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….

05-19-2021 We Escaped the Snow…Mostly

When we went to bed after that gorgeous sunset we were in a bit of a quandary as to what to do.  The internet was iffy, and I had a hard time getting weather apps to show current information.  All I could see was the giant blue severe weather warning over most of the area we planned to explore on Wednesday.  It wasn’t encouraging.  There was always the chance that it was being over predicted, something that happens often.  Then again, driving the MoHo down the winding mountain road out of the snow zone didn’t sound good if the 5 inches predicted actually happened.  The 20F degree prediction for Thursday morning didn’t sound particularly good either. 

We were reasonably certain that the main snow event would hold off until Wednesday evening, so went to sleep without much worry about snow the next morning, but where did we want to be when it happened?  Did we want to simply give up and run home?  NO!  Did we want to try to run as far as Farewell Bend on the other side of Crater Lake?  Hmm, MAYBE.  Looking up the sketchy weather for Farewell Bend wasn’t possible because the only locations that would come in on the weather apps were Prospect, at a lower elevation with a decent prediction for rain, or Crater Lake with a LOT of snow predicted.

Maybe we should just stay at the RV park in Summer Lake?  But with bad weather predicted for the next 5 days we really didn’t want to be trapped for that long. When we woke up to cloudy skies and a tiny skiff of snow Wednesday morning, we made the decision.  We would drive the 5 miles east into the Summer Lake area to check for birds at the refuge before returning to the MoHo for a good breakfast. 

With the overcast skies and spitting rain and snow I didn’t bother to take the big camera, depending on the phone to document what I thought would be a rather boring quick trip around the refuge loop.  Big mistake!  My Samsung Galaxy Note20 does an excellent job with most photos, especially in good light, or even sketchy light.  However, zoomed in photos of birds are just a bit too tough even for the great phone camera. 

Mo drove and wouldn’t you know that all the good bird shots were on her side of the car.  As most people who watch birds know, staying in the car is the only way they stay around, with the car working as a great blind.  So Mo would drive, try to roll down the window, take the phone and try to focus.  We finally figured out that she could hold the phone and I could click the stylus to take the photo.  Then Mo would roll the window back up because it was so dang cold, and of course, another bird would appear.

We had a good time anyway, laughing sometimes and grumbling at each other at other times.  The water levels were low, and the numbers of birds seemed low, although it is a bit late for the big migrations.  We were a bit astounded at the variety, however, spotting lots of blackbirds, red winged and yellow headed, ruddy ducks, Canada geese with babies, a beautiful pair of sandhill cranes, with a dancing male.  As we drove deeper into the refuge, beyond the campgrounds, we began to see black necked stilts with their bright pink legs and the gorgeous avocets that we remembered from our last trip to Summer Lake a few years ago.  We saw a single swan in the distance, too far to determine which species it was, but as always the swan was beautifully graceful.

By the time we completed the viewing loop at the north end of the refuge it was getting close to 11AM and we were chilled to the bone.  Home to the MoHo and a nice big breakfast with eggs and bacon and toast and juice, a real treat when traveling.

As we were getting ready to pack up, a car appeared with two women we had seen the day before at one of the information kiosks.  They were looking for the rock. They had been up the trail and had been fooled by the fake mountain goat scratched into a smaller rock along the trail. We told them how to find the real one.  Shortly after that another car with a young couple showed up looking for the rock as well, and we told them about the trail and to be sure to look on the upside of the trail to find it.

By the time the slide was in and the jacks raised we had determined that our next stop would be La Pine State Park.  Mo took me there one time when we were visiting her brother when he lived in La Pine but we had never actually camped there.  It was only a bit over an hour away via Highway 31 toward Highway 97 and the road was wide and easy except for some rather horrific frost heaves on the pumice plateau that just about rattled us to death.

Once at the park, we first attempted to find a site in the upper north loop, where there was electric only.  We didn’t need sewer so thought it would be fine.  We attempted to settle into the rather narrow and unlevel site since there weren’t many available until we started to hook up the power.  Um…wait….20 amp?  On a very old post??  I think not!!  Not if we are paying rather than boondocking, we wanted to at least be able to run the microwave without turning everything else off. 

We retraced the entrance road and continued to the Middle and South Loop, where nearly every site was taken, but at least the few available had 30 and 50 amp hookups and the sites were paved and very level.  We picked one and settled in, grousing about the dreary skies, the complete lack of not only internet, but even a cell phone signal!  Neither of us was exactly happy with where we were.  The forest was thick second growth lodgepole with some skinny scattered ponderosa pine and everything was so flat and gray.  There wasn’t a bit of a view and the park was very crowded. It was disconcerting to discover that we had only a tiny bit of signal, enough for a text message but no access to any kind of internet, email, or maps.  It certainly wasn’t what we had envisioned for our desert trip, and as the snow flurries started falling it made it even less fun when we couldn’t track the weather to figure out what to expect.  We settled in, both of us a bit grumpy, which doesn’t happen very often.  After talking it out a bit, we decided to get in the car and try to explore the flat, featureless landscape and see what in the world people did when they visited La Pine State Park.

With just a short ride, we found the Dan MacGregor memorial overlooking a lovely trail on a wide bow in the Deschutes River.  With the sun appearing once again and the beautiful view of the river our mood began to improve considerably.  Mo had camped at a forest service campground a few miles back toward La Pine and on the road that goes to Paulina Lake.  Deciding to drive to that campground to check it out, we discovered a locked gate and a closed campground.  Not sure why it was closed, but I am glad we hadn’t planned on staying there for the night.

The night was surprisingly quiet considering how full the campground was.  I slept a bit fitfully, unsure of what the next day might bring.  The snow flurries continued throughout the night, but by morning they were gone and lo and behold the sun was shining. 

On the previous day I had photographed a map of the park with some locations that might be interesting to explore.  When we checked into the park, there was only a simple map of the campground and not a single map or brochure about the area.  Without the internet, we were basically following our noses, so I was glad I had photographed that park map. 

We drove north and found the road leading toward “Falls”, a dot on the map.  What we found was a magnificent surprise tucked away on that flat, featureless pumice plain covered with lodgepole and ponderosa.  Fall River was gorgeous, a well known river for fly fishing, but on this cold sunny morning there wasn’t a soul in sight.  We followed the trail to the Falls, not exactly sure how far it was, and as Mo asked me if I had any idea how much farther we needed to hike, both of us began to hear the roar of the falls.

It was lovely.  Brilliant in the sunshine and surrounded by thick blooming bitterbrush and grass still green from the winter.  In spite of our misgivings from the previous afternoon about La Pine State Park, the walk along the Deschutes River and the hike to Fall River Falls made a huge difference in our opinion of the place.  We might decide to rent one of the cabins with a nice RV hookup area to visit next year with our friends Maryruth and Gerald.  Just 20 miles south of Bend and not far from the Newberry Crater there would be lots to share in the area and Maryruth said they would love to rent the cabin. 

By the time we left the campground at noon or so, the snow flurries had disappeared but there were huge black clouds on the horizon.  Once we reached Highway 97 and I had cell service again, I discovered that we could expect more snow along our route to Farewell Bend west of the pass that is north of Crater Lake where we hiked last summer on our camping trip on the Rogue.

On that trip we discovered a sweet little boondocking camp site at Muir Creek, a tributary of the Rogue.  Mo wanted to see if that spot was open for us, so we set our sights for the Muir Creek Bridge.  It snowed on us a couple of times but by the time we drove in, the skies were a gorgeous blue.  There is a trailhead that is on the west side of the creek with a large parking area with room to turn around.  We parked there, unhooked the Tracker, and returned to the east side of the creek bridge to explore the campsite area.

We were thrilled to find it completely empty of campers, quiet and beautiful, and easily accessible with the MoHo.  Having scoped out the best location, we returned for the MoHo and brought her back to what I now think may have been an even better boondocking site than our previous amazing spot at Pictured Rock Pass.

Our camping spot was a perfect dream of whispering forest, gurgling creek, brilliant sunshine and blue skies.  Until it rained.  But between the rain and snow showers, the sun was warm and Mo built a beautiful fire in one of the nicest firepits we have ever seen. 

We sat outside in the afternoon sun with our kindles by the fire, reading till a shower ran us indoors, and then returning to the fire when the sun came back.  Mo had only to step out the door to keep the fire going.

I hadn’t planned on dinners for this 4th night, and we thought about driving the 24 mile round trip to Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek.  It seemed like such a waste of precious time in the sunshine with our books so we made do.  Dinner was tuna sandwiches and pickles and was perfect.

There was no need to close any of the blinds or cover the windshield here, since there wasn’t a soul around.  The night was dark, and snow and rain came and went, but I was delighted to see that there was no snow on the ground when we woke.  Funny thing happened when I looked out the front windshield and did a double take.  It looked exactly like we were crossing the creek in the MoHo.  Our front fender was less than 4 feet from the edge of the water, but from inside it looked exactly like we were in it.

I have no idea if this perfect boondock site will remain as perfect as it was for us on this weekday in May.  Last year there was a tent and a trailer there when we visited in August.  I also have no idea if the huge crowds of RVrs that are inundating almost every available site in the west will find our two perfect boondocks, one in the desert and another in the mountains.  All I know is that for us everything was completely absolutely perfect!

The final leg of our trip home the next morning was just under two hours of familiar highway roads via the Rogue River route along Highway 62, crossing the Sam’s Valley on Highway 234 from Shady Cove to Gold Hill, and along Interstate 5 toward home.  The skies at home cleared enough that we did our usual quick unloading of the rig, putting the food away, piling laundry into the laundry room, and letting the rest of the MoHo cleaning wait for the next day.

We managed to fill up 5 days and 4 nights with a LOT.  It took me several days to process the photos, and several more days to write the stories.  Hope my readers enjoy it as much as I have, but at least Mo and I won’t have to question which day we did what.  Thank goodness for the blog to force me to write it down so that we remember.



05-18-2021 Exploring Oregon’s Outback Scenic Byway

We have traveled parts of the Outback Scenic Byway in the past, but on this trip had a specific set of sites that we wished to see.  Our original plan was to do most of our exploring on Tuesday, but with so much to see we were grateful that we found “Crack-in-the-Ground” on Monday afternoon.  Even so, Tuesday was so full that we had to repeatedly ask ourselves…”Wait…did we do that today or yesterday?”  Yes, we did a LOT on Tuesday.

Knowing we had miles to travel and hikes to find, we were back on Highway 31 by 8:30 AM.  The Tracker was on half a tank of fuel and we wanted to be prepared for anything.  Returning west on the highway to Silver Lake we found the only gas station for miles in either direction.  Leaving Silver Lake we were treated to a wonderful reminder of the dominant lifestyle in this part of Oregon.  Most of the landscape is home to cattle ranches large and small.  Seeing “real” cowboys herding cattle down the middle of the road is rare in many places, but not near Silver Lake.

Continuing north toward “Hole-in-the-Ground” I was grateful that I had downloaded the local google maps to the phone.  It isn’t an easy place to find!  There are no local signs, no directions to speak of, and Mo’s little travel book didn’t help much. 

“Hole-in-the-Ground” is a large maar, an explosion crater caused by red hot magma surging upwards under the Earth’s crust until contacting groundwater. The resulting explosion blew rock and ash into a perfect circle, one mile across. There is a drivable rim road around and two trails down to the center.

From Wikipedia: It is about 1.0 mile (1,600 m) across, a little longer N-S than E-W.[2] Its floor is about 150 meters (490 ft) below the surrounding ground level and has a rim that rises 35 to 65 meters (110 to 210 ft) above, the highest point on the east side. The crater formed during the late Pleistocene, between 13,500 and 18,000 years ago, at which time the Fort Rock Basin was a lake and the location was near the shore. Basaltic magma intruding near the surface flashed ground water to steam, which blew out overlying rock and soil, along with some juvenile material. As material slid into the hole formed, it closed the vent and the process repeated, eventually forming the huge hole.[3] Blocks as large as 26 feet (8 m) in size were flung as far as 2.3 miles (3.7 km) from the crater.[4]

Following google maps, we found a road that appeared to lead northeast toward the crater.  The route suggested ended at a large gate.  We were at the entrance to the Outpost Camp with no clue as to how to get beyond the private land to our location. 

The blue line is one of the suggested routes by Google and the red line is the route we actually found on our own. Zooming in on Google Maps was a bit helpful, but I learned that downloaded maps are only as good as the resolution at which they were downloaded, so things were a bit fuzzy.  We managed to find our way to the edge of the crater without much difficulty.  As we approached the rim, it was amazing to see the crater below us.  Without knowing where it is location, there is no hint at how the featureless ponderosa pine landscape is going to change.

We explored a bit and decided that making an attempt to 4-wheel down into the crater would be fun.  The road was narrow and fairly steep, but the challenge was navigating the large pumice sand humps and deep dips.

Things looked a bit dicey, so I got out and walked the road a bit to see if it got better or worse.  It didn’t look too bad until I saw a big side sloping curve with a very deep sandy hump and decided, nope, not gonna do it!

Mo did the backing as I walked backwards up the steep hill making sure she wasn’t going over the edge.  Some of the humps were so deep that the top of the Tracker disappeared from view!.

Once at the edge of the Crater, we drove a bit along the rim road, and although fairly level, there were large rocks buried in the sandy pumice that Mo had to navigate carefully.  We found a treasure before turning around.

It was a beautiful campsite, with rocks and fences overlooking the crater and there was a birdhouse in a large tree in the center of the site.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see the memorial words for someone who must have loved the spot. “David E Hartley, Forever Enjoy the View”.

After enjoying the views and the drive we returned to Highway 31, turning east toward Fort Rock, another important destination for our visit.  We originally planned to visit Fort Rock on Thursday, when the Fort Rock Homestead Museum would be open.  Thinking better of that plan, we thought that we could visit the Rock this day to hike and see the surrounding area and then return on Thursday when we planned to return  to Grants Pass, passing by the museum location on our way home. 

The “You are here” point on this map is at the information kiosk where we learned about the local geology of the Fort Rock area.

Approaching Fort Rock from the west is fascinating.  It does look ever so much like an old fort.  However, it is simply another great geologic feature in this fascinating volcanic landscape.

Fort Rock is a small basaltic vent that formed a volcanic tuff ring when it first exploded to the surface about 100,000 years ago.  At the time, the surrounding landscape was an inland freshwater sea, up to 300 feet deep that resulted from melting glacial waters that flowed into the area.  Over thousands of years, wave action of the lake eroded the tuff ring’s southwest wall and left terraces along the front and insides of Fort Rock.

We parked at the trailhead and were happy to see that Mattie was allowed on leash on the short 1.2 mile trail that loops through the caldera.  The first part of the trail is a bit steep and rocky, but very quickly it levels out to a nice wide sandy trail with little change in elevation around the loop.

We enjoyed the fragrance of the prolifically blooming bitterbrush and the brilliant colors of Indian paintbrush tucked among the volcanic rocks. 

In some of the lower dips along the trail we found death camas and a tiny desert lily with at least 14 petals that I couldn’t identify or find in any book or on the internet.


The hike was beautiful and easy, with surprising twists and turns that allowed up close viewing of the vents and tuffaceous rocks formed in the explosion of the vent.

We enjoyed the views across the open desert with the brilliant green circle irrigated alfalfa fields in the distance.

By the time we finished our hike, it was still early in the afternoon and we decided to make an attempt to explore some of the back roads of the Fort Rock Area.  Google Maps was only a little bit of help as we attempted to reach the road to the Green Mountain campground from the opposite side that we had tried the previous day when we drove to Crack-In-The-Ground.  We also had our Gazetteer to help with navigation but the scale was a bit too small to help much.  Still, it is a good thing to have some kind of paper map when traveling these back roads where cell service comes and goes and even downloaded Google maps can be sketchy.

We never did make it to the Christmas Valley sand dunes, or the Lost Forest east of the community of Christmas Valley.  The information signs said specifically that high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles were “ABSOLUTELY” required to navigate those back roads.

We made a few attempts to wander the roads, running into dirt, fences, and no trespassing signs, and some rough gravel before deciding that our adventures were over for the day and it was time to return to the MoHo.  Both of us were ready for a bit of afternoon down time and I looked forward to a late lunch and a snuggle nap with Mattie.

After some time relaxing, we decided that it might be fun to attempt to find the Pictured Rock Pass petroglyphs.  The location was just a little more than 5 miles east of our boondock location on Highway 31, between mile marker 63 and 64.  We were hunting for the marker (which we had missed) when we found a lovely dirt road leading to a beautiful open camp area, perfect for boondocking. Excitedly we drove in and decided to return back to our original site and pick up the MoHo to relocate to what appeared to be a perfect place to spend the night.  We figured we could settle in and then attempt once again to find the petroglyph site.

However, as we backtracked once to the site, we discovered that our dirt road leading to our new boondock location was the one we had missed the first time around.  We were right at the petroglyph site!  Unbelievably I had internet at this remote location and found the coordinates for the petroglyph on a website.  There are no signs pointing the way, and the coordinates are for the beginning of the trail, not the actual location of the rock.  I think this may be on purpose to discourage vandalism.

After a bit of hiking and hunting and wrong turns, we found the rock.  There is a “fake” petroglyph, obviously carved recently on a nearby boulder that could confuse people.  Once we found the actual ancient petroglyphs. we were so tickled and took photos of where the rock is in relation to the highway.  It faces the opposite direction and it is very easy to walk right past it without realizing that you are looking at it.

I have chosen not to post the coordinates of the rock that I took when we found it, or the photos pinpointing the exact location in order to adhere to the thought of protecting the site.  If interested, email me directly for the information .

The petroglyphs have been dated at between 7,500 to 10,000 years ago, when ancient peoples traveled this area. The famous Paisley Caves, which are from the same era of human habitation are not too far from this site.   Again, from Wikipedia:

The Paisley Caves complex is a system of four caves in an arid, desolate region of south-central Oregon, United States north of the present-day city of Paisley, Oregon. The caves are located in the Summer Lake basin at 4,520 feet (1,380 m) elevation and face to the west in a ridge of Miocene and Pliocene era basalts mixed with soft volcanic tuffs and breccias, from which the caves were carved by Pleistocene-era waves from Summer Lake. One of the caves may contain archaeological evidence of the oldest definitively-dated human presence in North America. The site was first studied by Luther Cressman in the 1930s.

Scientific excavations and analysis since 2002 have uncovered substantial new discoveries. These include materials with the oldest DNA evidence of human habitation in North America. The DNA, radiocarbon dated to 14,300 years ago, was found in subfossil human coprolites uncovered in the Paisley Five Mile Point Caves in south-central Oregon.[2] The caves were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.[3]

After our very rewarding hike, we settled into an even more rewarding evening at one of the better boondocking sites we have experienced. 

There was a lovely fire ring, and a beautiful sunset accompanied the perfect evening.  Marshmallows topped off the night before we retired.  Once again it was a dark and quiet night.

Checking the weather on the less than perfect internet was exciting.  We had planned to visit Summer Lake the next day, possibly camping at Ana Reservoir RV Park, or returning to our perfect boondock site.  The weather wasn’t cooperating, with 3 to 5 inches of snow and a winter weather warning for most of the area around Summer Lake, Christmas Valley, Silver Lake, and most of east central Oregon.

Now what?!


05-17-2021 May Trip to the Oregon High Desert

The high deserts of Eastern Oregon are beautiful, wide open and wild.  They are definitely not warm in winter, with cold winds and snow.  We knew that by mid May, however, the weather might cooperate with our need to camp in a wide open dry landscape with views that go on forever. 

Mo has a great little travel book for things to see and do in Oregon.  In that book she found some interesting things for us to explore. Something we haven’t done in the past is visit a place called “Crack-In-The-Ground”.  Located on a lava flow in an area east of La Pine and north of Klamath Falls, Crack-In-The-Ground is just one of several interesting places to visit.  Although Mo had seen Fort Rock located in the same vicinity, I have never been there, and Mo found another not well known spot called “Hole in the Ground”. 

Between our trip to the coast in April, and this little desert trip, Mo and I settled in at home to enjoy the lovely springtime weather here in Grants Pass.  I enjoy Fall, but my most favorite time of year at this time in my life is the technicolor spring of Southern Oregon.  What I call “green leaf day” happened this year on April 17, just before we left for our last outing to Nehalem State Park with the family. 

Even though we are only 300 feet higher in elevation than the Rogue River valley floor where downtown Grants Pass is located, our green leaf day is several days behind.  I can drive down to town and see leaves popping and back up the hill to our home, they still remain hidden. 

April is filled with daffodils, tulips, forsythia and flowering plums.  By the end of the month the crabapples, cherries and dogwoods are blooming.  In May the rhodies come out in full force, the lilacs bloom early in the month, and some of the most springtime lime green leaves are turning darker and greener.  That lime green moment is so ephemeral. 

In spite of all the lush green lawns and colorful flowers and trees, we miss the desert.  Not that I would want to live there, but we both love to travel to the deserts.  Usually we manage a trip south in January or February, but thanks to COVID that didn’t happen this year.  It didn’t seem very smart to travel to an area with high infection rates at that time.  From what I hear from fellow bloggers, the Arizona deserts were rather chilly and windy this year.  There wasn’t much of a flower bloom either, thanks to the ongoing drought. 

Planning our desert fix was fun, and I looked forward to dark, quiet desert nights with the smell of sage and juniper to accompany the brilliant starlite. We decided that we would attempt to spend three or four days boondocking in a part of Oregon we have traveled, but not spent a great deal of time visiting in depth. 

Leaving around 9 on Monday morning, we traveled east over the Cascades toward Rocky Point and Chiloquin where we fueled up, making sure we had enough fuel to boondock.  We only got caught with less than a quarter tank of gas once in our travels, many years ago attempting to boondock at Joshua Tree NP.  We know now to be extra certain that we have plenty of fuel before parking, or the generator will refuse to operate when there is less than a quarter tank of gas remaining in the MoHo.  I guess it is a smart safety feature so you don’t end up using all your fuel and then being stuck without gas out in the middle of nowhere.

It was early afternoon when we arrived at the junction of Highway 31 and Old Lake Road, which leads north into Christmas Valley and on to the “Crack-in-the-Ground ”.  I had reviewed the google maps extensively and was reasonably certain that were several nice wide dirt places in the road with old fire pits that would serve us well for a boondock site.  What I didn’t see was that the road leading to Crack in the Ground included a few miles of washboard gravel, and then some seriously rough dirt roads that required high clearance. 

We managed to unhook the Tracker to get turned around, and decided to travel back to the junction at Highway 31 where there was plenty of space for parking the MoHo before returning with the Tracker to the rough road north.

It was getting a bit late in the afternoon when we finally made it to the trailhead for Crack-in-the-Ground .  Warm temperatures and clear skies made for great walking and Mattie got to run off leash.  There was a single car in the parking area but we never saw the occupants, no doubt they were hiking deep into the crack.

Crack-in-the-Ground is a volcanic fissure originally formed during an eruption in a lava field dated between 12,000 and 700,000 years ago, give or take a few. The fissure is nearly 2 miles long and averages about 30 feet deep, but in some places is as deep as 70 feet.  We read that the trail is “great” with only 70 feet or so of elevation throughout. The trail to the fissure was just a quarter mile or so, but once we arrived at the “Crack”  we were a bit daunted by the complex jumble of boulders at the entrance.

Mo decided it was a bit too much for her weak knee and ankle, so waited at the top with Mattie while I attempted to explore a bit deeper.  Even with both walking sticks, my crazy weak legs couldn’t handle the big step drops at the bottom of the crack. 

Still, I got down far enough to get a few photos and experience how dark and spooky it could be to hike the entire two miles with no way out except back.  There are bats and other critters down there, and I heard some strange screeching. 

In days past, Mo and I would have hiked that trail, but lately our rock clambering abilities have been severely limited.  Still, it was a great thing to see, even just walking along the top and looking down.  Very nearly impossible to photograph since the crack was so dark and the sunlight at the top was so very bright. 

It was great to walk in the dry sage and juniper desert.  Mattie was so very excited at this first outing that we had to keep a close eye on her, because she wanted to run ahead and stick her head into whatever smelly hole in the ground caught her fancy.  Not good, even if is wasn’t a snake, getting bitten by some other kind of critter wouldn’t be a good thing for her.  Mo finally had to put her on the leash for the last bit of the walk.

At the parking area there is a vault toilet, and plenty of space where I had thought we might camp if we had been able to get the MoHo back on that road.  I read later that RV camping isn’t allowed there.  We had no desire to brave six more miles of rough road to the BLM campground farther north at Green Mountain. 

By the time we got back to the MoHo parked at the site along the highway, the road crews were gone, the big rig that had been parked there earlier in the day had departed, and we had the entire wide open area completely to ourselves.  Even at this remote site I still had Verizon cell service and was able to get some internet to check weather for the next few days.  Things were going to shift, but at least we knew for sure that we had one more day of warm sunshine to explore in the desert.