Crane Prairie Reservoir Cascade Lakes

Crane Prairie Reservoir Cascade Lakes
Crane Prairie Reservoir Cascade Lakes

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

09-14-2020 A Wheel of Fortune Birthday

As I write this morning, the air is cooler, insulated from the September sun by the thick smoke that surrounds us and extends over much of the United States. I am grateful for every little bit of relief, no matter how small

After Jimmy and Nickie left for Farewell Bend and Crater Lake, we settled in to what seemed to be a gorgeous day.  Clear skies with winds still over 20 mph didn’t hamper our work on the property raking up debris from the huge windstorm from the previous night. 

What we didn’t realize on that Tuesday was that the huge windstorm had triggered huge fires that were moving at warp speed toward communities all over the state of Oregon.

I monitored the fires and made repeated efforts to contact Nickie to no avail.  We settled in and enjoyed the gorgeous skies here in Grants Pass for another day.

Melody and Robert’s home in Brownsville

On Wednesday morning messages were flying back and forth between me and my two daughters.  Melody, youngest, was in Brownsville north of Eugene with what is now called the Holiday Farm fire racing toward her community. 

We had some good meals while the kids were here

Moments later after extended conversations with Deborah, oldest daughter, where she insisted she would be fine, I received a terse message saying, “We have been evacuated, I am coming there.”  Shortly after Deborah arrived, I got a message from Melody saying that she and her family were evacuating as well.  Their home wasn’t in an evacuation area just yet, but the speed of the fires frightened her and she needed to leave.

Melody has been working from home since COVID began and continued to do so from here

Before all this started, Mo and I had made reservations with Maryruth and Gerald to have a very special dinner at Morrison’s River Lodge on the Rogue River.  The young chef is new and his reputation was stellar. 

We thought a beautiful dinner outdoors on a lovely deck overlooking the Rogue was just what we all needed to take our minds off what was just beginning to be a week from hell in Oregon.

We added Deborah to the reservation and Maryruth’s daughter was also visiting from California, escaping her fires and smoke near Sacramento. 

Deborah and Cathy are just 3 days apart in age, and have known each other since they were 8 months old, when Maryruth and I first met.

It was a wonderful evening, with absolutely stellar food presented beautifully. 

In addition to the most tender brisket I have ever eaten, (sorry Janna), we had salads and veggies from the on site garden, and iconic Oregon blackberry creme brulee for dessert. 

Excellent Oregon Pinot Noir and a local rose accompanied the lovely meal.  What a treat! 

The air remained crystal clear until just a few minutes before our departure for the river and by the time we settled down for dinner the skies were murky and the sun was orange.  It was only the beginning.

The next few days are a blur in my mind, with Melody and Robert keeping their cats company in the closed garage since we didn’t want to lose them in a strange house.  Deborah and Melody spent much time attempting to keep track of the changing evacuation zones near her house, and trying to see where the fires were headed. 

Mattie loves having company and adores Robert

The smoke was thick every single day, and as we watched the small towns of Phoenix and Talent between Medford and Ashland were decimated.  The destruction is horrendous, and so far we have no clear numbers as to homes lost or casualties, which is also true for the rest of Oregon.  Law enforcement keeps saying they want real numbers before they say how many lives have been lost.

On Friday, Deborah decided to return home, and using her identification was able to get through the evacuation barriers to her home, which was fine.  Today the fire is growing in the opposite direction and we are all fairly certain she will be OK, except for the smoke which is awful no matter where you go.

By Sunday morning Robert and Melody felt safe enough to return home as well.  The fires are still burning but the horrendous winds which fueled the initial onslaught of destruction have dissipated.  Those winds were to use Nickie’s least favorite word, unprecedented.  Our weather comes from the coast to the west fairly consistently until an occasional winter storm will bring and east or a north wind.  This time 75 mph winds from the east were hot and dry, very unusual for this time of year on the west side of the Cascades where most of the fires are now burning.  Unprecedented.

Baking a birthday cake for my day

It is now Tuesday.  The news is ongoing, but the fast moving fires have so far slowed a bit, communities are beginning to assess the damage and everyone is basically in a holding pattern.  COVID receded to simple background noise during the worst of the onslaught, except for the difficulty encountered with sheltering people who were evacuated.  Once again instead of checking fire and smoke maps, I am checking the website that tracks COVID numbers.  We have a total of a bit more than 29,000 confirmed cases in Oregon and the deaths in the state are fairly consistent at 3 to 8 deaths per week.  Here in Josephine county we have had a total of 178 confirmed cased and only 2 deaths since all this began back in March.  I am grateful to live in Oregon.

All our travel and camping plans for the rest of the month have been cancelled.  Nowhere to go with all the forests and campgrounds closed and the skies all smoked in.  We are still hoping to travel north on the first of October to visit family in Northern Washington.

A long time ago I delved deeply into the study of the Tarot, not as a fortune telling tool, but as a psychological study of archetypal images and how we can be affected by them.  One of those great timeless archetypes is represented by a card called “The Wheel of Fortune”. 

Now cheapie kinds of fortune tellers will say if you get this card you might win the lottery, but when one goes a bit deeper into the psyche of the image it tells a completely different story.  I mention this because based on my birthday (today), I am in a Wheel of Fortune year.  Fun.  What it really means is that whether for good or bad you can expect your fortunes to change and your goal is to figure out how to stay centered and balanced in the midst of the wild ride.

I can’t think of a better way to describe the year that almost everyone has experienced, beginning for me with the death of my son.  My meditation for this 75th birthday is to focus on the center of that wheel and to do my very best to remain balanced as our fortunes spin and turn from good to bad to  terrifying. 


Sunday, September 13, 2020

09-06-2020 Great Times with Great Friends

When I last wrote, it was Tuesday morning and I was reeling from the overnight devastation that blew up in Oregon with very little warning.  I had no idea then just how extensive the damage would be, and wrote about our winds and our trees and our friends who had only disappeared the day before into the beautiful Cascades for a camping trip along the Rogue River.  It was a few days before we heard from Jimmy and Nickie (Out and About with Nickie and Jimmy) and if you would like to hear their version of this wild and wooly week, be sure to check in on Nickie’s blog.

However, on Saturday when they arrived at our home here in Grants Pass, the skies were gorgeous and if memory serves me right, there were no big fires burning anywhere near us. 

It was great to see them pull into the driveway and we were happy to share our home and fresh air with the refugees from fire and smoke in California.  Little did we know.

With much to catch up on since our last in person visit, we settled into the house for conversation and some relaxation before supper.  Even though our skies were clear, it was much too hot for al fresco dining on the deck, so I only stepped outside long enough to grill the marinated chicken for some tasty fajitas.

On a bit of a silly side note here:  I have to note how my word choices may have changed over the years.  I say “al fresco” much more often to describe outdoor dining since knowing Erin who now writes on FindPengiuns, and of course “tasty” was a favorite word of Awesome George the keeper of almost daily blog posts and many great “tasty” recipes.

But back to the weekend. Saturday was hot, but the air conditioning worked beautifully and dinner was enjoyable indoors.  After watching the weather predictions for record heat coming on Sunday we thought it might be nice to spend the day at the coast. It is just a 2 hour drive, much of it along the beautiful Smith River.  Highway 199 passes Jedediah Smith State and National Park on the way to our destination in Crescent City.  The entire idea seemed just perfect until the smoke began to thicken as we headed west.  What??  Smoky at the beach?  Unheard of! 

We watched the thermometer drop from 95 degrees at 10 AM in Grants Pass to just under 85 degrees in the shade of the huge redwoods in the forest at the park.  Even the smoke cleared a bit under the trees as they pumped oxygen into the surprisingly warm air.

Driving into the park, we had planned to travel the back route along the Howland Hill Road but were told that road was temporarily closed at the end closest to Crescent City.  Instead we drove to the day use area, and as fate would have it, found one of the few open spots for parking right under a favorite giant redwood along the narrow one lane road.

In Nickie’s blog she mentions light traffic on 199, but as regular travelers of that road Mo and I kept remarking to ourselves that we had never seen so many cars heading toward the beach as there were on this day. Admittedly, we rarely go to the coast in summer, for this very reason, usually much too crowded this time of year.  On a day of record heat in the Rogue Valley, it wasn’t surprising that everyone was headed for the coast.

We enjoyed the trees in the park, laughing and trying to figure out how to get panoramas that would depict the incredible height of this magnificent tree.   Nickie wandered off, (something she does often), and came back exclaiming that she had found a trail along a river down the hill through the brush.  We followed her through the thick vegetation till we came upon a lovely flat trail surrounded by huge trees, ferns and thick vegetation.

The walk was superb until I realized we were in the midst of legendary poison oak, with some of the evil vines extending 20 feet up in the trees.  Time to turn around! Walking through poison oak isn’t too difficult if you don’t have a happy little dog along that wants to explore every single thing.

Yes, the red stuff on that tree is poison oak

We returned to the car and continued toward Crescent City and our major destination, The Chart Room. It isn’t a fancy place, and dining is often accompanied by the loud barking of the resident sea lions that take over the pier.  Today they were out on the floating docks nearby, and the pier was thick with parked cars and many people lined up waiting for the same legendary fish and chips that brought us here.  The last time Mo and I were at this restaurant as we drove south last February it was a Monday and was closed.

We were really looking forward to the fish and chips, the predicted 69 degree coolness of the coast, and the fresh air.  Sadly, the temps were in the 90’s, feeling much hotter as we stood in the hot sun for 50 minutes waiting to place our order.  We then waited another half hour to receive the order.

Then it was a matter of deciding where to eat our glorious meal.  The beach was thick with people and hot with blazing sun.  No tables, nothing to sit on, no shade.  Instead we decided to drive south toward Crescent Beach looking for a parking spot.  Every single wide place in the road was filled with parked cars and people, people everywhere! 

Driving farther south on a side road to the west of Highway 101 toward Endert’s Beach we were thrilled to not only find a space to park, but perfectly level rocks in lovely shade for tables and a distant view of the ocean below us.  I wasn’t sure if the fish and chips were as good as they seemed or if they were enhanced by what it took to get them and the fact that we were really hungry since it was after 2PM.

After lunch we continued down to the end of Endert’s Beach Road to the beach trailhead.  The parking lot was filled to the brim, but one of the little compensations of a crummy disease is that little blue card I can hang in the windshield that gives me premium parking when it is needed most.  We parked in the handicap site right by the bathroom at the head of the trail.

The sign said it was only .6 of a mile to the beach.  Piece of cake!  I hiked Boundary Springs, and National Creek Falls, and through the redwoods.  I could do a mile standing on my head.

I discovered that a mile isn’t always just a mile.  The trail started out smooth and level but then descended rapidly over the coastal cliffs and ended at steep rocks that were a barrier that I couldn’t manage to navigate. 

Even Mattie couldn’t go down and run on the beach because of the many other dogs off leash with the same idea and they were a lot bigger than she was.  Still, in spite of the struggle for me and the disappointment for Mattie, I was glad we did the hike.  It was hot and a bit smoky, but the little beach tucked away at the bottom of the cliffs was delightful.

Back in the car we decided to try to find a spot of sand for Mattie to run free a bit, her favorite thing.  Mo parked across from Crescent Beach and took Mattie out to the sand.  She ran wild for about 20 seconds and then stopped cold and tried to run back to the car.  Either it was just too darn hot for her, or she was exhausted from all the previous hiking.  Our little girl is getting older, I guess, just like me.

We piled into the car and I think as Mo drove home along the winding Smith River, all three of us and the dog slept at least a little bit. 

Even though the smoke had been present at the beach, as we approached Grants Pass we were greeted extreme heat and hot temps.  Dinner wasn’t needed after our late afternoon meal and we settled in to visit a bit before bedtime.  It was then that we heard reports of a wind advisory for the following night.

When we woke on Monday, skies were clear and except for the wind advisory, everything seemed to be just fine.  After more visiting, and waffles and farmer’s market peaches for breakfast, Jimmy and Nickie packed up their rig and headed east toward the Cascades for their camping trip along the Rogue.

Not one of us had a clue what the coming week would bring.  But that is the rest of the story.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

09-07-2020 September Times



Such a great weekend we just spent with our California friends, Nickie and Jimmy Wilkinson. However,as I write this morning, I am watching wild winds blowing all sorts of debris across the property, depositing much of it on what just a few days ago was a nice litter free lawn and drive.  Change comes fast this time of year.
 

The shed is NOT crooked, it is lens distortion that I could not remove

I am also looking at fire maps, smoke maps, photos from friends and family in other parts of our state that are undergoing a firestorm of huge proportions.  Smoke is thick and dark all the way from Eugene to Portland.

Iconic landscapes that define the Oregon Cascades and their foothills are burning or evacuated.  MacKenzie Bridge along the MacKenzie River, the Mt Jefferson Wilderness, the gorgeous Santiam Canyon, and even our precious Silver Falls State Park are evacuated and in the line of fire. 


We were awakened at 1 by 40 mph winds and smoke so thick it infiltrated the house with doors opened for just a moment to check the property. Back to sleep at 4:30 AM, restless, still with power researching as much as I could find out.  A new fire at Collier State Park heading for Chiloquin, that this morning I see has managed to turn just enough west to run into Agency Lake at the upper end of Klamath Lake and miss the town of Chiloquin, but not the many homes scattered in the Oregon Shores developments of Agency Lake.
 
Power out here for just long enough to make us nervous, but it came back on in time for morning coffee.  Talking to my frightened daughter Melody on the phone, whose home in Brownsville is located between the two huge fires, one to the north and one to the south, and so far her town isn’t in danger. Incredibly, her power outage didn’t last long either. 


Melody’s home in Brownsville this morning
Our friends left yesterday around noon for their planned camping trip to Farewell Bend, with clear skies and fairly hot temperatures.  They had seen the predictions for a “major wind and fire event” to come.  Their home in California is thick with smoke, and they needed to breathe.  When they left, the smoke maps showed clear skies at their destination, but in the middle of the night when I woke up and checked the map, I can see they were surrounded by thick smoke and being battered by ridiculously high winds.  “Unprecedented”, using Nickie’s current least favorite word.

I worry, of course.  Farewell Bend is high enough in the mountains to have no cell phone coverage, much less internet coverage.  I am reasonably certain that if there were anything to fear, the forest service people would close the park and tell them to go.  So far I have heard nothing, so must assume they made it through the night without any trees falling on their rig, any fires starting in their area, and hopefully the ability to breathe.

I planned to sit and write about our truly delightful visit with them, but couldn’t even begin to do the happy la-la-la story that was completely overwhelmed by the events of the last 12 hours.  It happens so very quickly.

Speaking with daughter Deanna in Lincoln, Washington, I discovered that the fires in that area are even more devastating than they are here in Oregon.  The Whitman County town of Malden, population about 200 people,was largely destroyed by a fast moving fire.  Interstate 90, Highway 395, Highway 2 all closed.  Much of Washington under threat from even higher winds than we have here in Oregon.


More distortion from the quickie photo photo.  The building really is straight.

The sun is shining here, the smoke has thinned considerably, and the erratic winds come and go.  I may even get outside to water in time, but for the moment I will wait for the craziness to ebb a bit.  Those winds kick up with no warning whatsoever. 

In the meantime, I will wish the best for my friends camping in the Oregon mountains, for my daughter and her many friends in the Willamette Valley and the beautiful canyons on the west slope of the Cascades, for so many people in so many places that are dealing with what is turning out to be another devastating, unprecedented season of wildfire.

When I am ready, I will slip back into the pleasant recent memories of our time with Nickie and Jimmy, both here at home and on our day trip to the Oregon Coast. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

08-18-2020 Hiking to Boundary Springs

Even though we originally thought we might do our Boundary Springs hike and then go home, we decided it wouldn’t be a problem to spend another night on “store” and continue our camping trip as planned.

After a good breakfast we headed back up Highway 230 toward the north entrance of Crater Lake and the Boundary Springs Trailhead.  We stopped along the route a couple of times, once to photograph a distant pointy peak.  I was surprised when I walked to the edge of the roadway and discovered this magnificent example of downcutting in the cemented pumice from the explosion of Mt Mazama, (Crater Lake) 7700 years ago.

We also stopped at the bridge crossing Muir Creek where we had noticed a camping rig parked among the trees on the previous day.  Pulling in to check it out we discovered a lovely dispersed campsite with room for a couple of rigs without imposing on anyone’s privacy.

There was a tent settled into a site along the creek, but still plenty of room that would accommodate another camper without being intrusive.

Continuing north on the highway, we again stopped at the main trailhead where we encountered a large family getting ready to hike to the Springs. They said the hike was 5 miles round trip. Good to know that we could lop off a mile or two of the total hike by returning to the dirt road we found yesterday that intercepted the trail closer to the springs.


We drove to our dirt road that we found yesterday that cut off some distance for us by intercepting the trail closer to the springs. I think our total hike was between 3 and 4 miles, but I discovered my Fitbit is seriously overestimating mileage. My 36 inch stride has shortened considerably since I started hobbling along with sticks. Time to reset stride length so I get reasonable mileage numbers. After returning home I did a bit more research and found a good map of our hike and discovered that we had indeed covered 3.5 miles round trip from where we entered the trail to the springs and back.


The hike wasn't difficult, with some ups and downs, but a fairly smooth surface thanks to the deep pumice soils. The family overtook us in short order even with our short cut. During the hike we passed a woman from Arizona, a couple from San Jose, and another young couple.

We all stayed distanced as we greeted each other and the two couples stepped off the trail and donned their masks as we passed. I thanked them and we covered our faces with our shirts, feeling silly that we had left our masks in the car. I find I am much less concerned when outdoors and tend to be less vigilant. Especially after yesterday where we didn't see another soul on the trails.


Prior to the spring is a magnificent cascade. It is thrilling that there is so much water in the Rogue so close to its source.

The family departed the spring as we arrived so we had it entirely to ourselves as we sat and enjoyed not only the springs but the thought of the mighty river that it becomes.

On the way back out I found myself wondering how long it takes a drop of water to reach the Pacific, and then what happens if it gets caught up in Lost Lake and never gets there...or evaporates on the way. Silly thoughts hiking the headwaters of a great river. Although I never did get an answer to that question, I did find an excellent synopsis of the Rogue River in this website

Another fascinating blog that I found in my research is this one, Boundary Springs, Source of the River.  Great information about the source of the water that forms the springs, and while they don’t emanate directly from the bottom of Crater Lake, the waters move through the deep pumice layers under some of the deepest snows in the western US.

Ripe huckleberries!

I managed the hike with 2 sticks, and noticed my quad muscles really didn't hurt any more at the end of the hike than they did at the beginning. Its just a matter of doing it. I did notice that much of my walking movement is generated from my hips rather than knees or quads so it makes for a bit of a funny looking gait. I remembered something a well known Myositis Warrior said, "Don't mourn what you can no longer do. Celebrate what you still can do."

Lately I have been often saddened when I read about so many great hikes that blogger friends are doing that I know I will never do again. But on this walk I celebrated that I made it to Boundary Springs and that my hiking days may have changed, but they aren't over.


We decided to return home by continuing to the north entrance of Crater Lake and making a loop via highway 62 back to Farewell Bend.

The drive was lovely, but with a bit of overcast the lake wasn't as blue as we have seen it. The view sites were mostly full but we only stopped at one for a few photos.

We were back at camp before 3 and while warm, it wasn't as hot as the previous two days. We played cards at the picnic table for awhile, planning to have supper at 7 so it would be a bit cooler and we could try again for a campfire.


I wanted to walk the short .3 me trail to the Rogue Gorge Overlook along the river. I decided this time to try the walker since the trail was smooth, level, and not rocky. We were alone when we arrived at the overlook but within minutes there were a bunch of families with happy loud kids running around so we made.our exit. It was fun seeing kids playing in the slick rocky pools in the river channel. Most of the times we have been to this part of the river the water has been much too high and wild for this kind of play.


Supper was the best ever and the easiest. Mo started up the Weber Q and I put on two ears of unhusked corn and some nice loin chops.  We cooked and ate at the table with a jar of our homemade applesauce and the other half of our bottle of red we had the first night we were here. We also turned on the generator and the air to let the rig cool down a bit. Amazing what a treat cooled air can be when it is hot and muggy outdoors!

Back inside after supper and a little bit of campfire we finished our card game in the coolness before opening all the windows putting the rig on store and settling into the darkness to read kindles before bed. I love the dark silence of having the rig on store at night. No blinking lights anywhere.

The next morning we turned on the generator again for breakfast, and considered whether we should return to Crater Lake to drive out to the Pinnacles Trail. We decided to wait till the next time we visit so as not to be rushed by the 2 pm check out time.

Instead we once again walked the beautiful Rogue Gorge trail for a couple of miles along the river.  Such a perfect way to end our trip. 

Both of us were really happy that we hadn’t let our battery issues cut our plans short.  Every single day had something wonderful for us and we are already planning to return to camp at Farewell Bend for more explorations into parts of Crater Lake that we have yet to visit.