Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon Clear and 37 F at 8AM
I was so excited when I went to sleep after our beautiful evening sunset, knowing that the skies were clearing and we had a sunny day ahead for our trip to Lopez Island. What I forgot about being around all that water, was the clear skies often bring fog. We woke early Saturday morning to thick fog blanketing our campground with all views completely obscured.
Ah well, it should lift eventually, right? The weather people were predicting a gorgeous sunny day in the San Juan Islands. Hoping for as much time as possible on the island, we left camp around 7 and arrived at the ferry terminal in Anacortes before 8. What I didn’t understand properly was how to interpret the ferry schedules, and after we paid $44 for our round trip fare, the cashier told us to get in line in lane 1 for the first ferry to Lopez that would leave at 10:30 AM. Hmmm.
I knew we were supposed to be in line an hour early, but two and an half hours wasn’t exactly on our agenda. Especially in the fog. There was a small coffee shop near the lines that advertised fresh hot coffee, but when I reached the cashier, they were out of coffee. Just down the road, however, in the terminal building was another coffee shop and I didn’t mind the wait in line. Not much difference between waiting in the car or in the terminal. I picked up a couple of coffees and gathered a big stack of brochures for the islands. It was the smartest move of the day, since there is very little phone service on Lopez, and my most useful find was an excellent fold out map of Lopez Island. Our day would have been much more difficult without that map.
The fog refused to lift or lighten, and by the time we were actually on the ferry traveling west, the skies and the views were still completely obscured. The fog was so dense that they had a person spotting at the front of the ferry to give notice to the bridge of any hidden obstacles.
Arriving at the tiny ferry terminal at the northern end of the island, I was impressed with the number of bikers in their northwest gear that lined up to get off on Lopez. With a more level landscape than the other major islands, Lopez is very popular with bicyclists. Driving up that first hill off the ferry and as we continued south along the two lane roads toward “town”, it did not look level to me! I was glad to be in a car.
In the fog shrouded landscape, a visit to Holly B’s Bakery was a perfect way to begin our tour of the island. Kayaking in the chilly fog wasn’t big on the agenda. Holly B’s was busy on this Saturday morning, and I must say that the cinnamon roll I purchased was perfect. Dense and not too sweet filled with nutty goodness, it was my favorite kind of pastry. Next to the bakery is the local bookstore, with both new and used books. A “real” bookstore, and we spent some time perusing the shelves and enjoying the ambiance of the place with lots of other folks who were visiting Lopez on this foggy Saturday morning.
I knew there was a Saturday Farmer’s Market but it ended in mid September. A nice surprise was finding two small booths filled with fresh produce from the local farmers. I bought some heirloom tomatoes, one called “the mortgage lifter” because the variety paid off someone’s mortgage. Yum! I also bought some kind of giant purple carrot that we sliced for carrot chips and some greens, some fingerling potatoes, and a couple of ears of tiny corn. I should have taken out the camera a bit more, but the fog was dampening my photo spirits and I didn’t bother.
Best part of the farmer booths was the young man running one of them who told me, “Just head south!. The southern end of the island is in full sunshine right now. I had to leave it to drive into the fog to come to market”. Yayay! It was already after noon, and in Lopez Village the fog was thick.
Following our trusty little map, we traveled south over the narrow and picturesque roads right into the sunlight shining across the beautiful pastoral landscape. The forests are dark, but where the land has been cleared the light is gorgeous and the farms are lovely.
Our destination was Mackaye Harbor, suggested by Laurel, who volunteered on Lopez for a couple of months, as a good place to kayak. The skies were clear and the sun was gorgeous as we arrived at the boat launch, and the winds were almost non existent across the bay. Perfect. As warned, however, that water was cold! I have heard since forever that kayaking in the San Juan’s requires good skills and either a wet or dry suit because of the cold water. We had neither, but with the sunshine and light winds it seemed perfectly fine.
For a long time it was perfectly fine. The water was clear and the rocky shoreline on the north side of the bay provided interest. Our plan was to head north along the shoreline, hopefully rounding the point toward Davis Bay. The closer we got to the narrows, however, the rougher the water became and the swells although not bad, I had no idea how bad they could get. After all, it was Puget Sound, it was cold, the wind was coming up, and we had no wetsuits. I have to say I got a bit wussy, and suggested to Mo that maybe we should head across the bay toward the southern shoreline rather than going farther out into the straits between Lopez and San Juan.
Even though our time on the water wasn’t as long as expected, it was good that we turned around, because by the time we got back to the launch, the winds were rising considerably and I could see little fog fingers coming across the hills toward the south. Our kayaks are wonderful on lakes, even in the wind they track well, and we have managed mild currents in rivers and high waves on windy lakes. Still, something about these waters gave me an inner chill and I didn’t want to push my luck. Especially with Abby in Mo’s boat and that cold water.
Laugh if you will, but kayaking dark clear rivers in Florida with alligators on the shoreline didn’t create the bit of apprehension that I felt in the cold water of the San Juan’s. I know I would like to go back again, maybe when the weather is a bit more predictable, if it ever is, and explore the many other bays and shorelines of the islands. I might like to actually pay for a guided tour in a sea kayak with someone who understands how these waters work and then it wouldn’t be such an unknown. Still, I am so glad that we managed to at least get on the water and that the fog cleared up enough in the afternoon for us to do it.
The timing was all good, and we loaded up the boats and followed a different route back north to the ferry landing. The ferry was scheduled to leave at 5 and we were in line by 4. However, because of the fog, the ferry was delayed and we didn’t board until 5:30. So again, our lovely tiny bit of afternoon on Lopez was bracketed by several hours of ferry time.
The ferry trip back to Anacortes, however, was clear and beautiful, with no fog to mar the view. I again went outside to try for some photos, but that cold wind drove me back indoors. I wasn’t dressed in fleece and windbreakers the way locals know how to dress. We arrived home at Cliffside RV Park on Whidbey Island just at dark.
Our day on Lopez was wonderful in spite of the fog and the delays, and I am so glad that we managed the trip. I re-read Nina’s post about visiting the San Juan’s again recently, and can only say that she is so right about her suggestions. It is incredibly spendy to travel on the ferries with a motorhome, and there are delays and weather to consider. We will go back for sure, possibly to Orcas, possibly to San Juan, and will pay the big bucks to get the MoHo to a spendy campground on one of those islands and actually stay for a few days.
The islands are beautiful, the water is everywhere, I would love to have more time to go slowly and see more. I am not sure when the weather would be best, I think that part may be a crapshoot, with summer fog a possibility and winter cold rains a complete deterrent.
We planned our exit from Puget Sound perfectly, leaving Whidbey Island early on Sunday morning and traveling the dreaded route north to Mt Vernon and I-5, skipping the ferries. We passed right through downtown Seattle around 8 am, without any traffic to speak of, and were in Portland in mid afternoon as the traffic started picking up. In the future, when we go back to the islands, our choice might be to stay at Fort Lewis on a Saturday night and drive north to Whidbey Island via I-5 early on a Sunday morning. It could work, and then our only big ferry expenses would be getting the rig onto the islands.
Spending the night in Beavercreek near Portland with Mo’s brother Dan and wife Chere was delightful. Hookups on the driveway and a great Mexican dinner topped off our visit. On Monday morning we decided that rather than taking boring I-5 and Highway 58 back home, the longer route over Mt Hood on Highway 26 would be beautiful. Sunny skies and a nice rest stop along the Deschutes River mid morning gave Abby a chance to test the waters and us a chance to warm up a bit.
No big trips for the MoHo are on the agenda in the next few weeks, but I am heading east to Vermont in a couple of days for Jeanne’s wedding. It will be my first time in Vermont, and from what I hear the leaves are waiting for me to get there before they fall. Mo will be holding down the fort here in Rocky Point this time while I go off adventuring on my own.
Abby is still with us, still eating and doing OK for now. She does sleep a lot, and now she pants loudly and snores even more loudly. The vet said that is a common side effect of the prednisone. But she is still here, she still is smiling, and still enjoying pets and hugs and Mo and I are appreciating the time we have with her beyond what the vet predicted.
Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon Mostly Sunny and 77 degrees F
I have procrastinated writing a blog all day. The month has been full, with both difficult and delightful moments. I want to talk about the fun, but I do need to get the hard stuff out of the way. Often I think that people who share their feelings about life and the good and the bad things that go on are the best bloggers, the ones I like to read the most. But it can be a fine line. I read Mark’s moody musings with recognition, with “aha’ moments, and Al’s sometimes down days along with the good ones are part of what makes his blog good to read, real. I so appreciate the ups and downs of Sherry and David’s journey, and her willingness to share with us.
There are others who are more reticent, but magnificent photography and wonderful words describing exotic travels are a delight. Now and then my favorite blogger and friend will let some musings slip into her detailed travelogues, and I always enjoy those moments. As I said, a fine line. I have stumbled onto blogs that are terribly tiresome, not because the blogger talked about how they felt about something, but maybe because they went on and on in a way that was …well…whiny and boring. Needless to say, I don’t read those blogs any more.
I do talk about feelings in my blog, maybe more than some, not as much as others. The surprise for me was my need to shut up and shut down when I had to deal with letting my cat Jeremy go. It was and is hard to talk about it somehow. Every animal owner knows the feeling of saying goodbye. It happens to all of us eventually. Even though I found I didn’t want to talk about it, I did discover that I needed to say it had happened, and the flood of condolences and support that came in was a good thing for me. Thank you to everyone who made comments, and especially to MZB, a fellow blogger/friend who recently lost a loved pet as well, and sent long letters to assist me through the process.
I miss Jeremy, of course. Somehow I miss him even more in the MoHo. He loved to travel because he knew we were all right there close together, he didn’t have to go crying around the house trying to find us. In his old age, he hated being alone. He was either on my lap, on Mo’s shoulder, or riding shotgun on the dash whenever we were on a trip. Still, nearly two decades with a cat is a blessing, especially a cat like Jeremy, so I won’t complain any more.
Just a day after Jeremy went to cat heaven, my grandson Xavier was in another play, “The Skin of our Teeth”, at the Linkville Playhouse in Klamath Falls. Daughter Deborah came over from Grants Pass to spend the weekend and go to the play with us. It was a fine evening, and nearly 11pm when I pulled into the driveway back home. I saw some movement on our porch, with dark hulking figures by the door, and started to panic, when a closer look suddenly revealed that the big hulking man on the porch was my grandson Steven!
Daughter Deanna had picked him up in Moses Lake where he now lives and brought him to Rocky Point as a birthday surprise for me. It was a great surprise, in addition to having Deanna here for a few days, I finally got to spend some time with Steven. We have great shared memories of the years when I took him on work camping trips into the wilderness of Idaho when he was a teenager. This was the first time I have seen him since 2007 and since he returned from his second tour in Iraq. Even nicer, Steven was born on my birthday, so it was his birthday too!
What a great weekend we had! I had previously requested a family hike for Sunday the 14th, choosing the Mt Scott trail in Crater Lake as a good place for a family trek. I knew that Melody and my grandkids Xavier and Axel would be there, along with daughter Deb, but had no clue that our little family hike would include Deanna and Steven. Deanna’s husband Keith remained home to do some home time chores in Richland as they are waiting for delivery of a new semi to replace the one they currently own. Deanna has some fairly horrendous stories about California emission laws for truckers, but I won’t go into that right now except to say that it has cost my trucker kids more than 100K in after market fixes and down time.
The fires in the west this year have been terrible, and the skies have been smoky for several weeks now. On the morning of our hike, we still were under smoke from the 790 fire just 9 miles northwest of Rocky Point, and much more smoke from the huge Happy Camp fire just across the border in California. I had so hoped for clear skies for our hike, but decided that we wouldn’t let the smoke get in the way of our family celebration.
The weather was actually perfect, with cool morning air warmed up by the midday sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and even with the smoky skies in the distance, once we were above 7,000 feet or so at Crater Lake, the air was clear. Our hike wasn’t so much about the fabulous views of Crater Lake as much as a place to be together as a family and enjoy the outdoors doing something a little bit different.
Mt Scott is the highest point in Crater Lake National Park, and the trail to the lookout at the peak is 2.5 miles each way, with a 1,200 foot elevation rise to the summit at 8900 feet. Unlike some peak trails, however, this one is well graded without a lot of boulder hopping steps. Perfect for all levels of hiking skill. I loved it. Just enough to get a good workout, but not enough to burn anyone out.
Steven put photoshop on my computer so I could get everyone into one frame, but I haven’t tried it yet!After our hike, we continued around the Rim Road that encircles Crater Lake, stopping a few times to enjoy the views. Probably due to the smoke, the park wasn’t especially crowded, but the lake blues were a bit subdued. Even so, as I looked at the lake, I wondered out loud to Mo, “We live here, why don’t we visit this park more often!?” I promised myself more Crater Lake hikes in the future.
With a two hour trip home after the hike, we were all starving, and I was happy that I had slow cooked the ribs all night in the oven. All they needed was a quick glaze on the BBQ. They turned out to be the best ribs I ever cooked. That little trick in George’s recipe for the WeberQ, using sauerkraut between the ribs, makes for fall off the bone tender tasty meat.
Deb and Melody had to go home and back to work, but Deanna and Steven stayed for another two nights, spending a great day talking and sharing stories. Steven was a computer security hacker for the Army, and had some great tricks and ideas for our computers that were really helpful. He also had some rather interesting stories. Whew! The world can be a scary place.
Deanna took Mo and me (I sounds better, but nope…Deanna took me is the rule, right Sherry?) and Steven to a great birthday dinner at Lake of the Woods Resort, just 15 minutes up the highway, with a beautiful view of the lake from our table. Speaking of the highway, we at last have a name for our pass. I often talk about going over “the unnamed pass” on Highway 140 to Medford. I now have a name. The highway department dubbed our pass “High Lakes Pass” and we now even have a sign at the summit! Good name. The Sky Lakes Wilderness is on the west and the Mountain Lakes Wilderness is on the east side of the road so High Lakes is a great name.
The final celebration for the week culminated in a trip over the mountain to enjoy a play at the Shakespearean Festival in Ashland. What a treat it was to sit in the gorgeous Allen Elizabethan Theater for a magnificent production of “Into the Woods”. The Festival is world class, and people come from all over the world to see the plays. Mo and I have been to a couple of the plays in two of the other theaters in the past, but seeing a play on this famous stage was first for both of us.
Best part of the story, however, was the seat choice. The theater is an open air venue, with rain a rarity in Ashland this time of year. I ordered tickets months ago, and even then the “best” (more expensive) seats were sold out, so we had to settle for row M, toward the back. Lo and behold, it rained! And those “best” ticket holders got all wet while we were completely protected by the balcony above us! Amazing! Even more amazing was the professional way that the cast continued the dancing and singing in those fabulous costumes with barely any acknowledgement that they were getting soaked as well. Pretty incredible!
It would have been a great way to end the month, but instead we are going to end it with an even better plan. We are off to Seattle and the San Juan Islands. Just a short jaunt, because we know that the San Juan’s deserve much more time, but this will be an exploratory trip with a longer visit to come in the future.
As much as I struggled with writing this blog, I knew I had better get it done before we get on the road and I have photos to process and stories to write about another new destination for us! Onward.
Abby is on Prednisone and her appetite is back to normal…maybe even better. She is enjoying herself and some of the lumps feel a bit smaller. Swimming is high on her agenda and while she doesn’t hike as far or as quickly as she used to, everything seems to be going well.
Thanks to everyone for the support.
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.