Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon 59F and smoky at 7AM
It has been hot here this summer, hotter than we are used to in Rocky Point at least. We don’t have air conditioning at this house, and except for a very few days in the summertime, that is just fine. The forest cools us and the open windows let in the evening breezes for good sleeping. Most of the time. The big fans spin high above us to keep the air moving. Even so, when it is in the high 90’s in Klamath Falls, in the triple digits in Grants Pass, our low 90’s out here in the woods can feel pretty darn warm.
Great time to head 100 miles south to our favorite little lake south of Lava Beds National Monument high on the Medicine Lake Highlands at 7,000 feet or so. In the last post, I put in a link to my writings from our previous camping trip here last summer. (Here is the link again: Medicine Lake 2013). With a simple 2 hour drive from home, it is a great getaway.
Many things we love about this sweet little campground, not the least of which is the absence of mosquitoes. I have no idea why that is the case, but for the entire six days we were there, I delighted in being outdoors without having to fight the little stinkers.
When I read what I wrote last year I thought there was just no way I could write about this place again. We often do the same things when we visit. The highlight is kayaking at least twice a day from our campsite, having beautiful sunset campfires, and sleeping well through the chilly dark night skies. This trip was a bit different, however. We managed to convince our neighbors, Wes and Gayle, to spend a few days with us. They have a sweet little Casita that they brought north from their Tucson home for the Rocky Point summer and it was a perfect time to show them our favorite little camping lake.
There are three campgrounds lined along the northern shore of the lake, and our favorite is the Al Hogue camp. We planned an early arrival, just before noon on a Tuesday, hoping to at least snag some kind of site with a lake view. The local tribe has a Medicine Gathering at this sacred land every year, and we arrived on the weekday after the official gathering was over. They close the third campground, Medicine Campground, for this gathering, but there is usually quite a spillover after the weekend. It is expedient to check with the Modoc National Forest for the dates of this gathering. It isn’t open to the public as a pow wow might be, and things can get quite rowdy and very busy around the lake during their celebrations.
Imagine my delighted surprise when we pulled into the campground with our two rigs and found not only our favorite site 43 wide open, but our second favorite site 45, right next to it, open as well. Without a bit of difficulty, we unhooked our trailer and parked the MoHo in our favorite spot overlooking the lake with the short easy trail down to the beach.
Wes and Gayle parked their little Casita in 45, with a gorgeous view, albeit with a steeper rocky path to the lake. It couldn’t have been a more perfect introduction to Medicine Lake. On that first afternoon, it was cloudy and 15 degrees cooler than the Klamath Basin, with thunderstorms predicted and even a bit of wind and hail to greet us. Maybe that is why we managed to snag the best sites in the entire complex.
With the cool temperatures and windy conditions at the lake, it was a perfect time to show Wes and Gayle the trail from the campground to the Medicine Lake Glass Flow, just 1/4 mile north. The trail was a simple one, and there was barely a breeze once we were away from the lake.
Gayle and I had planned shared meals, with each of us being responsible for one dinner, and then a shared meal. Our first night was a delight of BBQd beef ribs that were tasty and in addition provided Abby with a nice stash of bones that lasted the entire week. Gayle and Wes also have the Happy Hour thing down pat, and Gayle arrived at our dining table before dinner with a shaker of perfectly concocted cosmopolitans and some yummy “snacks” as she calls them. We were very happy to have room at the dinette for four people since it was too chilly and windy outside to sit at the picnic table.
Of course, Jeremy is quite polite, but thinks he should be at the table as well. He doesn’t beg much, and will patiently wait for someone to decide to give him a snack as well. Gayle was very good at dispensing the tiny bites for my geriatric cat.
Jeremy also entertained us in the evenings with his daily walk down to the water to drink. Reminded me so much of a big old lion at the watering hole. He would lap and lap and watch the horizon as he did so. Jeremy loves to be in a campground where he can roam free, and he especially loves the lakes.
In the last few years, when we have camped here, we only bring the trailer with the kayaks and bikes instead of hauling the baby car. While that makes for a relaxing week, there are some local sites that are a bit too far for walking that we were able to explore this time with Wes and Gayle along to drive their car.
Wes drove the ten miles round trip of dirt road to the high point at Hoffman Lookout, where Mo and I went a few years ago. The skies were incredibly clear and we could see Mt Lassen to the south and the Klamath Basin to the north. Mt Shasta was shrouded in clouds, only adding to her mystery and beauty.
This morning as I am writing, smelling the smoke from the fires south of us, I realized how lucky we were to have chosen last week for this trip instead of the current week. On July 30th, a lightning storm exploded in the Cascades west of us and east of Ashland/Medford, burning thousands of acres so far. Currently the fire is only 5 percent contained, and has grown south into California. I am sure the skies are thick with smoke over Medicine Lake this week and the views from the Hoffman Lookout would be nil.
But last week was different, and we had gorgeous blue skies during the rest of the time we spent in the Highlands. After our trip to the lookout, we relaxed at the campsite a bit before embarking on another dirt road journey to Glass Mountain. The Medicine Lake Highlands and caldera have been volcanically active in the last 1,000 years, with the obsidian of Glass Mountain formed about 950 years ago. This link from USGS has more detailed information about the Medicine Lake Volcano. In addition, if you want even more detail, here is a link to the volcanic history and types of lava that erupted during five major stages of volcanism.
We had a great time hiking around Glass Mountain. It is extremely important to have good shoes when you are here because that obsidian is sharper than any knife. I wish I could share the sound of walking on tinkly glass shards. The weather had warmed quite a bit on this afternoon and the breeze lightened up enough to be only a slight deterrent to the heat.
The next few days we stayed closer to camp. With the winds dying down and the heat returning, we enjoyed early morning kayaks on the glassy water, and afternoon paddles across the lake in the evening winds. One morning was so chilly that we woke to ice on the kayaks, but once out on the water it was perfect.
The most dramatic difference this year, however, was the lake level. I have never seen the lake like this, with the severe drought in California reflected in the extreme low water at Medicine Lake. Across from our camp was a sweet man with his grandsons, who said he had been coming here for 50 years and he had never seen the lake this low either.
Surprisingly, when we took a morning to hike to Little Medicine Lake, we discovered that the level of the water in this small spring fed pond to be perfectly normal. Medicine Lake has no outlet and is fed by a few springs and snow melt. It is a closed system, with no outlet, however the ground is porous pumice so who knows where the water is going. I can’t imagine that evaporation can account for the visible daily drop in water levels that we saw while we were there.
That same sweet man and his boys were catching a LOT of trout, and one afternoon he came over with a bit string of fish and asked if we might like to have some. I looked a bit guilty as I said, “I don’t know how to clean them”. He laughed and said, “What if I cleaned them?”. The result was a fabulous supper of fresh caught trout on our grill, with a couple of sweet pink native brookies in the mix. Yum!
Fishing is very popular on this lake, with rules that don’t allow fast boats until after ten in the morning and before 5 in the evening so people can fish in peace. We saw only two jet skis on our last afternoon at the lake, and they weren’t out there very long. Nice. I even managed to get in for a swim when the weather warmed a bit. The lake was chilly, but not so bad that I couldn’t get my head all the way under water a couple of times.
We got our friends out on the water in the kayaks and they found it was much easier than they thought it might be. As experienced canoe paddlers, it took a bit of convincing, but once on the water they were hooked. Who knows, a couple of kayaks might be in their future.
Wes and Gayle left a few days before we did, and Mo and I continued to enjoy days on the water and evenings by the fire until we left last Sunday to return home. The week ahead was supposed to be leisurely, with time to prepare for our next big trip coming up, the Oukrop Family Reunion in Spokane, Washington,with an extra trip north into British Columbia for the MoHo.
Instead we spent a few days camped at the Grants Pass Cottage, working with the plumber to rework the cottage bathroom and trying to stay cool in the MoHo with temperatures at 104 degrees each day we were there. Whew! I did manage to finish the cottage curtain tab top panels that I worked on for much longer than I had thought it might take. Sewing something with all that fabric and all those long seams takes a very long time! I can’t believe I never got a photo of the finished product, but I can do that next time we are there. I think Daughter Deb will enjoy have pretty lined curtains to keep out the heat rather than the 80’s nubby heavy drapes that were too dirty to clean and were also ugly!
Coming back home this weekend to Rocky Point was quite a shock, because the smoke from the Beaver Fire is hanging heavy and dark over much of the landscape. Highway 97 east of us has been closed due to smoke, and our neighbors had heavy ash raining down on them the day before we returned. We are safe enough here for the time being. The fire is many miles south and west of us, and the many lightning fires triggered by the storm that started nearby in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, near Crater Lake, and on Pelican Butte behind us were suppressed almost immediately by diligent fire crews.
On a final note, our lives were saddened before we left for our Medicine Lake trip with Mo’s trip to the vet with Abby.
We knew that things might not be good, and Abby was tested positive for lymphoma. We have decided to not subject our sweet 12 year old dog to chemo or radiation, which would be terrible for her, and instead she is on a special diet and prednisone.
For the time being, she seems her sweet self, and isn’t unhappy or uncomfortable. She is slowing down a bit, but aren’t we all. The vet said maybe three months, but that doesn’t seem real, and we are hoping for more. We are taking it a day at a time, and treasuring every extra day with our sweet girl.