East Lake in the Newberry Caldera

I was really excited about finally getting to Waldo Lake this year but it wasn’t to be. Mo and I were there in 2004 and the lake has called to me since then. Oregon was catching up with California this weekend and lightning strikes caused fires in the Cascades that closed almost every highway crossing the mountains last weekend, including our route to Waldo Lake.

When Mo and I left Rocky Point on Thursday morning, we already knew that HWY 58 was closed so we decided to go up to the Newberry Caldera just east of LaPine.
The area is a fascinating view into recent geologic events on the east side of the Cascades with two lovely lakes and some nice campgrounds. Here is the link to the Cascades Volcano Observatory USGS website for the Newberry Caldera.

This change in plans worked just fine for Mo’s brother Roger and his wife Nancy, who planned to visit us for some kayaking and campfire time, since they live on the east side of the mountains anyway. Didn’t work so well for my daughter Deb from Portland who had planned to meet us Saturday night at Waldo. Ah well, maybe next time.

When we first left Rocky Point, the smoke was visible over the mountains, covering what we knew to be the Crater Lake caldera rim and billowing high and white like big cumulus clouds very much too close to home for comfort. By the time we reached East Lake, however, the skies were clear and lovely. The campground is first come first serve, and there are about 7 sites right on the water. Lucky for us, number 14 at the end of the front row had been recently vacated so we managed to get on the water even though the other sites were full. Site 14 is what they call a “premium” site and with our Golden Age Pass was only $7 per night, (half the regular 14. fee).

This particular site was actually used as a full hookup site for the camp host during the season, and we still had fresh water piped right to the site, although the power connections were locked up. We also actually had a solid asphalt pad. Not bad for a forest service campground in the mountains! Once camp was ready, I took off for a twilight glide across the lake. The water was reflective, glassy, and totally still except for the jumping trout. I have never experienced this kind of jumping fish all around me. I actually thought that I would eventually get some fish in my boat, and had more than a few jump into the air within arm’s distance. Amazing. Later we learned that the fishermen were having good luck that night with 16 inch trout jumping onto hooks using super bait. The next day wasn’t quite so good for the fishermen, but we still watched nice sized eating trout being caught both from boats and from chairs along the shore.

Friday morning I went for another paddle while Mo waited for her brother to show up and when they arrived, we sent them off with the kayaks while we watched the dogs. It was Nancy’s first time in a kayak, and like most people, she discovered that it wasn’t the least bit intimidating. Our boats are really stable and have a nice wide cockpit, which still doesn’t let anyone look particularly graceful trying to get in and out, but once you are in, it’s a piece of cake!

The weather cooperated, and after a nice ride, we all settled in for some hiking along the beach collecting pumice cobbles, and then a campfire and a planked salmon supper cooked on the grill. yum! It was nice spending some camping time with family, and nice that they only had less than an hour to get back home. It was also encouraging to hear that they had driven through thick smoke almost the entire trip up the hill and we were just out of it. I had an entire weekend with no smoke and no heat. A good thing!!

Saturday was cool, foggy and rainy most of the day, so after a good bacon and potato breakfast we spent most of the day relaxing and reading in the MoHo. I say “bacon and potato” because neither of us remembered to bring the eggs! I also created some entertainment for the two of us by trying to wind a large skein of ribbon yarn that kept us occupied for more than an hour at least. Good thing Mo is more patient than I am at that kind of thing. Finally, later in the afternoon, the weather cooperated a bit and we had time to hike the trail to the hot springs. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know the springs were there, and kept wondering where the strange poopy smell was coming from! When we did finally find them, they were a bit of a anti-climax, since the actual spring was only a few feet across and less than a foot deep of somewhat murky, barely lukewarm water. I was cold from the windy hike, and had been having visions of dropping my feet into a hot pool. Not this one. We even skipped our fancy supper, opting instead for some warm chicken soup and a half tuna sandwich by the damp fire. I had planned to relax on this trip, but maybe not quite this much.

Sunday morning opened to a cold foggy morning, but we decided to go out on the lake anyway since it looked so still and lovely, and the previous day the winds had come up before noon. It was a good plan, since by Saturday afternoon the rains started. We circled the entire lake, checking out the springs from the water side, and enjoying the views during the few moments when the clouds cleared a bit and we could see Paulina Peak above the caldera. I made potato salad and Mo grilled burgers for us for a great evening supper watching the rain come on the lake and being very grateful for our warm MoHo.

Sunday night was cold, with the temperature dropping to just a hair above the freezing level. We were also grateful for propane and a furnace that night, and slept all warm and cozy. Our optimism regarding the dawning of a sunny day wasn’t rewarded, though, and after a quick breakfast, and a look at the very low propane levels, we though we might as well head home. Four days without hookups is easy, except the propane hadn’t been completely filled for a few trips, and with the temperatures in the high 30’s we really didn’t want to hang around. Geez, you couldn’t even warm a cup of tea if the propane ran out!

By the time we got back down the hill to LaPine, the clouds were clearing and by the time we reached the HWY 138 intersection with HWY 97 the skies were completely clear and off came the heavy sweatshirts. Heavy smoke from the Lonesome Complex fire filled the upper ends of the Wood River Valley, and was especially thick along HWY 97 north of Chiloquin. Even though the fire is very close to the Wood River Valley on the crest of the Cascades, the smoke stayed north and wasn’t too bad right around Rocky Point, even though you could see it all across the valley down to Klamath. A very smoky summer indeed, first California and then Oregon. As I drove back home, through more leftover smoke from the months long fires in the Klamath Forest of northern California, I sighed and wished for winter rains to come here as well. By the time I got back to Jamestown, the car temperature reading was in the low 90’s. Still. But I had a break, a cool, damp, fresh, clear break from it all and am ready now to “dig in” (yeah, it’s soils stuff) for another couple of weeks before the next camping trip into some clear cold mountains on the east side of the Sierras.
Here is a link to the rest of the photos.

Smoky weekend at Medicine Lake

California was incredibly smoky this weekend. When I left home in Jamestown it was reasonably clear, but by the time I reached the interstate the smoke was thick and only got thicker as I drove north. Here is a photo of what I-5 looked like north of Corning. But I had a goal, and drove through all that smoke for 380 miles to reach this perfect little gem of a lake in northern California, where Mo was already camped with the MoHo.

Even Mt Shasta was invisible to me as I drove the usually magnificent McCloud HWY 89 to Harris Spring Road and the final 33 miles to the lake. Once I was there, and settled in, it was worth it. Mo arrived earlier in the week on Wednesday afternoon, and managed to get a perfect spot right on the lake. Number 45. Each time we have camped here, we have been in the Hogue Campground, along the northern side of the lake, and each time we have managed a lake front site. It gets a bit more challenging with the bigger MoHo, but still at only 25.5 feet, she managed to slide in to this lovely site, and with a bit of additional leveling we had a perfect lake view, room for the awning between the trees, and amazing privacy, even though the campground was more than half full over the weekend. For bigger rigs, there are nice roomy level private sites farther uphill, but the lake view is well worth the juggling. We saw some fairly big rigs in these sites, easy and comfortable.
The best part about Medicine Lake is how uncrowded it is, even on sunny Saturday afternoons. The water is clear, and the lake rules allow speedboats between the hours of 10 and 5, so there are quiet times for kayaks and canoes and everyone is happy. We saw people doing lots of fishing, and one happy person said the fish were fairly easy to catch, they just jump on the hook when you put it out there. It is one of the few places that Mo and I really enjoy returning to when there are so many new places to visit. It’s clean and open and the camp spaces are far enough apart that most of the time it feels private and spacious. We take the boats down to the beach and leave them there for the entire visit, kayaking in the late evenings or early mornings when the winds are quiet. On this trip, there was more wind than usual, even early in the day, so our paddles were a bit restricted, and the air wasn’t as perfectly clear as it usually is, but even so, it was relaxing and a great way to spend a week, or a weekend. We hiked along the lake to the tiny little Medicine Lake and Abby thought the entire trip was just so that she could swim every day and often. Mo brought along plenty of firewood from home as well so we had some truly lovely roaring fires night and morning . Back to Jamestown Sunday evening, and just another week of work and a weekend to get ready for the Spokane trip. I can hardly wait, but in the meantime, the Medicine Lake trip was a wonderful respite from the daily dig.

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Medicine Lake Highlands

This is the lovely lake that awaits our next trip, nestled into the Medicine Lake Highlands of northern California. The serenity pictured here belies the rumble beneath the surface that may one day become part of the landscape. Geothermal energy is here, part of the very recent volcanic activity that created some of the magical features in this area, and it’s development is a controversial subject.

For now, here’s a photo of a quiet evening spent in 2006. I guess the campfire proves I am a true camper, or at least Mo is, since she is usually in charge of the fires. Recently, Laurie of the blog “Semi-True Tales of Our Life on the Road” http://laurieandodel.blogspot.com/ said one of the differences between fulltimers and campers is that fulltimers don’t build fires. Read her very funny story about campfires and mosquitoes and Odel in a sweat shirt at 78 degrees! I have never met either of them, but Laurie’s wonderfully descriptive sharing of their life on the road is a delight and an inspiration to me. I hope to one day be a full-timer as well, and will learn much from all that she has written.

Tent camping at Medicine Lake

Written in April of 2011.
P1010061 Mo and I have been camping at Medicine Lake, located just a bit south of the California border, for several years now, and this story is about the first time we traveled there together in 2003.  In those days I didn’t have a blog, and would try to keep track of our shared travels in a thick red leather journal.  At the time, I was still working soil survey in Klamath Falls and lived up on Pacific Terrace in town.  Mo lived in Rocky Point, and we had only known each other for a few months when we embarked on this trip.
P1010002 We left for Medicine Lake from my house around 4 in the afternoon.  It is only about 2 hours from Klamath Falls to the campground, so we knew we could get settled in before evening.  Mo pulled the sailboat with her Chevy van, but had a little bit of trouble with the hitch because it was too high to track properly until we added all the weight of our camping gear to the sailboat.  We drove south to Tulelake and then west up the hill to the lakeside campground.  We immediately found a great site on the north side of the lake on a rocky promontory by the water.  It didn’t take long at all to set up our big tent and cook a great supper.  The campsite wasn’t big enough to store the boat, so we parked it in the lot down by the boat launch about half a mile away on the east side of the lake.
P1010009 Friday morning we woke to a brilliant, sunny sky, but the wind was blowing too hard for sailing so we decided to go hiking instead.  We drove south to the lava caves and tubes, walked the obsidian flows, and explored Glass Mountain where we found some huge chunks of snowflake obsidian.  In the afternoon we drove the narrow dirt road up to the Hoffman Mountain Lookout with views in all four directions, with Mt Shasta to the west, and Klamath Falls in the northern distance.  We saw the beginnings of a large forest fire that we learned later started that afternoon at Hagelstien Park north of the Klamath Lake.  Our evening was topped off by a nice supper cooked over a lovely campfire and sleeping to the sound of the wind outside the tent.

P1010045P1010056 On Saturday, we got up to another perfect sunny day and drove to the caldera rim for another long hike on the obsidian flows.  Finally by afternoon the winds died down to reasonable breezes and we launched the sailboat.  We were the only boat on the lake and the winds were perfect for practicing our come-abouts. We laughed a lot on this day about our morning plans, with Mo saying, “Well, first we can eat breakfast, then we’ll do something, then we’ll eat, and then do something, then we can come back and eat”. In the late afternoon we took off exploring again with the boat in tow behind the van and laughed a lot about how funny that must have looked to the few people we passed on the high narrow dirt roads miles away from any kind of water.
P1010035 Sunday morning after our campfire breakfast we went for a little hike to a tiny hidden lake where Molly could swim and followed the trails back around the lake to our campsite.  We packed up camp about mid day and traveled home by way of Mt Shasta and the tiny logging town of Bray along Highway 97, with it’s little matching houses lined up in cute little rows.  Back in Klamath we stopped in to Old Town Pizza for supper.  Mo dropped me off at home before she headed back to Rocky Point. 


Our first camping trip together was a complete success, and a whole lot of fun.