Friday, July 31, 2015

Camp Sherman & Scout Lake

Last day in Oregon! To play that is, I have almost 300 miles of Oregon to drive through tomorrow!

It was going to be another hot one so Dad and I decided to head out early to do a bike ride that was suggested to us by the Ranger at the Ranger Station yesterday. We drove up to Camp Sherman, which is a summer/"resort" community up along the Metolis River in the Deschutes National Forest. There are a few lodges, a few commercial campgrounds, some summer homes and a bunch of National Forest Service campgrounds, as well as a neat little store.

We parked at the Camp Sherman store and rode out bikes up Forest Service Road 14, unlike most Forest Service Roads this one was paved and made for a nice bike ride. It was rolling, which I like because it's not all up or down, but there was more downhill on the way out. We rode all the way out to Lower Bridge Campground and back - about 15.5 miles round trip. On the way back we avoided the big hill by taking another paved Forest Service Road that went down by the river.

After our ride we checked out the Camp Sherman Store! I was very impressed by the quality of products they carried, it was a lot like an organic grocery store! We also went to the head of the Metolis River, it appears to come right from under the mountain!

We came back to Sisters for lunch. We stopped at the campground and got Mom and changed out our gear - put the bikes away and got swimsuits and other things needed to relax by the lake for the afternoon. We had lunch at the Fir Street Market, a natural and organic grocery store/cafe in Sisters. The food was fabulous! I had a salad and it was all very fresh and crisp. After lunch we had to go back to BJs Ice Cream for some more Oregon Trail ice cream.

Sufficiently fed we headed back out US20 into the mountains to Suttle Lake. Suttle Lake is a huge lake with a resort, at least three campgrounds and a boat launch, but best as we could tell, no day use area for lounging and swimming. There were folks who had set up in the boat launch area but there was little shade. There was another lake up the road, Scout Lake so we headed up there. This lake turned out to be perfect! It was much smaller, but there was plenty of shade on the shoreline and there were lots of swimmers!

We stayed our claim under a tree and I quickly got in the water! I love swimming and my favorite place to swim is in a lake! Especially one like Scout Lake where there is no set swim area and you can just go wherever! There were a lot of people in the lake, many with floats and kayaks and stand up paddle boards. There were also a lot of dead trees floating in the water, which was fun because you could sit on them and I even "paddled" one around the lake for awhile, but it made it hard to really swim because of fear of running into something! I swam all the way across and back - the lake is bigger than it looks and floated around on a log for awhile! A family of ducks even swam over and shared my log for awhile! It was a wonderful spot to spend a very hot afternoon.

 

On our way out we discovered the Suttle Lake Day Use area, it was by the lodge and it wasn't nearly as nice as the Scout Lake Day Use area so it ended up working out the best.

We got back to Sisters around 5:30 and went to a neat Mexican resteraunt for dinner and then came back to the campground to run generators and clean up - I'd pulled out all kinds of stuff today and hadn't even cleaned up breakfast because we wanted to get going before it got hot.

Around 7:45 Dad and I set out on our bikes to go back to the Snow-Cap for blackberry shakes! It's only about a 1/2 mile from the campground but it was a nice ride, the sun was setting and it was getting cooler!

 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Grand Tour

It stayed warm most of the night, slowly dipping into the 40s, after it being so cold the last few nights I had prepared for a cold night - long pjs, extra blanket, closed the windows at the first chill, this meant I was hot almost all night! It was nice to wake up to warmer temps and be able to enjoy breakfast at my picnic table rather than huddled in my sleeping bag inside!

Our first stop of the day was Sisters Bakery. We'd walked by there yesterday and Mom wanted to try one of their doughnuts. I had a taste of Mom's doughnut and Dad's energy bar thing, both were good! We talked to someone who's been to bakeries all over Oregon and he says Sisters Bakery is one of the best! After our snack we went to the National Forest Service Ranger Station to find out about hikes and bike rides for tomorrow.

Next it was off to Smith Rock State Park. Smith Rock is a big deal fir rock climbers, it's one of the premier spots in the country for rock climbing. It's a huge volcanic rock uprising, it's really neat to look at, but it's all exposed with no shade at all. And it's out in the desert and it was over 100* today. They had some trails that looked interesting, but it was so hot and sunny and uncomfortable to enjoy them. Dad and I did hike down into the canyon and along the Crooked River - it was maybe 2 miles, probably closer to 1.5 - it was nice but so hot!

 

On the map of Smith Rock we saw The Cove Palisades State Park. We'd never heard of it and it was close so we went to check it out. This park was right below a big lake where they have dammed up the Deschutes River and the Crooked River. Two lakes had been formed with a giant butte in the middle. We sat by Crooked River lake for a little while, it was cool in the shade. There was a swimming area but it wasn't really appealing for swimming - lots of plant debris and stuff floating. Both lakes were down in canyons with high volcanic rock sides. The lakes were nice but the rest of the landscape was hot and desolate.

We noticed on the map that we could get back to Sisters a back way from this park so we set out. Turns out the back way was all desolate, isolated, dirt road. No houses, no towns, just dust, scrub pine and sage. The high desert at its finest. And hottest.

We got back to Sisters at 3:30 and decided it was time for a treat. We stopped at one of two ice cream places in town. All homemade ice cream with no junk! The Oregon Trail with chocolate ice cream, blackberry swirl and hazelnuts was very good!

After ice cream we headed up McKenzie Pass. I was expecting a normal mountain pass where you get to the top and you can see all the other mountains, maybe there's a meadow up there or maybe just trees. Well, not here. This mountain pass was a lava flow. Of course it was. All of Oregon is volcanic! It was actually pretty neat - it was lava rock as far as they eye could see! We also had views of the Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood was out there too but hard to see (we'd seen Mt. Hood earlier, bringing the trip full circle as we'd started there back at the beginning of the month.). At the pass there was a 1/2 mile interpretive trail, paved with signs about all the volcanic features and an observation tower.

 

Next we set out to find the other pass - the signs said we were on a scenic road that included two passes, I can't remember the name of the other one. When the road was headed steeply downhill we figured the other pass wasn't on this road so we asked the GPS how to get back to Sisters and it took us another back way - lead us out to 126 and back to US 20. This took us down the other side of the mountains which is not in the desert! It rains here! These woods were lush and green and cool! The total opposite of the terrain on the Sisters side of the mountain. We found several hikes that we could come back and do tomorrow as well as a lake to swim in!

By this time it was 7:00 and we needed to get back to run our generators and eat dinner. After dinner we decided to go check out the other ice cream place in town - I don't remember it's name but it's a drive-in type place right on the edge of town. I had an amazing blackberry milkshake! Real blackberries! Yum!

 

 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Biking LaPine State Park

Today ended up being a transition day, we didn't do anything too exciting, but we got stuff done that needed to happen.

It wasn't quite as cold overnight, but it was colder than I would have expected for July! It took the sun a long time to get up over the trees where it could warm my RV. I ended up having breakfast in bed again! I was just about ready when Dad came over, he wanted to ride some of the trails in the park before we left.

As you all know, Dad and I are not mountain bikers and the times we've attempted to ride on trails has never ended well. All the trails through LaPine State Park appeared to be wide flat packed sand, and there were no signs saying "no biking" and there were tire tracks on all the trails we'd seen. So, we decided to try it.

 

For the most part it was fine - wide and packed, flat, and easy to ride. There were spots where the sand was softer and that was hard. We did a loop with the Deschutes River Trail to the Fall Creek Trail. The Fall Creek trail was narrower and had more obstacles - little things like roots, rocks, soft sand, curves, bushes, up hills, downhills, things you'd never notice walking but that conspire against you when you are biking! I had to get off and walk a lot because I'd lose my momentum to a soft pile of sand or the downhill was just too twisty and steep. When we came back around and I saw an RV through thr trees I knew we were back in the campground so I bailed on the trail,and hot back out to the road. Dad was really far ahead of me so I couldn't tell him. Once on pavement I was zooming along and I got back to our sites at exactly the same time he did.

The scenery was not that interesting. Pretty much just Ponderosa Pine. If we were hiking it would have been really boring, and hot. At least biking made it more challenging and interesting. It was about 8 miles so would have taken us all day to walk, it only took about 2 hours to ride.

After our bike ride we went into Bend and got some fresh veggies at a farm stand, did the rest of the shopping at Fred Meyer and Dad went to fetch the mail.

After the shopping we drove the 20 miles to Sisters and we will be here through Saturday, when I head back to the east coast. On the way to Sisters we had great views of the Three Sisters Mountains, Mt. Bachelor, and I think Mt. Hood. After dinner we walked into the town of Sisters. It's a cute little town, but at 8:00pm everything was shut down.

We are now in the high desert area of Oregon. It was in the 90s during the day today (when I left the Fred Meyers the van said it was 106*! That was on the hot pavement in the sun, it quickly fell to about 95) and tonight it's going down into the 40s!

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kayaking on the Deschutes River

It was another cold night at Mazama Village! It was 45* inside when I woke up! We didn't have anywhere to be this morning so I didn't even get dressed right away, I made coffee and ate breakfast in my long underwear snuggled in my sleeping bag. After yesterday's experience of it being 10* colder outside vs inside I didn't go out or open the door until I was ready to go see when Mom and Dad were ready to go, and when I did go out I discovered that it was very nice outside! The sun had come up and warmed everything up, except the inside of my RV!

It was about 10 when we rolled out, heading for Bend, or near-ish to Bend as it turns out. I stopped to dump and to get some last pictures of the lake and Wizard Island. The rest of the drive was unremarkable and soon I was in La Pine. La Pine is a small town about 20 miles south of Bend and there was La Pind State Park was in one of the campground books so we decided to see if they had sites, and they did, for tonight only.

The park is nice, but it's not as scenic. It's mostly just pine forest and sand. It was very sunny and warm this afternoon and hiking wasn't appealing. The park is home to Oregon's largest Ponderosa Pine so we had to check that out. It was underwhelming. The Deschutes River flows right through the park and it looked kayak-able so we scouted a good put-in (trail right by our campsite lead to River access) and take out spot (by the big tree) and came back to get the boat ready!

I carried the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak under the bed all last summer and we didn't use it, and I've had it this whole trip and we haven't used it, so it was good to get it out! We inflated it and noticed air escaping from the right gunwale. We secured the valve and figured the problem was solved.

We had to walk about a 1/4 mile down a sandy trail to the water. The river access spot wasn't the best put in - the water looked to be moving fast and it was deep. Dad had decided to bring a rope and tie the boat to a tree and then let it loose when we were in. Turns out the rope was a bigger problem! We both got in easily and then the rope got caught on the tree! We left the rope and came back to get it!

As we paddled along we realized that the current that looked strong from shore, wasn't really that strong. And the scenery was very repetitive. It was nice, but once you'd seen a 1/4 mile of it, you'd seen it all. Also, it appeared that the right gunwale was losing air, but we weren't sure. The boat was definitely listing to that side.

There was a side channel that looped back to the main channel and we paddled down that. It either had no currently or we were paddling upriver, because we were both paddling a hard as we could and getting no where. I guess we'd underestimated how strong the current really was! As we came around the bend heading back to the main channel it looked like it was all grass. It appeared that our side trip was a dead end and we'd have to turn around, or portage. But luckily there was a narrow channel in the grass, just wide enough for a kayak.

Almost as soon as we were out in the main channel again we were at the Big Tree, which was our take out point. We easily got the boat to the shore and hopped out. The water was cold! Not as cold as Crater Lake, but cold! Dad texted Mom to come get us and we hauled the boat up the hill to the parking lot. It was obvious as we walked up that the right gunwale had lost a lot of air. Dad had is kayak straps so rather than deflate the boat in the parking lot we decided to put it on top and bring it back inflated so we could investigate why it was leaking.

After Dad and I both looked at it and determined that it may not be a problem we can fix. It's complicated to explain here. I like having the Sea Eagle, for days like this, but the fact that I never used it last year and we've used it only once this year means that if I can't come up with a fix, I'm probably not going to replace it. Inflatable kayaks aren't cheap. This was one of the cheaper ones. I may have a lot of extra space under the bed...especially because we decided that my custom made leveling blocks are a waste of space because they don't remedy the van being out of level so Dad took them since they are nicer than his blocks and we had a campfire burning his old leveling blocks! So, no big bag with the kayak, no big leveling blocks means all I have is a chair and my bike pump!

 

 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wizard Island

Today was the day for our boat ride around the lake with a three hour side trip to Wizard Island! To get the boat we had to travel back up to the rim, then drive about halfway around the lake to the Cleetwood Trail Head, then walk 1.1 mile downhill, 770 feet downhill, to get to the boat dock. There is a lot of construction along the west rim of the drive and they said to allow an extra 40 mins to get through it.

It got really cold last night! I was sleeping in my long undwear and got in my sleeping bag and closed the windows! The coldest morning was also the earliest morning since Dad and I decided we needed to leave by 7 to ensure that we had enough time to make it to Cleetwood dock to get the boat at 9:45! The other cold mornings I've been able to get up a bit later after the sun has come up!

The temperature in the RV this morning was 46*, I didn't turn the heat on because I hate the smell of the burning dust and the propane furnace almost always sets off the CO/LP detector! I just got dressed and crawled back into my sleeping bag and ate breakfast in bed...like a real camper! LOL! When Dad picked me up the temperature in the Jeep was 37*, and it fell to 34* on the way up to the rim! BRRR! I was impressed that it was 10 degrees warmer inside versus outside though!

We didn't run into any traffic from the construction, we went through before they started, and arrived at the parking area by 7:30. We needed to be there by 8:45. So we were a bit early, and it was too cold to walk down to the dock early, so we drove a little ways down the road then went and sat in the parking lot. We saw lots of people going down to the dock in shorts and t-shirts and kind of thought they were crazy. We figured it was going to be super cold out on the water with the wind and yesterday was so cold all day. We had all the cold weather gear!

Turns out we were the ones that were over prepared! As soon as the sun got up good it was hot! We were taking off layers of fleece and stuffing them in our backpacks and trading fleece hats for sun hats. The air was cool, but the sun was hot and intense! And today was a glorious clear day with no wind! This was great for watching the colors in the lake! And the boat ride was calm - the afternoon wind makes the boat rides rough sometimes.

The boats are small, they hold 37 people I think, and we had a Ranger with us who narrated the whole tour! A lot of the information she had was similar to the movie yesterday but it helped to be seeing the things she was talking about! We learned more about volcanoes than I ever wanted to know!

 

After about an hour on the boat we arrived at Wizard Island! Wizard Island is a cinder cone volcano that formed after Mt. Mazama erupted, it emerged after the lake was formed! It's named Wizard Island because it looks like a Wizard Hat! (Of course almost all cinder cone volcanoes look like wizard hats!) on Wizard Island there are two trails - one to the summit and one to Fumerole Bay. If you hike to the summit you can walk all the way around the rim and even down into the crater. You can also fish (the fish don't belong in the lake, they encourage the catching of as many as you can and removing them from the lake), swim (yes, swim, it's allowed, but the water is cold) Dad and I hiked up to the summit as soon as we got there, the views were amazing! The lake was at least 9 different shades of blue! I walked all the way around the rim, Dad walked down into the crater.

 

I really wanted to swim in Crater Lake, but the cold water temperature (about 55*) combined with the cool air temperature (60s during the day, but remember that hot sun...) and the cold morning made me rethink my plans. After our hike we had about 30 minutes before he boat was coming back so I went down to the dock and stuck my feet in! The water was very cold! My feet never really got used to it, but it did feel good!

 

Because the water in Crater Lake is so pure - it's all snowmelt and rainwater - it's incredibly clear!

After our time on Wizard Island we got back on the boat and continued our tour of the lake. We went past all the features we'd seen yesterday - Pumice Castle, the Phantom Ship, only now we were down on the water! We had many chances to look at the water and see how crystal clear it is and to examine it's color.

It was 3:00 when we returned to the boat dock, ready for the 1.1 mile uphill hike - re-gaining the 700 feet we lost thus morning! There were lots of people at the Cleetwood Dock area, some were swimming, many were sunbathing on the rocks. Cleetwood Cove is the only place where you can access the water. I still kinda wanted to swim, but I'd have to walk up the hill wet and I didn't want to do that. Once back at the parking lot we saw the traffic backup from the construction, it didn't take long to get through it though, and soon we were back at the campground ready for an early dinner!

 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Crater Lake National Park

Woke up to a very chilly morning! I kept my long underwear on until 10! It was very refreshing! I actually used my sleeping bag this morning! And, it wasn't as cold as it will be tomorrow morning! Its forecast to go down into the 30s tonight!

The first thing I needed to do this morning was buy tickets for the Wizard Island cruise for tomorrow. I couldn't buy them until 9:45 this morning, my plan was to be first in line at the kiosk in the gift shop. I decided I needed to be there by 9, which is very late for me, I was ready to go by 8:20, and that was after I'd slept in, and had a leisurely breakfast with my kindle.

Mom and Dad were staying at a casino about 20 miles away and coming in this morning to get a "first come, first served" site. I realized that I could probably pay for their site before they got here. This campground operates differently from any other campground I've been in. You either make a reservation (50% of the sites are reservable) or you show up at the kiosk. You pay your money and tell them what type of site you need - tent or RV and how long your RV is. They give you a card with your departure date and a color, you can then go and pick any site of that color (the colors tell how big the sites are, I'm yellow (even though I could fit anywhere!) and Mom and Dad are red), you can even move sites if a better one opens up! You just put your card on the site post. This makes it very easy to extend your stay, just go pay again and the site is yours! So anyway this morning I went up and bought Mom and Dad a site before they got here. It ended up getting very confused because Mom and Dad came in while I was at the boat ticket kiosk and the guy I'd talked to about thrust reservation was on a coffee break! We did eventually get it worked out, and I paid for my extra day so I could stay three nights!

I got to the boat ride kiosk about 8:40. A whole hour before I could make my purchase. I'd brought my Kindle so I stood there and read. About 9:20 a family came up and got in line behind me. A few other people came up and bought tickets for today. Then finally at 9:45, I clicked through the screen and made my purchase!

Camping spots secured and boat ride tickets purchased, we were now free to explore the park. After an early lunch we set out for the rim. I decided Mom and Dad needed to see the lake first, before going to the visitor center or starting the drive, so we went directly to the rim. The lake is just awesome! Pictures will never do it justice, you all just have to come.

 

After checking out the lake at Rim Village we went back down to the visitor center to watch the movie. At Lassen we wished we'd watched the movie first, here's probably wasn't as important, but the movie was good and we learned about how Mt. Mazama erupted then collapsed and formed Crater Lake. After the visitor center we headed east on the Rim Drive and began our journey around the lake.

One of the amazing things about Crater Lake is it's amazing blue color. The water is so pure and clear that when the sun hits it the color is just unbelieveable! And the color varies depending on the water depth and the way the light hits it. Unfortunately for us, the clouds started rolling in just as we began driving around. This meant that the lake was "lake" colored not the bluer than blue color. It was also quite cold and windy all day. But, the lake is still amazing and I took a ton of pictures anyway.

After our drive around the lakers headed back to the campground for generator time and dinner. It's already very chilly and it promises to be a cold night. It's still very cloudy, I hope all that clears up for tomorrow's boat ride!

 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lava Beds National Monument

I'd never heard of Lava Beds National Monument until I was studying the map a few weeks ago. It was only a wee bit off route and I wanted to go, mostly to get my passport stamped and "check it off". It was only an hour down there from Klamath Falls so we went down there this morning, turns out it was really interesting!

One of the really cool things at Lava Beds is they have tons of Lava Tube caves that you can explore on your own! They have trails through them and you can bring your own caving gear (or just a flashlight) and check them out! Most parks with caves you have to go on a Ranger tour, so this was something special.

When we arrived we were asked if we'd been in any other caves east of the Rockies and were shown a map, if we'd been in a cave in a shaded state we had to stop at the Visitor Center to be "decontaminated". White Nose Syndrome is a disease that is killing bats and it's spores travel on humans who wear the same shoes or bring the same clothing into caves. Since we'd been to Wind Cave, we had to get cleaned before we could go in the caves! Once at the visitor center we surrendered our shoes and our phones - we think those are the only things we had on today that we'd had on at Wind Cave! The ranger wiped them both down with Lysol-type wipes and returned them to us cleaner than than they'd ever been!

Once we cleaned we headed for the easiest cave, Mushpot. It's right by the visitor center and it's lighted. It was a lot like the cave tours I've done before, only it was volcanic so looked different inside. After Mushpot we drove out the cave loop to Sentinel Cave. Sentinel Cave is one of the only ones you can do as a loop. We walked the road down to Lower Sentinel Cave then walked about a 1/4 mile on a trail to the cave entrance, then walked up the cave! It was soooo cool! The path in the cave was a jumble of rocks and it was dark! No natural light at al, just the light from my headlamp! The trail was easy to follow, there weren't any branches or anything to confuse us, just a straight walk to the other side. In a few places there were steps and some railing around a big pit, but otherwise it was volcanic rocks and dark!

The cave walk didn't take long, it was probably a mile tops. So when we got done we went over to Schonchin Butte, which is the only cinder cone you can climb. It's 1.4 miles round trip. At the top you could see everything! The landscape out there is so arid and dry, lots of sagebrush, volcanic rock and dust. Beyond Lava Beds it's all farmland! It looks at bit like Kansas.

After our hike to Schonchin Butte it was time to head back to Klamath Falls so I could drive out to Crater Lake. The other night we were trying to work out the details of going to Crater Lake and I managed to get a reservation to camp 2 nights but when I went to make Mom and Dad's reservation they were full. They are staying at a casino tonight and will come in tomorrow!

It was about an hour to drive to Crater Lake and when I got here I got my site, figured out where to go to buy my boat tickets for tomorrow, and drove to the rim looking for cell phone signal to text Mom and Dad. There is not cell signal to be had, I couldn't get a connection anywhere! BUT, the lake is amazing!!!!! (Pictures in tomorrow's post!) We are planning to drive around tomorrow so I didn't spend a lot of time at the rim!

After I came back to the campground I did some cooking - made dinner and a salad to eat for lunch then next few days - that was fun because I've never really cooked in the RV! Clean up was the hardest part! After dinner I walked around the campground, continuing my quest for signal and finding none. I walked over to the camp store, where I met a family from Fairfax! She is a secretary at an FCPS High School! Small world!