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.

07-15-2020 A Day at Crane Prairie Reservoir

Crane Prairie Reservoir is a large, shallow reservoir  created in 1922

We woke slowly after such a dark and quiet night.  There are so many different lakes in the chains of Cascade Lakes that we had to make a decision whether we wanted to explore or to stay home on our firs day.  After spending yesterday driving, we decided that we would stay home and enjoy our local campground and lake for a day before attempting to explore any more of the beautiful Cascade Lakes that were scattered along the Cascade Lakes Highway
Kayaking in the early part of the day always seems best.  Usually the winds aren’t strong and the sun is still not high overhead.  It can get really hot out on the water in a kayak without much protection.  We launched right after morning coffee with a plan to stay out on the water for a reasonable amount of time and then return home for a more substantial breakfast.

It was a personal test for me.  Could I still manage to get in and out of the kayak?  On the previous day, when we loaded up the boats at home, I was relieved to find out that lifting the boat and strapping it down didn’t cause me any problems.  My arms are still strong enough and my legs can still hold me up ok for that job, especially early in the morning when I am strongest.  The test yet to come was getting back out of the boat, and that thought was in the back of my mind as we slid out onto the water.  Getting into the boat wasn’t a problem at all with the shallow, sandy beach. 

Notice the underwater fire pit

South Sister on the left, Broken top in the middle, and Mt Bachelor (famous ski mountain) on the right

Before the dam was built in 1922, the area was covered by prairie and served as a habitat for cranes, which was the inspiration for the name of the lake. The construction of the original rock-filled dam flooded most of Crane Prairie and parts of the nearby forest, killing many trees. In order to recover timber, the reservoir was drained on a regular basis. Because of leakage through the original rock-filled dam, in 1940 the Bureau of Reclamation rebuilt the dam as an earthfill structure 36 feet in height and 285 feet in length. When full, the reservoir has a capacity of 55,300 acre feet.

Crane Prairie Reservoir is part of the larger Deschutes Project by the Bureau of Reclamation, which also includes Wickiup Reservoir, Haystack Reservoir, the Crooked River Pumping Plant, and North Unit Main Canal. The project was created to supply irrigation water for a total of 97,000 acres of land in the vicinity of the town of Madras which is north of Bend, Oregon.

In late summer, the reservoir is lowered as water for irrigation is withdrawn from it, leaving large areas of the lakebed exposed. We were especially lucky on this trip because our timing was just right.  The lake was very full, and yet as we drove past Wickiup on our way south, that reservoir was so low there was no water at the west end. Both lakes have moderately alkaline water with a high mineral content, slightly higher than the waters of other lakes in the region. Sometimes during the summer the water’s pH level is exceptionally high, caused by the algae that often reach bloom proportions. Much like Klamath Lake, phosphorus concentration in the lake is high and the lake will sometimes turn green as pea soup.  Our camp host told us that about two week previous to our visit the lake was completely green. One of the issues with having to make reservations to camp at any of the local campgrounds is that there is no way of knowing when you make the reservation whether the lake will be low and the water might be green. 

We discovered that Crane Prairie Reservoir is one of the most important wildlife viewing areas in central Oregon. The lake is dotted with tall stumps of the flooded trees which now provide nesting places for osprey and the reservoir is home to the largest nesting colony in the Pacific Northwest. Other species of birds include bald eagles, cormorants, blue herons, kingfishers, sandhill cranes, and Canada geese. In 1970, the Crane Prairie Osprey Management Area was established here to protect this special haven.

On our first morning kayaking the lake, we paddled south toward the outlet of the Deschutes River.  Our plan was to stay out only an hour before turning back, making sure that all my parts were working properly and that I wouldn’t get worn out so much I couldn’t get out of the boat.

It was a lovely paddle, with mostly calm winds and clear water until we approached the southern end of the lake where algae was accumulating in the water and the bugs found us.  As the sun rose higher, it was time to turn around.  We didn’t make it all the way to the river, but there is always next time.  We did see an eagle, cormorants, ospreys, and several types of ducks. 

Once we got back to our little beach, I made a small attempt to rise from my boat, and realized that my original plan for getting out of the kayak was needed.  I simply slid my legs over the side and rolled into the water on my knees.  It worked perfectly.  Looks like I will be able to continue kayaking for a bit longer without having to worry about getting in and out as long as we find nice smooth launch sites with no current to take the boat away while exiting.  I was thrilled to say the least, and all that underlying worry was gone.

We settled in after our late breakfast in our chairs, opening our awning for some nice shade and read our kindles to while away the hours until we decided it was time to do a bit of exploring in the car.  Cultus Lake wasn’t too far from where we were camped and it looked like an inviting place.  Within a few miles, we were driving up the graveled road to the resort and were shocked to find a completely different atmosphere from our laid back family campground.  Cultus Lake Resort was busy and crowded, and the beach was full of people with all sorts of water craft and kids.  It was noisy. 

The lake itself was quite lovely, deep and dark blue and I would imagine with it being a lake rather than a reservoir it might not turn green or lose water to an irrigation project.  We checked out the nearby campground, which was incredibly tight and crowded, and completely full.  I think it might be a nice place at a different time of year, but in spite of the beautiful lake, we weren’t particular entranced and made no plans to return.  Our favorite kind of kayaking includes inlets and side streams and waterways that we can explore and this pretty blue lake seemed to have every shoreline completely visible from where we stood at the parking area.

Back to camp after our foray we had another easy supper of great food brought from home.  As evening approached the afternoon winds died down a bit and we again launched at our little beach.  This time we paddled in the opposite direction, around the small peninsula at the other end of the campground toward the Crane Prairie Resort and a full hookup RV campground.  The camp looked quite extensive through the trees, and the little store was small and tidy.  We had visited the resort the previous afternoon so had no need to get out of the boats.  When we checked it out we saw that on the door was a sign saying only 4 people at a time were allowed inside and only if they were masked. 

It was a perfect sunny warm day in a quiet campground with a great view and a sweet little beach.  Perfect kayak weather, dark night skies, and a roaring campfire and roasted marshmallows to complete the evening. We needed a good night’s rest because our adventure for the next day included an early departure with plans to kayak the beautiful Elk Lake as early in the morning as we could manage.