May 31, 2022 May Play Days

Mattie in the high mountains on our day of exploring

Sometimes a month simply flies by because so much is happening. Other times a month merely slips by with everyday life, and I have to review calendars, photos, Google TimeLine, and anything else I can come up with to figure out, “What in the world did we do this month?” Mo and I are sitting at our desks in the office, drinking Sunday morning coffee and looking forward to daughter Deborah visiting later for omelets and conversation. It is raining. Hard. It has been raining for two full days now. I stepped outside at 6 and reveled in the dampness, the birds singing, everything wet and green the way outsiders picture the “real” Oregon. It is beautiful and so refreshing. After years of drought and the lower part of our non–irrigated property turning brown in early May, it is a wonder to still have green grass growing in early June.


When we both look back over May, what comes to mind most is mowing, weeding, raking, hauling, and more mowing. We brought up other activities as we were talking, but somehow the pleasure of the green yard and all the growing things seems to supersede anything else at the moment.


Yes, the deer are always trying to figure out how to eat whatever is growing on our property.  Sometimes I can stay ahead of them with Deer-Out, other times they win.

We began our month with a rather exciting kerfuffle. Home from our most recent trip to Silver Falls, we parked the rig in the yard for a few days so Mo could wash it and I could get the interior cleaned up. Once it was clean, I did the typical backing maneuver we use to put the MoHo safely in her shed. Mo had the door open. I am backing watching her in the mirrors to get the rig lined up perfectly. I can’t see much in the camera at this moment. The inside of the RV shed is dark, and the sun usually reflects so that I can only see Mo in the mirrors. She carefully directs me in, just far enough to let me miss the mirrors and far enough right that I miss the kayaks hanging on the wall.

CRUNCH>!!!

 

WTH happened? I holler, and Mo says it must be the air conditioner. We both look at the RV Shed door, raised as usual but just not as high as usual. Neither of us saw it. So much for the fancy double domed skylight over the shower. At least it wasn’t the air conditioner. So, in addition to mowing, Mo spent much of the month obtaining the replacement, removing the old skylight, and replacing it. The only good thing about the entire process is that the rig was in the shed with plenty of room for her to work in a sheltered space.


While Mo spent her days dealing with the skylight, I dinked around in the yard for a few hours each day. I do love dinking in the yard. We knew that getting the drip system that we installed last year up to speed again was a priority. But with the heavy rains we had all month, at least the gardens weren’t drying out with the usual spring desiccation that happens almost instantly as winter ends. We have fresh gravel to spread in the areas of the yard covered with decomposed granite to bury the red clay that would destroy everything if exposed. That rock pile has been around for a few weeks and is still waiting. We will get it done eventually. The DG gets thin over time, and with limited water, we need to have areas of the property that aren’t dirty but don’t require water.


Happily, the sprinklers are now working, almost 100 percent updated, and joy of all joys, the well seems to be recharging at a fantastic rate. I have a geology mindset that groundwater will recharge quickly with good rains, but our deep bedrock groundwater aquifer will take decades to recharge after a long drought cycle. With only 2.5 GPM, this matters. Hence the areas of our property are either unirrigated or covered with gravel. Yes, there is a lot of green in the good parts, and I have a postage stamp green lawn that my eco-conscious grandchild chides me about.


But back to May. Looking at the calendar, I suddenly remember Cinco de Mayo. A holiday that I have never really celebrated, and I have read that it isn’t even celebrated much in Mexico. But what better excuse to have friends over for Mexican food and margaritas?


Mother’s Day was simple and sweet.  I received beautiful flowers from each of my daughters and Deborah treated Mo and I and her son Matthew to lunch at Red Robin.  She asked if I wanted to go somewhere nicer, but no, I was in the mood for a fat blue cheese burger and no fancy crowds.  It was a lovely afternoon.

Mo and I fiddled with my puzzle addiction and went to the Downton Abbey movie in between mowing and hauling debris. It was fun for me as an old DA fan who has watched the entire series. I could see how it would be utterly dull for someone who didn’t care about the people in the movie. Mo didn’t know any of them, and a lot of the film is spent with long stills of large groups of faces of people the fans know and love. It was a reunion of sorts. Mo slept through most of it.

Maryruth and I
went to the Farmer’s Market, thrilled by the gorgeous displays of early spring produce and coming home with huge fat radishes and fresh strawberries.

I enjoyed a great book group meeting in our founder’s front yard, complete with California poppies on the table. Sarah was so tickled that she could actually pick the poppies because, in California, where she lived before her move here, it was illegal to do so. The poppies are growing like crazy at our place after years of babying the one plant that made it through our home construction. They finally took over the rocky slope of fill that supports the RV shed.


Everything is later this year. Blooms are showing up at least 3 to 4 weeks later than usual, and I have lots of photos to remind me of that. Obsessively I cruise through my yard photos of the previous years, wondering when the roses will show or when the rhodies will bloom.


I decided that May truly is the best month here in Grants Pass. The rhodies are in full bloom, the magnificent iris are everywhere, the pink dogwoods are still blooming, and the leaves on the trees are still bright green without that dark olive color that takes over when the heat comes. I love May, and it is my favorite month. Mo says, “You said that about October last year too. You are fickle.” Maybe so.


Toward the end of the month, we actually did something unrelated to the yard. We loaded up the kayaks for a day trip to our old world near Rocky Point. Long-time readers have undoubtedly seen a bazillion photos of Recreation Creek and Malone Springs, but here we are again, kayaking in our favorite place to kayak. Even better than Florida. There isn’t as much wildlife compared to verdant, rich Florida, but there are no alligators, and we don’t have to drive 6,000 miles to kayak here.

We ended our lovely day of kayaking with a visit with good friends from our Rocky Point days.  Mata and Jim Rust have lived there for decades and know all the ins and outs of that small, somewhat tightly knit community.  It was wonderful to sit on the porch with a good glass of wine enjoying their magnificent view and great conversation.  We hadn’t seen Mata and Jim since they visited us at our Rogue River boondock site a couple of years ago.

Memorial Day is a big deal in Grants Pass. For 62 years, a non-profit foundation has put on a huge celebration called “Boatnik.” The big draw is the boat races on the Rogue River, but the parade and the fireworks are also big draws. I had plans to go to the fireworks, but at ten at night, with cold weather and clouds, we decided to stay home for the Friday night festivities. Saturday morning, it dawned cold and rainy, and once again, we decided to skip the fun hometown Memorial Day parade. I just couldn’t get excited about sitting in the rain. A friend who went said it didn’t actually rain, but the parade was so long that after two hours, she finally gave up and took her kids to the carnival. Once again, we talked about going to the second night of fireworks on Sunday night. Instead, we listened to them from our balcony with tiny flashes of light over the river showing through the big, fully leafed oak trees to the north of the property. We are so lucky that Mattie could care less about fireworks and barely notices them.


Finally, on Monday, we decided that we really wanted to at least attend some of the festivities. The weather had turned nicely with some gorgeous blue skies and puffy whites. We drove to Riverside Park, and I reveled in the very best benefit of all from my disability. That blue parking tag gets us through all the gates and closed roads to the handicapped parking zone right at the park’s edge. From where we parked the car, it was about 100 yards to the midway and all the delightful carnival noises of happy kids. I celebrated with my favorite fair food, a giant, perfectly lightly crisped corn dog.


Walking to the river’s edge, we could barely hear the choir singing for the Memorial Day Ceremony. Still, I did manage to stand in a perfect place to take a video of the flag being unfurled over the Caveman Bridge as the Star-Spangled Banner sounded over the loudspeakers. I cried like I used to when I was a kid in school in the mornings before class when they played the anthem and raised the flag. Sometimes that old memory of patriotism and love for my country will surface. There were no politics to think about on that gorgeous Monday in the park.


The big event we came to see was the flyover of the fighter jets from Klamath Falls, doing their rounds over southern Oregon all the way to Gold Beach and back, flying low over the Rogue River here in Grants Pass. I stood in an area along the river, hoping for a great shot. There was a zoom, loud and instantaneous. Only one plane flew over, and it was much too fast for me to catch it, even in a video. A bit of a disappointment, actually. Others said there were two planes over Medford, and some said there were two over Grants Pass, but others said only one. Either way, it was fun to be there. Maybe next time, instead of being right in the park, we will attempt to be on a bridge. There are three that cross the river in this town.


That was the end of May, but we began the month of June with an exploration that we had talked about for a long time. Readers and friends know how much we love the Applegate Valley, filled with farms and wineries and gorgeous views. One of the views from the valley is of the magnificent mountains to the west and south, part of the Siskiyous. Few roads penetrate those mountains, but a few weeks ago, Mo said, “We need to explore the mountains above the Applegate.” Instead of simply saying, “We sure do!” I put it on the calendar, and June 1 was the day.


I did a bit of research, traveled the roads as best I could with google maps, and figured out a route for us to attempt to get to a high point in the range closest to the Applegate Valley .Our goal was the Whiskey Ridge Viewpoint, technically in California just south of the state line. Once we left the main road through the Applegate and headed up Thompson Creek, the road turned narrow and twisty. Turning onto FS Road 1035, we began our ascent to the high country. I was so happy that I had researched and downloaded our route and the maps for offline viewing. I printed a map, and we took the Oregon Gazetteer but would have needed an actual quad sheet to actually be able to navigate that road and all the side roads. With the offline google map, we had no trouble knowing exactly where we were and exactly which turn we needed to take to get to our destination.


It was a gorgeous day, with lots of sun and some clouds. We made it as far as the Whiskey Peak Trailhead, but just a few hundred yards beyond that point, we were stopped by snow deep enough that we didn’t feel like tackling it in the Tracker. Maybe another day. The wildflowers were beautiful at that elevation and I saw two that we had never seen before. The first photo is Calochortus tolmei, sometimes called white cats ears.  The second is a flower familiar to many of my California friends, but not to me, Silene hookeri, Hooker’s Indian Pink, although a few of those friends had to guess at the exact variety.  We all know it is impossible to key out a flower with a photo.


The fun part of this ride for me was the quiet. Mo drove much of the way, and I spent long moments in mental solitude reminiscing about all the wild mountain dirt roads I navigated as part of my work as a soil scientist in many backcountry mountains for soil survey. I had enough time to mentally attempt to figure out just how many dirt roads like this one I had driven over my career and came up with something like 300,000 miles over 30 years. As Mo drove down that mountain, it was like a crazy deja vu where every road I had traveled in every survey in four states rolled by in my mind. I remembered enjoyable times when I would tease my grandsons by driving as fast down those dirt roads backward as I could go forward.

As we continued back down the mountain, there were a few overlooks where it was possible to see Mt Shasta to the east and Mt McLoughlin to the north, both at the same time, with Applegate Lake, the source of the beautiful Applegate River, a tributary of the Rogue.


It was a precious day in the mountains, with gorgeous views into the Red Butte Wilderness just south of the Oregon border. Even though it was actually June, I still think of it as a fitting end to the play days of May.

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

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

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

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

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

Hiking the Big Obsidian Flow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another young couple had tattoos that were photo worthy.

 

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

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

Paulina Creek and Paulina Falls hike: 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




07-17-2021 Fun times in Early July


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

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

A photo from my little shop in Wallace, Idaho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 5 Visiting Wildlife Safari in Winston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that is for the next story….

07-16-2020 Exploring the Lakes and an Evening Kayak

Our plan when we went to bed was to rise early, eat a decent breakfast, and get on the road quickly.  We wanted to arrive at Elk Lake, our chosen location for a morning kayak, before the winds started up and the sun got too hot.  Even though the temperatures in this part on the east side of the Cascades are a bit more moderated than the part of Southern Oregon where we live, it can still get hot.  Predictions were for another gorgeous sunny day with highs in the upper 80’s.

Elk Lake Sunset  View Day Use Area

I completed a lot of internet research on most of the lakes in the chain before we left home.  There was no way to do any last minute research however, since I had no access to the internet at the campground.  I had 2 bars of 4G which could manage telephone calls and text messages, see emails but not their complete contents, and see some posts on Facebook for random moments in the early part of the day.

My research pointed me to Elk Lake, which in internet photos looks deep and blue surrounded by the gorgeous peaks of South Sister and Broken Top.  I was at least smart enough to download the google maps for the area before we left home in Grants Pass so we could navigate properly along the entire length of the Byway. 

We were on the road by 8:30, with only a slight breeze, and decided to skip exploring any of the lakes and campgrounds along our route so that we could get on Elk Lake early.  The road into Elk Lake Sunset View Day use area from the north is rough gravel, with some steep areas and sections of washboard.  I’m glad we didn’t plan to take the MoHo back there.

When we arrived at the site, it was gorgeous as expected, but the winds were kicking up and to our great surprise, there were a lot of people already in the parking lot, at the picnic tables, and launching all manner of kayaks and paddle boards.  I had no clue that many paddle boards are now of the blow up variety, and the whooshing sound of the pumps was a bit startling. 

We looked around a bit, checking out the outlandishly beautiful people with their beautiful rigs and boats and thought, “Hmmm, a LOT of well to do people around here.”  That was to be our refrain for the entire day as we traveled to the several lakes and view sites along the Cascade Lakes Highway, and the closer we got to Bend, it seemed the people were even more fit, attractive, and on the young side.  I have nothing against young, attractive, fit people, in fact it is great to see so many humans enjoying outdoor pursuits, but it was still a bit daunting, and not particularly our scene.  In addition, the lake was another big round body of water without a lot of interesting shoreline. 

We decided instead to continue south back toward the Hosmer Lake Loop and check out some of the campgrounds along the way.  We thought maybe we could launch on tiny Hosmer Lake before continuing our explorations.  We checked out Little Fawn campground on the south end of Elk Lake, but it was dusty and rocky, completely full, and quite a distance from the water.  The day use area by the campground was also full of cars, and more people packing their paddle boards and kayaks the several hundred yards across exposed lakebed toward the waters of Elk Lake.  Nope, not our spot for either kayaking OR camping.

When we arrived at the South Campground near Hosmer Lake we found more dusty, rocky, gravel roads and more people packed into the cramped sites with all sorts of watercraft.  Ah well, we weren’t planning on camping, just hoping to get on the waters with our boats before the day got too warm to enjoy.

What a surprise when we arrived at the tiny, cramped boat launch to discover at least 50 cars, all packing in and lining up one by one as we arrived all the way back to the intersection between the launch and the campground.  The lake looked like a playground of boats, paddleboards, fishermen, and people!  I walked down to the launch and talked to a few people, asking if they knew the lake. Five of the several people I talked to said it was their first time on this particular lake, and 3 said they had never kayaked before and this was their first kayak!.  Much like RVing, I think active people who want to get out and about have discovered kayaking.

Sadly, we decided to let this lake go as well, but as we were leaving Mo said, “I wonder when all these people will go home?”.  Since it seemed most were on day excursions from Bend, the likelihood of the place being this crowded in late evening was slight.  We decided to take our chances and finish our explorations of the other lakes and campgrounds in the area before going back home to our camp. 

We checked out the campgrounds and RV resorts at Lava Lake, at Little Lava Lake where the Deschutes River begins, and then turned back north to find Sparks Lake at the base of Mt Bachelor near the northern end of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.

Little Lava Lake

Little Lava Lake was quite lovely, and a few campsites were a bit tempting.  We also thought if we didn’t find somewhere else to kayak we might return to the shallow beach at the boat launch site. I started keeping track of the campsites that we would choose at Little Lava Lake Campground if they became available for the next time we wanted to camp and kayak in the area.  If one should wish to camp, the good level sites at Little Lava Lake are #10, #11, #13, and #15.  Others are small and very uneven.

Lava Lake

The Lava Lake campground also had just one site along the edge of the lake but I didn’t write down the number because the lake was a lovely shade of green!  Maybe we didn’t want to camp there ever. 

Back north again toward Elk Lake, we checked out the Elk Lake Campground and found sites #7, #8, and #13 to be the only acceptable sites that would tempt us away from our home base at Crane Prairie some time in the future.  

We drove on north again toward Sparks Lake, and there was a beautiful wide viewpoint at the Green Lakes trailhead that climbs toward South Sister.  Only problem was that cars were lined up all along the road for about a mile on either side of the trailhead. 

A very popular place on a Thursday in July!  We pulled into the parking area across from the trailhead, noticed the sign saying parking allowed for 15 minutes only, and took every precious minute to hike into the meadow full of penstemon and sedges with Mattie.  The view of South Sister to the north and Mt Bachelor to the southeast were breathtaking.  No wonder this is such a popular place only 30 some miles from Bend, Oregon.

After our little walk, we traveled the very rough and rocky road from the highway to Sparks Lake.  The campground is called Soda Creek, and is a few miles from the lake.  We chose sites #4, #6, #10, and #13 for future reference.  We discovered a few rigs parked in a dispersed camping area on the extremely dusty and busy road to the boat launch on Sparks Lake.  Even free, with a view of the lake, wouldn’t tempt us to camp there in all that dust and noise. The lake itself was also incredibly crowded with kayakers and paddleboarders, and the water was quite low.  Pretty, but not for us.  With the crowded parking lot and thick dust, we didn’t get out of the car for photos, but this website has some lovely pictures of the lake and the area nearby.

As the day progressed, and we viewed so many lakes and campgrounds, we decided that we were really lucky to be in the lovely, spacious, open, and reasonably quiet campground at Crane Prairie Reservoir.  From the internet research, I never would have chosen Crane Prairie, but after visiting, it will no doubt be the campground to which we return in the future.  Just for reference, our favorite sites at Crane Prairie are #103, the ADA site #107, and #113.  All of these sites are on the Blue Loop, but for big rigs and family groups the Red loop at the upper edges of the park have the most privacy and space, but no view of the water or easy access to the beach. The Red loop also has several large nice pull through sites.

By the time we returned back to camp, it was 1 or so, and again we settled in with our books and cool drinks to enjoy the breezes and shade as we read.  I spent more time gazing at the water than actually reading I think.  We also took Mattie for another swim.  She went in at first, but wasn’t as enthusiastic this time as she was yesterday.

We ate an early supper and planned to leave after dinner in time to arrive at Hosmer Lake around 6:30. This time our plans worked out perfectly.  When we arrived at the boat launch there were less than half a dozen cars and only a few people coming off the lake, and only a very few launching for an evening on the water.

Hosmer Lake turned out to be everything I had expected to find in the Cascade Lakes.  The water was crystal clear, and the lake meanders from a small lower lake, through a narrow channel lined with bullrush and wocus and then meanders northeast toward a rugged area of lava which hides a waterfall. 

We didn’t get out of the boats to see the waterfall.  A fellow boater told us that it was pretty, but not spectacular, and required some hiking through the rocky jumble to see it.  We sat awhile trying to hear it to no avail.

We continued back to the main channel and continued north to the lake.  I asked a couple of returning kayakers if the lake was very far away.  One person said it was a long distance, and another said it was just ahead.  My trusty google map wasn’t exactly visible in the bright late evening light and the lake shows quite dark and green on the current google image.  To our surprise we arrived at the large part of the lake within 15 minutes and it was truly gorgeous.  The water was clear and somewhat shallow, surrounded by nothing except timber, mountain views, and marshland. 

One lone boat with two men fly fishing were spotlighted by the early evening sun.  Hosmer Lake is exactly the kind of place we love to kayak, and we will definitely return in the future, hopefully during a time of year when there are a few less visitors.

After only an hour and a half on the lake, we were back home at our camp by 8:30, as the winds started to die down and the sun set at 8:47.  I knew the exact time of the sunset because I also knew that the comet Neowise was expected to be visible in the northwest sky about 90 minutes after sunset.  Mo built another nice campfire and we sat with our wine and marshmallows waiting for darkness and a chance to see the comet.

We weren’t disappointed.  Walking down to the beach, we hunted the skies for the Big Dipper which seemed to be in the wrong place compared to what we are used to in Grants Pass.  After a bit of searching, we saw the comet. It was somewhat faint in the still glowing northwestern skies, but we could see the comet and the tail if we looked carefully.  There was no way I could get any kind of photo, but there are so many great ones that people have posted that I didn’t feel like we missed much.  At least we got to see in in person.  Later, when we returned to Grants Pass, even though the comet was supposedly visible, we never saw it again.  In Grants Pass we are in the western part of the time zone and at the time that the comet is visible, there is still considerable light.  There also was a bit of haze from a California fire and of course the lights from the small city of Grants Pass are still bright enough to cause some interference.  I was glad we were in the mountains with less ambient light for at least one night so that we saw the comet.  I doubt either of us will be around in just under 7,000 years when it returns.

After three days we deemed our Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway trip to be a great success. We settled into bed after our long day and evening knowing we had until noon to have a leisurely breakfast the next morning before breaking camp and traveling south toward Klamath Falls for another night out before going over the pass toward home.