Home is where we are parked

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

OR -- La Pine, 1 May–2 June 2017

Map picture
Map picture

A month near La Pine, Oregon…

Why we came…

To fish area lakes and hunt for mushrooms!

The campground…

La Pine OR56-11 May 2017

Twins Lakes Resort was decent.  The resort includes a small convenience store, good restaurant, coffee shack, equipment rentals, cabins, and RV sites.  The managers, Kate and Devon, work hard and are very accommodating. 

The RV Park was initially a Forest Service campground and is now contracted to a private company.  The sites are quite large, tucked under pine trees, and most have decent privacy.  We felt more like we were camping rather than parked in a crowded RV park.  Our site was a bit unlevel and consisted of packed gravel.  We had full hook-ups and were quite comfortable.  Unfortunately, the tall trees made it impossible to get satellite TV and the Verizon cell phone was mostly nonexistent.  There was no wi-fi.  Arleen was turned off by the laundry facilities so we did laundry in town.  Unless things got rowdy in the campground, it was very peaceful.  We also enjoyed many walks around South Twin Lake.  We liked Twin Lakes Resort and would gladly return.

    La Pine OR57-12 May 2017

We had a nice big private site with full hook-ups  /  Snow on 12 and 16 May!

La Pine OR-17 May 2017-hike

We walked the 1.75 mile route around South Twin Lake a bunch and enjoyed it each time!

In central Oregon, we found ourselves in the Ring of Fire. Evidence of a violent tumultuous past was all around us in the form of small ancient vent tubes, numerous calderas, crater filled lakes, and large mountainous volcanos.

Nearby towns…

La Pine OR, population 1,653 and elevation 4,236 feet, is nearly 20 miles east of Twin Lakes Resort.  It has two small but decent grocery stores, 20-25 restaurants, and nice folks at the post office.  The laundromat was manned, well maintained, and clean.   La Pine is a small community and we liked it.

Bend OR, population 76,639 and elevation 3,623 feet, is 35 miles northeast of Twin Lake Resort.  Though Bend is a bit big for our tastes, we liked it.  It has most familiar stores and restaurants, and includes the services you’d expect from a city that has nearly a hundred thousand people.

Adventures…

On 3 May we kayaked and fished Crane Prairie Reservoir…

Crane Prairie Reservoir is a man-made lake located about 42 miles southwest of Bend, Oregon. The reservoir is named for the cranes that thrive in its habitat and for the upper Deschutes River prairie that once covered the area before the dam on the Deschutes was constructed in 1922. Eighteen years later, in 1940, the dam was rebuilt by the Bureau of Reclamation. The reservoir now serves as one of Oregon's largest rainbow trout fisheries. The heaviest fish ever caught in the lake was a 19-pound trout.”

On our first visit to Crane Prairie, snow banks blocked the drive into the boat launch. The fishing report said that it was still closed due to snow.

There was a narrow two-track trail through the old snow so we followed them to the parking area. Sure enough, five vehicles with boat trailers had punched through and the fishermen were enjoying a beautiful day on the water.

It was a perfect day with blue skies and fair weather cumulus scattered about. After we paddled out, we had an unspoiled view of Bachelor and the Three Sisters.

Acres of a ghost forest are all that remain of what was submerged in 1922.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of barren trees linger as a habitat for geese, ducks, cormorants and other birds.

Just beneath the surface, water mines in the form of tree stumps lay in wait. We had to sit up tall in the kayaks to see and avoid them.  We enjoyed paddling through the tricky slalom course!

With my first cast, I caught a nice rainbow trout and then a heavy fish latched onto Arleen’s line and pulled her towards Mount Bachelor. It was an omen for a good day. But I only hooked around five fish after paddling nearly 4.5 miles in 4 hours.  (By the way, sitting in a kayak for four hours aint easy!)

Arleen’s side note: Midges are wonderful if you're a fish. However, they are horrendous if you're a person.  Billions and billions if not trillions of midges flew up the nose, in the ears, and in the mouth. Then they had the audacity to leave their green carcasses plastered all over the kayaks and our clothes. Thankfully they do not bite!

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Kayak route on Crane Prairie Reservoir  /  The midges were incredible.  They’re annoying but don’t bite.

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Special fishing rules and slow boats…perfect for us!

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Crane Prairie was inundated in 1922 and much of the timber still stands.  It’s a great environment for insects, fish, and birds.

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Arleen got towed by a big trout.  Unfortunately it got off before we saw it.  /  A typical Crane Prairie rainbow trout

On 4 May we went back to Crane Prairie…

On our second day at Crane Prairie, we were prepared with our bug head nets!

We paddled out to the channel area where we had been successful the day before.  I did very good and caught about 10 to 15 fish.  The biggest was about a 17 inch rainbow that was clearly well fed.  

We saw a few eagles and numerous other birds. They often distract Arleen and I have to remind her, “Where is your strike indicator?”, when it is being pulled to bottom of the lake by a strong trout.

The winds were nearly calm and then the ridge of high pressure passed by us. Clouds moved in and the winds whipped up.  It didn’t take long for the lake to whip into a white-capped frenzy.

I started quickly paddling back. I glanced back at Arleen and she was still trying to fish!  I yelled at her, "You're more surfing than fishing. Let’s go!" The slalom course through the stumps was very tricky, but we made it back safely.

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Arleen sporting a head net and enjoying the view of Mount Bachelor

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A Crane Prairie trout putting a big bend in my rod  /  The trout are pretty and well fed

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A cormorant working on its nest  /  Two golden eagles put on quite a show

On 7 and 27 May we visited Newberry National Volcanic Monument…

Arleen’s Note: It was laundry day, but as life always is an adventure when you hang out with Shawn, we ended up at a National Monument.

“Newberry National Volcanic Monument was designated on November 5, 1990, to protect the area around the Newberry Volcano… It includes over 54,000 acres of lakes, lava flows, and spectacular geologic features in central Oregon… It consists of four primary visitor destinations: Lava Butte, Lava River Cave, Lava Cast Forest, and Newberry Caldera.”

We went to the Visitor Center to get a stamp for our National Park Passport book.  The Visitor Center had a fabulous diorama of the entire Newberry complex area.  

One display showed how they had started doing geothermal testing of the area in the 70's and that it was halted in 1990 when it became the National Monument. We believe that sources for renewable energy in National Monument areas should not necessarily be off limits if the result would help to cut back our dependence on limited fossil fuels.

We walked the “Trail of Molten Land which meanders over the 7000 year-old lava flow from Lava Butte, which is the imposing cinder cone behind the Visitor Center.” All along the just over a mile long paved loop trail, there are good interpretive signs about the lava field, the trees, and the wildlife.  

We learned the difference between squirrels and chipmunks. Chipmunks have stripes on their head!  

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Arleen stamping her book and learning about Newberry National Volcanic Monument

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We enjoyed the “Trail of the Molten Land” near the visitor center

Lava River Cave

Arleen’s Note: Again, it was responsibility day: laundry, shopping, etc. So naturally, with Shawn, the day started with an adventure.

“The Lava River Cave is an excellent example of a lava tube. At 5,211 feet in length, the northwest section of the cave is the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon.

The eruption which formed this Lava River Cave occurred about 80,000 years ago. The source is believed to be near Mokst Butte southeast of the entrance.

The Lava River Cave was created by lava flowing downhill from a volcanic vent. The lava flowed northwest from the vent toward the Deschutes River. The flow began as a river of lava flowing in an open channel.

Eventually, a lava crust solidified over the top of the flowing lava. This formed a roof over the river, enclosing it in a lava tunnel or tube. When the eruption from the vent stopped, the lava drained out of the tube leaving a lava tube cave behind.”

We arrived prepared with footwear we had not worn in any other cave and warm jackets since the cave temperature is a steady 42o.

We received a quick briefing about the cave before heading down to the entrance. The entrance to the mile long tube yawned like a big black mouth very similar to other caverns we have visited.

The difference here is that lights have not been run into the tube. We brought our head lamps and they were barely enough light in sections with tricky footing. You can rent bright lanterns from the kiosk at the entrance.

Once inside, the shape reminded us of The Subway in Zion. The walls were curved but black and lumpy, reminders of their lava formation.

Just beyond the entrance the roof height reaches 58 feet and the width of the tube is 50 feet. But at its most narrow the roof height drops to less than 6 feet and narrows appreciatively.

When we arrived early on a Saturday morning (Memorial Day weekend), the parking lot was only a third full. When we emerged over an hour later, the parking lot was overflowing. We always like to be early at such attractions.

    La Pine OR112-27 May 2017    La Pine OR113-27 May 2017

Getting the Ranger talk before we enter the Lava Cave  /  Entering the Lava Cave

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Arleen is sitting about 80 feet under Highway 97  /  Typical view inside the lava tube

On 8 May we kayaked and fished Davis Lake…

We were excited about our first visit to Davis Lake, which is just southwest of Wickiup Reservoir. The rules are for artificial flies, lures, and catch and release.  However, you can keep as many warm water (bass) fish as you want. Bass shouldn’t be in the lake and they want them gone!

The first thing we noted about the lake is the dam that consists of huge piles of black lava rocks. “It was formed by a lava flow… blocking Odell Creek. The blockage results in the lake, which can cover over 3,000 acres in the winter months.

In the summer, however, the inflow from Odell and Ranger creeks cannot fill up the lake as fast as the water escapes through the lava blockage, resulting in the lake covering a much smaller area. It is unknown where the water goes that escapes through the lava dam.”

We paddled 2 miles over to the inlet.  We fished with leech flies and chironomids to no avail.  

We fished along the weed beds all the way back.  I finally hooked one nice rainbow and saw a few others.  

The scenery and the wildlife watching were far better than the fishing.  We'll give it a few days for the water to warm up and we’ll be back.

     La Pine OR-8 May 2017-kayak    La Pine OR31-8 May 2017

Kayak route on Davis Lake  /  The mirror like water was a joy to paddle

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About to launch on the serine lake

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It was so tranquil.  On the left is South Sister, 10,358 feet, middle is Broken Top, 9,175 feet, and right is Mount Bachelor, 9,065 feet.

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We saw a few families of Canada Geese  /  Geese in flight

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This bald eagle had a great view of the lake  /  I followed this fox from a distance for about 10 minutes

On 9 May we kayaked and fished Crane Prairie…

On our third trip to Crane Prairie, it was another perfect day with blue skies, calm winds, and cooperative fish.  And thankfully, there were not as many green blooded midges this day.

We returned to our favorite spot.  Immediately, I started catching fish right and left.  Even Arleen had a few hits and fought one for a while.  

During the next few hours a large circle of other fishermen joined us back in the inundated forest.  

Arleen left to take a short break near the shore.  She found a large variety of birds feeding there. She got pictures of pelicans, eagles, osprey, and sprouting pond lilies.  

When she joined me again, she went over to her hole and got into a lunker.  I rushed over to try to get a picture of her 22 to 24 inch long brook trout…a real beauty!  

We were highly amused to see a circle fisherman immediately draw in closer to her hole. By the time she finished straightening out her gear, she no longer had access to her hole.  

Thankfully she was happy with the biggest fish of the day and I was happy to catch 20 to 25 nice rainbows. It was a fun day!

Fighting a strong trout on a beautiful day at Crane Prairie Reservoir

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Arleen with the catch of the day: a 22 inch long brook trout!

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Cormorant, red winged black bird, and American white pelican

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Ospreys

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Golden eagles

On 10 May we biked the closed Cascade Lakes Highway…

Finally, we did not strike out on a bike ride!  It was a perfect day with blue skies and calm winds. We waited till late morning for warmer temperatures.  

We parked at the Deschutes River bridge and rode the first 2 miles to Lava Lakes on the open highway.  Thankfully we were only passed by one vehicle through that stretch.  For the next 8 miles to Elk Lake, it was just us, the dry highway, and great scenery!

As we slowly climbed and headed north, we got better views of Mount Bachelor and South Sister. The snow banks alongside the road increased a lot more than you’d expect for just 500 feet of climbing.  

At the Elk Lake overlook there was a good 3 to 4 feet of snow on the ground and the lake looked solidly frozen.  

On the way back we detoured to the Lava Lake area and saw a lot of folks out on the lake enjoying the day and catching fish. However, the road to Little Lava Lake was still choked with snow.

We returned to the truck with sore buns after the season’s first ride but were also eager to ride the closed highway again.

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Bike route on the Cascade Lakes Highway  /  Closed road…just the way we like it!

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Starting our bike ride at the Deschutes River bridge

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Still 4-5 feet of snow at 5,000 feet near Elk Lake.  South Sister peak, 10,358 feet, looms ahead.

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Posing at Lava Lake.  South Sister and Broken Top mountains are in the background.

On 15 May we kayaked and fished the Deschutes channel of Wickiup Reservoir…

We were almost not able to fish this day due to weather and conditions.

First, we tried to go to Little Lava Lake but there was deep snow over the road. Strike one.

So we turned to go to the main Lava Lake. However the winds were whipping up swells and white caps. Strike two.

On our way back we followed a narrow dirt road towards Little Cultus Lake. Deep snow on the road stopped us a quarter mile from our goal. It was too far to carry the kayaks. Strike three.

Fortunately in fishing strike three is not an Out. Next we drove to the Sheep Bridge boat launch by the Wikiup-Deschutes channel.

It was good to finally lower the kayaks into the water.   First, we fished the inlet opposite of the launch.

Next, we paddled into the Deschutes River to the buoy marked: Entering river channel. “No fishing beyond this point”. This protects the fish that spawn in the river. We paddled up a ways into the current just to say that we had kayaked the Deschutes River.

As we returned to the channel and tried to fish, swirling winds thwarted our efforts.  We finally gave up.  

Arleen had one hit but lost it due to fighting the winds in the kayak.  I saw one good-sized brown trout in the clear water but I did not have any hits.

We were entertained by a bald eagle and that made the whole day complete.

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Kayak route on Wickiup Reservoir  /  A soaring bald eagle

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Arleen kayaking the Deschutes channel of Wickiup Reservoir.  Maiden Peak, 7818 feet, is 12 miles southwest.

On 18 May we went back Davis Lake…

We returned to Davis Lake armed with advice we had received from a local fisherman. We paddled out to an area in the middle of the lake with a significant weed patch.

There was a good mayfly hatch so we both tied on a pheasant tail nymph below a lake leech fly. I did hook something heavy but executed the dreaded “long distance release”.  

We both fished diligently for a few hours with only the one bite. We cannot quite figure the lake out.

It was a gorgeous day and we had the lake almost to ourselves. There was one other boat at the beginning of the day but I think he gave up, too.

A bald eagle and his mate entertained us by for a little bit. The entire south shore of the lake is off limits for their protection.

The experts at the local fly shop felt the lake needs to warm up a bit to make the fish more active.

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Kayak route on Davis Lake  /  A beautiful mayfly…trout food!

   

Our view while fishing  /  This eagle also had a great view

On 19 May we biked another section of the Cascade Lakes Highway…

It was time for another bike ride with the luxury of a closed highway. We rode 10 miles from Lava Lake to Devil’s Lake on the Cascades Lake Oregon Scenic Byway.

It was interesting to watch the snow increase from a few feet near Elk Lake, where we turned around last time, to a good 4 to 6 feet of snow near Devil’s Lake. We were wondering why the road was still closed when we came around a corner and… Bam! There was a wall of snow blocking the road! Two big plows were parked up on the snow.

While we were having a snack the county highway department foreman pulled up. He talked to us about how they were having equipment problems and that lots of folks were disappointed that the road would not be open before Memorial Day. There was still SEVEN feet of snow blanketing the road just a half mile from where we stopped.

We chatted for a while about things we planned to do in Oregon and he shared a few insider tips. Most importantly, he told us that he had just opened the gate to access the Newberry caldera the day before.

We had a wonderful ride back down to Lava Lake and eagerly discussed an adventure to East Lake in the Newberry crater.

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Bike route on the Cascade Lakes Highway  / Mount Bachelor and the frozen Elk Lake

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Riding towards Broken Top peak  /  Still lots of snow!  /  South Sister peak is about 4 miles to the north

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Our turn-around point near Devils Lake.  Tom, the county road manager, said there was still 7 feet of snow on the road!

On 22 May I fished the Upper Deschutes River…

After passing the Deschutes River many times and not seeing a soul, it was weird to see fishermen parked everywhere.  It was opening day!

Opening day on a trout stream can be special and are always full of hope.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go too well for me.  I chose a rough section of river with uncooperative fish.  That’s ok.  It was nice to fly-fish some moving water!

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Fly-fishing the Upper Deschutes River.  This section was rugged and I didn’t get any bites.

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There were still patches of snow

On 23 May we fished in a volcanic caldera…

East Lake is one of the twin lakes that occupy part of the Newberry Crater or caldera in Central Oregon. The caldera was formed over 500,000 years ago from volcanic eruptions.

East Lake's water comes from snow melt, rain fall, and hot springs only. The average depth is 67 feet, 180 feet at the deepest point, and covers 1,044 acres. East Lake is about 50 feet higher in elevation and is to the east of its twin, Paulina Lake.

East Lake has two main campgrounds along the lake shore as well as East Lake Resort. The resort has cabins and boats for rent as well as a general store.

The lake offers fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout. The lake is stocked with sockeye salmon (Kokanee) and Atlantic salmon.”

I had read about the lake and was very excited to visit and try to catch its unusual variety of fish. However, with the high seasonal snowfall, we expected the road to remain closed during our stay. Thankfully, on our Cascades Lake Highway bike ride, we met the county road supervisor. He let us know he had unlocked the gate the day before!

The resort was not open yet but they were letting paddleboards, boaters, and kayakers launch.  Resort workers were busy clearing four to five feet of remaining snow to be ready for Memorial Day weekend.  

As soon as we paddled out, we had a great view of the snow covered Caldara. It was an interesting feeling kayaking in a volcano crater. Arleen said she would keep her eye open for new steam vents.

We fished three main spots. I had a good day and caught about 10 rainbows with the largest being about 16 inches.  

We had an eagle that entertained us by flying to treetops right above us, feeding on fish and at one point he did a low-level fly-by over Arleen.  We also spotted several ospreys.  

We saw a more grim sight along the northeast shore. There was a bunch of dead kokanee salmon. All that remained was some skin and their skeletons.

But on the west shore, we got out to take a look at the steam vents, evidence that the area is still active. Someone had scooped out the dirt to make a little hot tub for themselves.

Kayaking and fishing in the caldera was a very unique experience and we would happily return.

La Pine OR-23 May 2017-kayak   

Kayak route on East Lake  /  Posing in front of Paulina Peak, elevation 7,969 feet

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There was still 3-5 feet of snow along parts of the lake

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A typical East Lake rainbow trout

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View of Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters from the Newberry caldera

On 25 May we kayaked Little Lava Lake…

During our recent bike ride, we had verified that the road to Little Lava Lake (LLL) was accessible. LLL is eye candy for the senses since it sits in the shadow of Mount Bachelor, South Sister, and Brokentop.  

We enjoyed various birdlife that make the area their summer breeding grounds. Plus, we paddled down the beginning of the mighty Deschutes River.  

Unfortunately, LLL, did not give us any love for fishing.  But we had a very enjoyable morning paddling the two mile perimeter of the lake beneath numerous volcanos.

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Kayak route on Little Lava Lake  /  Arleen watching two deer

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We had the pretty lake to ourselves and it was very peaceful.  Broken Top peak is to the north.

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See the Great Blue Heron?  South Sister peak is high above.  /  Mergansers

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The Deschutes River starts at Little Lava Lake  /  Leaving Little Lava Lake and entering the Deschutes River

On 26 May we went back to Crane Prairie Reservoir…

We returned to Crane Prairie for the fourth and final time. It was a clear, blue day with only intermittent winds.  

We paddled out to our favorite fishing hole.  Arleen caught the first fish of the day, and it was go from there!  We each hooked 5 to 10 in a couple hours’ time.  

Arleen was pulling in one little guy and concentrating on keeping her line tight and the fish literally flew up into her kayak.  I laughed hysterically! After she got over the surprise of an unexpected fish flopping around in the kayak, she laughed, too.  

It was a good way to end our last visit to a special place that I have always wanted to experience.

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A mayfly on my sunglasses with Mount Bachelor in the background  /  Enjoying the fight  /  A nice rainbow trout

On 27 and 28 May we had visitors!

Bill and Jen are fellow Air Force weather veterans and outdoor enthusiasts! We admire them and were very excited that they were going to visit us!

Day 1: We had a great time jibber jabbering and catching up on each other's lives since we last saw them. Since Bill and Jen were able to set their tent up on our generously sized camp site, we were able to spend a lot of time around the picnic table. Thankfully the weather was perfect and the bugs were minimal!

Day 2:  We took a drive up to Elk Lake so they could get an idea of how much snow is still left in the higher country. Bill had already decided against hiking that section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) right now.

Bill and Jen were excited to learn about wild mushrooms hunting. They educated themselves about morels that morning.

We took them to our “Area 1” mushroom hunting grounds.  Eight eyes certainly cover a lot of ground more thoroughly than four!    

I spotted the first one right away so Bill and Jen learned quickly how morels look in their environment.  Within minutes Bill spied the biggest morel we have seen all season.  Then Jen spotted the next one.

That was the start of Jen’s successful day. She has a true mushroom-spotting eye.  She also found the largest flock of the day.  We brought home about 2 pounds of morels, our biggest daily haul (and less than the allowed one gallon per day).  

In addition, I found a few coral mounds.  Arleen immediately sat on the ground next to them, dug away the duff, and field cleaned them right there.  

Arleen fixed up a wonderful meal that night of salmon and coral and morel mushrooms. Then she, Jen, and Bill whiled away the evening hours with great conversation and a bottle of bourbon.

We hope to see Bill and Jen again this fall and have another adventure! We are very thankful to Bill for the trail work he will do on the PCT over the next couple of months. It’s one the many reasons we consider him and Jen as our heroes.

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Jen and Bill setting up a tent that they have spent MANY nights in

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Posing at Elk Lake  /  Taking a break from mushroom hunting

On 30 May we visited Pat and Don…

We drove to Oak Ridge to visit Arleen's old friends, Patty and Don. To get there, we had to drive over Willamette Pass.    

Neither of us had been over that route before. We really enjoyed the change in flora!

At the bottom of the east side are pine and spruce trees that transition to the Douglas fir. Then on the west side of the pass we could see the Western Red Cedar and wild Rhododendron’s and wild Dogwood trees. There were ferns with a plethora of wild flowers under the trees. We were back in the real Pacific Northwest.

It was so good to see Pat and Don and we were glad that their health is ok.  We had a fun time catching up and listening to their stories.

We relished seeing changes they have made in their beautiful backyard on the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. We also spent time in their newly refurbished kitchen to get ideas for our future kitchen.

As always, the visit was not long enough and we look forward to seeing them again in the future.

   La Pine OR134-30 May 2017    La Pine OR135-30 May 2017

Don cracked a joke about Arleen  /  Pat showed Arleen some things in her pretty garden

On 1 June we checked out Hosmer Lake…

Hosmer Lake had opened within in the last few days.  The weather was cloudy with intermittent drizzle and widely varying winds. Our constant companion, Mount Bachelor, wore a cap of stratus clouds.

“Hosmer is a “fly fishing only” lake well known for its breathtaking views of Mt. Bachelor, South Sisters, Broken top, wildlife viewing and the big Atlantic salmon, brook trout and rainbows that are quite visible in this shallow clear lake.”

We arrived early in the morning but there were already a half dozen float tubes and small pontoons on the water.  

We got the kayaks down and paddled past all the early risers to the channel of the oddly dumbbell shaped lake.  There we took a wrong turn and went right to a dead end but it was lucky that we did.  

The small pool at the end rippled with signs of fish.  I eagerly beached my kayak and perched myself on a rocky point. From there I had a 270° reach to most of the pool and back into the channel.  

I hooked about 10 fish but only landed five from my roost.  They were mostly Rainbows and one nice Brookie.  The largest Rainbow I caught was a hard fighting 18 incher.

The channel was lined with thickets of bulrush offering good food for all the birds. We saw eagles, a Sandhill crane, numerous blackbirds, and many ducks. It was a busy, bustling, squawking place.   

After a few hours we paddled back up the correct channel. The lake at the end of that channel had numerous little islands. They were all decorated with a pink flower that was at max bloom. At the same time Bachelor appeared between the clouds. Oh, what a picturesque site!  

Hosmer has character, is very scenic, loaded with bird life, and has good fishing. It was my favorite lake!

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Kayak route on Hosmer Lake  /  The water lillies are about to open up

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Fly fishing and catch and release rules…great!

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Much of Hosmer Lake is shallow which allows water plants to flourish.  The views of Mount Bachelor, Broken Top, and South Sister peaks are incredible.

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Caught rainbow trout up to 18 inches long

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The sandhill crane got harassed by the little red-winged blackbirds  /  A yellow-headed blackbird

Spring mushroom hunting…

“The damp conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest are the ideal breeding ground for edible wild mushrooms, and there's no better place to find them than in Oregon.”

We learned to mushroom hunt in Oregon 6 years ago at a class offered at Fort Stevens State Park. We started with chanterelles and have added a few others since that time including king boletes, hawk wings, hedge hogs, oysters, and morels.

We have a list of features for each mushroom to insure proper identification. Also, we do not harvest any hallucinogenic mushrooms. Our reality is great just the way it is!

Oregon does have strict harvesting rules to control commercial harvesters but it impacts recreational hunters too. We went to the Winema National Forest office to get a free permit which allowed us to collect a gallon of mushrooms daily for 10 days.

4 May: Both days after fishing at Crane Prairie, we poked around in woods. We only found a few little brown mushrooms (lbms). The first area we found that looked great turned out to be illegal. However the map the forest service gave us is 13 years old. It made us wonder that if the reason it was off limits 13 years ago is no longer valid?

5 May: Thankfully the next day we found another nice area. In addition, it was more remote which we liked and it was legal according to the map. We nicknamed it “Area One”.

19 May: The day started with our typical morning walk near the lake. I suddenly halted! I couldn't believe my eyes! I stammered at Arleen. Our first morel of the season was sitting to the right of the trail near a few spruce and manzanita bushes.

It changed our focus entirely! It was on! First, we searched the caldera area for a while and found a handful of morels but we left that first one.

The goal for the day had been to ride our bikes. But first we stopped at the Brown's Creek burn area.

The fire had been back in 2013 and burned 108 acres. They say burn areas produce best the first year and taper off the following years. This would be the fourth year.

Lo and behold we found our first burn area morels. It was only another handful but with the morning catch we had enough to add to our eggs the next morning!

20 May: We went back to “Area 1” with high expectations. We were not disappointed. We found several of Mother Nature’s handicrafts.

We returned to this area a few more times over the next week. We found about a total of ten pounds of morels, our first blonde morel, a few pounds of coral, and a few old boletes.

21 May: We just walked across the street to stroll around North Lake. The low area between the two old calderas looked fascinating but we did not find anything. So we scoured the hills along the lake.

While hunting for morels I found some disturbed mounds.  Arleen and I looked carefully, removed the duff, and found a cauliflower looking mushroom. We looked around a little bit more and found a few undisturbed mounds.  We were 80% sure we knew what the large fungi were so we cut off just a small sample.  

At home we did research to verify that it was an edible coral mushroom.  Now, we were 99% sure so we cooked up our small sample and we each had a small bite to make sure that we did not have an adverse reaction.

It had a mild, but delicious flavor, reminding us a bit of scallops. Arleen hurried back the next day and filled her basket with a two pound Northwest Spring Coral mushroom.

29 May: We went to our “South Area”. We were so excited to find about a pound of blonde morels under Manzanitas in Sandy loamy soil. We had only ever found one.

30 May: We returned to the “South Area”. We found many more blonds, and only a few dry black morels but they were perfect for dehydrating.

31 May: We went to the northeast side of our “South Area”. The north side is cooler and should fruit later. Our theory paid off! In disturbed areas of previous logging we found a few pounds of fresh black morels.

It was a great spring morel season! We love finding the little works of art. It is a great bonus that they taste great. We dehydrated a few pounds of morels that I look forward to Arleen getting creative with in the kitchen!

La Pine OR1-27 Apr 2017

Lots of rules for mushroom hunting in central Oregon.  We had to get permits and maps from the Forest Service.

La Pine OR-17-28 May 2017-shroom

Six mushroom hunting routes done between 17 & 28 May 

La Pine OR76-19 May 2017    La Pine OR79-19 May 2017    La Pine OR78-19 May 2017

Our very first Oregon morel found on 19 May.  We left it there.  /  A nice “flock” of morels  /  Our biggest one

La Pine OR80-19 May 2017

We found about a pound of morels in this four year old burn area on 19 May

               La Pine OR81-21 May 2017    La Pine OR107-22 May 2017

Northwest spring coral mushroom on 21 May  /  A basket of corals on 22 May

La Pine OR84-22 May 2017    La Pine OR108-24 May 2017

2 pounds of fresh morels were added to a simple pasta meal on 22 May  /  Our first blond morel found on 24 May

La Pine OR124-28 May 2017    La Pine OR125-28 May 2017    La Pine OR127-28 May 2017

Bill with his first morel  /  Jen with her first one  /  We ate about 3lbs of morels that night!

Being silly with our little treasures

    La Pine OR132-30 May 2017    La Pine OR131-30 May 2017

We found a blond morel honey hole on 30 May and dehydrated them

Next…

Since La Pine, we spent time exploring the Columbia River Gorge and are currently in La Grande OR.  Our next stop is McCall ID.  We don’t know what will happen after that.  The adventure continues…

Parting shots…

La Pine OR16-4 May 2017    La Pine OR21-7 May 2017

A small number of trees are left by loggers for critters  /  Don’t feed the wildlife!

La Pine OR82-21 May 2017    La Pine OR129-5 May 2017

We saw quite a few little frogs and were surprised that they weren’t near water  /  Another cute squirrel

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