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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Continuing on our marathon southeastern drive from Redding, after leaving Burney Falls, we headed south on Highway 89 to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  We had hoped to devote more than one day to this beautiful park, but the threat of imminent closure due to possible federal government shutdown on October 1st caused us to compress our visit into half a day.  By the time we had driven through the Park, we wished even more that we had had more time to see it.  The scenery is remarkable.

Our first stop was the complex at the north entrance, which includes a general store, campground and museum.  We walked over to Manzanita Lake and were greeted with this view of Mount Lassen:

The only real road through the Park is Highway 89, which runs north-south, but in the process wraps around the eastern flank of Mount Lassen.  This is the way we drove.  One of the roadside stops was the Hot Rock.  Here is David, trying to see if the rock is still hot.  It wasn't.

This big boulder is known as "Hot Rock" because it was ejected from Mount Lassen in the 1915 eruption and thrown 5 miles away to the spot where it presently sits.  The explanatory sign in front of David shows a photo taken a day or two after the boulder was ejected.  Here is the photo:

According to the photographer, when this photo was taken the boulder was still glowing hot and sizzling in the water in which it was sitting.  Aside from the fact that the rock has cooled, the entire area shown as devastated in the 1915 photo above has regrown and there is no view of Lassen from that spot as there had been right after the eruption.

Driving on, we proceeded up the flank of Mount Lassen, toward a high elevation of 8,500 feet.  Mount Lassen itself is just over 10,000 feet tall.  As we rose, the peak grew larger, but also less distinctive.  We also were driving around the south flank, and hence there was little snow left unmelted on the mountain.  Our first view of Lassen (above) had been of the north face, on which the peak still holds snow.

A number of very striking meadows are strewn throughout the Park, and many, many beautiful glacial lakes.  Here is the Upper Meadow, with Kings Creek burbling through it, under the regal gaze of Reading Peak:

Further up the flank of Lassen, we gazed at the peak over Lake Helen ---

--- then stopped at Emerald Lake to enjoy its deep green beauty:

As we descended and neared the south entrance, we passed this beautiful formation of colored sandstone, tuff and other volcanic material:

After that, it was a quick visit to the Visitor Center at the south entrance, a view of the park video, and an hour's ride home.  We celebrated the (very) long day with some really scrumptious Mexican food at La Fogata, near our RV park, got home and (burping) fell into bed.

Burney Falls

What happens in the hot tub - stays in the hot tub!  However, there are some things you learn about that need to be shared.  On Saturday, September 28th, we ventured forth to experience what we learned.

Barry, a local college sophomore, explained while we soaked in the hot tub that he was living full-time in the RV park to be closer to school.  He grew up in Burney, California, about a 90 minute drive - too long to commute back and forth each day.  His family owns the Alpine Drive Inn, a classic bright pink 1950's style drive-up restaurant with the best milkshakes ever.  It's located right in the middle of Burney on the way to the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, which has the coolest waterfalls ever.  Now, we've heard a lot of "fish" stories over the years, and those two statements are pretty big boasts.  We felt we needed to put them to the test and do our own investigation.

Our first stop was Alpine Drive Inn.  As you can see, it was bright pink, the drive-in spots were on the right, but parking was a little tight.  We ended up parking Great White across the street and walked in.  Barry's sister was manning the counter, while his Dad was cooking up some giant burgers for a group of bikers who stopped in for lunch.  They too had heard about the famous Alpine Drive-In.  We told Sis that Barry sent us.  We needed to find out if they truly had the best milkshakes ever.  After quick look at the menu board, it was time to place our order.  The ice cream is soft-serve.  They use a secret recipe that has been handed down for generations.  To the basic ice cream, they add your flavor of choice.  We both ended up ordering peanut butter milkshakes made with real peanut butter.  To say these were anything but amazing would be an understatement.  Such thick creamy peanut buttery goodness defies this writers ability to adequately describe this taste experience.  Would we say they were the best milkshakes ever?  We don't know.  Ever is a long time.  We haven't tried all the milkshakes across this great country of ours.  So, we will have to leave that decision for another day knowing that more research in this area needs to be done.

Now, onto McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.  We learned that the falls were named for Samuel Burney, a pioneer from South Carolina, who lived in the area until he died in 1859.  In the 1860's, John and Catherine McArthur purchased thousands of acres in the area and opened a mercantile store.  In 1917, PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) began buying up land and water rights in the area.  Residents feared that a dam on the nearby Pit River would flood the area and destroy Burney Falls.  Frank and Scott McArthur, sons of John and Catherine, purchased 160 areas surrounding falls, and in 1920 they deeded the property to the State of California requesting that a park be named after their parents.  The Pit River was dammed, a reservoir was created, but the falls were saved!

Why save these waterfalls?  There are thousands of falls in the Cascade Mountains. What makes these falls so special?  Well, it is all about geology.  You see, Burney Creek has been flowing through this valley for almost 2.5 million years.  About 200,000 years ago, a single lava flow covered about 43 square miles coming down in very liquid sheets 10 to 120 feet think.  Water found its way down through this new lava to continue to flow down the old river bed.  The water also forged a new path on the surface of the new lava flow.  Here you can see the water coming out through the bottom of the lava flow.

So, you are basically getting two waterfalls in one.  You get water gushing from the top of the lava flow and fall over the cliff face, plus thousands of springs cascading down from under the lava.

The Falls Loop Trail takes you down to the  base of the falls, down Burney Creek, over a bridge and up the other side.  Here we get a streamside look a some of the springs come out of the canyon wall.

From the far side of the trail, we can look down into the cool blue pool formed by the water rushing over the edge of the falls.

Of all the waterfalls we've seen, it is pretty cool.  While it is not Niagara Falls in volume, it does have the coolest features we've seen.  However, we have not seen all the waterfalls in this great country of ours.  So, we will have to leave that decision for another day knowing that more research in this area needs to be done.  Do you see a pattern forming?

Friday, September 27, 2013

That Dam Shasta!

Hi Blog!  Today is Friday, September 27th.  We started the day off with a visit to Peterson Chiropractic so Kathy could get an adjustment to her sore back.  After lunch back at the rig, we decided to venture forth and discover all there is to discover about the Shasta Dam and Power Plant.  Here is the view coming from Redding toward Shasta Dam.

Our first stop was the Visitor's Center.  They do offer tours, but we just missed one.  The next one was two hours away.  So, we did the next best thing.  We watched the video of the tour.  It only took 15 minutes and covered everything you would have seen on the one-hour tour.  While it would have been cool to take the elevator down 40-some floors to the base of the dam, the time we saved allowed us to hike along the Sacramento River.  However, I would be remiss if we didn't pass along some of the cool things we learned.  For example, Shasta Dam is the second largest dam by mass of concrete.  Hoover Dam is higher, but Shasta has more volume.  It took seven years to construct - 1938 to 1945.  If you want to take a virtual tour, just click the link to Shasta Tour.

After the Visitor's Center, we got the chance to drive over the dam.  As you can imagine, security was really, really high.  We had to talk to a security officer and explain that we wanted to get to the other side to reach a trailhead and go for a hike.  He then radioed to central command.  Once he got clearance to let us pass, he had to lower a large barricade.  We could not stop as we drove across, so we only have this view of the lake and Mt. Shasta in the distance.

On the opposite side, we had to wait while another security officer, lowered another barricade.  The trailhead we were aiming for was the Dry Creek Trailhead just past the end of the dam.  However, this trailhead was now closed for security reasons.  The only other way to access Dry Creek was a three mile dirt and gravel road - no thanks.  So, we ended up exploring The Sacramento River Rail Trail instead.  This paved bicycle trail runs from the Keswick Dam, north of Redding, to the Shasta Dam on an old railroad bed.  It is 11.1 miles one way.  We decided to walk a few miles to stretch our legs before heading back over the dam.  The vegetation in the area was pretty dense.  We had trouble seeing the river at times.  However, when we got a peek, it was a beautiful teal color.

At one point along the trail, we found a small creek coming down the hillside that passed under the trail.  We climbed down to get a closer look.  The massive stone work was impressive.

However, the really cool thing was the optical illusion at the end of the culvert.  The opening appeared circular even though only half the opening was visible.  The effect was caused by reflection through the opening.

As we hiked further along the trail, we came to an old train tunnel.  What is that light at the end? We hiked through the tunnel, but found a service road on the side, so hiked that road on the way back.

Did we mention the serious amount of bear scat we found on the trail?  Obviously, someone beside mountain bikers likes this rail trail.  We took the warnings about cougars seriously.  Every time we walked under a cliff face, we were looking up.  At one point, we startled a turkey - a real, huge tom turkey that was a monster - maybe over 25 pounds.  I am not sure who was more scared - Kathy or the turkey.  After making a ruckus, he flew across the river.

We did get a few view good views of the river.  There were a sizeable number of waterfowl, including a great blue heron standing in the river, looking for floating food.  Here a cormorant spreads his wings in the breeze.

When you look out on this landscape, you can certainly understand why folks like living in Northern California.

We made it back across the dam without incident.  It does feel kind of creepy being inspected.  However, I understand the need to be cautious in this day and age.

Back at camp, we ran into a couple who lost their big tom cat, Tommy.  Brought back all those memories of losing Baxter.  Never want to go through that again.

It feels good to be back in the groove.  We seem to have recovered from our colds and Kathy's back is on the mend.  We look forward to posting a few more adventures from Shasta and Lassen.

The Clikapudi Trail

This morning we stopped at the Ranger Station for the Shasta Unit of the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, which is part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.  It was pretty convenient, because the ranger station is just next door to our RV park.

The ranger had many suggestions.  Of those, we decided that a hike along the shoreline of Shasta Lake might be the best introduction to the local area - especially since it was very close to our RV park.  We decided to hike the Clikapudi Trail, just up the Old Oregon Trail and Bear Mountain Road from here. The name Clikapudi comes from the Wintu word “Klukupuda” which means “to kill,” referring to a local battle between Wintu Indians and local traders in the 1800s.

The hike was level, but a little over 10 miles.  The hills were covered with young knobcone pine, black oak, live oak, manzanita, a few old-growth ponderosa pine, sage and a variety of other wild flowers and plants.

We weren't prepared for our views of Shasta Lake.  Here's one of the first views we had:

We were surprised by how low the lake water is.  We had asked the ranger about the level of the lake, having seen that the posted information says it is 113 feet low, and he said it is due to lack of water.  This year has been dry, and Shasta Dam, which made Shasta Lake by damming the Sacramento River, is obligated to release water for downstream use in the Sacramento Valley.

While the lake water is very low, the landscape around the lake is very striking:

Californians have boats - pontoon boats and houseboats - moored in various remote "fingers" of the lake.  We saw a group of houseboats moored in very low water.  In this photo, you can't even see the water.  People staying in the houseboats must park their cars o the hill above the lakebed.  You can see their vehicles to the left and above the houseboats:

As we neared the northern end of our hike, we climbed over a shoulder toward Buck Point.  This ridge, along with all the other land we hiked through, was devastated by the Jones Fire in October 1999.  Most of the old growth trees, as well as all other vegetation, was wiped out.  Now, 14 years later, a few old growth trees are left, but for the most part the forest is characterized by 14-year-old pine trees, along with fresh vegetation trying to reclaim the dry land around the lake:

Here, one lone tree stands on what would normally have been an island of the lake prior to the recent dryness.  It probably was protected from the 1999 fire by the lake around it.

Here Kathy looks out over Jones Valley, which gave its name to the fire.  The dry areas here were not recently lakebed, but are so stony with cinders, lava and sandstone that it is difficult for vegetation to catch hold.

As we came back around toward the beginning of our hike, we climbed the ridge above Jones Valley and caught sight of Mount Shasta in the distance:

Redding Rainbow

Wednesday was "logistics" day - we ran shopping and other errands and did miscellaneous cleaning.  We also spent some time browsing local tourist and outdoor information brochures to start planning what we want to do in the Shasta and Redding areas.

Lo and behold, on our way home, Kathy spotted a beautiful rainbow:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Eddie and George Wake Up in Sunny California!

Eddie and George got a good rest last night.  Their drive through the southern Cascades was very picturesque.  The temperature went up a solid 25 degrees from Crater Lake to Redding.  It was so warm this morning that they could go out without jackets.  In fact, it was sunny, too, so they needed their sunglasses.  Here they are, relaxing up on the hillside above our RV park, with mountains in the background.  Where did all the Oregon license plates go?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Winter is Coming

We decided to move from Diamond Lake, Oregon to Redding, California a day early today because of forecasts of snow coming in tomorrow.  Called the Redding RV park and found they could accommodate us.

Woke up this morning, and it was 32F outside.  Hmm....

Started closing up the RV and hitching it to the truck.  Snowflakes started falling.  Not good...

Headed out of the RV park and up toward the summit near Crater Lake.  Downright DANGEROUS.  Here's a photo of the road Kathy took from the cab of the truck as we towed that 17,500 pound weapon of mass destruction behind us:

Wasn't this what we left early to avoid????

Depart Diamond Lake @ 10:00 am

California here we come!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, September 23, 2013

Goodbye to Crater Lake and Diamond Lake!

Today turned out to be our last day at Diamond Lake and Crater Lake.  The weather forecast for Wednesday includes snow and below freezing temperatures at night, so we think we'd better get out of Dodge tomorrow, ahead of any risk of snow or freeze.

This makes all the more poignant the things we did today.  For our morning coffee walk, we wandered down to the shore of Diamond Lake, only to see workers taking apart the dock to store it for the winter.  We were able to get one last photo of the dock, looking out into an autumnal lake and some never-say-die fishermen:

Mount Bailey, across the lake, was still struggling to get out from under its nightcap of clouds:

This was our last chance to hike around Crater Lake, and we decided to visit the Pinnacles and Watchman Peak.  The weather for the Pinnacles was beautiful and showed up the color of these formations:

The pinnacles were formed when steam and gases vented upward during the volcanic period through layers of volcanic ash and tuff that had been deposited on the landscape.  As the steam and gas created enormous pressure, working its way to the surface, it forced the ash and tuff around it to compress and fuse into harder rock than the material around it.  Later, over the millenia, the ash and tuff around the vent eroded (in this case, primarily through the flow of water from a stream through this canyon), leaving the harder, fused material, forming spooky pinnacles:

These formations are fascinating from every angle.  While the cliffs across the canyon appear to be the normal forested rock and soil, a close inspection showed that the soil is slowly eroding away, and we could see newly-born pinnacles peeping their heads through the soil, among the trees.  In another several thousand years, the other side of the canyon will sport its own pinnacles, just as the ones on this side of the canyon will have succumbed to erosion.

We stopped for a scrumptious and warming lunch at Rim Village and, surprisingly, got absolutely the best lattes we've ever had, save for the ones we found at a little coffee shop when we were visiting in Mairangi Bay north of Auckland, where David's sister lives.

After warming and filling up, we headed off to our afternoon adventure, which was a climb to the watchtower on Watchman Peak.  David was getting a little annoying with his constant humming of "All Along the Watchtower," but Kathy tried to ignore him.

The day had become very foggy on the rim of Crater Lake.  In places, as we drove, we could barely see more than 20 feet or so in front of us.  As we commenced our climb, the fog made Watchman Peak appear spooky.  With the wind, it gave Kathy quite a challenge as she tried to pose at the trailhead:

David kept running ahead.  Here he is almost getting lost in the mist as he searches all along the Watchman Trail for heaven knows what:

The watchtower is still actively used for fire spotting, but is also used for educational programs for visiting schoolchildren and others.  Today, it was closed, but we could see inside through the large windowpanes.  Here's Kathy peering in.  Believe it or not, Crate Lake is behind her, down below the rim:

Here is another profile of the watchtower:

Apparently, it had reached freezing last night up on Watchman Peak.  We believe that water from the clouds must have frozen onto the limbs of trees along the path, because, toward the top, we found piles of little pieces of ice under each tree, it appearing they then fell from the tree limbs onto the trail below as the day warmed up.  Here David is showing a fistful of ice.  It would not make a snowball, so Kathy was very lucky.

There was some thing that David did that pleased Kathy on the way down the mountain.  He's not sure what it was, but he captured her as she reached out with a big smooch:

Down at the trailhead, the clouds and mist had cleared just enough for us to get a view of the lake and Wizard Island with the clouds scudding across the rim opposite us.  If you look closely, you'll see that the clouds just cover the rim, but where the rim dips lower, you can see it free of clouds:

Since this is our last day, we decided to have another campfire and use up our firewood.  We cooked brussels sprouts and Ahi tuna over the open fire:

No campfire is complete without s'mores, and Kathy demonstrates the proper procedure for ENJOYING s'mores:

The Clark's Nutcrackers in the campground are little bandits.  They sense immediately when anyone brings food outdoors, and they almost steal it from your hands.  David was able to get a series of photos of one little devil as it hopped around the picnic table trying to eat pieces of brussels sprouts from the yellow serving bowl.  In the last photo, the bird had to fly away because it tried to perch on the bowl, which tipped because of the bird's weight.  If this photo is too small, you can click on it and view a larger version:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Misty Moisty Rogue River

Hi Blog.  Today is Sunday, September 22nd, the first full day of Fall.  It is a misty rainy day - just like those days Dave fondly remembers as a kid growing up in Oregon.  Yuck!  Even though it is raining, we've spent way too much time inside the rig trying to get over our colds and heal sore muscles.  We need to get out and about.  The great outdoors was calling.  We decided to further explore the Rogue-Umpqua National Scenic Byway.

Our first stop, the little town of Prospect, Oregon.  Time to fuel up for our adventure.  Enter the Prospect Cafe and Trophy Room.  Just what you would expect of a mountain town eating establishment - good grub with lots of dead animal heads staring down at you.

Next stop, Prospect State Park Scenic Viewpoint.  We followed the trail down to the Rogue River.  We passed moss covered boulders and had our first encounter with the Pacific Madrone (or Madrona) Tree.  This little beauty is an evergreen tree with rich orange-red bark that when matures naturally peels away in thin sheets, leaving a greenish, silvery appearance that has a satin sheen and smoothness.

We soon came to a fork in the road.  We chose the left fork, which took us down the Avenue of Giant Boulders.  Here are just a few of the big boys we passed along the way.

The trail to the right took us to two huge waterfalls.  This one is Mill Creek Falls which hurtles 173 feet over sheer rock to splash thunderously into the Rogue River.

This cute little ribbon is Barr Creek Falls.  It's decent of over 240 feet makes it one of Southern Oregon's highest waterfalls.

We made two more stops on our way back to camp.  First was the Natural Bridge.  Here the Rogue River plunges underground and flows through a lava tube for 200 feet before emerging again from the tunnel.

On our way to the Rogue Gorge, we passed a number of "histerical" markers.  Here is an example of a living stump.  The Douglas Fir trees in the gorge live as group.  They have grown together grafting their roots into one large network.  When this tree was cut, the stump continued to grow being provided nutrients from its neighbors.  How cool is that?

Our last stop was the Rogue River Gorge.  The river is slowing cutting its way through the hard lava.

However, it soon finds it way down inside a collapsed lava tube.

It is now confined into a deep and narrow gorge.

With the rain coming down in earnest, we beat a hasty retreat back to the truck.  We are now snug and warm back in the RV hoping the sun will come out tomorrow.