"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Unbelievably Blue Crater Lake

Crater Lake is iconic, like the Grand Canyon. When you see the Grand Canyon, sometimes all you can say is, "Wow, it's really big." What everyone says about Crater Lake is, "Wow, it's really blue." Yes, it is, and in this post with these uncolor-enhanced photos, I'll try my best to rouse that reaction in you too. 

A couple of years ago we visited Crater Lake in April, when it was still snow-bound. We viewed it from Rim Village, the only viewpoint that was open. It was really blue then too.

This time we wanted to get up close and personal, so we took the "Volcano Boat Tour" around the lake, leaving from the base of Cleetwood Cove Trail, the only way down to the surface of the lake. 

Although Cleetwood Cove Trail is smooth and maintained, with benches interspersed for rest, it is described as moderately strenuous, equivalent to about 70 flights of stairs. I imagine they tell you this not to scare you off, but to be free of liability if you don't make it to the boat on time. I also imagine is prevents some crises on the way back up. 

We heeded the advice offered, and gave ourselves plenty of time to get down to the lake along the very pleasant and scenic trail. As we approached the bottom we spied the three tour boats: the Klamath, the Umpqua and the Rogue, named for the rivers that originate near Crater Lake. 

The boat dock with a couple of service buildings, including a well utilized set of composting toilets, are the only structures built along the shores of the lake, except for those on Wizard Island. More about that in a moment. 

So, can you believe this is fresh inland water? Doesn't it look like Hawaii or the Mediteranean? This is some of the clearest water in the world, and it all comes from precipitation, primarily snow melt. 

We loaded up our boats and shoved off. We were fortunate to have a knowledgable and pleasant Park Ranger as our guide. As we circumvented the lake, she kept us informed of the history, geology and other scientific data about the lake. Here we are passing Lao Rock - that's the large one. 

As we skimmed across the cobalt water, we approached Wizard Island, a smaller volcano within a volcano. 

This end of Wizard Island is a more recent lava flow.  Here you'll see Lao Rock in the background, topped by some lingering morning clouds. 

A little further around the island, the winter shelters for the boats came into view. Although the lake doesn't freeze over in the winter, there are severe storms and high winds that have damaged the boats many times over the years. This history of the boats on the lake is pretty interesting. No boats other than the tour boats and a few research vessels are allowed on the lake.  There are several permanent buildings devoted to research on Wizard Island as well. 

You can see the Crater Lake Lodge in the upper left hand corner above the cliffs. 

Further on we came to the most turquoise section of the lake, and a waterfall. 

One of the nicest things about these Ranger tours is that you understand what you are seeing so much better. Here she explained that this green section of the cliffs used to be up at the top but the whole thing slipped down in a landslide, leaving the bare rocky earth behind it.

We circled around the only other island on the lake, called the Phantom Ship.

It's called Phantom because it often blends in with the surrounding rock, making it disappear. But this day it looked black compared to the other rock.  You can probably figure out why it's called a ship. 

The next shot is just one more untouched illustration of the incredible color of this water!

The standard tour is about 1.5 hours long. There are other options that will drop you off on Wizard Island for a few hours and pick you up later in the day.  Back at the dock, there were more people waiting for the next boat, and some folks fishing.  Although this little building looks just like an outhouse, (heaven forbid!) it houses the water quality research equipment.

Yes, the hike up was strenuous, but completely manageable. There are plenty of benches and shady spots places to rest. We stopped to eat our picnic lunch at the halfway point and took lots more pictures.   It was really hard to leave the beautiful water. 

This is really the last Oregon post. We're in remote parts of north eastern California now and will check in again soon, if and when our internet connection allows.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

So, Why are They Called the Cascades?

Good question! Care to guess? Here's a hint, or fourteen hints to be exact.

(Since we just finished our time in Oregon I thought I'd revisit these particularly "cool" summer spots.  Many of the links in this post are from the Northwest Waterfall Survey Website that thoroughly and enthusiastically lists, describes, maps, illustrates and rates all the waterfalls in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. So if you're a waterfall nut, check out their site.)

Sahalie and Koosah Falls are on the McKenzie River in the Northern Oregon Cascades, and are easy to find on Rt. 126, the McKenzie Highway, west of Sisters and Bend, OR.  The McKenzie River is one of the most beautiful in Oregon and there's a beautiful trail between the two falls.

Sahalie Falls

Koosah Falls

Tumelo Falls are also near Bend, OR. We saw an American Dipper fly out of the top of the falls as we watched from the overlook.

Tumelo Falls

Paulina Creek Falls are in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, south of Bend.

Paulina Creek Falls

Salt Creek Falls are 27 miles southeast of Oakridge, OR, on the Willamette Highway, or Rt. 58. They boast a 286' drop and an overlook from above and below.

Salt Creek Falls

Clearwater, Whitehorse, Watson and Toketee Falls are all in the southern Oregon Cascades, on the N. Umpqua Highway, or Rt. 138, between Diamond Lake and Roseburg, OR.  They're all exceptionally mossy and ferny. 

Clearwater Falls

Whitehorse Falls

Watson Falls

Toketee Falls

The best known cascades (little "c") are probably those in the Columbia River Gorge. When in Oregon two years ago we visited Latourell, Wahkeena, Horsetail and the tallest of them all, Multnomah at a whopping 611 feet!

Latourell Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Horsetail Falls

Multnomah Falls

OK, geography lesson complete. Now we've passed out of watery Oregon and into dry, dry, dry California until Spring. What an amazing and abrupt change. But wait! There will be one more catch- up post about wild watery Oregon. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Diamond Lake, Oregon

We are at Diamond Lake RV Park for two weeks, located at the southeast corner of Diamond Lake.  We chose this location to be close enough to explore Crater Lake National Park, which is only about 20 miles away.  The rv park is much like a state park, but with full hook-ups and the kind of amenities usually found at private parks. The lake is surrounded by Forest Service campgrounds with hundreds of dry camping sites for small RVs and tents.  Other than the campgrounds though, there is very little development. There is a small restaurant/store at this end of the lake and a camp store at the other end of the lake where there is a "resort" with a lodge and some cabins. Very rustic everywhere. Oh, there's a gas station just past the north end of the lake. Other than that, it's 1 1/2 hours in any direction to a city large enough for a grocery store, a bank, car repair, etc. (Bend, Fort Klamath or Eugene). And there's very little cell service of any sort. 

On the east side of Diamond Lake is Mt. Theilsen (above, at sunset), and on the west is Mt. Bailey (below, at dawn) - both extinct volcanoes.

We've been biking the Diamond Lake Loop bike trail as often as possible. It's an eleven mile paved trail that goes - you guessed it - around the entire lake. 

It's a lovely trail that passes through forests, over streams and along the shoreline. It's mostly flattish, with a few manageable ups and downs - just enough to get a good workout. It takes about 1 1/2  hours to go around the lake. If you get an ice cream cone at the little store, it takes 2.

At our end of the lake there's a nice day-use area with picnic tables, a boat dock...

and plenty of places to take a dip in the chilly water. 

We took a drive over to Crater Lake and have plans to hike down to the Lake and take the boat tour later this week. We also took a drive to see the numerous waterfalls in the area. But mostly we're pretty happy just hanging out at the campground and the lake. Pretty idyllic...

The plan is to post something about Crater Lake and the waterfalls if the internet holds up. We'll see.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oregon Blackberries

The last couple of times we passed through the Pacific Northwest, we noticed the abundance of blackberry bushes, but we were too early for the berries. This time we lucked out. Peak blackberry season and parked for a week in the midst of the brambles! 

There were bushes in Casey's Riverside RV Park and along almost any road we drove around Westfir and Oakridge, Oregon.  The weather was clear and warm so I took the opportunity to pick berries several times. It was fun to find the bushes with the sweetest tasting berries and be able to pick from so many bushes.

These berries taste like blackberries are supposed to taste, not like the ones in the grocery store that look beautiful but taste like some strange hybrid of berries and grapefruits.  Real food - love it. 

I followed the directions of our friends Nick and Cindy and flash froze quite a few, bagging them up for future use.  The ones I didn't freeze lasted a long time in the fridge too. 

I'll be very grateful if I can get this short post online. We are at Diamond Lake RV Park in Oregon, very close to Crater Lake National Park. It's a nice park and a beautiful area, but we have very limited connectivity or cell service. We get these brief windows of internet connection during which we can sometimes check email or browse the web, so this is really a miracle.  I'd love to post something about Diamond Lake, Crater Lake and all the waterfalls in the area, but we'll just have to see how our connection works this week.

We're heading into northern California along Rt. 395 soon, where I expect we'll have similar connectivity challenges. In three weeks we'll be in Reno so I hope I'll be able to catch up with communications then.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Magnificence in the Lower 48: Seattle and Gig Harbor, WA

Phew! What an experience Alaska was. The dreams have finally stopped. I think because I caught up with all the posts about Alaska, my mind could rest. I sure miss the wildness of it all, and the constant alertness for wildlife. But to be fair, our experiences in Gig Harbor and Seattle were pretty darn stimulating as well.

Mt. Rainier from Gig Harbor

Our good friends Nick and Cindy were kind enough to pick us up at the airport and once again welcome us in their wonderful home for a few days in Gig Harbor before we moved on. We really appreciated the time to rest and catch up with them and ourselves, plus we had so much fun and felt so comfortable with them and in their home. Cindy cooked some incredible meals for us while we were there; it was a relief to have home cooking again after all that restaurant food. We are so grateful for their friendship and generosity, and look forward to hanging out with them again in Florida, or sooner!

At Nick and Cindy's suggestions we took the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle one day to hang out downtown and to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Seattle Center "under" the Space Needle. What a great recommendation.

Bremerton (above) is one of our favorite places to observe marine life.  Under the marina is home to multiple varieties of invertebrate sea creatures. Below you can see different kinds of sea anenomes and crustaceans clinging to the sides of the floating dock. 

We also saw sea stars, jelly fish, and this cute little guy swimming around. Maybe it was 5 inches long.  I'd call it a sea taco, but I think it's a nudibranch. Flabellina trephina would be my uneducated guess. (Who knew there was a Sea Slug Forum? You can find anything online.)

I'm usually more than camera shy, but Rick managed to get a shot of me enjoying the ferry ride and the beautiful weather we had for it.

As we docked in Seattle, another ferry just like ours was pulling out.

Although we've been to Seattle before, we haven't really given it enough of our time. We aren't so comfortable in cities, and tend to avoid them. But with directions and suggestions from Nick and Cindy, we felt more confident. Walking from the ferry to the Space Needle was a perfect way to see some of the highlights of the city.

Passing through Pikes Place Market is a sensory extravaganza - in good and bad ways.

In case you didn't know, or couldn't guess - this is the Space Needle

The Space Needle is just one of the most visible components of the Seattle Center, a campus of museums and other attractions, originally constructed for the 1962 World's Fair.  Chihuly Garden and Glass is one of the permanent exhibits on the campus. 

Most readers will have some familiarity with Dale Chihly's work, as he is one of the most prolific and well placed artists in the USA. His works are often featured in botanical gardens, arranged  dramatically among the plant life, mimicking and complementing their organic forms.

In this collection, much of Chihuly's work is displayed chronologically in more a traditional gallery setting, surrounded by black walls and strategically lighted to emphasize color and shape.  The first gallery is the Glass Forest, from the 1970s.

The next room also features Chihuly's personal collection of Native American baskets and trade blankets, the inspirations for his works called Cylinders (two photos below) placed strategically in the same space.

The next collection, the Sea Life Room was one of my favorites, and echoed our experience earlier in the day in Bremerton. Here were Chihuly's vessels topped with black and gold sea life forms such as these turtles and octopi. 

After being in the somewhat understated black and gold of the Sea Life Room, the colors and dynamics of the next room were almost mind blowing. There was a total traffic jam at the entry way, with people taking pictures or just being silently stunned by their first sight of the presentation.  I hope you can see why the Mille Fiori is the show stopper.

It kind of reminds me of Pikes Place Market, now that I look back on it. The next room had two wooden boats in it, one filled with glass spheres called Niijima Floats and the other with what Chihuly calls Ikebana Forms, inspired by Japanese flower arrangement. Like so many of his works, the wooden boats reflect images of Chihuly's childhood home in Puget Sound.

The next gallery displayed about five of Chihuly's Chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. This one is in my favorite color.

On to the room holding some of his Persian Forms. Elsewhere they were displayed in smaller, flatter forms en masse in a glass ceiling like this... 

...but sometimes the Persian Forms are these very large containers. 

The apogee of the exhibit was the Glasshouse, right below the Space Needle.

Chihully loved glass conservatories, and has exhibited his works in many. Here he designed his own to house one of his grand "exotic plants."

We exited the Glasshouse into the gardens, and strolled through a more dense and finely integrated version of the Chihuly garden displays we have seen elsewhere. Unlike others, this garden was designed and created to permanently compliment his work, rather than to simply display it temporarily, resulting in a more dense and integrated effect. 

A large sunburst centerpiece of the garden:

What a beautiful day. It seemed to be woven together with some kind of grand aesthetic intention, from the abundant sea life in Bremerton to the flowing organic forms of Chihuly; from the colorful and exuberant sensory experience of Pikes Place to the magnificent intensity of Mille Fiori.

Was it art reflecting life, or life reflecting art?