Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Saturday, May 20, 2017

OR -- Fort Klamath & Crater Lake NP, 26 Apr–1 May 2017

Map picture
Map picture

Five days near Fort Klamath, Oregon…

Why we came…

To snowshoe Crater Lake National Park!

The campground…

Crater Lake Resort is quaint and we liked it.  It only has a few RV sites and 13 rental cabins.  The RV sites are tucked under huge pine trees and backed up to a pleasant stream.  We had full hook-ups, decent wi-fi, and a sporadic 1 to 2 bar Verizon 3G signal.  We got satellite reception but had to move the satellite to the bank of the stream.  The spacious sites were fairly level and consisted of packed gravel.  The bathroom facility was well maintained.  The laundry room had two washers and two dryers and was well maintained.  You have to get the key from the office and pay $3 a load up front.  That’s a reasonable cost and it was nice to have the laundry room to ourselves.  

The little resort was very peaceful at night.  We really liked the short loop walk with two bridges, one of them covered, that crossed the stream.  We liked Crater Lake Resort and would gladly return.

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We were tucked comfortably under big pine trees at Crater Lake Resort  /  Covered bridge across the stream

Nearby towns…

Fort Klamath OR, population 209 and elevation 4,438 feet, is a tiny unincorporated community with very few services.  It’s just 20 miles southeast of the Steel Visitor Center in Crate Lake National Park.

Chiloquin OR, population 734 and elevation 4,180 feet, is 11 miles southeast of Fort Klamath.  It has two small grocery stores, a couple of restaurants, and a couple of gas stations.

Klamath Falls OR, population 20,840 and elevation 4,099 feet, is 35 miles to the south of the RV park.  The medium sized town has a good selection of stores, restaurants, and services.


Historic Fort Klamath…

On Thursday morning we walked the half mile up the road to Fort Klamath. It was a cloudy, breezy day with a temperature of only 38°. 

We love shoulder season because of the lack of crowds. But because of the lack of people, some area attractions are often closed. Such was the case on this chilly morning. The historic Fort Klamath area was closed.

From 1863 to 1890, C Troop, First Oregon Cavalry occupied Fort Klamath to protect the settlers from the local natives, the Modocs. There were thirty-nine buildings to house C Troop, including a hotel and a theater. Of note was the fact that during the last winter, the fort saw 20 feet of snow.

We could see three buildings over the fence. We took a few pictures and hurried back for a hot cup of tea.

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Walk route from Crater Lake Resort to historic Fort Klamath

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Fort Klamath was built in 1863 and had more than 50 buildings

Collier State Park Logging Museum…

The Logging Museum is at Collier State Park only 15 miles from where we were staying. The 146 acre park land was donated by the Collier brothers in 1945 (it is now 525 acres). Then in 1947, the brothers donated an antique logging equipment collection.

First, we took a walk under the bridge near the Williamson River over to the park. It reminded us how nice Oregon parks are and how much we had enjoyed the coastal parks during our first fall season on the road. We learned from one of the many interpretive signed that the Spring Creek stays at a constant 42o, a perfect environment for native red band trout.

The outdoor museum follows a path through the large historic collection. It begins with the pioneer village that has several original cabins that were moved here from the surrounding area. By peeking through the windows it gave us a clear idea of how rugged early settlers’ lives were.

Logging was one of the first industries in Oregon. The interpretive signs review the full history. For example, Egyptians used saws made of bronze back in 3000BC.  

The museum traces the chronological history of logging from the 1880s as it progressed in Oregon. The rugged terrain, harsh weather, meager living conditions, and dangerous job was brutal: “Why does he do it? Why should any man subject himself to such torture? Because that is logging and he is a logger.”

After relying on help from four-legged critters, the industry advanced to steam power, “The donkey that finally ousted oxen from the skidroads of the West was not a beast but a small steam engine.”

Finally, diesel power, hydraulic lifts, and tractor treads brought the logging industry into modern times.

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Walk route around Collier State Park and Museum  /  Welcome to the Museum!

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A small sample of the many exhibits

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There were two bridges across Spring Creek

Crater Lake National Park…

Crater Lake was one of the reasons that we set out on this journey six years ago. It was one of the highlights of American National Parks that neither of us had seen. We were excited to experience it together on our terms. Snowshoeing on the rim satisfied our long-standing desires.

We carefully studied the long range weather forecast and entered the famous park on the best weather day of the week. As we drove from Fort Klamath, in less than 20 miles we saw snow increase from a few patches to several feet on both sides of the road.

Keeping the road open to the rim is “snow easy task”. The park has a six person crew working from 4:00 am to 8:00 pm to remove an average of 43 feet of snow a year to keep the road open.

First, we stopped at the Steel Visitor center that was named for William Gladstone Steel who pushed for establishment of the park as the sixth national park in 1902.

Then we watched the introduction film, Crater Lake: Into the Deep. We learned how Mount Mazama, a stratovolcano, blew 7,700 years ago forming Crater Lake. We also learned the pure water of Crater Lake is some of the clearest in the world. A disc lowered into the 1,943 foot depths is still visible to 142 feet.

Next, we added another park sticker and stamp to our park book. I noticed Ranger Dave from the film and Arleen asked him for his autograph in her park book. He was embarrassed but Ranger Dave happily signed the book. It is another memorable souvenir.

Mount Mazama1

Panorama of Mount Mazama from the southwest, sketched from the slope of Castle Point. In the foreground, the pumice-filled canyon of Castle Creek. The two peaks on the west (left) rim of Crater Lake are Hillman and the Watchman; the peak on the right is Garfield.  Mount Mazama was estimated to be 12,000 feet high.  (Note:  This was borrowed from this web page.  It’s loaded with good info.)

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This is how it looks now

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Entering Crater Lake National Park the first time!  /  Fresh snow on top of tons of old snow

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12 FEET of snow at the Steel Visitor Center  /  Getting the passport sticker and stamp

Snowshoe adventure at Crater Lake…

We parked near the rim and eagerly donned our snowshoes. We approached the rim slowly wanting to remember our first view of the deep waters and the incredible blue we had heard of.

Sure enough, we were blown away by the indescribable mesmerizing blue. The clear skies were a perfect complement to the reflections of the rugged caldera on the calm surface.

We rushed to leave the Village viewing platform that was crowded with visitors in sandals and high heeled boots comically walking across the top of 12 feet of snow!

The previous few days before our visit a storm had raged blanketing everything with several fresh inches of snow. The wind and cloud moisture left frosty pearl necklaces on the trees that created perfect frames for the wondrous views at each turn.

We hiked around the rim to the Wizard Island Overlook and had the scenic spot to ourselves. In addition to the fantastic view of Crater Lake, we could see 14,000 foot high Mount Shasta a hundred miles to the south. The air was so clear and quiet. The only sounds were the occasional chirps of birds and warming snow and frost sliding off the trees.

One thing kept this from being a perfect transcendent experience. We were frustrated that we could not peer down into the deep clear water. All along rim, monstrous cornices protruded over the edge. If we were to get too close, we could trigger an avalanche that would collapse and fall over a thousand feet to the shimmering lake below.

We saw only a few other skiers and snowshoers around the rim. A few were weighted down with camera equipment yearning to capture perfect images. Others had large backpacks and had just spent, or were about to spend a few special nights camped along the rim.

As we neared the Rim Village CafĂ©, the roar of machinery broke nature’s stillness. The site of a bulldozer and rotary snowplow clearing the 30 mile rim road was impressive! “On average the snow they encounter is 20 to 30 feet deep. In the vicinity of Watchman Peak, they meet drifts 45 to 50 feet thick.”

As we understand it, Crater Lake is different during each season and at the sun’s rise or set. We felt very blessed to experience it during a peaceful time, under bright blue skies, with calm winds, and a fresh layer of virgin snow.

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Snowshoe route from Rim Village to the Wizard Island Overlook  /  It doesn’t get much prettier than this!

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Working our way along the southwest side of Crater Lake

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The Watchman, 8,013 feet, and Hillman Peak, 8,151 feet

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Glimpses of the amazingly blue lake.  Note the cornice in the right picture.  We had to stay way back from the edge.

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One of the prettiest things we’ve ever seen!

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Good view of most of the lake.  Note the cornice on the right side.  The point Arleen is standing on is probably similar.

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Just having fun on the rim of Crater Lake

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It was a perfect day and a special experience

Mount Thielsen…

Our friend Bill had urged us to visit Mount Thielson, his favorite Oregon peak. We planned a hike four miles up to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail on the west shoulder of the prominent peak.

“Mount Thielsen, or Big Cowhorn is an extinct shield volcano in the Oregon High Cascades. Because eruptive activity ceased 250,000 years ago, glaciers have heavily eroded the volcano's structure, creating precipitous slopes and a horn-like peak. The spire-like shape of Thielsen attracts lightning strikes and creates fulgurite, an unusual mineral.”

Our first view of the strangely shaped peak was from the east. We drove to the west of it, near Diamond Lake, and parked at one of the many Sno-Parks that Oregon keeps cleared for winter adventurers.

We donned our snowshoes and made our way through the pretty, moss covered Douglas fir forest. There was still four to six feet of snow. We had to take care around the numerous tree wells. Some trees were so close that we had to carefully negotiate narrow snow bridges. It was slow going.

We took a break just past a mile. As we turned to continue up, I felt a sharp pain in my knee and heard a pop. I tried to take a step and put weight on the leg. It was unstable and painful. I turned to Arleen and announced that our day was done.

We tried to make our way gradually down the trail. After a few wobbly steps, Arleen unpacked the first aid kit. It was the second time that we were thankful to have it. The first time was when I sliced my thumb open on a rock. Amazingly we have never needed it for Arleen. This time she got an ace bandage out and wrapped my knee. Though it was still painful to walk, it was more stable.

It took us an hour to make it the mile back to the truck. I iced my knee with a bag of snow while Arleen hopped in the driver’s seat. We took a drive over to Diamond Lake. It was still solidly frozen. From there, we had a good view back up to the dramatic peak.

It wasn’t the adventure we hoped for, but we were glad to see another special part of our incredible country!

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Snowshoe route on the Mount Thielsen trail  /  Follow the blue diamonds through the moss-draped forest

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Approaching Mount Thielsen from the east  /  Mount Thielsen from the west

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Frozen Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey, 8,376 feet


We are having a good time in La Pine OR.  Our next stops are Carson WA, La Grande OR, and then McCall ID.  We will play in central Idaho for the rest of the summer.

Parting shots…

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They always hope to have the Rim Drive cleared by Memorial Day but it’s unlikely

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A Clark’s Nutcracker.  They can be pretty bold.  /  IS THAT SASQUATCH?!?