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.

Fort Klamath OR2-26 Apr 2017    Fort Klamath OR6-27 Apr 2017

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.

Fort Klamath OR-27 Apr 2017-walk1

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

    Fort Klamath OR20-28 Apr 2017    Fort Klamath OR21-28 Apr 2017

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?!?


Sunday, May 7, 2017

CA -- Susanville and Lassen Volcanic NP, 21-26 April 2017

Map picture
Map picture

Five days in Susanville, California…

Why we came…

To explore Lassen Volcanic National Park!

The campground…

Susanville RV Park was decent.  The campground is laid out well with good-sized sites consisting of narrow but long cement pads.  Many of the pads are significantly cracked and need to be fixed.  There are quite a few long-termers but their sites were fairly tidy.  We had full hook-ups, poor wi-fi, and a reliable 2 to 3 bar Verizon LTE signal.  Satellite would work fine in most sites, but there are a few trees that would make it tricky in places.  The laundry facilities were well maintained and reasonably priced.  We didn’t use the bathroom facilities.  Though most of the RV park was empty, the manager gave us neighbors four out of the five nights we were there.  Why?!?  Most RV’ers are happier when they have more space.  As people come in, put them in every other space, and if more come in, then fill in the gaps!

We liked the location of the RV park.  It was on the south end of town and within a mile of Walmart, Safeway, and other stores and restaurants.  It was quiet at night except for Saturday.  Races were run at the fairground track less than a mile away.  There was a steady roar from roughly 7-10:30pm.  We were half tempted to walk over and check it out!

Susanville CA4-21 Apr 2017    Susanville CA3-23 Apr 2017

Good sized RV sites.  Both rows were empty, but the next RV was put right next to us.  /  Some of the cement pads need help.

Nearby towns…

Susanville, population 18,000, sits at an elevation of 4,186 feet. The town was settled by loggers and miners in the 1850s. It was named after Susan Roop, the daughter of an early settler.

Today, the town’s primary employers are a state prison and correctional facility. There is a small college as well as a small casino.

It has a basic Walmart, two grocery stores, a few different hardware stores, a decent selection of restaurants, and a hospital.

Susanville was a perfect spot to reach both areas of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was a 60 mile drive to the south entrance, the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. And it was a 65 mile drive to the north entrance, Manzanita Lake.  It’s a good in between place during the winter when the road through the park is closed.

What would bring us to these parts again is the convenient access to Lassen National Forest plus the Caribou Wilderness and Thousand Lakes Wilderness areas which contain many high country lakes filled with trout. Then there is Lassen Volcanic National Park with 150 miles of trails including 17 miles of the famous Pacific Crest Trail.

Susanville CA5-21 Apr 2017    Susanville CA6-21 Apr 2017

Roop’s Fort built in 1854  /  The Lassen Historical Museum was closed


Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

The Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail has a reputation as one of the most scenic Rails to Trails projects. It is 25 miles long, running from Westwood to Susanville.

You and your bike can catch a shuttle bus from Susanville to Westwood and ride mostly downhill back to Susanville. The ride from Westwood starts with 5 miles of steady uphill to Westwood Junction. From there, it varies from flat to mostly down hill into Susanville. The trail crosses the river 12 times on bridges and trestles and passes through two tunnels. It sounded like the perfect first biking adventure of the year for us!

Sadly, when we called the BLM, we found out that a few of the bridges were out and portions of the trail were badly damaged. Finally, we could see as we drove near Westwood, the trail was likely still under a few feet of snow.

Strike one for a bike adventure.

Bizz Johnson Trail

25 mile long Bizz Johnson Trail

Lassen Volcanic National Park, south side…

As we were driving toward the southwest entrance of Lassen Volcanic National Park, we could see snow quickly building on the sides of the road. We pulled into the visitor center and saw TWELVE feet of snow stacked up, and knew snowshoeing here would be outstanding. The Helen Lake area has 177% average snowpack. Winter still had a tight grip on Lassen NP.

It was mostly cloudy and breezy, with temperatures in the forties. We were disappointed to see the low level clouds moving quickly across the sky and obscuring Lassen Peak. Still the lower visible peaks were stunning.

First, we went into the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. As we always do at National Parks, we got our Passport sticker and stamp.

Next, we watched the introduction film. We were a bit surprised to learn that Lassen Peak is still geologically very active. It last blew its top just 103 years ago! As our geologist hero, Mary noted, this was during the first days of World War I and the event was lost in the war news.

We also learned that there are four different types of volcanoes:  Shield volcano, Cinder cone, Plug or Lava dome, and Composite or Stratovolcano.  Lassen is the only place that has examples of each one!

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Approaching Lassen National Park 

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Entering the Park  /  Arleen stamping her National Park passport book

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Two interesting displays at the Visitor Center (Click on the pics for better detail) 

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12 FEET of snow at the Visitor Center!

After the film and a briefing from the kind Rangers, we donned our snowshoes and headed up the deeply buried Park road for a mile to the Sulphur Works overlook. We could smell them before we could see them.

The Sulphur Works include, “boiling mudpots, steaming ground, roaring fumaroles, and sulfurous gases”. Snow won’t accumulate in the area due to the hot ground temperature. After we hiked on, it was very easy to look back and pick out the geothermal features.  Click here to see Arleen’s warning about the “liquid hot magma”.  (The video will make you laugh!)

The Ranger had warned us to stay to the west side of Diamond Peak. The east side is quite steep and is avalanche prone at this time of the year. Per their advice, we took the Ranger Cuttoff.

We snowshoed up through a lovely Douglas fir and western white pine grove. The giant old trees were draped in moss attesting to the ample moisture they see each year.

We burst out of the grove onto a narrow ridge that overlooks the Sulphur Works nearly a thousand feet below. Arleen was a little nervous but I assured her that we were safe. We climbed a little more and decided to stop just short of a big cornice.

It was a perfect spot to take a break. We could see that someone had stomped out a square and had set up a tent the night before. We imagined they had been back country skiers since we could see a few ski tracks dropping off the ridge.

Suddenly, looking back at Lassen, the clouds parted and we could see the majestic 10,457 foot high peak! We rushed to capture a few pictures of the iconic volcano.

We left thankful for the rare winter view. It had been a very good day!

    Susanville CA-22 Apr 2017-snowshoe    Susanville CA18-22 Apr 2017

Snowshoe route up to Diamond Peak’s shoulder  /  We were enamored by the big moss covered trees

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The winding texture of the deep snow along the creek was pretty  /  The “Sulphur Works” steams and bubbles in the background

Check out Arleen’s “liquid hot magma” VIDEO.  She’s adorable and fun, and I’m a lucky dude!

Susanville CA17-22 Apr 2017

Climbing higher.  Brokeoff Mountain, 9,235 feet on left, and Mount Diller, 9,087 feet on right.

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Felt like a bird flying a thousand feet above the valley

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We love it when the grand scenery makes us feel insignificant

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Lassen Peak, 10,457 feet, just made a brief appearance and it was impressive!

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Posing at our turn-around point.  The cornices got a bit worrisome.

Kicking up some snow on the way down.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, north side…

We woke up on Monday to a cloudy, rainy morning. We took a look at the web cams at Manzanita Lake and could see snow clinging to the trees. The plan was to bike the closed park road 10 miles to the Devastated Area.

As weather forecasters, we know that sometimes the sun will come out unexpectedly, and are usually optimistic. However, mountain forecasts are especially fickle.

We drove an hour and a half to Manzanita Lake to find almost three inches of heavy spring snow. The ranger station and the museum were closed. We had another national park to ourselves but with good reason.

The temperature was only 32°. It was windy with gusts to 30mph and while we were there the weather alternated between rain, ice pellets, and snow showers. The ice pellets stung as they bounced off of our faces.

We did a 3 mile walk around the campground after trying to find the Manzanita Lake Loop Trail. We never found it under the fresh layer of slush.  We had to use our imaginations to visualize Lassen Peak towering nearly 5,000 feet above the pretty lake.

As we walked we feared the dinner plate size slush balls getting flung from the top of 200 foot tall Pondarosa trees. Splat! Splat! Thwap!  We exclaimed a few times, “That was close!” as they splattered nearby.  Thankfully we never took a direct hit.

Finally, we decided it was strike two on the bike riding. There was slush on the road and the weather had not improved. 

So we walked a mile up the road to the Chaos Crags and Chaos Jumbles overlook. “Chaos Crags is the youngest group of lava domes… having been formed as five dacite domes 1,100-1,000 years ago… Chaos Jumbles is a cold rock avalanche which undermined Chaos Crags' northwest slope 300 years ago. Riding on a cushion of compressed air the rock debris traveled at about 100 miles per hour, flattened the forest before it, and dammed Manzanita Creek, forming Manzanita Lake.”

Though the day did not go according to plan, we did learn more about the active volcanoes in the area and we got a little bit of exercise. And once again, we had a national park all to ourselves.

Susanville CA-24 Apr 2017-hike    Susanville CA30-24 Apr 2017

Hike route near Manzanita Lake  /  A Canada goose on the lake

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On the left is what we saw at Manzanita Lake.  On the right is what we should have seen!

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We love closed roads in National Parks!  We wanted to bike 10 miles up, but wimped out because of the weather.

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On the  left is what we saw at the Chaos Jumbles.  On the right is what we should have seen!


We have spent time at Crater Lake National Park OR and are currently near La Pine OR.  Our next stops are Carson WA and La Grande OR.  Then we’ll spend the rest of the summer in central Idaho.

Parting shots…

Susanville CA27-22 Apr 2017