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.


08-18-2020 Hiking to Boundary Springs

Just a short note here: If you click on a photo you will be taken to the high resolution image on my SmugMug site and will also be able to see the entire gallery.

Even though we originally thought we might do our Boundary Springs hike and then go home, we decided it wouldn’t be a problem to spend another night on “store” and continue our camping trip as planned.

After a good breakfast we headed back up Highway 230 toward the north entrance of Crater Lake and the Boundary Springs Trailhead.  We stopped along the route a couple of times, once to photograph a distant pointy peak.  I was surprised when I walked to the edge of the roadway and discovered this magnificent example of downcutting in the cemented pumice from the explosion of Mt Mazama, (Crater Lake) 7700 years ago.

We also stopped at the bridge crossing Muir Creek where we had noticed a camping rig parked among the trees on the previous day.  Pulling in to check it out we discovered a lovely dispersed campsite with room for a couple of rigs without imposing on anyone’s privacy.

There was a tent settled into a site along the creek, but still plenty of room that would accommodate another camper without being intrusive.

Continuing north on the highway, we again stopped at the main trailhead where we encountered a large family getting ready to hike to the Springs. They said the hike was 5 miles round trip. Good to know that we could lop off a mile or two of the total hike by returning to the dirt road we found yesterday that intercepted the trail closer to the springs.


We drove to our dirt road that we found yesterday that cut off some distance for us by intercepting the trail closer to the springs. I think our total hike was between 3 and 4 miles, but I discovered my Fitbit is seriously overestimating mileage. My 36 inch stride has shortened considerably since I started hobbling along with sticks. Time to reset stride length so I get reasonable mileage numbers. After returning home I did a bit more research and found a good map of our hike and discovered that we had indeed covered 3.5 miles round trip from where we entered the trail to the springs and back.


The hike wasn’t difficult, with some ups and downs, but a fairly smooth surface thanks to the deep pumice soils. The family overtook us in short order even with our short cut. During the hike we passed a woman from Arizona, a couple from San Jose, and another young couple.

We all stayed distanced as we greeted each other and the two couples stepped off the trail and donned their masks as we passed. I thanked them and we covered our faces with our shirts, feeling silly that we had left our masks in the car. I find I am much less concerned when outdoors and tend to be less vigilant. Especially after yesterday where we didn’t see another soul on the trails.


Prior to the spring is a magnificent cascade. It is thrilling that there is so much water in the Rogue so close to its source.

The family departed the spring as we arrived so we had it entirely to ourselves as we sat and enjoyed not only the springs but the thought of the mighty river that it becomes.

On the way back out I found myself wondering how long it takes a drop of water to reach the Pacific, and then what happens if it gets caught up in Lost Lake and never gets there…or evaporates on the way. Silly thoughts hiking the headwaters of a great river. Although I never did get an answer to that question, I did find an excellent synopsis of the Rogue River in this website

Another fascinating blog that I found in my research is this one, Boundary Springs, Source of the River.  Great information about the source of the water that forms the springs, and while they don’t emanate directly from the bottom of Crater Lake, the waters move through the deep pumice layers under some of the deepest snows in the western US.

Ripe huckleberries!

I managed the hike with 2 sticks, and noticed my quad muscles really didn’t hurt any more at the end of the hike than they did at the beginning. Its just a matter of doing it. I did notice that much of my walking movement is generated from my hips rather than knees or quads so it makes for a bit of a funny looking gait. I remembered something a well known Myositis Warrior said, “Don’t mourn what you can no longer do. Celebrate what you still can do.”

Lately I have been often saddened when I read about so many great hikes that blogger friends are doing that I know I will never do again. But on this walk I celebrated that I made it to Boundary Springs and that my hiking days may have changed, but they aren’t over.

We decided to return home by continuing to the north entrance of Crater Lake and making a loop via highway 62 back to Farewell Bend.

The drive was lovely, but with a bit of overcast the lake wasn’t as blue as we have seen it. The view sites were mostly full but we only stopped at one for a few photos.

We were back at camp before 3 and while warm, it wasn’t as hot as the previous two days. We played cards at the picnic table for awhile, planning to have supper at 7 so it would be a bit cooler and we could try again for a campfire.


I wanted to walk the short .3 mile trail to the Rogue Gorge Overlook along the river. I decided this time to try the walker since the trail was smooth, level, and not rocky. We were alone when we arrived at the overlook but within minutes there were a bunch of families with happy loud kids running around so we made.our exit. It was fun seeing kids playing in the slick rocky pools in the river channel. Most of the times we have been to this part of the river the water has been much too high and wild for this kind of play.


Supper was the best ever and the easiest. Mo started up the Weber Q and I put on two ears of unhusked corn and some nice loin chops.  We cooked and ate at the table with a jar of our homemade applesauce and the other half of our bottle of red we had the first night we were here. We also turned on the generator and the air to let the rig cool down a bit. Amazing what a treat cooled air can be when it is hot and muggy outdoors!

Back inside after supper and a little bit of campfire we finished our card game in the coolness before opening all the windows putting the rig on store and settling into the darkness to read kindles before bed. I love the dark silence of having the rig on store at night. No blinking lights anywhere.

The next morning we turned on the generator again for breakfast, and considered whether we should return to Crater Lake to drive out to the Pinnacles Trail. We decided to wait till the next time we visit so as not to be rushed by the 2 pm check out time.

Instead we once again walked the beautiful Rogue Gorge trail for a couple of miles along the river.  Such a perfect way to end our trip.

Both of us were really happy that we hadn’t let our battery issues cut our plans short.  Every single day had something wonderful for us and we are already planning to return to camp at Farewell Bend for more explorations into parts of Crater Lake that we have yet to visit.

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)

01-15-2015 Joshua Tree Heaven

Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon Current temperature: 45 degrees F and clear

Joshua Tree Morning (50 of 54)Can you see all the magical people in this pile of rocks?  Look close. 

When Judy (bird lady of blogland) and I were visiting, we talked about our blogging habits and one of the thoughts that came up was how important it is to write when everything is fresh.  Some folks are diligent about this, writing everything on the same day in first person present tense.  Others are the opposite extreme, waiting sometimes months to get back to a special trip with tons of information and magnificent photos.

Joshua Tree Evening (8 of 31) I fall somewhere in between.  If we are traveling, I try hard to keep up, but on almost every extended outing, I’ll get behind.  Such is the case today.  I am once again at home, sitting at the office window looking out through the forest, trying to slip back into how it felt to be camping in the dry sunny almost warmth of Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree Evening (14 of 31) Mo and I love to visit Joshua Tree.  In 2008, when we first brought the MoHo home to Oregon from Texas, we stopped for a a bit of exploring around the Joshua Tree campgrounds, and almost got ourselves into a tight situation on one of the Jumbo Rocks campground loops. 

Joshua Tree Evening (15 of 31) In 2013, even though we were camped at Desert Hot Springs, we spent some time exploring the National Park and loved every minute of it.  I made a mental note that we should try to camp in Jumbo Rocks campground on our trip south in 2014.  My planning wasn’t too great, however, since we arrived on New Years Day, and the campground, which has no reservations, was jam packed for the holiday.

We solved that problem with a terrific time boondocking outside the park just south of the southern entrance, within view of I-10. What a great way to see in the new year.

Joshua Tree Evening (28 of 31) This year, we saved our Joshua Tree time for last.  It was hard leaving Arizona after such a short time, but miscellaneous home issues required that we get back on the road north in short order.  Finally, after all these years, we managed a night of beautiful dry camping in the Jumbo Rocks Campground at Joshua Tree National Park.

I somehow expected that in mid January, after all the holidays were over, the park would be quiet.  While it was much quieter than last year, there were still many people exploring, and we were lucky to find a spot long enough for the MoHo when we arrived around 3 in the afternoon. With a short stop in Quartzite, I was still drooling over some of the new Class A rigs that we toured at La Mesa RV.  In spite of all that glass, and all that space, I still love tucking my little 26 footer into tight spaces in national parks, state parks, and forest service campgrounds.

Joshua Tree Morning (52 of 54) The campground is long, with winding roads and a few side loops, but the majority of sites are sized for tent camping.  Sites that are large enough for bigger rigs are built parallel to the road, and require some forethought and jockeying to settle in properly.

Joshua Tree Morning (51 of 54) We figured out that in order to get our slide out on the private side away from the road, we would have to park facing the opposite direction and accept the slight inconvenience of the doorway opening directly into the road.

It worked out just fine, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be any longer.  There were a few big rigs in some of the areas at the far end of the park, but I would imagine that they had to wait around to get a site big enough to accommodate their size.

Joshua Tree Evening (17 of 31) Both of us have always wanted to camp among the beautiful boulders, and with our windows opening up to a giant jumbled pile of wonderfulness, we watched the evening light shifting colors on the granite, and the next morning enjoyed the changing light of sunrise.

Joshua Tree Evening (6 of 31) The night was cold, with frost on the car when morning broke.  There were people in tents nearby and I was reminded of days camping in cold tents and warm sleeping bags, trying to keep warm making coffee over the fire.  Such luxury.  I snuggled back into the down comforter, enjoying the morning with no hurry to beat the sunrise.  I planned to hike, but I didn’t need to do it while the frost was still hanging around.

The other interesting tidbit about Jumbo Rocks is the generator rules.  Generators can be run from 7 to 9 am, from 12 to 2 pm, and from 6 to 8 pm.  Different.  We still had a good charge, even with our furnace running, but it was nice to top it off with an hour of generator time around 9 am before we took off hiking.

Joshua Tree Morning (7 of 54) The hike to Skull Rock from the campground is well marked, however it was easy to wind between the rocks from our campsite until we intercepted the trail meandering east toward the attraction.  At only 1.3 miles, when we found Skull Rock, we weren’t ready to quit, so Mo and I wandered around the boulders for a time, enjoying all the shapes and shadows of the crazy beautiful landscape.

Joshua Tree Morning (23 of 54) What a wonderful place! In all our years passing by this trailhead, we had never actually seen Skull Rock.  I had no clue until we almost ran into it that the famous face is very close to the parking area right on the main park road. 

Joshua Tree Morning (37 of 54) Joshua Tree Morning (30 of 54)This section of Joshua Tree is filled with fantasmagoric boulders that people young and old love to climb and explore.  It is almost like a giant jungle gym for grownups, or maybe not so grownups.  We saw some teenagers doing scary things on high boulders that made me wonder if this park has a high incidence of injuries and rescues. We everything from old folks meandering around the rocks to the aforementioned teenagers, to professional free climbers with some equipment, and other climbers with a ton of equipment.  Joshua Tree Morning (33 of 54)

Once again, we passed many sights on our way out that reminded us to put at least a week of dry camping here on the agenda the next time we travel south in the winter. Joshua Tree Morning (14 of 54)

As I was walking along behind Mo in the morning sunlight, I felt myself slip into a state of wonder that is a bit hard to fathom or explain.  I was just so incredibly happy, so very much in that moment, so high on the light and the rocks and the sandy trail in front of me.  I hope I can remember that moment at times when I am feeling low or bored with the everydayness of life in general.  Moments like that are rare and wonderful.  Most of the time I am in good spirits, but this was somehow different.  Call it Bliss, I suppose, I was there! 

Joshua Tree Morning (12 of 54) We had a wonderful breakfast, a wonderful hike, and a wonderful morning to slip under the belt before we had to leave the clear beautiful desert behind us and head west into the foggy dreariness of the Central Valley of California.  Only thing that made the drive tolerable was the anticipation of spending time with friends on our way home.

Joshua Tree Morning (46 of 54) Next:  Visiting Jimmie and Nickie in Nevada City!

01-14-2015 Refuge Days with Judy

Current Location: Imperial National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Yuma Arizona

It has been three days since we left the relative urban environment of the Coachella Valley to travel east and south.  The route is familiar again.  A short way along Dillon road to the east intercepts I-10 and once again we are traveling toward Quartzite, passing last years boondock site at the entrance to Joshua Tree, enjoying the reasonably smooth pavement of this part of the interstate.Imperial NWR with Judy (3 of 54)

We were in Quartzite before noon, with the cloudy skies invading the desert to the west gone and replaced with varying levels of warm sunshine.  We gassed up at the Pilot at $2.06 per gallon with our .03 discount.  It is rather amazing to fill the tank of the MoHo with less than a hundred bucks.  We parked in the lot east of the station, with few semi’s parked there, thinking it would be OK.  We didn’t back in, but parked at the far end of the lot crossways.  No one was anywhere near us.  But by the time we got back from our short shopping foray, a big rig had parked in front of us, and while we sat there preparing to leave, another slid in even closer.  I think we broke some rule and did some quick backing up to get out of there before we were completely  boxed in.Imperial NWR with Judy (4 of 54)

Quartzite was the same as ever, windy and cool in spite of the sunshine, long rows of stalls with tons of stuff, and the tool store and bead store that we saw last year.  Mo didn’t find what she was looking for and there wasn’t a single thing that I needed or wanted.  A few items at the less than stellar grocery store reminded me that if you come to Quartzite, you should probably have anything you need already in your possession.

After a very short stop, we were again rolling south on Highway 95, past the Kofa Mountains and toward Yuma.  Temps were fairly cool, and some big black clouds in the sky to the south indicated that rain was either coming or going. Unusual in this part of the desert at this time of the year.

Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Arizona side of the Colorado river, and the access road is at the huge Yuma Proving Ground.  We turned west, and were surprised that the road was unpaved a few miles before we reached the refuge.  The washboards weren’t too bad, actually not as rough as I-5 can be in parts of California.Imperial NWR with Judy (6 of 54)

The large puddle, however, stopped us cold.  In the southwest there is no way of knowing how deep the puddle may be, or how soft the roadbed is beneath the puddle.  We were in a quandary.  At the lower level of the wash where we were stopped, there was no phone signal, so I couldn’t call Judy at the visitor center to ask about the big puddle.

Instead, we unhooked, Mo turned around with the baby car, and I backed the MoHo up the road a few hundred yards to the intersection.  I was attempting to get a call through when a man in a golf cart showed up and offered to lead us across the puddle, insisting that it was perfectly fine.  We asked him to go first to prove it however, before we slowly crossed the scary puddle of water which turned out to be pretty easy.  Still, as they know in the Southwest, you never know about these puddles so better safe than sorry.  We later heard that Barbara, of Me and my Dog, had attempted to visit Judy that same morning, and the puddle made her turn around without even trying to cross in the car in which she and a friend were exploring. 

Imperial NWR with Judy (7 of 54)Seeing Judy again was great. We met last year in Anahuac NWR, so the meeting didn’t have the “new” thing, but was instead a happy reunion.   We stopped in at the Visitor Center since it was her work day and let her know we had arrived and then settled into our campsite with plans to meet for supper when Judy got off work.  Emma was as happy and excited as usual, but before long she settled down and enjoyed the company.  Judy’s site overlooking the pond is fabulous.  The view, the patio, the shady side of the rig stays nice and cool (I think that should be a good thing most of the time).  All the bloggers who weighed in encouraging her to move to the 30 amp site were right!  A good move.

Imperial NWR with Judy (12 of 54)After a great sleep in the silent beautiful desert, Judy stopped by in the morning to pick us up for the day’s tour.  Judy usually does the bird tours on Sundays, but she sweetly offered to do one this week on a Tuesday for us, and for John and Sharon from On the Road Of Retirement.

Imperial NWR with Judy (18 of 54)I have followed their blog for years, so it was delightful to meet them in person and share the morning checking out the ponds and birds on the refuge.

judysuemosharonNo telephoto along today to capture photos of the wonderful birds, but I do have to put a little bit fuzzy one up of the beautiful great horned owl that graced us with its presence and sat quietly in the tree in full daylight posing.  Imperial NWR with Judy (28 of 54)

I added some more birds to my list, with a favorite being the little loggerhead shrike, a bird who skewers his live food onto thorns to keep it in place while he eats.  Hmmm.  I also saw Say’s Phoebe, which without Judy around would have been just another little brown bird.  Nothing quite so wonderful for a non birder who likes birds than to go out with a real birder!

Imperial NWR with Judy (22 of 54)Judy taught us a lot, and shared fascinating information about the habits of some of the residents of the refuge.  We didn’t see the bobcat, but did see the log where she scratches.  We didn’t see the beavers, but saw the fascinating beaver trails crossing the road between ponds.  We didn’t see the coyotes or the burros, either, but got a kick out of the coyote and burro trails.Imperial NWR with Judy (25 of 54)

Later in the afternoon, Judy picked us up again, and took us to the northern portions of the refuge.  There are four overlooks, with views of the remnant lakes that connect to the Colorado River, and at the first one we found so many birds that even Judy was excited.

Imperial NWR with Judy (39 of 54)I added buffleheads and ruddy ducks to my list, even though I know I have seen them in our Klamath Basin refuge.  It makes such a difference to have a birder tell what they are.  I might actually remember now.

Imperial NWR with Judy (50 of 54)Evening was enjoyed with laughs and conversation on Judy’s patio, and probably the best BBQ chicken I ever tasted.  Judy called it New York chicken bbq and spent a great deal of time basting the pieces with a nondescript looking marinade that turned the chicken into a flavorful crispy skinned delight.  Never had anything like it.  Don’t forget to send me that recipe, Judy!

Painted Desert Trail (1 of 45)Wednesday Judy had arranged some kayaks to get the three of us out on the Colorado River, but with the very cool temperatures and the wind starting up early, we nixed that plan quickly.  Instead Judy drove us north again to the Painted Desert Trail, I think the only official trail in the Refuge.Painted Desert Trail (8 of 45)

The temperatures were perfect for the leisurely hike, a mile and a third winding around and up through the volcanic rhyolites, tuffs, and basalts of the 20 million year old landscape, topped off by river gravels from the meandering Ancestral Colorado shining with desert varnish.

Painted Desert Trail (10 of 45)We found some very interesting green rocks, carried down by erosion from the basalt flows to the north, but Judy made sure we didn’t pick one up.  The only place to gather rock is some distance north and east in the Kofa Refuge.

Painted Desert Trail (12 of 45)I learned finally which tree was the ironwood, and we talked a bit about how many different plants are called  “ironwood”.  Nothing was yet in flower, but the lime green of the palo verde trees against the rusty red rocks added plenty of color.  Again we saw burro sign and burro trails, but no sign of a live animal. Painted Desert Trail (27 of 45) This refuge is ambivalent about the burros.  They aren’t attempting to eliminate them as they are at Sheldon NWR, but they are also not doing anything to support them since they are feral, not a naturally occurring species. 

We had the entire morning and trail to ourselves, so imagine our surprise to return to the trail head to see so many cars parked!  Lucky us!  Later in the day we found out that there had been more than 100 visitors to the center that day, and the park was crawling with people, more than Judy had seen in her entire time here since October.

Painted Desert Trail (37 of 45)Home mid day, we packed up a lunch (don’t ever offer Judy a tuna sandwich!) and decided since we couldn’t kayak, we could take a few hours to explore the lower end of the Kofa Refuge in the Tracker.  With only half a tank of gas in the car, and a gas station all the way south in Yuma, we limited our drive to 3 hours and 100 miles.  We didn’t have to worry about the distance in the least.

Painted Desert Trail (38 of 45)We used up the three hours without a problem, but the condition of the road deteriorated enough that our progress was slow and we didn’t have time to actually get over MacPherson Pass to the other side.

Painted Desert Trail (42 of 45)The picnic was a stand up affair, with a little bit of wind protection from the car and entertainment provided by a long line of Jeeps coming back down from the pass.  After lunch, we attempted to continue a bit north, but were stopped by a drop off.  After careful examination, we decided against trying it.  Mo and I have done similar obstacles in the Tracker, but it was getting late and we had no clue how many more we might have to try and then still turn around.

Painted Desert Trail (45 of 45)It was important to get Judy back to her site on time, since she was the hostess of a gathering of refuge volunteers and she had 20 Chicago hot dogs to prepare.  At five, the volunteers gathered to visit and enjoy the dogs and chili and some salads provided potluck style and talk about the different refuges where they have volunteered.  It was an interesting perspective on a lifestyle that is considerably different than some full time RVrs.  Painted Desert Trail (41 of 45)

Our three days here in the Arizona desert are coming to a close.  I can’t believe how quickly the time passed and how wonderfully quiet it has been here.  Lucky Us!! It isn’t easy to take time away from working for Judy to show folks around, so I don’t take her generosity for granted.  What a great lady, who gives so much to the refuge world.  Lucky them as well. Imperial NWR with Judy (15 of 54)

Today we travel north again for some off-grid time in Joshua Tree.