Kayaking Applegate Lake

Kayaking Applegate Lake
Kayaking Applegate Lake

Friday, July 6, 2018

07-05-2018 Playing Close to Home

Current Location: Grants Pass Oregon at 86 degrees F with strong breezes and mostly clear skies

It has been a precious summer so far.  For the entire month of June I breathed in the blue skies and fresh air without a touch of smoke from wildfires to mar the loveliness.  Sometimes during a simple quick run to the grocery store I would be completely awed by the technicolor blues and greens that made me wonder if I hadn’t perhaps ingested some sort of mind altering substance without knowing it. 

The colors were almost psychedelic, cartoonish, so brilliant that I would just breathe and drive and gasp out loud all alone in the car.  I know the fires will come eventually, the clear air will go gray and dingy when the smoke from the wildfires that are already beginning to dot the maps of the west finds our valley once again.  Then again…could we really be lucky enough to skip the smoke this year?  I haven’t lived here long enough to really know if that is a possibility.  Smoke always seems to come when everything is at its most beautiful.  Maybe not this year, I’ll wait and see.

This is our first summer actually living in Grants Pass full time.  Mo and I are enjoying having more time to fiddle around with projects.  Mo’s most recent creation was an arbor for the old front gate area, where she used two old doors that we saved from the cottage as side walls.  Thank you, Pinterest, for the ideas!  We loved the old doors in the cottage, built in 1926, and I think these doors were originals.  Mo cut and sanded and painted, figuring out the puzzle of using the old existing gate posts as standards, and making the whole thing fit in, level and even.

I love the arbor, and the old gate that it surrounds.  Somehow it feels like a portal to me, a portal from the outside world into a magical world of our own making.  I love the feeling of memories of the old cottage contained in those old doors.

July 4th was quiet this year.  Daughter Melody and her family had other plans.  For years she has missed sharing time with her old theater friends from the days she lived in Albany, and now that she is in Eugene, just an hour away from Albany where those friends live, she was able to attend the annual Fourth of July party with the theater group.  She told me a year ago that she would NOT be available this year for our traditional family time.  

Instead she and Robert drove down from Eugene on Saturday to spend the weekend with us, and on Sunday daughter Deborah showed up for yummy brunch, family time, and the traditional game of Bocci Ball, which seems to show up every year on the 4th, no matter where we are.

On the actual 4th, Mo and I decided that we needed some sort of entertainment that was out of the ordinary house work, yard work, book work, and such, and decided to try out the trails in our nearby county and BLM park.

Cathedral Hills is a big park, with several miles of trails for mountain bikes, hiking, and horseback riding, no motorized vehicles allowed.  Still, when hiking, a mountain biker barreling down those trails can seem quite fearsome, especially when getting off the trail involves negotiating the thick stands of poison oak and corralling Mattie!

This view from the Hogback Trail is facing east toward our house, which lies on that terrace at the base of the mountain to the right of the big pine tree.

Close friends know that Mo has been having some ankle trouble lately, and it has kept our hikes short and to a minimum.  She has been seeing a physical therapist and felt good enough that she thought she could handle at least a couple of miles of walking.

We started early in the day, while it was still cool, and found our way to the main entrance to the park, farther west than the Walker trailhead that is just half a mile down the road from our house.  I hiked the Walker trail a couple of years ago, and knew it was terrifically steep with tight switchbacks to the Hogback trail on the ridge.

There were quite a few people in the parking lot when we arrived, but the multiple trails were not the least bit crowded.  In our entire 3.5 mile hike we passed just a few people, horses, and dogs.  Mo’s ankle held up well, and she was only a little bit sore the next day.  Both of us were encouraged, since for the past 16 years one of our major forms of entertainment has included hiking and walking.  We surely don’t want to give that up!

My crazy hip did fine as well, with the buckets of Aleve that the doctor said I should take, insisting that my kidneys were strong.

After our hike, we came home and relaxed a bit, did some chores, had a early supper, and decided to brave the city crowds for the fireworks show at Reinhart All Sports Park in Grants Pass.  Once a long time ago, when we first bought the property in Grants Pass, I discovered the pedestrian bridge, but hadn’t explored the park.

Official parking was less than a mile from the park grounds where the fireworks were going to be set, and the walk through the park and across the river was lovely.  Mo’s ankle did start barking, and we decided that if we do this again, we will save the big hike for another day and save our steps for the park.

The music was loud, but in the distance, the crowds were pleasant, and not too thick, the police presence was there but not intrusive.  We set up our chairs and waited, hoping we were in the right place.  Many people around us hoped for the same thing since the city fireworks show hadn’t been in this location in the past.  In fact, last year, Grants Pass didn’t even have a fireworks show.

The show itself was interesting, and quite different from any I had seen before.  Gone were the big loud booms, with the wait, and then the bursting flower of color high in the sky.  Instead, some sort of machine shot out many bursts at once, in all directions.  They were lower in the sky, but very colorful and there were a LOT of them.  We enjoyed the show, but I did miss the big ones.  There were no fireworks allowed in the park, so the scary prospect of a firecracker set off underfoot by some crazy person wasn’t a problem.

The parking was handled exceptionally well, and we were surprised at how orderly and easy it was to exit the parking area and within minutes afterward we were back home.  It wasn’t a typical July 4th celebration for us, and I did miss the family time on a lake somewhere, but it was still very nice.  My kids know I get all silly about July 4th if I don’t have family around, but this time I was perfectly fine.

When Mo and I returned from our trip to South Beach, we left the kayaks on top the baby car, thinking that we would find a lake to kayak soon enough.  On the last Wednesday in June, we traveled south through the Applegate Valley beyond Ruch and the wineries, to Applegate Lake.  It is actually a reservoir, with only a little bit of shoreline showing and the water wasn’t terribly low as is the case in some of the other reservoirs in this area on the west side of the mountains.

I remember a couple of decades ago when Melody lived in Ruch, and saw Applegate Lake for the first time.  I still lived in Idaho, and she called me in a panic saying, “What is wrong with this lake??  It has a huge bathtub ring?!!”.  She had the luxury of being raised in the Northern Idaho Eastern Washington lake country, where every lake is real, and very few have dams that let out the water to levels that make for those ugly steep brown exposed shorelines.  Here on the west side, every lake we have found is actually a reservoir, with associated levels that are affected by the spring rains, snowmelt, and irrigation.  This year, with a drought officially claimed, those levels are going down fast.

Still, our day on the Applegate was perfect.  The skies were again that technicolor blue, with only a light breeze.  We first checked out the official campground and boat launch site, but it really didn’t have much to offer and was at the northern edge of the lake, without much to see on the shoreline.  There was also a $7.00 fee to launch and the manager of the place was rather rude.  I told him nicely we would look for another launch, and he said, “Your stuff won’t be safe there, why in the world would you want to be on that end of the lake?!”  Duh, we are kayakers, not boaters, and we want complex shoreline, little coves, and no big fast boats getting in our way!

The Copper launch was just about perfect.  Clear water, no silty mud, and nice long paved launch where we could take the car right to the water. Something I read on Wiki was fascinating.  The boat ramp is the upper part of the road that once went to the town of Copper, buried forever when the lake was filled in 1980.

Once on the lake we traveled south, and found a beautiful little cove the meandered back into the forest, shrouded with shady firs, and huge rock cliffs.  It was back here that we did see some birdlife, mostly geese, but with their little ones they were very entertaining.

There were a few more kayakers on the water, but they weren’t intrusive, and told us about another cove farther south past a place they called “The Orchard”.  Sure enough, we continued south and found this inlet, along with a big open park that looked like a campground.  Still planning to check if it is a day use area only or includes overnight camping. 

We spent about 2 1/2 hours on the water, enjoying every single moment of crystal clear skies. clear clean water, and brilliant sunshine. I am sure we will return to this lake in the future, since it is the best place so far on this side of the mountains for kayaking.  As I said before, the mighty Rogue River is a bit much for us, with a strong, fast current.  It is a big river, with lots of rapids in between the quiet places, and neither of us is particularly interested in that kind of kayaking in our long lake boats. 

I packed a picnic for us and we shared it on a real picnic table overlooking the lake.  I have no clue what we did for the rest of the afternoon, but were back home by 2. 

Being on the road and traveling in the summer can get so tiresome, with overcrowding, parks full of kids, hot weather, and no vacancies plaguing so many folks any more.  Our idea of good summer times is enjoying all the beauty of our own local world.  I think we are off to a good start.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

06-20-2018 The Family Gathers

We are home in Grants Pass after traveling once again to the Oregon Coast for a few days.  Mo’s brother Roger passed away last summer and his wife and daughters thought that it would be a good thing to have the family gather at one of his favorite places for a bittersweet good bye.

The Five Oukrop Siblings, Dan, Edna, Roger, Sharon (Mo), and Don at a family reunion in 2012

South Beach State Park is just a couple of miles south of the sweet coastal town of Newport, and boasts 227 sites with electric and water, and 27 yurts, 14 of them dog friendly.  Roger’s wife Nancy started planning the event many months ago, calling on the first day of availability to reserve several yurts and several RV sites, all within close proximity to each other.  She also arranged reservations for some of the out of town relatives without camping vehicles to stay at the nearby Holiday Inn Express. 

When I counted everyone that was present in the family photo there were 41 family members there. The majority live in Oregon, but some came from Illinois, Washington State and Colorado to bid Roger a last goodbye.

The Oukrop clan is an amazing family, and as the years have passed I have seen the family reunions shift as the sons and daughters of Mo’s brothers and sister are now having sons and daughters of their own.  Mo and I are amazed at all the little kids running around that are now part of the ever expanding family.

South Beach is a great location for these kinds of gatherings, especially for a physically active and sports minded family like this one.  The park boundary begins at the southern edge of Newport along the Yaquina Bay Bridge and stretches several miles to the south.  There are walking trails and paved bike trails in addition to miles of sandy beaches. 

I love walking the beach here because unlike most Oregon Coast beaches which are rugged and rocky, this one is broad and flat, separated from the campground by dunes and sea grasses, much like some of the beaches in Florida. 

We traveled I-5 north to Sutherlin and then turned west toward the ocean following the route of the Umpqua River.  Almost every road that crosses the coast range between the valley and the ocean is rugged and curvy, and this was no exception.  It isn’t a scary road at all, just a bit narrow, and with a few surprising curves.  The day was incredibly gorgeous, with temperatures going into the 90’s inland near home and dropping by degrees to the low 60’s as we approached the beach.

We arrived late afternoon, just about the same time as the rest of the group, and were happy to set up camp and then go to town for dinner with the rest of the RV campers.  The Chowder Bowl is a little seafood restaurant in the part of Newport called Nye Beach, and has never been a disappointment.  I ordered the special, chipotle shrimp tacos, and Mo’s sister in law Chere reminded me that I ordered the very same thing 2 years ago when we gathered with family at this same restaurant.  Of course, that time, Roger was still with us.

We woke the next morning to cloudy skies, but the temperatures weren’t terribly chilly, just enough for a jacket for our long morning walk on the beach.  Later in the day, some of the family gathered at the beach as well, and I had a great time trying to photograph the little kids doing all that little kid stuff.

The littlest ones at the beach (photo courtesy of Ginny Taylor Don’s daughter) 

Brother Don and his son Lanson

Lanson’s son Ryder

Lanson’s wife Mandy catching up with her mother-in-law Wynn. They are a very close family.

That evening there was another gathering of people around the motorhomes with shared horseshoes, good food, and campfires. 

On Friday we drove south to the Beaver Creek boat launch.  Brother Don brought his sleek wooden kayak in addition to another tandem kayak and we had our two kayaks. 

The two older boys, Roger’s grandson Logan, and Dan’s grandson Owen won the kayak lottery and we had a great time on the water.

We had kayaked Beaver Creek in the past, but this time it was prettier, even though the wind did come up on the return trip downriver.

Another gathering of food and family around the campfire that evening rounded out the day. Sitting around the campfire it seems that much of the entertainment involves watching the little kids.  I also love watching the mom’s doing their mom thing.  Each of Don’s offspring have 3 kids, and they are all close in age, so I get a big kick out of watching all of them without having to do a thing except watch. I was mother to 4 of my own, all very close together, and I remember how that felt.  Ahhh…so nice to be old.

I enjoyed the chance to get to know some of the family members I hadn’t met before, including Dan and Chere’s son Zach and his wife Amy, with their two boys, and their daughter Rachel and husband Mike and their two kids.

Saturday morning finally brought a gorgeous sunrise with the promise of a lovely sunny day ahead, perfect for the main event for this family gathering.

Dan and I rose at 5:30 every morning to take the dogs for a walk on the quiet deserted beach

In addition to arranging all the camping and hotel facilities, Nancy also set up a lovely memorial celebration held at the beautiful Oregon Coast Aquarium in town.  It was a lovely venue, with the event room located at the edge of the bay in a beautiful garden with the big shark tank decorating one of the walls of the room. 

We had an hour to socialize, then an hour to eat some truly good food, and then an hour to share thoughts of Roger with those who loved him and knew him.  As Mo and I were getting ready, we were concerned that 3 hours seemed like a really long time for such a gathering, but it wasn’t at all, it was just perfect.

Roger’s niece Ginny remembering her uncle

Roger’s elder sister Edna spoke beautifully about her beloved little brother

Don gave a moving tribute to his elder brother

When the memorial was over, everyone drifted out into the aquarium grounds to enjoy the exhibits.  It was a wonderful way to let some of the sadness of the memorial dissipate as we walked around in the sun and watched the animals. 

On our final evening at the beach, Nancy and her daughters planned to spread the rest of Roger’s ashes in this place he loved.

We gathered up big bundles of firewood, (no beach driftwood), and with chairs and jackets headed for the beach. 

Some were a bit worried about whether we could actually get a campfire started with the wind blowing so strongly, but a cardboard box full of kindling and fatwood did the trick just fine.  The fire burned like it was fueled by a blowtorch.

Once the fire was going, Nancy and her daughters, Randi, Juli, and Angi, walked down to the water together with Roger’s ashes.  As cold as it was, they walked out into the surf and let the ashes return to the ocean that Roger loved so very much. 

We returned to the bonfire, and just a few minutes later we looked out to sea and there they were.  Whales!  We saw the first spout and then more and more as several whales were traveling just beyond the surf. If there was one thing Roger loved, it was playing in the water.  The whales never breached, but I think they were calling Roger to come and play with them.






 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 4 Escape to Howard Prairie Lake

Just a reminder, words that are in bold print are links that might interest you.  If you click on the photos, you will be redirected to the smugmug gallery where that photo resides.

Escaping is easy, it just requires a moment and a bit of planning and the commitment to put it on the calendar.  Somehow if it’s on the calendar, we manage to do it.  The original plan was for a trip to the desert, to the east side of Oregon, basking in the high dry gorgeousness of the Steens Mountains. I can’t believe it has been so many years since we were there.  It seemed like a lovely thing to do in early June.

Company gone, chores caught up, we put a week of escape days into the calendar.  I mapped the route, looked at Page Campground near French Glen, checked the weather, read the blog about our last trip to the Steens over Labor Day one year.  Then something happened.  Seven hours of driving, no water to play on, gorgeous high desert that is known for gnats in June at the campground, hiking the main entertainment.  Off grid.  For no reason I can explain, I said to Mo, “Why don’t we go to Howard Prairie instead?  We can kayak and have a campfire and enjoy the forest again.”  That is how a long trip to the high desert turned into a short trip into the western slope of the nearby Cascades.

On the map, you can see Rocky Point on the upper right corner, where we used to live, on the left, our home in Grants Pass.  It somewhat explains why we never managed to get to Howard Prairie again, even though Mo and her family used to have family camping and boating get togethers there many years ago, before I knew them. Living in Rocky Point, we were so close to so many outdoor options, lakes, rivers, the refuges, that we forgot about Howard Prairie.

Now that we live in town, on the west side, we have to be a bit more creative in finding good places to kayak, and that most often leads us back to the mountains east of Grants Pass.

Time surely does have a way of disappearing.  We had good memories of a camping trip to Grizzly Campground at Howard Prairie, but when was that?  Not in the blog?  Oh no!  It was before I started blogging. No journal of the trip?  Oh my!  I finally found the photos, from the summer of 2006, the first year I moved  from Klamath Falls Oregon to Sonora California for my work.  I drove the truck back to Oregon and Mo met me at Howard Prairie with our baby MoHo.  I wish I had written about the trip then, because we spent a lot of the time trying to remember which site we were in, and where we had kayaked. 

What we did remember, however, was that we went to the Britt Music Festival in Ashland, and then drove back up to the mountain lake to spend the rest of the weekend.  That first night we were all alone in the campground, and as we drove in the pitch darkness was a bit disconcerting.  The campground isn't terribly small, 19 sites, and is located right next to the main road.  It was one of the few times in our RVing experience where we were definitely a bit spooked.

That year we had a lovely day on the lake, with water flowers, pelicans, gorgeous views of the mountains, but this time when we got out in our boats, nothing looked familiar.  Howard Prairie Lake is actually a reservoir, and is currently at less than 60 percent of capacity due to the low snow pack from the previous winter.  The shoreline is so far down that the lake is significantly smaller. 

The only factor that wasn’t particularly nice about that low water was the mucky bottom along the shoreline.  Our site was adjacent to the water, and we carried the boats down, hunting for a place to launch.  Mo chose the rocky lower bottom of the closed boat launch, and I chose the mucky bottom.  Still, once we were on the water, everything felt wonderful.

Our morning kayak on the lovely lake was filled with birds, especially the Canada geese with literally hundreds of babies.  The American white pelicans were around, not more than half a dozen at a time, but they entertained us perfectly with their F15 type flying maneuvers low over the water.  I filmed one of them feeding, and he basically ignored me as he dumped over and over into the water in search of goodies.

We saw eagles and ospreys, too high to photograph well from the rocking kayak, and what I later discovered was a spotted sandpiper.  We heard kingfishers, and killdeer.  It is what we love best about our Oregon waterways, all the amazing birdlife.

Once again we had the entire campground almost entirely to ourselves.  The first night a lone camper drifted in and the next morning we met him after his morning yoga on the beach.  He and a friend had just graduated from Berkeley and they were celebrating by driving around the Pacific Northwest.  He rushed over when we saw us approaching the landing area, offering to help us if needed. I guess maybe he was worried because we looked too old to get out of the kayaks alone?  Ha!  It might be funny to watch, but we can still manage it.

The second night we were joined late in the evening by a lone camper in a white truck who quietly set up his hammock and disappeared early the next morning.  On Wednesday night, during a sunny pleasant week in June, we had the entire campground completely to ourselves.  Totally dark and totally silent and totally alone.  For some reason, it wasn’t the least bit spooky this time. 

We woke in the mornings with the eastern sunshine pouring in through the forest and the lake mists, to chilly temperatures.  Waiting an hour or so for the sun to warm up the air a bit, we launched the kayaks for time on the water before the winds came up.  Still, the paddles back home were more challenging because even by 10 or 11 on the lake, the breezes made for choppy water.

We would return from our boating forays before noon and cook a nice breakfast, which served as a great lunch as well.  Two meals a day is perfect when camping it seems. Although one afternoon we did supplement our home cooking with some ice cream from the resort grocery store.

In the afternoons we explored the other campgrounds around Howard Prairie, checked out the resort, with its big campground with hookups, a store, and a marina.  Even the fancy campgrounds were not even close to full, with lots of space.

Another afternoon we drove south to Hyatt Lake, a smaller reservoir nearby, with water that was even lower than that at Howard Prairie.  Hyatt is a lovely little lake, and unlike the Jackson County campgrounds that are around Howard Prairie, the Hyatt campgrounds are administered by the BLM, and are reservation only sites.  On each campsite is a number to call to get a reservation, which you can do on the same day.  Although cell service is basically unavailable, so we decided that if we ever wanted to camp at Hyatt, we would have to really plan ahead.

Sometimes we just say “no” even with 4 wheel drive

I didn’t realize that the infamous Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument boundary actually included the eastern and southern shoreline of both of these lakes.  We started up the rough dirt road, crossing the Pacific Crest Trail, toward the Yew Springs Road, but without maps, the forests looked all the same and we had no idea how far the road went through the same kind of landscape.  Later I did some research and discovered an entirely new world of amazing places to hike and explore right here in our own back yard Cascades Monument.  The hike to Hobart Bluff is definitely on our list of things to do.

The monument is only infamous if you are among my friends who have tracked some of the issues surrounding National Monuments in our country at this time.  This is one slated for reduction, and is the subject of much controversy in the area, some pro, some against, but everyone has a strong opinion.  Much to say here, but I’ll save that for private conversations.

Another lovely feature at Howard Prairie is the beautiful trail that encircles the entire lake, with several sections that are accessible from different points.  We walked part of the trail between our Grizzly Campground and the main Howard Prairie Resort, and another part of the trail that surrounded the upper part of what was once lake but now is only meadow.  The nice thing about the low water was that at this time of year, the exposed banks were covered with thick green vegetation and tons of wildflowers, including huge drifts of yellow monkeyflower.  It was breathtaking.

Wandering through the woods, I was tickled inside to find so many little forbs and flowers familiar from my soil mapping days in Northern Idaho.  Similar species, and even some that are the same, and many that are indicators of moist soils from which they spring. Recognizing some, remembering their names, and seeing others that I had no clue about reminded me that it has been awhile since identifying all those little forbs and flowers was part of my job.

Mo made a great campfire every single night, with well seasoned wood from trees we had taken down on the Grants Pass property a few years ago.  We sat outside by the fire for our supper, without a single pesty mosquito or fly or any kind of bug to bother us.  Still can’t quite figure that one out, but there are very few bugs around the upper end of Howard Prairie, even down by the water.  When we were out in the boats, on the larger portion of the lake, we did encounter a few bugs, but nothing like what we have experienced in the Klamath Basin.

Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, the Western Fairy Slipper

During our entire respite, we had no cell service to speak of, except a few notifications that would pop up now and then.  I couldn’t actually see them, so unless I was trying to use the maps, I turned off the pesky phone with it’s irritating notification noises.  No internet of course, no email, nothing.  I love that time for completely shutting off the electronic world, and while it can be a bit of a withdrawal, it has wonderful rewards.  I found myself a bit reluctant to move back into the connected world which seems so full of “stuff”.  It is easy to simply hide away in your own little bubble in the mountains and pay no attention whatsoever to the dramas ensuing in the outside world.

Anemone Piperi, Piper’s Windflower

Delphineum menziesii Larkspur

We ran the generator each morning to keep the batteries charged up, paid attention to our water use and did all the dry camping things that one does for saving water, knowing that we only had a few days back to long hot showers at home  It’s easy to do for a short time, but of course a longer stay would require a bit more care.  Our rig is small, without the huge holding tanks that the big guys have, so boondocking for us is limited to about 5 days reasonably.  We could do more, but so far haven’t really needed to.

We returned to Grants Pass by way of a circular route back east to Lake of the Woods.  I wanted to see if that campground was as empty as the camps around Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake.  Sunset Campground, where we have spent July 4th and have never been able to get a reservation to camp, no matter when I try, was half empty.  However all the sites were reserved for the weekend.  In the past, people usually reserve sites for two full weeks before the 4th in order to have them for that day.  Crazy stuff. 

We enjoyed our short camping trip thoroughly, driving a bit reluctantly back to civilization and regular life. It was great to get back to our sweet comfy home, but it is all the sweeter when we know that magical escapes like this one are so nearby.