July 28 2015 Taking a Break at Waldo Lake

Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon

Current Temperature: 97 degrees F

Waldo Lake Camping-053 I am NOT complaining about the heat.  It is warmer than I can remember here in Rocky Point, but at the moment the WunderMap shows temperatures ranging from 106 to 109 in the Grants Pass area.  That is NOT “feels like” weather, that is the real temperature.  The Rogue Valley of Oregon is even hotter than notoriously hot Redding, California!  Go figure.

In addition to being almost ten degrees cooler here in the trees at Rocky Point, the house is even cooler yet.  I just returned from taking Mattie for a walk, a very hot walk, and when I walked into the house it felt as if we had air conditioning.  So grateful for a well insulated, well built, cool and comfortable home.  No air conditioning needed.

waldo lake Insulation was the last thing on my mind on Tuesday morning when we packed up the MoHo and headed north to spend a bit of time in the mountains.  Yes, I know, we live in the mountains, but camping at a lake at more than 5,000 feet elevation surrounded by mountain hemlock is a lot different than hanging out at home.

the turn toward Waldo comes up quickly after the summitOur destination was the incredible Waldo Lake, Gem of the Cascades. Waldo isn’t far from where we live, and is just a short 13 miles north of the Highway 58 route that we often travel on the way to Eugene.  However, as beautiful as it is, the reputation for heavy mosquito infestations keep us from camping there more often.  According to the website, Waldo campgrounds are barely habitable until after mid-August and into September, and then the snow can fly as early as late September.

We found that out the hard way the last time we camped at Waldo, during the latter part of July back in 2010.  It was a wonderful, albeit short stay, and both of us still laugh about the heavy clouds of mosquitoes surrounding us as we attempted to enjoy the beautiful lake.  I wrote about that visit here.

The most wonderful aspect of Waldo Lake is its protection from gasoline engines.  Only electric motors are allowed on this lake.  The water is incredibly pure and crystal clear.  Because it is a snow fed lake, and is surrounded by rhyolite and pumice, there is nothing to contribute to the growth of algae or murky water.  It is wonderful to be near such a large beautiful lake without the sounds of jet skies and motorboats.  Obviously, it is a very popular kayaking and sailing lake.  There are so many places where fast boats are allowed, I am grateful that there are a few places like this for those of us who like the quieter pursuits.

 

Waldo Lake view from the amphitheater at North Waldo CampgroundThe  beauty of the place is so enticing, we decided that since we needed to travel once again to Eugene, we should go a day early and make an attempt at warding off the mosquitoes long enough to at least enjoy the lake for a little bit.  I am not yet at my 90 day mark for healing from my surgery, the magic day when my lifting limit increases from a maximum of 5 pounds to 20 pounds.  Mo refused to even think about taking the kayaks until I got the Ok from my surgeon. 

I couldn’t imagine being at Waldo without my kayak, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable overnight camps we have ever spent. 

site 38 at the North Waldo Campground Arriving late morning to a quiet campground with many open sites, we were amazed to discover that there was not a single mosquito in sight, nary a one, nowhere.  We set up camp, parked in a nice open breezy site to ward off the supposedly ever present little beasts, and opened the doors to fresh mountain bug free air.

A few days before our visit, a cold front slipped through this part of Oregon, and I remember seeing temperatures in the high 30’s on the east side of the Cascades.  Maybe the little stinkers decided to go south.

Our afternoon was filled with fresh, cool air, and skies so blue they looked almost electric.  I pulled out the no nitrates/ no sulfates, whatever uncured bacon we found at Costco last week, sliced some fat tomatoes and we feasted on luscious sandwiches piled up with our fresh garden lettuce.

Waldo Lake Camping-018 We decided that it was time to hike the Shoreline Trail.  Not all of it, of course, but as much as we could manage in an afternoon.  I knew that the Taylor Burn had decimated much of the land north of the lake, and that we probably wouldn’t make it all the way west to where the trees were still intact.

Waldo Lake Camping-020 Still, it was a great hike, in perfect temperatures, with gorgeous views of the lake that would have been otherwise hidden by the deep hemlock forest if not for the burn. 

Waldo Lake Camping-044 There are many ponds tucked among the rolling slopes above the lake, and the trail is never really too steep or rocky to be enjoyable. 

The wildflowers were sparse on the eastern edge, but as we walked west, and the landscape showed a bit more moisture, we saw more and more flowers blooming among the old burned stumps from the fire in 1996 that burned more than 10,000 of forest on the northern edge of the lake. Waldo Lake Camping-028 Waldo Lake Camping-030 Fireweed and pussytoes were the most prolific flowers, but there were a few others tucked away, and many sedges along the ponds.

Waldo Lake Camping-027 Shrubs were dominated by willow and a few mountain ash with bright orange berries, and the regenerating trees were mostly mountain hemlock and red fir or subalpine fir.

Waldo Lake Camping-043 It was Mattie’s first real hike, and she managed to keep up with us fairly well.  Watching her trot along with those short little legs made me realize that she had to go at least six steps for every one of ours.  Here and there, among the snags, we found old ponds and standing water.  Good enough for Mattie, although something in the 4 inch deep water scared her back out of it after taking a drink.

Waldo Lake Camping-050 In less than 3 miles, we found a side trail leading down toward the shore and enjoyed a beautiful break in the crystal clear cool waters.  Mattie is still learning to go into the water, and it was exciting to work with her and get her to actually retrieve a stick in belly deep water. 

Waldo Lake Camping-061 Fun for us and cooling for her before we began the trek back home. The hike was 5.7 miles, and on the way home, Mattie saw a strip of snag shade across the trail and decided to instantly flop down and rest.  That is when I knew that maybe we shouldn’t try to take her on more than a six mile hike on a sunny day in the mountains.

Waldo Lake near the swimming areaAfter we got back to camp and rested a bit, it was time to go back beyond the boat launch to the swimming area.  I so love swimming in crystal clear water with a clean sandy bottom.  But oh!  that water was COLD.  I managed to jump in and swim a bit, and then after warming on the nearby rock, I jumped in again and swam part way across the narrow channel to one of the islands. 

I was probably in the water a total of ten minutes at the most.  Wish I had a photo to prove it, but we didn’t bring the camera along for our swim.

Waldo Lake Camping-098 Back again at camp, Mo built a fabulous campfire and I heated up some leftovers I had planned for dinner before pulling out the marshmallows.  I have no idea why I do that, I don’t even really like the marshmallows, I just like to roast them.

Finally, as evening progressed, the little no seeum’s found us and we decided to retreat into the motorhome. 

Waldo Lake Camping-107 The next morning, while it was still early, we walked the opposite direction on the Shoreline Trail toward Islet Campground where we had stayed in 2010.  It is only about a mile and a half between campgrounds along the trail.  Still, even early in the morning, there wasn’t a single mosquito to bother us and the no see um’s were nowhere to be found either.

Waldo Lake Camping-124 A lovely breeze accompanied us as we hiked out on the Islet Peninsula where we tried to hike five years ago and were run off by mosquitoes.  I have no idea why there were none on this most magical trip.  I have no idea if they will hatch again before the fall frosts. 

When we turned around to walk back through Islet Campground, we checked out our previous campsite, and then saw two little dogs that looked an awful lot like Mattie.  Walking by, the two women who belonged to the dogs came over and asked if Mattie could be off leash and play. 

Waldo Lake Camping-130 What a time the three of them had!  Their dogs were also Rat Terrier mixes rescued from a shelter.  The women told us about a place near Portland along I-84 that is a 1,000 acre dog park.  I guess we will have to find it someday.

By the time we got back to camp and ready to pack up, Mattie was in her perfect travel dog mode.  She loves the motorhome, and always settles right down when we leave, usually in my lap or Mo’s depending on who is driving.  As the day progresses, she will retreat to her bed on the floor, but she is never a problem while we are moving along.  How lucky we are to have chosen a dog who likes being in the car or truck or MoHo especially!

Waldo Lake Camping-133Waldo Lake Camping-134If you would like to see the rest of the photos of our time at Waldo Lake, a link to my SmugMug Gallery is here.

  On Wednesday, we left the campground by ten and were in the parking lot at the Eugene Valley River Mall before noon.  In plenty of time for my doctor visit.  The temps were already getting hot, and we turned on the generator and the air, with plans to settle in for the afternoon.

Waldo Lake Camping-054 UhOh.  The generator rumbled to life and then within a few minutes, it rumbled right back into silence.  No generator.  Mo tried a few things, but while she was messing with it, I was calling local RV parks!  In plenty of time for my appointment with exactly one minute to spare, we managed to relocate to the Eugene Kamping World RV Park in Coburg, full hookups, TV and air conditioning!  The price was fine at $33 bucks and some change.  Armitage was nearby, but neither of us wanted to try to get in or find it.  This was quick and easy and served our purpose just fine.

Later that evening, after my successful three month surgery checkup, we drove back to the east side of Eugene to have dinner with Phil and Joanne, friends of mine since 1977, that are now friends of ours. 

It was the first time we had been to their new home, and Joanne had a great meal waiting for us.  Their son Michael and his sweetie joined us for pre dinner snacks.  It was great fun seeing him, and finding out that he is to be a new daddy in January.

Dinner at Phil and Joannes (1 of 6) I tried to get photos, but the new camera didn’t do quite what I expected, so these photos are a bit strange, but I wanted to put them here anyway, in honor of the lovely grilled salmon with homegrown basil pesto, quinoa and mushroom pilaf, and wonderful salad.  Joanne made a blackberry cobbler for us as well, a gluten free/vegan recipe that she was trying out.  It was interesting.  Sorry Joanne, I probably won’t be going gluten free any time soon. 

Dinner at Phil and Joannes (6 of 6) We left Eugene the next morning, grateful to be heading back over the crest of the Cascades as the record breaking heat wave was to hit the Willamette Valley and Eugene. 

In the next few days we are expecting exciting company from Harris Beach/Brookings, so I am grateful that the heat wave is predicted to dissipate a bit.

In the mean time, the Blue Moon is set to rise over the lake at 8:32 PM and I plan to be there to enjoy it!

(Later:  seems as though the Blue Moon was not mine to see.  Dark and loud, but dry thunderstorms rumbled over our evening skies last night, and the power went down as well, but not a drop of rain)

It is Rhodie time on the Oregon Coast!

Current Location: Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon Sunny and 60 degrees F

Harris Beach_042If you try to plan a trip to the Oregon Coast to catch the rhodies in bloom, the season will almost always surprise you.  Either it will be too late or too early, with lots of buds and no flowers, or lots of dried up blooms.  With no plans for seeing the famous flowers, or even a thought of the magnificent rhododendrons on our minds, we decided it was time to get “home” again to our favorite Oregon Coast beach.

The four hour drive from home in Rocky Point, through Grants Pass, and west on the winding Highway 199 along the Smith River is magnificent any time of year.  This time, however, the closer we got to the coast, the more the steep hillsides were cloaked in gorgeous wildflowers.  We have traveled this route many times, but I don’t remember seeing quite the profusion of flowers that greeted us yesterday morning on our trip west.

Oregon boxwood shrubs were tipped in right red foliage that looked just like flowers, and the rocky cliffs were covered with blue penstemon and carpets of low yellow native iris. The closer we got to the Jedediah Smith redwoods, the more flowers we found.  Mo was driving, the camera was buried in its case and Jeremy was hugging my shoulder as he likes to do when the road is rough and curvy.  No photos of the brilliant clouds of pink flowers on wild rhododendrons that were sometimes more than 20 feet tall.

Harris Beach_018Neither of us could believe that it has been more than five months since we settled in to Harris Beach, with our last short trip back in early December before we left for the winter for warmer? southern climes.  The beaches were gorgeous in Texas and Florida, but as anyone who has seen it knows, the Oregon Coast is unmatched for wild rugged beauty, at least in the US.  For us, even the famous coast at Big Sur along Highway 1 in California isn’t as seductive, and definitely not as accessible as our beloved Oregon Coast.

We left Rocky Point in the rain, and were greeted with a mixture of hard rain, sleet, hail and snow as we drove over the pass toward Medford.  It was cloudy most of the way west, and with rain predicted for our few days at the beach, we were fully prepared to hole up in the MoHo and listen to the rain, play cards and do mostly nothing.  We purposely didn’t bring the bikes or the kayaks with plans for some real R and R, and a respite from house and yard work that has dominated the last month.

Harris Beach_041Surprise!  Not only are the rhodies blooming, but there hasn’t yet been a sign of a cloud in the sky.  The ocean is blue and gorgeous, the temperatures are in the low sixties during the day and high 40’s at night. 

With the view sites along the front row completely full, we settled into spot A30 and paid for four nights.  Didn’t seem too bad, although it was a fairly open site and the playground was right behind us.  We were also on a main walking route to the restrooms and the laundry and both last night and this morning were well entertained by the various kinds of people walking past.

Harris Beach_045For supper, the Chetco Seafood Company was our local fish and chips choice, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I talked to the owner and snagged some fresh cod and California halibut filets which he vacuum sealed and flash froze for us to take home to Rocky Point.  Yum!

It was good to sleep in the MoHo again, after a month of lots of space and a big bedroom and a bath more than 10 feet away, it was fun to be in the cozy space with just two steps to the bath.  Funny. As we settled in for the evening, a very tall class A parked next to us, with a clear open view of our huge yard and the firepit.  Hmmmm.

Harris Beach_031This morning we went for a park walk, oohing and ahhing over the rhododendrons in the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and found a nice space open along Row A, but toward the quiet back corner of the park.  It looked inviting enough that we talked to the camp host about moving, and in a matter of moments we were slide in, jacks up, awning in and moved to the new spot.  We can still see the ocean, just a tiny bit, but things here are much quieter and more private.

Interesting, as we were moving, a front row ocean view site came open and we declined.  In spite of the view that we have enjoyed many times, the front row now has a lot more exposure since the park has cleared brush around the sites, and there is traffic from both the park entrance road and the main road through the campground.

Harris Beach_050Mo spent a few days last week getting our new VuCube working at home, and even though we had cable here at the site, she thought it might be fun to practice setting it up.  Fun wasn’t the word, with all sorts of strange glitches that we still haven’t quite managed to figure out keeping the thing from working correctly. There were too many variables, and that became our statement for the day.  In the end, it almost worked, but then we realized that the signal was getting interference and that was probably the main issue.  Trees.  For now, it is packed away again and we will fiddle with it out in the desert somewhere to limit some of the variables.  It did keep us at home for the day, which was the original goal. 

Harris Beach_017After a great chicken stir fry supper, we are relaxing a bit before heading for the beach for a sunset stroll.  Unlike Florida beaches, getting to the beach here requires a bit of hiking down and then back up the steep paths that lead down to water level.  Last night we walked to the overlook and watched the beach walkers below.  Plenty of time to hike to the beach ahead in the next few days.  A trip to Loeb Azalea Gardens, and who knows what else will keep us occupied. 

Of course, I do hope that we manage more sitting, reading, and napping than we usually manage on a trip to the coast.  Maybe if it rains in the next few days it will encourage us to actually lie around and do nothing except watch the sky.Harris Beach_051

 

Six Days off the Grid

Waking early Wednesday morning, I looked out over Medicine Lake, smooth as silk, without a ripple anywhere. 

quiet morning at 41 degrees and no windThe skies were clear and only a faint bit of smoke remained on the eastern horizon.  Our days of doing nothing were about to begin with a meandering 3.5 mile loop around the perimeter of the lake.

CaptureOur campground site is at the upper mid right of the map above, the swimming beach is the far right marker, the best fishing hole is on the lower left on the lake and the Brownell Cabin in on the lower bottom left on the shore.  The good bike trail goes to Little Medicine Lake on the upper left shore.  Somehow slipping into a kayak in the early morning feels like nothing at all, no effort, just a silky glide across water so clear I can count fish and silence only broken by the cry of ospreys. Mo on the morning miasma at Medicine Lake

I don’t know how long we were out there that first morning, maybe a couple of hours, but by the time we returned to camp the wind had picked up a bit and the smoke was disappearing completely.  The day began with french press coffee and tiny donuts before we went out on the water and waiting for a mid morning hearty brunch seems to work best for us on this kind of trip.  toward the meadow on a perfectly still morning on Medicine Lake

The day would have continued without much fanfare, but as we settled onto the beach for a bit of sunny doing more nothing, our neighbor approached us all full of conversation and questions.  She wanted to know where we were from, where we got our kayaks, and if we wanted to join up with their kayaking group from the Medford area.  Martha was a very gregarious, talkative, and friendly woman and by the time she left, we had exchanged emails and had plans to contact each other for a day on Recreation Creek. 

we just rolled the trailer down the hill by hand from 45 to 43Not long after that conversation, she and her friend pulled out of the site just next to us, number 43.  Earlier, when we found out they were moving, I asked Mo if maybe we should relocate, and she said, “No Way!!”  But after they left, and we walked over to the site, the very easy, not steep, and not rocky path directly to the beach from the camp spot changed her mind.  Ok, let’s do it!

site 43 from the back of the MoHoWithin minutes we pulled in the slide and backed the MoHo down the 50 yards or so to the much bigger, much more level, much more private site even closer to the lake.  The funniest part of all was later when I was reviewing my photos, I realized that we had camped in this site back in 2005.  How could I forget?!? Rather than hooking up the trailer, we just rolled it down the hill by hand to the new site, and floated the kayaks over to their new beach..  site 43 in 2013

So much for doing nothing!  After getting all settled in again, I had to run around in a flurry trying to take photos of the new site to remember why we made the move.  It was a great plan and for the next several days we said over and over how happy we were that we didn’t have to get up and down that rocky trail to the beach from 45.  Funny, I think I remember saying yesterday that 45 was such a great site.  Well, it is, but only if you can’t get into 43.

view out the back of the MoHo in our new siteA bit later we were down on the beach again when another woman came up to us asking questions about the boats and our rig.  Seems as though she and her husband were camping and were hoping to eventually retire and buy a small motorhome of some kind.  Before long we discovered that her husband was the base commander at Kingsley Field back in Klamath Falls and she was some kind of retired air force officer who now had three kids.  I swear this woman didn’t look a day over 35.  I guess some people make all the right choices at the right moment.  She talked about her travels in the world, her husband, being active duty parents, and all about how much they loved living in Klamath Falls. People in campgrounds are just so incredibly friendly.

Ansel and Barbara on Medicine LakeIt wasn’t long afterward that another couple moved into our vacated site 45, only they at least were camping with a tent.  Next thing you know, they are coming down the trail asking about the kayaks.  They were from San Francisco, at least that is what they said at first.  When we responded with “Oh, where in San Francisco?” she said, “Pacifica”.  Then when Mo said she had taught in Pacifica for 25 years, they started talking about driving Devils Slide and the new tunnel, and then it came out that they actually live in Montera, just a few blocks away from Mo’s ranch in Montera where she lived for that 25 years while teaching.  We all laughed about how you just say “San Francisco” to folks you assume won’t have a clue where Montera actually is located.  How does that happen anyway? 

It turned out that Barbara and Ansel were a highly entertaining couple, with some crazy quirks and a LOT of stories that they liked to tell with gusto.  They also had a brand new inflatable kayak and were fairly new kayakers and wanted some advice about where to go on the lake.  By this time it was very windy and there was no way anyone was going out on that lake in a kayak.  We knew there was a small window of quiet usually in the morning for silky boating and told them to be up and on the water by 7 if they wanted to take advantage of it.thunderstorms maybe?

We spent the rest of the day doing our usual nothing, which includes some reading, some sitting and watching the sky, throwing balls for Abby in the water, watching the lake, and eating.  We used the Weber Q for our suppers and the days just seemed to run all together.  I had taken the computer with me, thinking that I could at least write for the blog with the inverter or when the generator was on, but sure enough, I had forgotten the plug!  I am having to remember all this several days later since writing with a pencil is something I just can’t seem to do any more at all. I didn’t even take photos for two entire days and the only way to remember what we did is to go back over the photos.

evening at site 43 on Medicine LakeWe kayaked every morning and some evenings, had a big campfire every night where I roasted marshmallows and filled them with little pieces of chocolate that would melt perfectly.  We had great dinners, and wonderful big breakfasts that were closer to lunch and never bothered with lunches the entire time. 

water knotweed polygonum amphibiumWe went for short hikes up to the Glass Flow, rode our bikes up to Little Medicine Lake on the lovely bike trail.  We tried to ride to Arnica Sink on the not so lovely bike trail that was deep sandy pumice mined with fat lava rocks.  We turned around on that one and decided that riding on the road was much more fun. Sue in the knotweed at Medicine Lake

The birds are always a highlight, and after a few mornings I actually recognized the two blue herons that flew from shore to shore.  It is always a decision as to how close to get, with the rule being if the bird is uncomfortable and starts to look nervous, you are too close.  I think I got too close to these herons.  I felt guilty, and then would think, well maybe if I am really slow and still it would be ok, but it wasn’t, they flew away, and dang!  I need a longer lens.blue heron on Medicine Lake

The lake is populated with at least a dozen ospreys, perched on snags on the east and west shorelines and always entertaining with the diving and fishing.  We also saw one bald eagle on the west side one morning, and a couple of red tailed hawks and another hawk that I couldn’t identify.

osprey, one of several patrolling the lake I was surprised to see several vultures as well, as I don’t remember seeing them at this kind of high altitude before.  There was one Great Egret in the meadow on the first morning, too far for a photo, and he wasn’t there again.  Ducks were surprisingly few, with just a little group of young ones without a mother paddling along on the east side of the lake.

Mo and I don’t fish, but we had a great time searching for fish in the clear water, with some great success along the southwest shoreline where one of the springs comes up.  Sometimes we could see six to ten trout, maybe 14 inches or so, swimming around beneath us.  We also love paddling into the knotweed with the happy pink flowers standing up above the water and making for some great photos with my pink kayak.

blue heron high in the treeOn one of our days the winds blew so incredibly hard I decided to spend a large part of the day inside the rig knitting a luscious wrap that I have been working on for much too long. The sound of that wind was fabulous, and the clarity it brought to the sky was breathtaking.  I loved it, even though it made it too wild on the lake to take out the kayaks or try to take a swim.

I completely finished reading a great book about cheese, and Spain, and slow food, and betrayal.  It was written so well that I had to highlight phrase after phrase of beautiful words to remember.  I highly recommend “The Telling Room”, by Michael Paternini.  Reading that makes me feel like I have read something worthwhile is great. We even had time for watching a couple of movies in the evenings, with the inverter handling it just fine without having to run the generator.  I laugh to remember that we had this rig for several years before we knew it would do that. 

Finally on our second to the last day, the wind died down completely, and I managed to slip into that crystalline water for a great swim.  Cold, but great.  Barbara and Ansel came down the hill to join me, but neither one of them could manage to get all the way in.  I probably wouldn’t have stayed in as long as I did if I hadn’t been trying to convince them to swim with me.  The day heated up beautifully, but with the warmer temperatures and no winds, before long there was a bit of smoke in the air again.  Nothing like Grants Pass a couple of weeks ago, but smoke nonetheless.

Mama heading for the salt lick on the Brownell ranch with Richard coming to say hello to usOn our last morning kayak, we took our slow time meandering around the lake.  While admiring the old historic cabin on the southwest shore, the owner came down to the shore to visit with us.  I must say I haven’t had such a busy social life in a very long time!  He regaled us with stories about the cabin, built in 1928 by his wife’s father who saved the life of the original owner of the property.  When asked what he would like in return for saving his life, the man said, “If you ever sell the property, sell it to me”.  Sure enough that is how he got it.  Now there are three sisters who share the space with extended family who have memories of staying there as girls in the 1940’s.  They live there 3 months out of the year and then return to Morro Bay in California.  Mo on Medicine Lake

He told us that  the first trout were brought to the lake on mules in 1880 and by the 40’s there were huge browns in that lake that the girls remember catching.  In the 60’s however, chubs were winning, and the Fish and Game decided to kill the lake and start over.  Now the fish that are planted each spring are fairly well fished out of the lake with no big old boys left.  The deepest hole in the lake is about 150 feet, but the rest of the lake is quite shallow.  It was great to get local stories from the local folks.  He even said we were welcome to hike up behind his place to Brownell Meadows but we will have to wait for the next trip to take him up on the offer.  Besides, this was the camping trip for doing nothing and we were getting a bit carried away with all the somethings that we were doing.sunset at Medicine Lake

When it was time to leave, once more the campground was very nearly empty, with only a few occupied sites even over in the busy Medicine Campground.  Our Hogue camp was almost completely empty.  How often can you find an empty campground on a lovely lake in the middle of August!?! We read on the campground sign that there was an RV dump nearby but turned the wrong direction and ended up going south on 49 instead of where we were supposed to go.  As many times as we have been to Medicine Lake, I still needed to get out the map to be sure we were on the right road heading home.sunset at Medicine Lake

Down from the Highlands, summer set in again, with temperatures rising ten degrees in as many miles and smoke thickening the air as we approached Klamath Falls.  bummer.  At least we got a nice break from it, and Rocky Point has enough thick forest to help oxygenate the air a bit.  I just read that Janna and Mike tried to see Crater Lake this week.  Such a bummer and bad timing.  I an only imagine how disappointing it must be for folks who travel from all over the world to see the beautiful lake and its gorgeous blue.  Ah well, Medicine Lake isn’t quite as blue, or as big, or as dramatic, but it was lovely and perfect and I am so glad that after five years we finally took our Medicine.

 

Medicine, or dropping off the grid into a Volcano

Medicine is a word of several meanings.  As in, Take Your Medicine, or more beautifully, This Place Has Powerful Medicine.  Medicine Lake is named for the second meaning, the sacred meaning, but the two seem to overlap here in the deeper meaning of healing, either body or spirit, and of course, both are connected.morning miasma on Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake is a small lake in the bottom of a 4 by 7 mile caldera on the Medicine Lake Highlands near the Northern California border.  This sweet little lake is just a couple hours drive from Klamath Falls, and yet I don’t often hear of people from Klamath traveling here. Most of the license plates are from California, with folks driving up the nice paved two lane road from Mt Shasta.  It is a bit of a drive, off the grid entirely, so perhaps that accounts for the open campsites and quiet lake. 

 

evening play on the beach at Medicine LakeThere are no hookups here, no cell phone service, water in the campground but not at the sites.  We came ready to boondock for six days, with a full tank of fresh water and empty waste tanks.  Generator use is allowed in the campground from 8 in the morning to 10 at night, but we tried to be considerate and except for one early evening movie when the campground was nearly empty, we only ran the generator for an hour or so in the morning to keep up the charge.  We were careful and when we left, our tanks still had plenty of room to take on the extra six gallons of water we added with jugs and a funnel.  Mo has a small solar panel and although it doesn’t support heavy use, it does keep the charge up throughout the day.We unhooked the trailer to slip it into the parking area next to the MoHo

Medicine Lake Highlands has the distinction of being the largest volcano in the Cascades and the largest volcano in California.  Unlike the dramatic peaks we are all so familiar with, Shasta, Lassen, Mt Hood and others, this volcano is a broad volcano with dacite and rhyolite lava and obsidian flows as recent as 1000 years ago spreading from the shield volcano for more than 30 miles in every direction.  From Klamath Falls, the Highlands can be seen in the distance to the south, unassuming, appearing as a nondescript broad plateau.  Medicine Lake Camping (2)-032

Medicine Lake Highland’s volcanic area exceeds 200 square miles in Modoc and Siskiyou counties and encompasses portions of three National Forests including Modoc, Klamath and Shasta-Trinity. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions on the Medicine Lake shield volcano have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features including more than 700 lava tube caves. Some of the most popular features include Glass Mountain, Burnt Lava Flow, Medicine Lake Glass Flow and Undertakers Crater. Medicine Lake has no known outlets yet the water remains clean and clear with inflows only from snowmelt, rainfall and springs.

Medicine Lake mapDriving south from Klamath Falls through Merrill, home of one of the best quilt shops in Oregon, Tater Patch, we continued into California on Highway 39 to Alturas, turning west toward Tionesta 40 miles or so south of Tulelake.  The road to Medicine Lake is well marked, but narrow, paved but very rough.  Abby and Jeremy complained quite a bit about the thumping, bumping rough sounds of the regular seams across the road.  I guess they are created to prevent frost heave on a road crossing soils thick with pumice deposits.take off blue heron on Medicine Lake

The road rises over 20 miles or so from the juniper sage desert at 3900 feet to high red fir and lodgepole pine forests at nearly 7000 feet elevation.  We watched the temperatures drop from the mid 90’s to the high 70’s as we drove.  The skies were clear and gorgeous, with just a bit of smoke from the California fires marring the blue.  In the past few years, we have planned trips to Medicine Lake, changing our mind at the last minute because of fires and smoke.  This time we decided to go anyway, because fires and smoke in the west seem to be a constant and if we wait for no fires, we may never get back to this favorite little place.Mo on the beach at Medicine Lake

We decided to skip the tow car on this trip, instead hauling the boats and bikes in a small trailer.  We have traveled here several times, and spent days wandering the forest service roads exploring lava flows, obsidian flows, and taken in the views from the high mountain fire lookouts.  This time we intended to relax completely.  Without the car, we wouldn’t be tempted to wander any farther than we could go on a bike or our own two feet.  camping kitty

We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, to find one of our favorite sites wide open.  There are three main campgrounds at Medicine Lake, with the first one a bit more open and a sign says not suited to larger rigs.  We aren’t quite sure what that means, because the sites are quite large, but the road is narrow.  The sites are also not even close to level.  We could camp there in a pinch, but the second campground, Hogue, is our favorite.  There are a few sites in the upper part that can accommodate bigger rigs, but our favorites down by the lake are a bit small and not level.  Medicine campground is the third one in, usually busier with lots of room for larger rigs.  The Headquarters campground is farther west on the gravel road beyond Little Medicine Lake, and is very quiet, open and usually empty because it is a bit of a distance from the lake with no lake views.  Another place that would do in a pinch if you drove a long distance to camp and there are no reservations here.

Our site 45 has a gorgeous view of the lake, a nice big picnic table down the slope from the rig, and for some reason there are two additional rock firepits added to the big one that was here when we camped last in 2008.  A rocky trail leads down to the water and with a bit of maneuvering, we got the boats down to the shore where we could leave them safely for the duration of our visit.site 45 overlooking Medicine Lake

We settled in for a great afternoon of watching the water, watching the sky, playing cards, and I brought out a decidedly sinful and delicious supper of old fashioned hot dogs, baked beans and potato salad that I made the day before at home.  The site has only a small drawback.  It really is a bit more suited to tent camping than a rig, but we managed to get the MoHo leveled and pulled in far enough that the back end was off the camp road.  It is times like these that we are grateful for our perfect length of 26 feet.  We can fit most anywhere and yet still have enough room to travel comfortably for weeks or months.not bad.  Site 45 snagged on a Tuesday afternoon in August

Our sleeping area looked out over the camp road, but there was no one in the site across from us, and the road was quiet, so it wasn’t a serious problem.  The night was completely silent, the moon was low and reflected on the lake and the stars were brilliant.  I wondered momentarily about the next several days.  No internet, no phone, no car.  Just a book, a boat, a bike, and a chair.  Ahhhhhhhhh.first night supper at Medicine Lake  Yum!

Next: kayaking, birds, and social life at Medicine Lake

August 28 Sunday Camping at Silver Falls State Park

Capture 255 milesIt has been less than two weeks since we returned from our long trek to Alaska, but a short three day jaunt to a beautiful Oregon State Park seemed just so simple.  We planned this trip for a couple of reasons: For one, we loved Silver Falls when we visited in the spring of 2010.  The real reason for the trip, however, was to see the dahlias in full bloom during the Swan Island Dahlia Festival nearby in Canby. 

I grew hundreds of dahlias at one time, selling cut flowers at a weekend farmers market along with my dried flower bouquets and fresh herbs.  It was a good time in my life, but oh sooo much work.  Here at Rocky Point, I don’t have much opportunity to grow dahlias, although I still plan to at least try. Mo and I plan to downsize by 2020 or so, and my one request is that we do so in a place where I can putter in a real garden with a real growing season and grow dahlias. 

As we readied for the short trip, 255 miles total, everything seemed just incredibly simple.  The MoHo was spotless and lovely, and I only needed clothes for three days and two nights. With the temperatures predicted for the area in the mid 80’s, shorts were in order, and I didn’t even bother with sweats or long pants.  (Oops, we live in Oregon for pete’s sake!). Food was simple as well, just two dinners, a couple of breakfasts, and some hiking food for daytime.  Gee.  We were loaded and ready to go in no time. After the long preparations for the Alaska trip, this was such a delight.

overlooking Upper Klamath NWR from Westside RoadWe took our time getting on the road, enjoying the warm, sunny morning. Dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops, we were glad to have returned home to Oregon in August to enjoy what Laurie and Odel called the “elusive Oregon summer”.  Yes, it IS elusive at times, but less so on the east side of the mountains where we live. 

heading west on Willamette Pass hwy 58 smog in our future :(Fire is a given in the west, and as we crossed the Wood River Valley just north of home and the Upper Klamath NWR, there was smoke evident to the east and north from the many fires ignited in Central Oregon over the past couple of weeks.  The route is familiar and a bit boring at times, especially north on Highway 97.  The soils are deep pumice from the eruption of Crater Lake (Mt Mazama) more than 7,000 years ago, and the vegetation is dry lodgepole and ponderosa pine.  Only after the route rises to Willamette Pass does the timber begin to thicken and darken to lush Oregon green.

The Willamette Valley is the heart of Oregon, even though the actual area is very small when compared to the entire state.  Eugene is the largest city south of Portland in this valley, and as we entered Eugene we noticed the brown pall of smoke in the air from burning fields of blue grass, from dust rising from busy plows, and yes, from cars.  I think that is actually smog, although being raised in Southern California I do know that real smog is a bit uglier than what we found on the Eugene skyline.

Silver Falls Campground near site 79hurry up Mom!By the time we got to the park, it was evident that even on a Sunday afternoon, this was a very popular place.  I am glad that we made a reservation back in April, since the park was completely filled for the entire week!  It was warm and sunny, and we were glad for a shady site with power and water to enjoy the late afternoon.  Jeremy was really anxious to get out of the rig and explore, and I put on his fancy city harness and he was out of the rig before I could get down the steps.  He is funny, sitting quietly for the harness, and the minute the last snap is done he jumps down to the door knowing it it time! Even at 15 years old, I think he might want to explore farther than I would want, so I keep him harnessed when we are camping for safety.

paved bike trail from the campground to the dog areaAs the evening progressed, we took the beautiful paved bike trail to the dog exercise area, a special treat in a state park because this one if for dogs off leash!  To our surprise, on this warm Sunday evening, there were no dogs there.  Families were everywhere, with children playing in the swimming area along the Silver River, bbq’s going at every picnic table, volleyball and soccer games in progress. The park is within easy driving distance of Salem, Albany, and even Portland, and from what we saw on this Sunday afternoon, it is a popular place to spend a Sunday.

popular swimming area on a warm Sunday eveningThe presence of huge, extended families with grandmas, grandpas, babies, aunts and uncles, all enjoying the afternoon together was heartening.  Most of these families were speaking languages we didn’t know, but with the din of so many conversations that really didn’t matter. The language of a park on a Sunday afternoon is universal, after all. We had a great time letting Abby run uphill, hoping to wear her out.  Later in the day, we expected to have to leave her in the rig while we hiked the waterfall trails where dogs are not allowed.

the dog exercise area is leash freeThe Silver River was low at this time of year, and I was surprised to see just how lovely the falls looked even with less water.  The stream slips over South Falls in a clear, wispy ribbon, much different from the crashing torrent we experienced in April last year.  The trails were full of families, dads carrying babies in backpacks, grandpas with canes (me with my walking sticks!) 

even with the river fairly low, South falls is lovelyOne more time I did a stupid crash, this time thank goodness without the camera in my hands!  Stepping out of the MoHo I missed the step and bent the weak ankle one more time in a direction it doesn’t particularly like and went down.  I know to hold on to the door handle, and had a good grip, so didn’t go all the way down.  Mo laughed again, saying I must have bones of steel because with all these stupid falls I don’t seem to break anything. Who knows what that is about.  This time again, it was a big divot I didn’t see because it was UNDER our entry rug.  Sigh.  Hold on tight and keep your eyes down, I guess.

We chose a camp on the A loop again, but it was more open than I might have liked.  Our neighbors were right behind us, with their campfire so close to our back window that I had to close the night shade all the time so they couldn’t see inside.  Our fire was far enough forward in the site that we could sit there without being in their back pocket, and we were glad that the folks directly on our other side seemed to be indoor types, so we had a bit of space to ourselves.  I couldn’t believe how many kids were in  that campground, and dogs, and bikes.  It was some kind of biking heaven, I guess, with tiny little kids on trainers with helmets bigger than they were.  The sound of screaming, laughing kids and barking dogs was almost deafening.

home for a couple of nightsSo often, in this lifestyle, we hang with retired folks in sedate RV campgrounds that are quiet and calm.  We are retired ourselves, and live in a community that is composed mostly of retired folks or summer visitors.  My grandkids are all teenagers now, and as I sat at our campfire watching all those kids, I realized just how insulated we can be from the din of family life.  Have I used the word “din” a lot?  Hmmm.  Sunday afternoon at Silver Falls State Park was a lovely and noisy place.

Next: the dahlia show!

The rest of the photos are linked here