Summer Holiday – day 8

25 08 2015

Day 8 we woke up in Humbug Mountain State Park. It was definitely the best site we were in for the whole holiday. Crater Lake and Painter Hills had the scenery for sure, but this little campsite was a jewel in itself. The camp hosts kept the place pristine and when we were there the residents were quiet and friendly.

As well as polishing off a geocache along the way, Mrs E and I began the day with the 5-6mile round trip of Humbug mountain. It’s basically a mile up/down, plus a circular walk of somewhere around 4 miles to the summit. The summit itself is really disappointing with no view of the sea, or indeed anything! The trail was largely well maintained but there were a couple of fallen trees and a little bit of erosion in places.

Humbug Mountain camp ground and trail

Humbug Mountain camp ground and trail

It was a good hike though and as the morning wore on toward lunch we started to see a fe more people. Weirdly, everyone else except one couple had decided to go anti-clockwise. We, of course, went clockwise against what turned out to be the flow.

After we got back to the site and freshened up a bit, we headed off to explore Port Orford. The brochures (and Doris) promised a large selection of cafés, restaurants etc. We were expecting the full-on seaside tourist experience. Maybe even fish’n’chips!

It was not to be however. There was indeed a nice-looking fish’n’chip shop and one or two other open establishments, but by and large it would seem that Post Orford had simply “gone away”. Shuffled off its mortal coil, snuffed it. Parrot or no – Port Orford was definitely dead. Having walked the full length of the town in search of a coffee shop, we took a side-street that promised a view of the coast-guard station. Half a mile up a winding lane we gave that up as a bad job and retreated towards the town centre again. Here we passed a couple of closed art galleries, bed and breakfasts and cafés. Some had pitifully offered WiFi as a last gasp attraction before finally closing for good. We were amused in a sad, twisted way to see that the town had plaintively painted on a road that yes, really, there was a sea view, if only you’d stay just a little bit longer…

Please, please, please stay a while...

Please, please, please stay a while…

Happy to give Port Orford one last chance, we headed up the street and were greeted with a panoramic view of the harbour. I use the term very loosely, for Port Orford actually has one of only two remaining Dolly Docks in the US. There is no natural harbour hereabouts, so they literally haul the fishing boats in and out of the sea each day via two giant cranes.

Dolly Dock, Port Orford

Dolly Dock, Port Orford

After a few minutes of bemused pondering, we were treated to a returning vessel making use of the facility and illustrating the equipment in use.

Port Orford's Dolly Dock in use

Port Orford’s Dolly Dock in use

It seemed that this was the highlight of Port Orford and we’d pretty much exhausted its offerings. We ambled back to the RedFish restaurant/gallery we’d found at the southern end of the town and enjoyed a nice Chai Latte and the view back south towards Humbug Mountain before heading back for some relaxation and a Sudoku or two…

Humbug Mountain from Port Orford to the north

Humbug Mountain from Port Orford to the north





Summer Holiday – day 7

23 08 2015

Day seven of our road trip was exactly that… a road trip. We had to get from Crater Lake to the west coast, crossing some pretty hilly terrain in the meantime. We asked Doris for her best suggestion, and she was adamant that the best route was to dip far to the south – as far as California in fact – then head back up the coast road. The paper map plainly showed two alternative more direct routes, but admittedly these weren’t major highways. We had all day though, so we once more rejected Doris’ suggestion and told her we insisted on travelling via a little place called Agness, so that she’d be forced to route us more directly to the west.

Wow… this one little decision made for one heck of a day’s travel!! To give just a hint, let me illustrate the route we took using Google Maps.

Seems reasonably direct

Seems reasonably direct

We added a small detour to Medford to stock up on groceries. Medford it turned out was thick with smoke from the southern fires. Doesn’t seem so bad, does it? We didn’t think so. But… let me show you the same map without the nice blue line on it.

Where did the road go, exactly?

Where did the road go, exactly?

Yup – the part of the route that goes through the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest is, well, “interesting”.

Everything is fine and dandy until you get to Galice. The road from Merlin to Galice was definitely rural, but there were still road markings and a little traffic. Once you were past Galice though there were an ever increasing set of clues that maybe going all the way down to California wasn’t so silly after all. The signs had gunshot pellet holes. Then there were no signs. The road got narrow. There were warnings of closures in winter. There were sections of unpaved road with simply gravel to make the road at least passable after the last wash-out.  There was a forestry ranger parked in the middle of the road with his truck doors open when we turned a corner. He seemed shocked not to have the entire county to himself, and closed a door to let us pass. After winding our way for several more miles we finally encountered a flurry of traffic coming the other way. By now the road was single track and the on-coming traffic was in no mood to slow down or yield to an SUV with BC plates. Several of the vehicles were large vans towing trailers with 6 or 8 kayaks. We were glad for the off-road capability of the Pilot as we dove for cover in the bushes. The Rogue River is a popular white water rafting, fishing and kayaking destination. There were several tours you could take and I guess these drivers knew the road well and were “on the clock”.

Detail from the map board. Tell me this doesn't make you feel like maybe you shouldn't really be here...

Detail from the map board. Tell me this doesn’t make you feel like maybe you shouldn’t really be here… RED has that effect, on a map, as does the word “wild” and “wilderness”!

It was with jangly nerves and some relief when we finally came back to “normal” road – several stretches of rough gravel now safely behind us. Thankfully I noticed in time that Agness was actually on the other side of the river to us and it was a several mile detour on the one and only road in and out if we ACTUALLY went to Agness over the bridge. We managed to avoid that detour to “BFN” as my daughter would call it, and were pretty happy when we could smell the sea air and popped out at the coast near Wedderburn. A quick trek up the coast road and we were at our destination for the next couple of nights – Humbug Mountain. This was in a little oasis between the old coast road – which was now the access to the State Park – and the new straighter coast highway. But more of that in the next report.





Summer Holiday – day 5

22 08 2015

Day 5 began as any other… with a trip to the loo.

I was somewhat perturbed though to find the stall was already occupied by a wee beastie. No idea what it was, but it was ‘kin huge!

Ermy germy

Ermy germy

Needless to say that was a bit disconcerting and put me off my stroke for the rest of the day.
Having perused the map we’d obtained, complete with the conveniently graded hikes and trails, we’d decided to head off to the east of the crater and hike up Mount Scott – the highest point in the park. The route to the mountain took us past a couple of view points and we were relieved to see the mist/smoke from the night before was no longer there. There was still a little haze in the air, but the views were nothing short of stunning.

Wizard Island from the east of the crater

Wizard Island from the east of the crater

Phantom Ship from Phantom Ship overlook

Phantom Ship from Phantom Ship overlook

Despite the brief photo-stops we eventually arrived at the small car-park by the road which marked the trailhead for Mount Scott. It was just a few metres past the Cloudcap Overlook turning. The moon was still clearly visble in the sky and plainly was wanting to make the most of the clear skies.

A reluctant moon over the sign for the Cloudcap Overlook turning

A reluctant moon over the sign for the Cloudcap Overlook turning

The trail details claimed it was a 3hr round trip and the mountain was 2721m high, with an elevation gain from the trialhead of 381m. The Grouse, for comparison, is 1231m high, with an elevation gain from the start of 853m. So – we were going a lot higher, but we we starting a lot higher too – higher than the top of the Grouse in fact! The total climb was only about half that of the Grouse. Though a nice steady climb, this was no picnic and included a few slightly sketchy patches on loose pumice.

The road ahead - the ascent of Mount Scott

The road ahead – the ascent of Mount Scott

As we got higher, the view of the lake started to open up and became grander and grander.

Wizard Island from the slopes of Mount Scott

Wizard Island from the slopes of Mount Scott

Despite being in full sun, some trees were making the most of it and standing proud… if a little hipster.

Hipster tree

Hipster tree

Eventually, after a couple more switch-backs we caught a glimpse of the fire lookout tower at the peak. This was still in use unlike the ones we’d visited in BC, and was bristling with technology and keep off signs.

First view of fire lookout at the top

First view of fire lookout at the top

From the ridge we could see down to the east and there were several plumes of smoke rising from the forest to indicate small fires alarmingly close to the crater.

Over to the east there were still some small fires to see. Oregon was not immune.

Over to the east there were still some small fires to see. Oregon was not immune.

Once at the actual lookout there were a couple of brass discs cemented into the rock to mark the actual peak and the presence of USGS surveyors back in 1932.

USGS marker declaring the height to be 8938' above sea level

USGS marker declaring the height to be 8938′ above sea level

US Coast & Geodetic Survey marker at the top. 1932

US Coast & Geodetic Survey marker at the top. 1932

The views from the very top were stunning and needless to say I took many more photos than I’ll bore you with here! Click on this (or any of the other images) for a larger version.

Panorama of the jaw-dropping beauty of Crater Lake

Panorama of the jaw-dropping beauty of Crater Lake

After soaking up the energy and a pint or so of water, we headed back along the ridge where we saw a few alpine flowers including Indian Paintbrush.

The view back along the ridge towards the south

The view back along the ridge towards the south

Indian paintbrush, or "Castilleja"

Indian paintbrush, or “Castilleja”

As we started our descent, I remembered to take a photo of the large pumice field we had crossed earlier. The picture definitely doesn’t do it justice, but this entire area was like a giant potting shed. I myself use vermiculite to start plant cuttings and it is definitely a very effective medium for new plants.

Pumice field on the SE flank of Mount Scott.

Pumice field on the SE flank of Mount Scott.

After regaining the car we headed back clockwise and stopped to see the lake at Cloudcap Overlook, and then headed back to Phantom Ship Overlook to take a “better” photo.

Phantom Ship from Phantom Ship Overlook

Phantom Ship from Phantom Ship Overlook

Just by the Overlook, we took the Pinnacles Road and headed to the very SE corner of the park to take a look at this weird phenomenon. Basically as the ash and soil eroded after the giant explosion of the Mazama volcano back in 5600BC these harder plumes of ash and rock were left as the softer material around them was washed and eroded away. Move on 7000 years or so, and you’re left with alien looking spires of volcanic material left on the sides of the deeply eroded creek canyon.

We were starting to tire now, so we decided to stop off for another re-energising look at the lake from one of its many viewpoints and then head off for a short walk through the woods around the Steel Visitor Center (sic), named for William Gladstone Steel, U. S. Commissioner. According to Crater Lake Institute he was born in Stafford, Ohio in 1854. William Steel is regarded as the “Father of Crater Lake National Park.” Steel spent years lobbying and fighting for National Park status of Crater Lake. He served as the park’s second superintendent, pushed for development of Crater Lake, co-founded the Mazama’s mountaineering club, and did much to conserve the natural resources of Crater Lake National Park.

Another awesome view. Likely from Sun Notch

Another awesome view. Likely from Sun Notch

The walk through the wood was pleasant enough, and there was a little guide book to tell you in minute detail about the history of the park’s beginnings and how the design of each accommodation block had been planned just so. The trail was named “Lady of the Woods” after a half-finished sculpture that was the primary purpose for the trail being built. Earl Russell Bush was a doctor attending to the builders of the first rim roads back in the 1900s. In 1917 with the work largely finished, he found himself with nothing to do so started on this sculpture. Amazingly it is his first attempt at carving. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really rather good (especially for a first attempt!) The thing is though… this is a National Park. If I were to do the same today I’d be hauled off for vandalism of a Federal Park! Just sayin’…
IMG_8038

By now we were definitely flagging a bit, and so we headed back to camp and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon and tried to figure out if our neighbours with Washington plates were “French French” or “Quebec French”. We were pretty sure it was the former, but our English reticence prevented us just asking.





Summer Holiday – day 4

21 08 2015

Day 4, we packed up at Cove Palisade (Deschute campsite at Lake Billy Chinook) and headed to Crate Lake. We were in no particular rush and took our time. Along the way we restocked at Trader Joe’s in Bend – always a treat with their yummy high quality foods.

Lake Billy Chinook

Lake Billy Chinook

As we headed out of camp, we stopped along the lake and took photos of the amazing basalt structures right next to the road. I’ve seen many examples of the characteristic hexagonal columns formed in basalt, but these were unusual in that they were curved. The sheer scale of the temperatures and pressures involved stagger the mind.

Trader Joe’s is always fun. I could spend hours perusing the shelves.

Goodies at Trader Joe's, Bend

Goodies at Trader Joe’s, Bend

So much goodness in one package!

So much goodness in one package!

As we approached Crater Lake National Park Mrs E questioned the directions Doris was offering. I prudently chose to “validate my assumptions” and saw that the default GPS setting was to “avoid toll roads”. This being a national park, Doris was trying to avoid the entrance fee at the northern entry point and detour us way off to the west to enter the park by the southern gate. Though this too had a fee, I guess the logic figured that delay of the fee was better somehow?! Cancelling this option Doris now agreed with the sign in front of us saying that Crater Lake was that-a-way. Crater Lake National Park is about 5 miles square, but it sits in the middle of the Winema National Forest which is huge.

As we caught our first glimpse of the lake and Wizard Island within it, we were sorely disappointed. The air was very misty with what we assumed to be smoke from the fires raging in California. We’d booked to stay in the park for 3 nights to make sure we had chance to see all it offered, and if the air quality was going to be so poor, we would be very frustrated.

First view of Crater Lake... smoky!

First view of Crater Lake… smoky!

We headed to the campsite at Mazama village and were told that though we had a site reserved, it was not a specific site. We had to cruise the vast campground and pick one. By sheer fluke we picked a site within easy walking distance of the only 3 showers in the entire ground! There had been a bad Pine Beetle infestation, and many trees had been felled and logged. Unlike other sites where you have to pay for firewood, at Crater Lake campers were encouraged to burn as much as they liked for free. In “extreme” forest fire conditions. Bizarre! There were however several cautionary signs demanding that campers “buy it where you burn it”. Carrying potentially infected firewood from site to site is a way that the beetles can spread.

As we settled in, we became aware of several Steller’s Jays sharing the site with us. Chipmunks too. The chipmunks were entertaining, but the Jays were incredibly noisy and confident. They would come to within a couple of feet of you if they thought they might find food. Each site had a very robust bear bin with double doors. This implied that bears could be a bit of an issue, but there was no sign of any bears in the area while we were there.

What's your is mine

What’s yours is mine

We’d stopped off at the park’s Steel Visitor Center (sic) and loaded up with maps. One came with a useful list of the parks official hiking trails – a very convenient “to-do” list for our short stay!

Convenient to-do list

Convenient to-do list

As is often the case when camping, we turned in relatively early, but not before witnessing a stunning sunset – emphasised no doubt by the smoke lingering in the air. On subsequent nights we saw an incredible number of stars – something only possible when many many miles away from the usual light pollution of our so-called civilisation.

Nightfall

Nightfall





Summer Holiday – day 2-3

20 08 2015

After a very pleasant night in Memaloose, we headed further south for our next stop. This was The Cove Palisades near Madras, which was to be our base for a day trip to the Painted Hills.

Threatening clouds over Mt. Hood

Threatening clouds over Mt. Hood

The camp site at Cove Palisades was a little tucked away over the river. The geology was imposing along the road, but the site was comfortable if a little dusty. There were huge boulders strewn around which were a stark reminder of the potential fluidity of the apparently solid landscape.

Huge blocks of rock had fallen from the cliff behind our site at some point in history.

Huge blocks of rock had fallen from the cliff behind our site at some point in history.

Just before dusk, Mrs E and I took the short but steep hike up the cliff to the tabletop plateau behind us. There was a circular hike around its perimeter, but night was already falling as we reached it, and we decided to descend just as the sun was setting over Mt Adams.

Billy Chinook Lake from the top of the plateau

Billy Chinook Lake from the top of the plateau


From the top of the plateau there were extensive views back over “The Island”. This is closed to public and only a few researchers are allowed to visit its steep sides. As we walked a little around the perimeter path, we could look down the steep cliff to our campsite below.

Our campsite was a small dot way below the cliff. Our silver Pilot is just visible to the right of the RV in the next site

Our campsite was a small dot way below the cliff. Our silver Pilot is just visible to the right of the RV in the next site

As we headed back for the hike back down, we were treated to a wonderful sunset over the gorge towards Mt Adams. If you look carefully you can see the mountain in the shade of the sunset.

Sun setting over Mt Adams

Sun setting over Mt Adams

This site was to be our jumping off spot to visit The Painted Hills, and the next day we headed off to the famous park. It took a lot longer to get there than anticipated, but the drive was pleasant and the time passed quickly. The entrance to the park was almost missed and a few miles down a quiet track led us to a very low-key Painted Hills. The landscape was unearthly and stunningly beautiful. After a short break for lunch, we checked the park map and headed off for the first of the sites at Red Scar Knoll.

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

The car-park was near a small white hill that was distinct from the surrounding reds and yellows. According to the signage, this was due to a “cataclysmic” eruption spewing sup-heated volcanic ash and gas over the landscape. All of 39 million years ago.

Cataclysmic

Cataclysmic

The main site at this particular stop though was the so-called Red Hill. This was one of many gentle piles of red or ochre rock. On closer inspection the hills were actually a kind of hard clay. The term popcorn rock is used. As the rains come, the rock actually absorbs moisture and expands. As the rock dries out, it shrinks back and has an appearance of a very large pile of coloured popcorn. We’d seen similar rock in the Badlands of Alberta near Drumheller. Despite many signs asking people to keep off the slopes there were several tracks. It was comforting to know that their marring of the landscape would only last until the next rains.

One of many red hills

More fluid, up close

More fluid, up close

Despite the generally dry environment, the place was not without its life. We found a prickly pear cactus that someone had tried to shield from careless feet by building a small wall with pebbles.

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear

As we returned to the car, a small movement caught my eye and I was delighted to see a small lizard scampering on a log. His instinct to freeze and hope we weren’t hungry allowed me the time to get him in focus.

Lounging Lizard

Lounging Lizard

From this angle, we saw the red hill in contrast to other layers of sandy soil, and started to get a real sense of the colourful landscape and the surprise views one could achieve just by moving a few metres one way or another.

Nature's palette

Nature’s palette

We got back in the car and headed back to the next stop which was an exposed fossil bed known as Leaf Hill Trail. There were stern warnings not to disturb the fossils which were mainly leaves and were helping scientists understand the landscape that had been obliterated by the volcano 39 million years ago.

Juniper berries

Juniper berries

Stern warning

Stern warning

The slight rise in the landscape gave stunning views over the park and the sweeping vistas of colour.

Yup - those are Painted Hills alright!

Yup – those are Painted Hills alright!

The next stop on the tour back towards the entrance took us on a spur road to an area of the park that was featured in a brochure we’d seen. This was Painted Cove Trail. Here, the rock had been protected by the use of a boardwalk to keep the public off the delicate rock. It hadn’t entirely worked, but there were few footmarks on the delicate surface.

By now we were in sensory overload from all the spectacular scenery, but the best was yet to come. The final stop gave us the most spectacular views of all at Painted Hills Overlook Trail.

We decided the day was wearing on and we opted not to attempt the final trail up the Carroll Rim Trail. Maybe next time…

On the way back out of the park we made one more photo stop to capture the spectacular scenery right next to the road.

IMG_7997

By now we were ready for tea and we headed back north to the Cove Palisades and bed.





Summer Holiday – day 1

19 08 2015

So – full of the anticipation that road trips imbue one with, we headed off for a two week camping trip to Oregon. The general plan was to head down the middle of the state to Crater Lake, then head west to the coast and then make our way back north to civilisation Canada.

We chose to avoid the main I5 route as much as possible and opted to drift gently east as we approached Seattle. We stopped for lunch in a place called Cle Elum. I would be cruel to say it was a bit of a sleepy town, but it made Princeton, BC seem like New York. The reason we stopped there was to try and find the diner we’d visited on one of our very early visits to the States before we even emigrated. It was surprisingly easy to locate, and didn’t seem to have altered one jot in the intervening decade or so. The temperature was rising, and we were grateful for the air con in the restaurant. (I use the term loosely).

Cle Elum High Street

After lunch we headed south for the Oregon border and watched the car’s external temperature gauge steadily climb.

Hot, hot, hot...

Hot, hot, hot…

The scenery was primarily open grassland and as we approached the Columbia river for our first stop of the trip, we suddenly became surrounded by wind-farms generating power from the breeze. Some find them a bit of an eyesore, but personally I like the idea that an ancient technology to harness the power of nature has been updated to feed our lust for energy in a totally renewable way.

Washington wind collection

Washington wind collection

Not much longer and we were passing over the Columbia and into Oregon. Our brand new GPS (christened “Doris” for no particular reason) led us off up some windy track where we had a wonderful view down over the river… and our campsite off in the distance. Backtracking to the highway and using the old proven technology of reading the road-signs we were soon in the Memaloose State Park/campground near Mosier. This was our first visit to a US campsite, and it was pretty impressive. Lots of space (we had 2 tents); a tarmac base for the car; individual water taps (which we insisted on calling “holy spigots” after Rowan Atkinson’s character in Four Weddings and a Funeral) and even freight trains to remind us of Juniper Beach near Cache Creek. The weather was still pretty warm and we quickly settled in for our first evening of our trip… note the beer bottles on the table!

Settling in for the first night

Settling in for the first night

We could have gone further; we could have travelled quicker. But hey… we were on our summer holiday!





Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 10

29 07 2015

Route: BCMC

Time: 1:28:38

So I had a chat with the nice lady at the top and she told me that because Sunday’s route (BP trail then Skyline) took me so much longer than usual (by 2 hours!) the system had flagged it as a likely timing error and therefore not added it to my total. She assured me it could be added and sent “IT” an email to that effect, so that makes today’s ascent number 41… 10 to go before Everest is mine!








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