NW Road Trip Day 3

Tuesday, 5 June, 2012

I woke up this morning with the dawn, feeling somewhat unrested as I had woken up multiple times during the night, because I was cold. Finally succumbing at around 6 a.m., I got out of the tent to discover that it was snowing. Snow in June. A great Northern Pikes album, but not what I had expected (or really planned for) on this trip.

I'm writing today's entry sitting in front of what must be the most anemic campfire every made by man... but more on that later. While I started my day in Oregon, I've ended it in California, in Redwoods State Park. I've got a glass of wine at hand, and I'm sitting under the stars, with a massive redwood towering over me. It's a pretty great scene really. But back to the start of the day.

This is what today's trip looked like.

The early start I had planned. I have a lot I wanted to try and do on this trip, and I knew it was going to be tough. When the alarm went off at 5:45, I was already wide awake, but the cold was keeping me in my sleeping bag. It was very quite, and as I was the only person in the entire campground. I guess that wasn't too surprising. Given that I had gone to bed (while it was still light) in the rain, I was pleasantly surprised to wake to the sun rising above the lake I was camped at. I had hoped that the morning would bring some of the promised bird life that I had come to this part of Oregon to see, but other than some mallard ducks, the lake was quite. So I packed up my camp, and headed out.

I headed back north, to check out the Osprey nesting area I had bypassed yesterday, with the hope that I would have some sort of interesting encounter. After parking at the trailhead, I started down the short path to the lake. There was fresh snow on the picnic tables at the trailhead, and some light snow was falling as I stared out. This was June! The path was short - only about 1/2 a mile and despite some dead trees across the path (no one had been there to clear up the winter deadfalls) I got to the end in no time at all. There were no ospreys (despite all the indications that this is a major breeding area) but I did disturb a flock of pelicans. They were hidden by a series of trees along the lakeshore, and as soon as they noticed me they flew off. Still, it was pretty cool to see them.

A flock of pelicans takes off after I surprised them when I came out from the forest to the lake.

Sadly, this stop had been a bust. I headed back to the highway, and headed back south. Other than a few deer along the way, the drive was pretty quiet. The weather alternated between rain, snow and hail, and so I wasn't inclined to stop too often. My next destination was Crater Lake, a place I have been dying to see for quite a while. My original route to get to Crater Lake was closed (too much snow it seems), so I was forced a bit further south. It added about an hour to the trip, but before long I was headed into the park. Crater Lake is a large lake that sits in the caldera of an extinct volcano, and is, at almost 2,000', something like the fourth deepest lake in North America. There's a road that goes all the way around the rim, with amazing views of the lake. Assuming the snow has melted.

Wizard Island in the crater, at Crater Lake.

As with everything so far on this trip, winter decided to mess with my plans. It seems that the only opened the road to the park less than a week ago, and the rim road was still closed as they haven't ploughed it. I drove up to the top of the road and had a look around, but it was clear that winter wasn't done with this part of the world yet. All the cars in the parking lot at the lodge had about a foot of new snow on them, and the top of the road was socked in with clouds. I took a couple of pictures of the lake when the clouds lifted a bit, but nothing like I had hoped. I guess this part of the world is more of a late summer/autumn destination. I had no less than five hikes and/or waterfalls that I had wanted to check out today that I couldn't access because the trailheads were not accessible, or parks were still closed.

Lots of snow still at the top at Crater Lake. The visitor centre was open but had to be dug out.

Departing from Crater Lake, I headed south and west, towards an area near the town of Prospect that looked like it had some decent waterfalls. The weather cleared up a bit for me, and I was treated to sunshine as I headed down out of the mountains. After a few missteps, I found the trailhead for the short hike to a couple of waterfalls. The falls were nice, but you had to view them from a fair distance. Still, it was a worthwhile stop.

Some nice waterfalls, and it was nice to see the snow was gone!

 slightly different view, from up on some rocks.

Continuing south and west, the weather took another turn for the worse. I decided to head for the Oregon Caves National Landmark. It's a huge series of caves that you can explore on a guided tour. Since the weather wasn't great, I figured it was an interesting thing to explore. The drive up to the Caves was a twisting route up into the mountains, and was a lot of fun. The Caves sight is really cool - a series of old buildings from the turn of the century, around the mouth of this cave system. There's an old hotel there that looks really cool - I was tempted to stay the night. There was a tour going off pretty much as soon as I arrived, so I joined it.

Oregon Caves National Monument

The tour was pretty long - 90 minutes - and took you through a pretty large cave system. I've only been to one other large cave system like this (in the Blue Mountains in Australia), and while this wasn't, quite as large, it was still pretty impressive. He passageways were quite tight - I had to crouch down very low on a number of occasions - but the rooms themselves were quite large and impressive.

There were many interesting formations in the cave system.

The formations in the caves were very cool, but many were also damaged from previous visitors which was quite disappointing. It's sad how much we destroy in our recreation. There was even graffiti from the late 1800s, where people coming to the caves used to sign their names on this one formation. To now considered "historically significant", and explained away as them "not knowing better a the time". Pretty sad really.

Stalactites, stalagmites, and ones that had joined to form complete columns.

t's hard to appreciate the scale, but this formation was at least 20' tall, maybe even 30'.

The tour itself was very good, and I liked the caves a lot. I would definitely go back. We emerged from the caves into a torrential downpour. The short walk back to the visitor centre left me soaked, but in good spirits. I went back to the truck and got my tripod, and went back to shoot some very nice looking waterfalls, despite the downpour.

There was a nice little waterfall near the cave entrance.

From the caves, I continued south and west. My route dipped me into northern California, and the southern apex of my trip. I made a quick stop at a campground in Redwoods State Park, to confirm the place I was going to camp for the night. Then I headed back out and down the highway to Crescent City. I found a Starbucks and used their free WiFi to check e-mail. There wasn't much urgent, so I headed back to the camp site, after making a quick stop to pick up some firewood and ice.

So back to the fire. It seems that the wood I just bought must have been green. I've never had so much trouble getting a fire started! I've fed enough kindling into this fire to get 10 started, but the big wood just won't catch. Regardless, I struggled through it and had something of a fire, even if I had to fight it all night. There's nothing like sitting beside a fire under the stars, having some dinner and a glass of wine. While there hasn't been a lot of good photo opportunities, it's still been a pretty great day.

My fire has burnt itself down to a bed of coals, my wine glass is empty, and it's getting pretty cold so it's time to call it a night. I don't think it's going to snow tonight, but it is still a lot colder than I would like. It's June - where the hell is summer?!?!

Tomorrow I head up the Oregon coast, and hope that the weather behaves. It's supposed to be pretty nice, so maybe the photo opps will improve as well.