Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Caldera Half Full and a Heart of Gold

The second chapter of the Ring of Fire tour of the Pacific Northwest enroute to the RTE (Ride to Eat) in Packwood, WA.

July 5th, 2012.

A day of leisure, pretty light on the scale of miles but huge on the pile of smiles. I had rendezvoused with an almost used up Honda Blackbird in Shasta and we only had ~290 miles on the plan this day, as we reluctantly weaned ourselves away from two days of feasting to get back on the road again. The plan being to stay away from the thoroughfares as much as possible and enjoy some back country scenic byways in Southern and Central Oregon and stop in Bend, OR for some nightlife. 
Corinne sent us off in the morning with a scrumptious breakfast, so we were already loaded down a bit as we set off. Good thing we weren't riding far. We took I-5 to the Oregon border and the very first exit in Oregon is the Old Hwy 99. A road less(seldom) traveled, and it shows because it isn't in very good shape, rough and with a frequent sprinking of road debris. Also, heavily deer infested, in the short 5 miles that we were on this road, we had at least 4 deer spottings. One of them was a pretty big fella who bounded across the road when he heard us approach. Needless to say my attention was fully occupied and there were no pictures through here, and past Ashland, OR on Dead Indian Memorial Road. 

This was a beautifully curvy road and a lot of fun leaning over the bikes, so much so that once again I didn't stop to take any pictures till we reached Lake of the Woods. We could tell from the GPS that we were running right alongside the lake, but true to it's name it is surrounded by woods so thick you catch absolutely no glimpse of it. So, I decided to take a little detour and headed towards the lakeside resort at Rainbow Bay. $2 "entry/day use" fee per motorcycle - no biggie!

Seemed like a good place to lounge about and watch some sail boats. I was surprised there were so few people here, considering that this was the day after the 4th of July holiday. It was a nice resort, with a store, a nice big restaurant overlooking the lake and I also spied some camping spots as well as some cabins near the lake. 

This was also a good place to view the volcano cone of Mt. Mcloughlin [9,495 ft] across the lake. 

Here is Brian as we were gearing up to leave. You can't tell from the picture, and he hardly looks the part, but he is actually rocking out aloud to Lady Gaga! "Pa pa pa poker face, pa pa poker face!" I hope for his sake as he regularly plays poker back home, this isn't his poker face!


Astride our motorcycles again, as we veered onto Falls Hwy and headed towards Crater Lake, I pondered and chuckled at the political correctness of the road we had just been on, and looking back snapped a picture of Brian as he followed behind..

We split off from Falls Hwy and continued north following the western shores of Upper Klamath Lake, this is beautiful ranch country, a valley surrounded by mountains on one side and the lake on the other side. Thankfully (for us) not open range country and we saw cows, bulls and sheep all in their enclosures. Brian having been raised on a farm would mention later how he noticed that the farmer had sequestered the cows, the bulls, and the calves in separate enclosures. 

Merging on to Crater Lake Hwy we found just a tad bit more traffic, but still there were much fewer people on the road headed to Crater Lake than we were expecting. The fourth of July this year was on a Wednesday, which I believe screwed up most people's long weekend plans -they had to go back to work on Thursday! Lucky for us we didn't and this was starting to look very good for the rest of our trip as well!

On the way to the entrance of the park, you find the fossilized remains of vents through which super heated gas escaped from the settling of the red hot molten rocks which had poured down the slopes of the raging Mt. Mazama. These fumaroles as they are called have been exposed as columns of pinnacles (and subject to erosion themselves) over the past 7,000 years as Annie Creek eroded a canyon through these rock deposits. 

You can barely spot a vegetation covered Annie Creek as it continues to carve a canyon deeper and deeper for millennia to come..

We pull up to the park entrance and as I am handing over our entrance fees, the two cute little park rangers at the entrance kiosk just burst out into uncontrollable laughter. I look at them puzzled for a second before I realize that Brian is still jamming out aloud to Lady Gaga!! I tried to capture this American Idol aspirant on video but he wouldn't cooperate!

Crater Lake just takes my breath away no matter how many times I see it. The astonishing beauty of this place embodies such tranquility and peacefulness and diffuses it into every element in its proximity. The water is so blue, it puts the sky to shame. The wind wasn't wrinkling the water as much when we arrived, but as you can see from the pictures it was beginning to pick up a bit, we had to hurry up and take some pictures of this mirror with a reflection more beautiful than the heavens above.

This view below is looking down from the observation and interpretation room shelved into the side of the cliffs on the southern rim of the lake. It affords a look down the steep walls of this caldera and as you focus on the waters below, it seems as if the world has turned on it's head and you are looking down at the blue skies instead.

As uncooperative as he was in letting me document his non-existent singing prowess on video, Brian was more than happy to strike a pose when it came to picture time! But, wait a minute who was going to take my picture?!?! [Nobody].

I pulled over again as we neared Watchman Peak. There is a vista point with dioramas at the Watchman Peak trail's parking area. Watchman Peak affords some exceptional views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island from it's vantage point. Not that we would have hiked a mile up to Watchman Peak fire lookout this day, as the trail was closed due to snow anyway. Looks like a moderate hike to me. Someday!

As the day wore on, a few more people were shaking off their slumber and pouring into the park. The Watchman Peak parking area was almost a zoo and not much to Brian's liking and I quote his aggravation "Let's keep going, once you have seen a circular lake from one point, you have seen it from all others". Definitely do not agree, but here is a view of the circular caldera from the parking area.

Keep moving we did, however. Leaving circumnavigating the lake on the wayside as we headed out the north exit with a plan to heading 0n to Bend, OR via the Cascade Lakes scenic byway. 

As I turned east on Hwy 138 towards Hwy 97, I saw in my rear view that Brian had turned his auxiliary lights on, and I moved to the right as he approached and passed me signaling for us to turn around. We pulled over and had a short roadside chat. Brian's in-laws live in Sutherlin, OR striking distance from where we were north of Crater Lake, but in the opposite direction of our planned route. The plan had been to go to Bend and go bar hopping, but Brian and his heart of gold just couldn't bring himself to being in general vicinity and not go visit his in-laws. They had no idea we were coming to visit, we didn't know what they were doing, or even if they were in town, but it was likely they were as his M-I-L isn't doing so well, Brian was just hoping she wasn't in the hospital when we showed up. 

But before that, there were some fun sweepers on Hwy 138 to dispatch. That used up Honda still does a halfway decent job of powering through the corners. 

Hwy 138 reminded me somewhat of Lolo Pass in Montana, albeit much busier. I couldn't get any pictures as we hustled through while passing cars, but the Umpqua river parallels the highway all the way into Roseburg, OR. It is a beautiful river with scenic vistas of bends in the river that I wish we could have stopped and taken in for a while. Not this day, there was 14 miles of construction gravel (Meh!) to navigate while stuck behind a long snaking caravan of cars, then to pass them a whole bunch at a time as we raced towards Roseburg and to a very late lunch at Abby's legendary pizza to satisfy my legendary hunger. 

We spent pretty much the rest of our afternoon and early evening visiting Jan's mother and step-dad. I had never met them before and it was a pretty interesting visit to say the least. ;) Looking at Jan's pictures as a kid had to take the cake for the entire day. Her nickname as a kid was "Smiley" and she still has the same smile! :)

Thanks for reading! Hoping to be able to write the next chapter sometime soon!

1 comment:

  1. I kept reading watchman peak and thinking that looks like Mt. Montezuma and Crater Lake! Of course it is! I have been there, hiked down but didn't make it on the boat out to the island. Someday I would really like to. I miss home but they have gotten a lot of rain this summer- I am fine in Cali.


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