak in at least two weeks.  It is a good sign that maybe we get a bit of relief from the smoke and heat. 

It is easy to get down in the dumps with the heat and smoke.  Sometimes Facebook does good things, even though I usually just scroll past all the memes.  Recently a note came up from my youngest daughter, asking what you do that makes you want to get up in the morning, that feeds your soul each day.  I was especially shaky the morning that message showed up, and I had to think about it a bit.  But each day since I have paid more attention to the things that bring me delight, a reason to get up.

One of them is watching Mattie wake up.  Every single morning she sleeps till 8, and when we let her out of her crate she does big long stretches on the rug before tearing down the hallway to spin around in front of the back door.  I love the rat a tat tat of her paws on the hardwood, and am glad it doesn’t damage the wood! She does little doggie dances waiting for us to catch up and let her out.  She then races around the property for a few minutes, doing her business as far away as possible along the fenceline, and then races back up the stairs. 

She waits till we tell her she can come in, races past the kitchen island, does a two circle dance on the Turkish rug before racing down the hallway away for her breakfast.  Her tiny portion of breakfast finished, she races to the rug again for her morning treats, each earned with a trick:  lie down, sit up, roll over.  Next on the agenda is a run to my lap, making sure that I have the appropriate quilt over my legs where she can snuggle.  I can’t tell you have wonderful this little morning routine feels.  Such a lesson in joy that isn’t dependent on a single thing except life itself.


07-14-2021 Camping in A Caldera at East Lake Part 2

Newberry Volcano, Oregon, is the largest volcano in the Cascades volcanic arc. This north-facing view taken from the volcano’s peak, Paulina Peak (elevation 7,984 feet), encompasses much of the volcano’s 4-by-5-milewide central caldera, a volcanic depression formed in a powerful explosive eruption about 75,000 years ago. The caldera’s two lakes, Paulina Lake (left) and the slightly higher East Lake (right), are fed in part by active hot springs heated by molten rock (magma) deep beneath the caldera. The Central Pumice Cone sits between the lakes. The mostly treeless, 1,300-year-old Big Obsidian Flow, youngest lava flow on the volcano, is surrounded by forest south of the lakes.

Once again we woke at dawn to a perfectly still lake.  We knew from the previous morning that it was important to be on the lake by 7 or so to enjoy at least a couple of hours of paddling before the winds come up. This time we decided to kayak in the opposite direction toward the west side of the lake. Unlike the previous day, the smoke from the Bootleg Fire was being blown into the Caldera.  We were especially happy when looking up toward Paulina Peak through the haze that we had decided to go to the top yesterday when it was clear.

We paddled west along the shoreline to the cliffs where we had seen the eagles and ospreys on the previous day.  The winds were still calm, and we paddled close to the shore of the slightly rocky beach at a quiet little bay on the far northwest shoreline.  Neither of us felt like getting out of the boats, but we let Mattie off leash and let her run and play on the beach a bit.

We called to her and she didn’t want to come, so we simply started paddling away just to see what she would do.  We were both quite surprised when she suddenly ran down to the water and jumped right in, swimming hard to reach Mo’s kayak.  Mo missed grabbing her and Mattie swam toward me where I was able to easily reach her life jacket and haul her right into my kayak.  For a little dog that really doesn’t like to swim, she did great.  Of course, I have no photo of that little Mattie adventure because I was too busy trying to grab her out of the water.

Hiking the Big Obsidian Flow

The Big Obsidian Flow is one of the popular “To-Do’s” when visiting the Newberry Crater.  Because Mo and I have hiked Glass Mountain and other obsidian flows in the Medicine Lake Caldera in northern California we never felt the need to see this one.  The last couple of times we camped at East Lake we never bothered to hike the Big Obsidian Flow.

The view above is the Big Obsidian flow with East Lake in the distance.  This photo was taken from our trip yesterday to Paulina Peak. The trailhead isn’t far from the campground, and we knew from the information we received at the visitor center that we would need a parking pass.  For us, the Senior Pass covered the parking fee and we merely had to be sure to hang our pass in the window of the Tracker.

There were a lot of cars in the parking area, but the trail wasn’t terribly crowded once we climbed the stairs to the higher part of the trail.  It is a lovely trail and very well maintained.  The signs are wonderful, with lots of information about the flow, the caldera, and local plants and animals. 

Even though the trail isn’t terribly difficult, it is a bit rough and just a little bit steep in some places.  Good shoes are a must since the obsidian creates shards of very sharp glass on the trail that could easily cut your feet to shreds if you weren’t careful.

The trail meanders to the higher elevations via a stairway that ascends the eastern flank of the flow.  Dogs are NOT allowed on the trail due to the sharp glass and tight quarters along some areas of the route.  We had a great time enjoying the views of Paulina Peak where we had been the previous day. 

We met some interesting people, including a sweet young couple from Minnesota who were happy to take our photo. 

Another young couple had tattoos that were photo worthy.

 

At the highest point of the trail a volunteer ranger was roving and providing information and answering questions.  I got a big kick out of him, and was reminded of Gaelyn’s stories of roving and answering questions at Bryce National Park. People do ask a LOT of questions. 

It was a great hike and is something we might even try again when we return to East Lake and the Newberry Crater Caldera.

Paulina Creek and Paulina Falls hike: 

After returning from our Obsidian hike for lunch and a rest, we drove to the trailhead for Paulina Falls. We were warned at the visitor center about the steep trail to the lower viewpoint.  Viewing the falls from the top was enough for us rather than taking a steep switchback trail to the base of the falls.

As I did a bit of research to add to the Visitor Center publication we received on the previous day, I discovered this fantastic guide to the Newberry Crater Area.  There is a ton of information here about the geologic history of the area with directions to amazing volcanic features.  The link to this PDF is Field Trip Guide to the Geologic Highlights of Newbery Crater Volcano, Oregon. Even if you don’t read the entire publication, it is worth a quick look.  Great photos and descriptions of the area.

Paulina Creek Falls s where the only creek on Newberry Volcano flows west across eroded tuff that was erupted and deposited here close to what is now the caldera rim during caldera formation by collapse ~75,000 years ago. The height of the falls is about 100 feet.


Within a few hundred yards we arrived at the viewpoint of the falls and looking down toward the bottom of the canyon we were happy with our choice.  It didn’t look very inviting, certainly not worth the knee pain that would have been part of doing the switchback trail.  There were quite a few people around, some with big dogs on leashes, but even leashes weren’t very helpful in the tight quarters created by the narrow walkway and protective stone walls.  Mo took Mattie away from the doggie crowds while I wandered around and took photos of the falls. 

I could see another viewpoint on the west side of the falls, and based on our views of local maps we knew the trail to that viewpoint couldn’t be more than a mile and a half or so.  The trail was lovely on the east side, meandering through tall forest with plenty of shade. 

We crossed the Paulina Creek Bridge and continued on the Peter Skene Ogden Trail on the west side of the creek.  Here the forest was more open, with the thin trunks of lodgepole pine providing little shade.  The trail was easy, though, smooth and relatively flat.  It didn’t take long for us to arrive at the viewpoint we saw from the other side of the falls.  We only saw a few people down along the creek and only one person was on the trail on the west side of the creek.

Notice how the falls are split, with Paulina Creek flowing on either side of the volcanic cliff which marks the edge of the Newberry Caldera. Looking on the upper right of this photo you can see the east side viewpoint where a red shirts stands out in the photo. Our day had been very nearly perfect, with a morning kayak and a couple of pleasant day hikes.  The smoke was thicker than it had been the previous day when we returned to the campground.  The temperatures were in the high 80’s and during the later part of the afternoon it felt quite warm. 

I wasn’t interested in swimming in the lake because with the low water the shoreline is a big soft and weedy.  The only way for me to enjoy swimming here would be to have a floaty of some sort that I could get on and off into the water where it is deep and clean.  I wanted to nap, but the MoHo has a slight flaw.  The back bedroom area isn’t conducive to a good air flow, even with the fantastic fan pulling in outside air from the windows along the bed.  I got much too warm and decided to move outside in the shade.  Only problem with that plan was that the flies thought I was a tasty morsel.  Happily, I discovered that the mosquito spray I purchased was also good for repelling biting flies and I was able to sit outside and read for a couple of hours while Mo napped indoors. 

07-15-2021  Thursday: Once again the night temperatures dropped to a comfortable 42F degrees and we slept well.  At dawn, we looked out toward to lake.  Thrilled that the lake was smooth and glassy without a breath of wind we donned jackets and walked down to the kayaks.  In addition to the silky lake surface, the skies were startlingly blue, with no smoke visible in any direction. One of the nice things about the beach for us was the big cement block that had iron loops embedded into the cement.  It was a perfect place to lock the kayaks up with the bike cable and padlock so we could leave the kayaks there safely for the duration of our camping trip.

Our plan was to paddle west toward the “big slide” and then beyond to the gorgeous pumice sand beach.  We thought we could let Mattie get out of the kayak, run along the beach, and maybe even convince her to swim a bit.

We learned later that the best fishing on the lake was near the slide, and sure enough as we approached the beach, there was a fisherman on the shore and a boat in the water.  We thought about paddling around the point to the next beach that we visited the previous day, but decided that there was enough room for all of us on our original destination at the first beach.

It was a perfect choice.  The shoreline was shallow and clear and the pumice beach sand was clean.  Mattie had a wonderful time running around off leash.  We sat on the sand and watched the water and the sky for a long time.  The only thing missing was our coffee!  Next time we paddle to this beach early in the morning we will be sure to bring go cups with us.

Mo decided to see if Mattie wanted to try swimming again but she was having no part of that idea.  After much coaxing of a stubborn dog who remained a safe distance away from the water, Mo picked her up and took her out so she could swim back.  Mattie is a good, strong, fast swimmer, but she definitely doesn’t choose to do it on her own.  I had Mo do it a second time so I could get a movie  and I had to be fast to actually catch Mattie in the water.

Little dog gets cold easily, though, and she shivered a bit on the way back to camp, even in the warm sunshine.  Mo and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and took our time packing up camp.  With a noon check-out there was no rush.  The trip back across the mountains to Grants Pass was uneventful with no fires, not much traffic, and very little smoke along our route. 

A perfect end to a wonderful camping, hiking, and kayaking getaway.


07-12-2021 Camping in a Caldera at East Lake Part 1

When we returned from our little day trip kayak, I realized that half the month was nearly over.  If we were to keep our personal commitment to taking the MoHo out at least once every month, I needed to find a someplace to camp.  With so many people on the road, it is necessary to have a reservation at just about any campground within driving distance.  I am sure there are places to camp along a creek somewhere, or in the mountains and in the forest without a reservation.  For us, however, a lake with good kayaking is top on our list for summer camping.

I started searching all the National Forest and State Park campgrounds that might be a good destination.  Many of the lakes on the west side of the Cascades are reservoirs.  Thanks to the drought, many of those lakes are extremely low. 

Howard Prairie, where we have camped in the past, is at 5 percent capacity, with Hyatt Lake 3 percent.  Even Fish Lake where we camped and kayaked last summer is only 21 percent full.  I thought about trying to go to Medicine Lake, without a reservation, but at this time of the year we couldn’t be sure of getting a decent site that wouldn’t be too far from the water to make kayaking reasonably effortless.  I then remembered sweet camping times we have enjoyed at East Lake in the Newberry Crater National Monument east of LaPine. Our previous visits were wonderful, with no problem snagging a first come first served site right on the lake.  This time was different.  Checking the Deschutes National Forest reservation page, I discovered that every single campsite at East Lake and the other campgrounds in the area were reserved all the way through August.  Sites in September and October that didn’t have a big R for reserved had a big XX indicating that they could not be reserved until a date two weeks prior to the desired reservation date.

The red circle in the photo above is our site 24.

I gave up and thought maybe we could try to get there in late September.  But as I was looking around, suddenly I saw three big A’s, meaning a site was available.  It was only one site, number 24, and was open for July 12, 13, and 14.  Two days away.  Could we make arrangements to leave that quickly?  Why not.  It was either that or giving up the idea of camping in July on a lake. 

Just now, as I am writing this blog post, I checked the reservation site once again, and discovered that there are more cancellations and a few sites are actually available through July and August.  Interesting.  Maybe folks are afraid of the smoke and the fires and are cancelling their reservations.  The forester told me that our site 24 was a cancellation so we were lucky.

We arrived at our reserved site at East Lake Campground around 2 in the afternoon.  We were delighted to discover a spacious campground with well spaced sites and a nice view even from our site in the third row back from the lakefront.

After settling in we took a short hike with Mattie to check out the beach trail toward the east side of the lake.

The afternoon stretched into a lovely evening.  Temperatures were in the low 80s which felt wonderful after our triple digit days back home in Grants Pass.  We searched unsuccessfully for posted rules and drove back to the Newberry Crater visitor center to find a ranger.  She informed us that there was a complete ban on campfires and that we could use our generator between the hours of 8am and 10pm.  Good to know.  We did miss having our evening campfires, but with the fire danger being so extreme it was a small price to pay for safety.

The next morning dawned clear and beautiful with a temperature of 44 degrees F.  The lake was still as glass.  Our first launch from the campground beach was easy.  We kayaked to the east, toward the East Lake Resort. 

I wanted to check out the hot springs along the shoreline, and was saddened to see that with the low water, the springs were almost completely dried up.  In spite of rules to the contrary, people had been digging around the spring to attempt to reach the hot water.  The last time we camped at East Lake I loved kayaking to the spring for a nice soak.

We followed the eastern shoreline, past the East Lake Resort, and the Cinder Campground toward the cliffs on the northern side of the lake.  We saw a couple of ospreys on the trees along the cliffs, and an eagle soared out over the lake as we watched.  With only the phone on board for photos, I snapped a few shots to prove we saw them, but none of them were good enough to post here.

Continuing toward the western shore, I disembarked for a short break.  By the time I got back in the kayak, the winds were picking up and in moments the lake turned rough and choppy.  The half hour pull back toward the campground was a good workout.

Once back to our camp, we cooked a good breakfast and relaxed a bit with coffee and the lake view.  The skies were fairly clear with smoke from the Oregon fires blowing away from us toward the east.  It was a perfect day to explore the road to the highest point in the Caldera at Paulina Peak.

The road up the mountain is paved for the first quarter mile or so and then turns to gravel with some serious washboards on the uphill side of the road.  Traffic wasn’t terribly bad and even though the road is marked as a one lane road, there was plenty of room to pull over and allow cars to pass.  Most folks were careful about waiting at wide spots for cars going in opposite direction.

When we got to the top, the parking area was almost full.  There was a ranger explaining to folks about a fire near LaPine that had started just 10 minutes prior to our arrival. He said it was obvious that they were “on it”, because the smoke was white indicating steam from water rather than black indicating burning material. As we observed the fire throughout the rest of our visit, I did observe some black smoke on the southeast side of the fire.

The skies were clear enough that we could see the Three Sisters toward the northwest.  The views toward the two lakes that are the jewels of the Newberry Crater were spectacular. 

The smoke toward the east was a bit thicker, but we could still see the distinctive shape of Fort Rock in the distance.  Fort Rock is that tiny dark circle which can be seen in the picture below just to the right of the sign and below the distant hills.

After short hikes to the viewpoints at the summit we returned to an empty parking lot.  There weren’t many cars coming up the road as we descended and for that we were grateful.

Our plans for the next day included a hike in the Big Obsidian Flow, visible from Paulina Peak.  The swirling flow of the cooled lava is fascinating to look on from above.  Home to camp tired and happy, we settled in for the afternoon to enjoy the breezes, take a nap, play some cards and have a yummy hamburger supper.

Tomorrow we have two hikes planned and of course an early morning kayak.




07-17-2021 Fun times in Early July


Early July began with record breaking temperatures for Southern Oregon, and for much of the west.  For us, the 116 degree temperatures moderated a bit to a livable 100 degrees.  Amazing how good that feels even when the thermometer hits 100 several days in a row.  So far, a couple of weeks into the month we haven’t experienced those awful 100 teens plus days since that first week.  I hope we don’t get them again.  In addition, in spite of the seriously hot weather and afternoon winds, we don’t have any fires locally.  The biggest fire in the country right now is the Bootleg Fire, northeast of Kamath Falls, but the smoke is heading east and here in Grants Pass the skies are a gorgeous clear blue.

Going to the Lavender Festival inspired me and on the first day of the month I decided I should cut the lavender.  The bees weren’t happy with me. They seem to love lavender more than just about anything in the yard, except for the bird bath which they have taken over completely as their very own summer water fountain.  I try to be sure it is full every day.  Bees need water and these are very sweet friendly honey bees that buzz around like crazy but never bother me.

A photo from my little shop in Wallace, Idaho

I decided it was time to make a wreath.  I used to make so many of them when I was making a living growing and selling crafted dried flowers on the show circuit and in my little shop in Wallace, Idaho.  After I let that business go to once again make my living digging holes in the dirt, I never made another wreath until now.  I tried a small wreath of lavender.  It took four full large bushes of fully blooming lavender to finish that wreath.  Hanging it on the door, I delighted in the fragrance, if not the tiny little lavender flowers that shed all over the porch every time I open and close the front door.  Who knows how long it will last or how long it will keep shedding.

July 4th this year was a treat.  Especially after our nothing celebration last year because of Covid and everyone feeling much safer just staying at home.  This year I asked Daughter Melody if we could come to her house for the day.  She was thrilled, and even gave up the annual Fourth of July party that she traditionally shares with her Albany friends.  Daughter Deb was going too, and decided to drive her own car since we had a bunch of “stuff” in our car.  Grandson Matthew was going to go but at the last minute he had to opt out due to concerns with the couple that he helps to caretake.  He had no one at the house to help and couldn’t leave Karen alone with the blood pressure and heart rate issues she was having.  Next year we will celebrate minus Melody, but with a local picnic maybe Matthew will be able to participate.  So hard to get everyone in the same place anymore.

The drive north on the Fourth was easy, just 3 hours to Melody’s house in the car.  We opted to leave the MoHo at home since there really isn’t any place to park it at Melody’s house.  Daughter Melody and Robert did a great job fixing up the guest bedroom with a cooling gel mattress pad, new comfy sheets and pillows, and a big fan in the window.  Such a nice retreat it was for us.

By the time we arrived just after 11, Deborah was already there helping Melody lay out the huge feast of goodies she had prepared for the family.  Somehow the giant tray of veggies and dip went by the wayside as we all gobbled up Robert’s traditional deviled eggs.  No longer just for Easter, Robert’s eggs are a tradition whenever we all get together.  Deborah made a delicious guacamole which kept me quite happy. 

Grandkids,  Axel and Xavier, with Axel’s sweetie, Pi, showed up by early afternoon. Axel and Pi are “new” even though they have known each other for over two years.  At 28 years old, it is a good thing that Axel now at last has a solid, good relationship to enjoy.

My grandson Xavier was looking wonderful as well, putting on some weight and working at a job he loves. He is working in telephone sales for Cricket.  Indoors, air conditioning, no heavy lifting, and plenty of percs and benefits.  He likes it a LOT better than working in the produce department at Fred Meyer, which was the job he had before COVID required that he not work in that unsafe environment.  Type 1 Diabetes is nothing to fool with, and he couldn’t risk being exposed to COVID. The entire family is fully vaccinated now and it is such a relief to worry a bit less about exposure to the virus at last.

The day was simple and easy with lots of talking and visiting.  Melody and the kids and I walked the two blocks to the city park and the river.  Pioneer Park is a popular place on the fourth and many families were camping and enjoying picnics at the big tables in the shade.  Mattie went completely crazy with all the excitement of the river, the kids, and all the people. I did not manage to take a single photo of the excitement.  It was hot and we were all quite happy to return to the cool living room for the rest of the afternoon.

Somehow we didn’t manage time for games, and by 3:30 Robert fired up the grill for supper by 5.  It was amazing watching him manage all the different requests from each guest.  Robert cooked filet mignon steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken legs, and four racks of ribs.  Everything turned out perfectly, well almost.  Some of us thought the ribs were a bit too done, but the kids loved them and took all the leftovers home.  Not a thing went to waste….then again I am sure much went to our waists!

After dinner we visited some more. The kids left around 7 since they didn’t want to drive back to Albany after dark.  It’s only a 20 minute drive or so for them, but with holiday crazies running around on the highway between Brownsville and Albany they thought it would be better to lay low in their own apartment for the evening.

The five of us ate some more goodies and waited until about 9 to gather up our chairs and walk down to the park once again for the fireworks.

The show was put on by the Brownsville Fire Department and they did a spectacular job.  I have seen shows in much bigger cities that weren’t as wonderful as this show.  It was also good to know that the fire department was making sure that everyone was safe and no stray sparks were unattended.  I loved every minute of it.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast with bagels and Deborah’s egg bake casserole and more visiting before Deborah left for home and Mo and I headed south toward our next adventure.

July 5 Visiting Wildlife Safari in Winston

I think I went to Wildlife Safari a very long time ago, when Melody lived in Medford.  All I remember is being with Melody and her mother-in-law, Donna, and Axel who was just a little one.  I remember the cheetahs behind the fence and how much Axel loved cheetahs.  Mo had never been to the Wildlife Safari.  It isn’t far from Grants Pass, maybe 80 miles or so, and is a popular place to take out of town guests.  Crater Lake, the Coast, Wildlife Safari, and the Hellgate Jetboats on the Rogue are the go to activities for company. Pretty sure Crater Lake and the Coast win hands down.  We have talked about going the Safari a few times, and yesterday when I mentioned it again, Mo said, why not tomorrow on our way home from Brownsville.

In spite of the mid day hour, the heat, and the holiday, we decided to give it a try.  We were happy to learn that even though dogs are not allowed in your car when traveling through the park, there are nice kennels provided for them to be safely housed during your visit.  The kennels are free if you bring your own lock, but they will provide a padlock that you can keep for $5.  Not bad to keep Mattie cool and safe while we explored.  We decided to do the walkable portion of the park first.  The area isn’t too big to walk in a short time and the gardens and shade trees are lovely.  Most of the animals were lounging in the shade, too hot to move around much, and often hidden in their dark lairs so we weren’t able to see all of them.  The tortoise was slowly meandering around his enclosure with a leaf in his mouth.  Such fascinating creatures!  The lions were pacing near the feeding area, but too far from the viewing platform to see them very well.  The wolves from South America were completely zonked in the heat, very little movement from them.

The rest of the area is geared to families and kids, with a couple of eating establishments for snack food, and some exhibits geared to kids enjoyment.  I think we stayed maybe an hour at most before getting in line for the slow meander in our car around the wild animal area where most animals roam freely and humans must remain in their cars. 

Some of the animals from Africa, who seemed to be immune to the intense heat, were roaming about.  Several were eating in the shade shelters which made photography a bit difficult, but as we rounded a curve to the area where feeding cups could be purchased, the emus, rheas, and several varieties of young deer were milling about begging for food from people in their cars.  A lovely rhea poked his head in our window and looked rather disgusted that we had no food for him.

As we approached the cheetah area, there wasn’t a cheetah in sight, but there was a big jam up of cars.  People were instructed at the beginning of the tour to stay to the right to let people pass if they wished, but many folks had no clue about how to do that.  Drivers of cars full of young kids parked in the middle of the road, with no room on either side for passing. 

We finally meandered along with the rest, but not without a few impatient exclamations from Mo and from me now and then.  It was hot and many of the animals were not to be seen.  We missed the rhino, the cheetahs, the yaks, and the hippos.  Actually, we didn’t miss the hippos completely because as we passed I am pretty sure that two large gray rocks were actually hippos.

We enjoyed the Safari somewhat, but I think the most excitement came from Mattie when I picked her up from the kennel.

07-08 Driving up to Recreation Creek and Malone Springs.

With the heat in triple digits for days on end, Mo and I wondered when we might have a chance to get our butts in the boats again.  We scheduled a day trip to Rocky Point for a nice early morning kayak after I looked at the temperatures and decided Thursday was the only day that it was to be less than 100 degrees in the Basin.  We planned to leave early, and I packed a tuna sandwich lunch for us and we were in the truck by 7.  When we travel, the kayaks are lifted on top of the Tracker and tied down.  Requires quite a bit of effort, climbing up and down on a step to reach the straps, and getting all safely balanced and secured.  We decided that for a simple day trip we could take the pickup.  Loading the kayaks is considerably easier with the pickup.  They still have to be lifted, but not nearly as high, and strapping them down is much simpler.

The route to Malone Springs, a few miles north of Rocky Point, is easy, and requires traveling from Grants Pass toward Medford, turning east near Central Point and traveling Highway 140 over the High Lakes Pass toward the east slope of the Cascades.  Malone Springs is about half way between the Rocky Point boat launch and the northern terminus of Crystal Creek at Crystal Springs.  We have kayaked the entire length of the canoe trail from end to end and through the marsh many times.  This time, however, we decided to put in at Malone Springs and kayak south toward Rocky Point.  We haven’t been in the kayaks since last year, and both of us were just a little bit apprehensive about our ability to get back out of the kayaks at the end of our paddle.  We decided on paddling south for just and hour before turning around to be sure we didn’t do more than we could manage.

I was worried about my left shoulder which has been acting up lately with either arthritis or bursitis, legs with muscle atrophy which may or may not hold up when I try to rise from the boat, and now a silly trigger thumb that has been giving me a bit of trouble.  Mo had been dealing with knee and ankle issues.  It was time to get back in practice and see just how much we could manage.  We also wanted to paddle in a place that didn’t have too many people around to witness our attempts at exiting our kayaks.

Nothing to worry about in the least.  I was thrilled to be on the water again after so long.  The morning was marred a bit by smoky skies from a large fire to the east of the Klamath Basin.  Our views were up close, with the distant mountains of Crater Lake and Harriman Peak completely obscured by the smoke.  Still, the wocus were blooming, although this late in the season there were only a few blossoms.  The creek level was quite low, but not so much that we had any difficulty paddling, and the section of the creek that we followed wasn’t terribly weedy. 

The water was clear and we were completely alone for the entire route, up and back.  We turned around after an hour and 15 minutes to paddle upstream.  As often happens on Recreation Creek, a slight breeze from the south made paddling against the gently current nearly effortless and the return trip was a bit shorter than the trip downriver.  The views were limited by smoke and in the distance where we usually see the rim of Crater Lake to the north and Mt. Harriman to the south, we only saw murky skies.  Birds were few and far between as well, except for the red winged blackbirds, many little brown twittery birds, a kingfisher and one great blue heron. 

The canoe trail sign is very high above the water, indicating how low the water level is this year already.  Often those signs are only a foot or two above the water level.

After all that time alone, I was exclaiming to Mo how lucky we were to have the creek to ourselves on this gorgeous summer day when suddenly ten kayaks rounded a curve and entered the Malone Springs area.  We looked at each other, wondering if they planned to lunch there, and wondered when we would have the nerve to try to get out of the kayaks with ten people observing!  The young woman who was guiding the group said they were leaving, and began loading all their kayaks onto a big trailer.  Whew.  Mo and I paddled around a bit in the spring waiting for everyone to leave.  Along comes another kayaker, with a young lab puppy, and she kindly agreed to wait until we could get Mattie out of the boat.

We had nothing to worry about.  I decided to exit my boat on the side opposite the shoreline in knee deep water.  It was perfect.  I didn’t even have to roll into the water as I did last summer to get out of the boat.  The knee deep water did a great job of giving me the extra boost I need to rise from a sitting position.  Mo tried the same maneuver and did just fine.  We are now much more comfortable with our planned kayak day with family during the first week in August. No matter how understanding folks might be about our ungainly attempts to exit the kayaks, it is much nicer to not have to look silly in front of everyone.

After loading up the boats we settled in to the nearby picnic table for our packed picnic lunch.  Malone Springs is known for having hordes of mosquitoes and yet with the heat and drought this year there were very few around to bother us.

We returned to Grants Pass, happy that we could do a simple day trip to find good kayak waters.  Of course, being in the outdoors triggered the need to check for possible reservations available at any of the many campgrounds in the Cascades, or even perhaps farther east.  We try to be sure to get at least one trip away in the MoHo each month and July was passing quickly.  Lo and Behold…everything was blocked out and reserved every place I looked, except suddenly an opening appeared at a campground we have visited in the past and loved.  The reservation was open for three days beginning on the 12th, giving us just two days to make the decision to go.

But that is for the next story….