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Monday, May 29, 2017

In Memory of Rug Rat Camping

We busted out the tripod and threw on a steak.  Thinking of deceased veterans.  Peaceful Memorial Day, campers.

Old Perpetual Wishes You a Rainbow Memorial Day

Diggin' Oregon Sunstones!

Out where the sagebrush hugs the sky
and the antelope roam nearby, 
sunbeams in stones are there for the taking.

Mike Stahlberg, The Seattle Times

Hi Blog!

We are enjoying our time here in south-central Oregon. After hiking and paddling, we were looking for something a little different.  When we visited the Lakeview Ranger District Office, we had picked up a brochure on the Oregon BLM Sunstone Public Collection Area. Those that follow this blog know that we cannot resist picking up pretty rocks. Well, they don't come much prettier than Oregon Sunstone.

Sunstones are feldspar crystals that form in lava. Fourteen million years ago, a volcano in the Steens Mountains erupted, pouring out massive amounts of lava. The lava flow was subsequently covered by a vast lake and remained underwater for thousands of years. As the lake gradually dried up, the exposure to weather caused the lava to decompose and reveal loose sunstones - or crystals of feldspar. Oregon sunstone, also known as heliolite, is transparent with colors ranging from water-clear through pale yellow, soft pink, and blood red to (extremely rare) deep blue and green. And, they are ours for the taking. All we need do it get there.

Sunday, May 28, 2017, our last full day in the Lakeview area, we packed up the Jeep with water, lunch, shovels, rock hammer, knee pads, strainer and bags and headed off into the back of the beyond. We were not the only ones driving the 19 miles of gravel road in hopes of finding pretty rocks. The picnic area was full of weekend RVers hoping to bag some booty.

The directions to the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area were well marked. They had signs pointing the way.

There are several large mining claims surrounding the public area. Many of these sites let you collect from their tailing piles for a small fee. One commercial operation will let you collect from their highest-grade ore, selected for commercial processing, for a mere $200 an hour! No thanks, we like finding our rocks for free!

Since we'd never heard of sunstones before, we weren't exactly sure what we were looking for. Last night, we did a little internet searching and watched a helpful YouTube Video on collecting Oregon Sunstones. Apparently, there are two ways to collect. One is to dig a a hole a couple feet down and find the wet crumbly lava rocks and pull out the stones. Here is our attempt at digging a hole.

The second method is to walk around and look for shiny rocks. The second method proved much more fruitful than the first.  This was the result of an hour or so of surface scanning:

We filled our fruitless hole and went in search of greener pastures. The information kiosk suggested that visitors try the northwest sections of the collection area, and we theorized that drainages or washes might have more sunstones if the water had had more time to erode the lava.  We dug one more hole in a wash at the far corner of the BLM area, but realized we are really not set up for hard rock mining.  We really should have had bigger shovels and picks in order to dig deeper through the wash sediment and then punch through the top layer of rock.

We went back to the surface scanning method and doubled our findings. In order to avoid the crowds, we drove out to the furtherest boundary of the collecting area. Have Jeep will travel.

We finished up around 2:00 p.m. and drove back across the Warner Valley toward Lakeview. We stopped a couple times to watch the pronghorn play. Pronghorn antelope are the fastest ungulates in North America and can reach speeds of up to 40 miles an hour which makes them really hard to photograph. Here is our best shot.

Back in camp, we took stock of our rocks. In the photo below, our biggest sunstone find poses on Kathy's hand beside the stone in her ring for size comparison.  Not too shabby!  Any suggestions on what to do with all the sunstones we collected?

Tomorrow, we will be heading toward Bend, Oregon to visit with family. It may be a couple days before we get a chance to blog again. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Paddling Cottonwood Meadows Lake

Lakeview, Oregon is the county seat of Lake County.  Lake County is aptly named because, despite the fact that the landscape around Lakeview seems arid - nearby Goose Lake has recently often been nothing more than a dry lakebed, and this year, even with heavier rains, is nothing more than a shallow, milky, sterile alkali lake - the nearby mountains are dotted with beautiful mountain lakes and, due to the surrounding mountains, those lakes are full and fertile.

The National Forest ranger we checked in with when we arrived in Lakeview suggested we try Cottonwood Meadow Lake for a kayak.  It was about a 45 minute drive from our campground.  As we drove into the mountains, a state trooper who does double duty as a forest ranger stopped to see if we needed any help, and told us that the lake only had maybe seven campsites occupied, and two other boats enjoying the water.  Since this is Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, it sounded like we were going to be lucky.  And indeed we were; the lake sits prettily among snow-capped mountains:

While we met the other boaters, they quickly disappeared to another part of the lake, and we had this part to ourselves.  We started out on our paddle:

The shoreline of the lake is fringed with grasses and similar estuarial plants, especially where four different streams brought clear winter snowmelt into the lake:

The outlet of the lake is Cottonwood Creek, which itself empties into Cottonwood Reservoir, which supplies water to the valley below.  At the outlet, a rustic wooden footbridge crossed the stream to a hillside still patched with snow:

We took our time exploring the shoreline.  Some coves of the lake were very calm, giving reflections of paddlers, trees and nearby mountains alike:

There was still snow on the surrounding mountains:

Since the lake is in a national forest, fallen trees around the lake generally rested where they fell, although forest rangers do apparently cut fallen timber in order to keep the shoreline clear.  It was hard to tell how many decades ago this giant met his fate, but his roots remain an impressive monument to his regal past:

We were warned that, while it is very pretty, Cottonwood Meadow Lake might not have as much wildlife as some nearby lakes, such as Dog Lake, but what lured us here was the likelihood that it would not be crowded.

As it turned out, we spotted lots of wildlife.  Kathy spied a bald eagle and eventually tracked it to its nest at the top of one of the tallest fir trees at the lake. We also were astounded to find SEVEN pelicans hanging out on a tree trunk in the middle of the lake and lazily fishing between naps and birdy conversations:

Yet, the big bonus of the day was a pair of nesting sandhill cranes.  We accidentally disturbed one as we started around the lake, and he flew off to the other shore before we could catch a photo.  David decided he was going to stalk the crane and get a good portrait of him.  When we paddled back around the lake, we saw him in the weeds, trying to hide from us.  David paddled toward him and he started calling.  There was another crane that called in response!  The two kept exchanging cries, and, soon, the second crane started moving out of a nearby copse, joined the first, and they continued their cries, moving away from the copse.  Eventually, one of the cranes started spreading its wings in an aggressive posture.  We inferred that the pair had a nest in the grove of trees and were trying to lure us away from it.  We decided not to bother them further, but before we paddled away, David caught this shot of the two birds:

Two lazy paddles around the lake, with a lunch in the middle, and we were ready to pack up our kayaks and start the drive home.  This wasn't a long paddle, nor really a strenuous one, but it was one of the prettiest lakes we've visited and it was such a pleasure to just move quietly across the water and enjoy the wildlife that inhabited it.  We'll mark this visit on our list of favorite outdoor memories.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bushwhack to the Tripoint Monument

Hi Blog!

We made it to Oregon! We have left the Eastern Sierras and are working our way over to the Eastern Cascades. We are now in lava land!

When we arrived in Lakeview, Oregon yesterday, we went to several Visitor Centers (Lakeview Ranger District Office, BLM - Forest Service Interagency Office and Lakeview Chamber of Commerce) in order to get local information. When researching things to do in Lakeview, we learned there was a Tripoint Monument marking the border of California, Oregon and Nevada. There is supposed to be a hiking trail to the monument. None of the visitor centers had any information on how to get to this monument. We found a write-up on the internet, along with several topo maps. We decided we would try and find the monument all on our own.

We left Base Camp RV Park in Lakeview and headed East on Highway 140, also know as the Warner Highway, as we had to go up and over the Warner Mountains in order to reach the Surprise Valley where the monument is located. Along the way, we passed Deep Creek Falls.

According to our research, the trailhead was supposed to be on an old BLM Road called Tripoint Trail. However, when we arrived at the GPS location (N 41.99003 W 120.03740) it appeared the old road was now behind a fence. Undaunted, we began to hike parallel to the fence, keeping the road in sight. The fence portion didn't last long and we soon found ourselves in a wide open valley complete with antelope and deer.

It didn't take long to realize there wasn't going to be much of a trail to follow. However, if you look closely in the photo below, you can almost make a out a two wheeled track leading off into the distance. We did our best to follow this track. However, it disappeared at the edge of a canyon. We knew we had to climb down into the canyon and back up again. When we reached the far side of the canyon, there were no more tracks to follow. We had to rely on our own route finding skills.

We had to stop several times to compare our maps and the GPS in order to make sure we continued walking in the correct direction. Once we reached the Twin Lakes, we knew were were not far from our quarry.

The Surprise Valley is part of the Great Basin desert. However, it receives abundant water from the Warner Mountains, making the valley green, which was a "surprise" for the early explorers. Despite all the greenery, we still couldn't escape the lava flows. Here is Kathy boulder-hopping in honor or Memorial Day Rug Rat Camping!

As we searched the ground for signs of a trail, we discovered the entire area was covered with obsidian eggs. A few of them may have jumped into Dave's backpack when we wasn't looking. All that looking down paid off. We found an old survey marker. Here Kathy compares her GPS coordinates with the survey marker from 1950.

We knew we were getting close to our quarry when we saw a fence stretching as far as the eye could see and ending at a canyon. In the photo below, you are looking into Oregon. California is to the left of the fence and Nevada is to the right of the fence.

Just on the other side of the fence, we found the Tripoint Monument (N 41.99494, W 119.99952). Here is our monumental selfie!

Once we got a closer look at the monument, we realized that it was a GeoCache! Kathy dove right in, pulling the cache apart and inspecting all the goodies that folks have left. We signed the register and carefully packed up everything and returned the canister to its place of honor.

We decided to have lunch in the shade of some old juniper trees. It turns out that these trees were marked as "bearing trees." We have since learned that a bearing tree, while not a property corner, is an integral part of the corner because it witnesses the location of a property corner by means of what surveyors call a tie (bearing and distance) between the center of the base of a bearing tree and the property corner. So, we actually had lunch on the corner of California, Oregon and Nevada!

After lunch, we tried our hand at Tripoint Monument twister. Here Dave has feet in both Nevada and Oregon and a hand in California!

Kathy's Tripoint Twister produced boots in both California and Oregon and two hands in Nevada!

Having reach our goal, we were much more relaxed on the return trip. All we had to do was follow our GPS track back to the car. We took a number of side trips. Dave cannot mask his pleasure at finding some old bones, including a skull, from what presumably was a range cow.

On the way back, we hiked down to the shores of Upper Twin Lake. The high mineral content, mostly sodium carbonate, make the lake milky.

By the time we returned to the Jeep, we had hiked five miles. Not having a trail only added to the adventure.

Eddie and George Wake Up in Lakeland, Oregon

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Paddling Antelope Lake

We were really excited to drive up to Antelope Lake to put our kayaks in the water!  When we checked with the forest ranger at the Eagle Lake District Office near Susanville, we asked her which lake she would paddle if she had just one choice.  Her answer was immediate:  "Antelope Lake!"  We took that to heart.

Antelope is a pristine lake in Plumas National Forest, southeast of Lassen National Park.  As we drove by the lake, we got this overview of it:

We got into the lake quickly.  We had been warned that the weather would be windy today, so we wanted to do our paddling early in order to avoid too much wind.  Here, Kathy is showing how calm the lake water was in one of the coves:

The lake's shoreline is one cove after another, which gave us lots of opportunities to explore.  Here is one of the picturesque points --

-- and here is another:

Someone had pegged birdhouses to trees along the lake's margin.  We didn't spot any feathered residents, but it seems like a good idea.

At one point, Kathy looked across the end of the lake and spotted sheep on a grassy meadow in one cove.  By the time we got over there, she realized that she had spotted geese - not sheep.  This flock was tending to chicks and, while nervous about our approach, did not fly away because the chicks can't fly yet:

The shore was decorated with boulders of all types and sizes.  This one caught our eye:

And Kathy spotted a type of water flower that - while not a water lily - still decorated the surface of the water of one cove we paddled through:

After lunch, as we neared the end of our trip, we spotted three different groups of mule deer.  This one - the last one we saw, sat still for us as we crept close to snap a photo:

The wind was coming out of the northwest, and we worked our way up the western shore of the lake in order to let the wind push us back to our embarkation point at the Jeep.  There was a beautiful island positioned exactly in the path we would follow as we paddled downwind, so we paddled from the far shore to the island, then around the island, before heading back to our starting point.  At one point around the island, we spotted these beautiful wildflowers:

All in all, it was a gorgeous day and a relaxing paddle.  No odyssey, we only paddled 4 miles.  But we enjoyed every minute and had spectacular scenery to enjoy, at the north end of the Sierra Nevada on our last day before leaving California to head north into eastern Oregon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Biking the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

Hi Blog!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017, was our first full day in Susanville, California. We decided to explore the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail. Our campground was only a couple miles from the trailhead. We got an early start, as the warm weather is finally catching up to us. We may finally be able to pack away the snowshoes!  Here, David shows us the trailhead sign.

The Bizz Johnson Trail follows the route of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad line, which was established in 1914 for transporting logs and milled lumber to and from a mill in Westwood, California. The mill closed in 1956, and in 1978 Southern Pacific Railroad received approval to discontinue use of the old line. However, a portion of the track was still there.  The trail extends 25 miles, from Susanville to Westwood.  We weren't going to try to pedal a full 50-mile out-and-back, but we did want to see some of the most interesting parts of the trail through the Susan River Canyon.

We started our ride by pedaling between two sets of railroad tracks. We were beginning to worry the entire trail might be like this. Then, all of a sudden, the tracks just stopped! No explanation was given. Dave tried to figure out why, but it left him upside down.

We learned that the trail is managed by the BLM. The Bureau of Land Management spearheaded conversion of the corridor to a trail, and former California congressional representative Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1958 to 1980, was instrumental in establishing this segment as a rails-to-trails conversion for recreational use. The trail is named in his honor. Here is Kathy on the first of 12 bridges.

On our way to the Bizz Johnson Trailhead, we rode along the Susan River Trail. The Susan River is approximately 67 miles long and drains an arid plateau of volcanic highlands along the Great Basin Divide. The river flows from east of Lassen Volcanic National Park past Susanville and emerges into a ranching valley to enter the north end of Honey Lake, which lies south of Susanville near US395. Along with Fredonyer Pass, the Susan River is the northern boundary of the Sierra Nevada. It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of our exploration of the Sierra Nevada.

With all the recent snow melt, the Susan River was running full. Folks in the area are on a flood watch this week. We heard this waterfall before we actually saw it.

On the Bizz Johnson Trail, we rode next to the Susan River as it cut a path through the Susan River Canyon. We were often surrounded by tall volcanic cliffs like this.

The further up the canyon we rode, the more picturesque the stream became.

We also marveled at the various and unique rock outcrops looking down on us.

Rencent flooding took out a large chunk of the old railroad grade. We had to carefully work our way around the gap in the trail.

We soon spotted the first of the two tunnels along the trail.

As we entered the first tunnel, we could feel the temperature change. It was positively frigid in the middle of the tunnel. It was also so dark, we could not see the trail, so we decided to walk our bikes. Here Dave has made it to the light. Luckily, it wasn't an on coming train.

We took a few minutes to marvel at the construction. The workers had to blast through tons of volcanic rock. We noticed that this first tunnel was supported with metal beams.

The second tunnel we reached was constructed of wood.

The land on either side of the river is a combination of public and private land. At one point, we heard a herd of sheep working their way down to the river for a drink. We tried several times to get photos, but they were sheepish and stayed well hidden in the brush.

After riding for about 10 miles, we took a break at the Devil's Corral Trailhead. As we stretched our legs, we ran into a local couple with two horses and two dogs. We chatted a little bit about the area and they gave us a great suggestion for a scenic drive. We thanked them as they galloped off.

After our snack, we began our "coast" back to Susanville. We hadn't realized we were biking uphill the whole morning. Our return trip was an easy downhill glide.

It didn't take long to make it back to the trailhead.

"The End"!

Rather than follow the Susan River Trail back to camp. We took a side trip into Susanville and finished our ride with a stop at the Lassen Ale Works at the Old Pioneer Saloon. Located in one of the most historic buildings in Susanville, this brew pub did not disappoint. Great atmosphere, great food and great beer. What more could an RVer ask for?