Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 3 Memorial Day weekend

May 24, 2009

We woke this morning to 39 degrees and fog. Since we did have free electricity, the little quiet electric heater set to 60 degrees kept things just nice and comfortable. It turned out to be a perfect day. Yes, we had bacon and eggs… again. Back to oats and yogurt and life cereal when I get back to regular life at home. I did promise myself that when regular life becomes long days on the road camping I probably won’t have bacon and eggs every morning. Have to draw a line somewhere.

After breakfast we decided that maybe kayaking in the morning would be better, and drove to the south shore of the lake and found a put-in spot just south of the Diamond Lake campground. It was cool so we parked in the shade and let Abby wait in the car this time. Kayaking with a restless dog is ok sometimes, but not for the long ride we looked forward to this morning.

The Diamond Lake story is an interesting one. It is a lake famous for its trout fishery, but in 2006, due to an invasion by chubs, the lake was nearly ruined. After much controversy, they killed all the fish in the lake with rotenone, and then completely restocked it. The story is here. It really worked well. The water is crystal clear, and the fishing is fabulous.

We headed along the southern shore of the lake, to the west side, where we found docks for a large number of summer cabins leased by the forest service. It has been done well, though, because the cabins are set back away from the shore and not at all visible around the lake. The FS used to lease these properties for 99 for a lifetime, and people have built really nice homes in many of these lake front areas. Just recently the FS has increased the fees on these places to something in the neighborhood of 6000 a year, and that is just on the property, not the houses which have a separate property tax. Big problem for people who have had these homes for many years. Gee, you think with all that new money they could open up the campgrounds??

We went almost to Theilsen View campground before turning to cross the lake toward the east side again. I found out later that the lake has limited boat speed of 10MPH, and that makes for some wonderful kayaking. Even on this holiday weekend, and with all the fishing boats out there, there weren’t any skiers or fast boats to contend with. We could kayak directly across the middle of the lake without feeling fearful of being demolished by a big speedboat. Back on the east side, we pulled out, and let Abby out for a swim. The weather was perfect, just cool enough to be nice, but warm in the sun, with big puffy clouds and clear blue skies in between.

We were on the water about 3 hours and traveled about 9 miles or so. It is 11 miles around the lake but we skipped out on the north side since we had covered that part yesterday.

Home for a late lunch around 2, a bit of a rest, and then time to try the biking thing with Abby again. The trail around the lake is really amazing, so we decided to try it from this end of the lake along the east shore. It was a bit of a challenge this time, because Abby was all excited and wasn’t quite as easy to manage on the bike, but after a bit she settled down and is getting the hang of leading ahead of the bike without pulling. Sometimes she would get excited and think about chasing a squirrel or something, but overall she was good. We biked a couple of hours, enjoying especially the quieter parts of the trail where the campground was still closed. In spite of Abby’s new skills accompanying the bikes, my shoulders were pretty sore from trying to hold on to the handle bars and the dog as well. Hopefully it will get better as time goes on. The other thing that gets a bit dicey is coming upon other dogs in the biking situation, especially if they are not leashed. But so far, no real problems. When we finally did ride up to the MoHo it was with a bit of relief and both of us were pretty happy to be settling in for a campfire, a couple of brats and buns, and a nice evening.

Many of the people who were here have left, and it’s really empty now in our free camping spot. Since the free camping was just a fluke, the sites in the southern half of the campground look really nice, if they ever open it up. At 14 per night and 18 for a premium spot, with our half price pass, it isn’t too bad. We will come back later in the summer to see just how crowded things may be when it warms up, and how bad the mosquitoes might be as well. Amazing, this time there wasn’t a single one to bother us. Decided that you just can’t beat this place, less than 2 hours from home, clean water, huge firs, great bike trail, no fast boats, and incredible gorgeous views in all directions of amazing mountains.

After packing up to leave, we opted for breakfast at the Diamond Lake Resort cafe, with a great view of the lake. The resort is quite nice, with motel rooms, cabins, a marina with lots of rental water craft, and a well stocked little store, and a couple of restaurants.

We dumped at the Diamond Lake Campground (for FS campers only or there is a fee), and headed home via Hwy 138 west to Hwy 230 toward Medford, turning back east at the Crater Lake Highway 62. The north rim road at Crater Lake is still closed due to snow, and it is a steep, curvy climb that may have been a bit more challenging. Highway 62 crosses the beautiful Wood River Valley, a sight not to be missed if you are traveling anywhere near Crater Lake. It is ranching country with grass so thick and lush that it can support a cow and calf on less than 2 acres. The Wood River Valley is north of the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, all just minutes away from Mo's home.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 2 Memorial Day weekend

Day 2 May 23, 2009

We slept really well last night, and in spite of all the large groups of people filling in this rustic area, it was really quiet. There is one really big security light in the campground, but thank goodness it wasn’t too close to us, although when I woke in the middle of the night, I could see it shining through the front window. With all the trees, and the distance between sites, we still didn’t have to put our big window covers on. That’s always nice.

I’m knitting away, on what I call my “turkey sweater” because I almost finished it while we were traveling through Turkey. It is all sewn together, and I just have to finish the hood. Perfect for a quiet afternoon.

This morning we decided on an indoor breakfast since the fire doesn’t have a particularly good cooking grate, and it was about 35 degrees outside when we got up. Nice to have a cozy home to hang out in on cold mornings. I love bacon when we are camping. Yumm. Indoors or out.

About 9:30 we took off to find the bike trail. We kept Abby on her leash for the initial search through the resort parking lot, but after that the trail was very nearly empty and we let her run with us. She is getting pretty good at going along with the bikes, and seems to keep up well. Stopping a bit let her swim, and enjoyed the views and the water. The trail goes all the way around the lake, and was one of the reasons we thought coming here would be nice. We biked as far as the Theilsen View campground, which was still closed. About a half mile from the camp, we discovered why, the snow was deep across the trail and the road in many places. We walked our bikes across most of it, and Mo rode hers, so of course I thought I could as well. Oops. This time it was my turn to dump, with my front tire catching in a deep snow drift and flipping me right over the handlebars. I found myself in a tangle with wheels and bike on top of me in the hard snow. Glad it was snow, since my bike was fine and I just had some minor cuts and bruises on my legs. After that spill, however, I did walk my bike through the snow banks.

When we got back to the closed campground, we were surprised to find some tent campers who had boated in, comfortably sited among the old hard snow drifts. Not a bad idea if you have a boat and want to tent camp. The ride back home was lovely, and Abby enjoyed herself swimming again. She even figured out how to go ahead of me on the leash without tripping up the bike. Mo rode on one side to “herd” her away from traffic and we were able to ride all the way back to the campground on the road portion without a problem. I even discovered that Abby could help pull me up the hills a bit!

After a bit of an afternoon rest, we went back down to the south end of the lake to see if they had opened up any of the other campgrounds yet. No change, even on this Memorial Day weekend, the Umpqua NF information center was still closed up tight, with no one in sight. Around 2, just as we planned, we unloaded our boats at the north shore, just a short walk from the car to the water, and we managed to portage both boats at once. The breeze was just starting up as we got on the water, and big puffy clouds were obscuring the sun. Funny how as the sun goes behind a cloud the wind on the water picks up. Mo decided to take Abby with us this time and put on her doggie life jacket. Abby isn’t yet quite completely comfortable in the kayak, and keeps trying to turn around to Mo for reassurance. Not a good thing in a small kayak, so Mo spends a bit of time telling her, “no, Abby, quit, stop, no.” Still, we managed some good time on the water, even though it was windy and choppy, and went south along the west shore as far as the campground. Paddling back against the wind wasn’t as hard as it should have been, and we think that maybe there was a current going toward the outlet on the north shore. Abby did fine, and Mo got all the way back without an upset. The water is still very cold, and hypothermia would be a serious problem if you fell in, I am sure. On the way back we at first stayed toward the shore in case of an upset with the dog, but then decided to take the fastest route across the water to the put in spot. I guess afternoon isn’t as good a time for mountain lake kayaking with the afternoon winds that always come up. Funny, we saw a really gorgeous, very large sailboat out there, and remembered from our sailing days how erratic these mountain lake winds can be. The sailboat wasn’t sailing, either, just motoring along. Their American flag was at half mast, blowing strong in the wind, for some fallen soldier, or for Memorial Day, I would imagine.

Tomorrow we plan to kayak earlier in the day, to hopefully miss the winds. Stopped at the Diamond lake resort store for Haagen Daz on the way back to camp, relaxed with a fun movie, Marley and Me, and then had a nice supper from the MoHo cupboard of box spaghetti, garlic bread, and the last of the salad. Mo built another really great campfire and we sat around and watched all the local campers and laughed about silly stuff until bedtime. We especially laughed at Abby, who was exhausted from her day’s adventures and kept trying to get us to go to bed. She would go to the door, look longingly at it and beg to go in. After Mo let her in, she landed in her bed, and didn’t even come out when we went back to the fire. That is a first, I think. Nice to wear out the dog before bedtime for sure.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 1 Memorial Day weekend

May 22, 2009

When Mo and I planned to go camping on the Memorial Day weekend, our priorities were simple. Not too far from home, and a campfire. Of course, water is always on the list, since camping usually for us includes kayak time. Well, maybe not in the desert. When I indicated that I could get away from work for a long weekend, Mo said, “I really want to go camping, and I want a campfire.” I said, “Didn’t the desert work for you?” “Yeah, but that was last month. I need my camping fix at least once a month.”

So we cast about for places close by that would fit the bill and decided that the perfect spot would be Diamond Lake. A little jewel of a place that isn’t too far from home, and where we scoped out some campsites a few years ago, intending to return. Of course, it is Memorial Day weekend and we do have enough common sense to realize that things may be full and we may have to leave early. I am still working, and so for me, early was driving 8 hours to Klamath on Thursday and pulling out of Mo’s driveway bright and early Friday morning. Not early enough, probably, but the best we could do. There are more than 485 camping sites in the three campgrounds around Diamond Lake, many of them rv sites. What wasn’t clear at all from the website for the Umpqua NF was that only one campground would be open, and only half of that one. Snow still is in big drifts along the roads leading to Theilsen View and Broken Arrow camps, but we still really don’t have a clue why half of the Diamond Lake Campground was still closed. With the lack of personnel around and the continued closure of the Diamond Lake information kiosk operated by the Forest Service, we surmised that it probably had to do with a lack of funding and people to clean the bathrooms and empty the garbage.

We arrived around 10 am, scoped the available sites which were all filled, some even still snowed in and waiting for a camper with a shovel. We drove up to the north side of the lake to the Diamond Lake Resort store to ask about possible locations. The crusty owner said, “hell you can camp up on the hill” and when I asked how much, he said, “nothing.” So we drove out and found the dirt driveway leading up to some primitive sites that were filled with debris, and dirty snowbanks. But the sites were big, long, and level, had some great firepits, and a view of the lake. Never mind that that view is accompanied by the constant sound of big diesel rigs hauling boats out of the water. It still was better than the parking lot at Half Moon Bay, where we camped for the last Labor Day weekend when we ambled off with no reservations. I guess it seems to be our style to just wander around and see what we can find.

After we pulled in, with the sites a bit ambiguous, a fellow camper came up to tell us that the resort was requiring everyone to leave tonight because the fancy rv park down the road had opened today and the resort wasn’t allowed to compete. Hmmm. Well, maybe we will just sit tight for a bit. We set up camp, put out the nifty solar panel and let the batteries charge up nicely, put out the slide, opened the awning, the table, the chairs and a couple of glasses of wine. Perfect. Later in the day, after we drove around a bit and checked out the packed RV park and the rest of the packed campgrounds, we returned to our little spot in the woods to find some more people trying to park. Seems as though the resort owners here gave up since the rv park was full and they were letting people park in this lot.

So, once more, instead of camping in a forest service campground as planned, we are boondocking. Free camping, a water faucet that actually works, and Mo has a great huge fire going. Then, after deciding to check out the electric outlet, we found that it worked as well. Couldn’t be better. We spent a lovely evening watching a great movie on DVD. Hmm, does it still qualify as boondocking just because it is free? For the entire weekend, we watched people come and go, with the mystery of who was paying for the electricity and monitoring the site unanswered. We didn’t find out until we pulled out on Monday morning that we were parked in the official employees quarters for the Diamond Lake resort, and that it was a one-time deal. Great luck for us! We also were thankful that by this time next year I will be retired and we won’t have to wait until the holiday weekends to find a place to camp.

We took a little afternoon break and then explored the closed road to Theilsen View Campground, 4x4ing through the snow banks as far as we could before we took off walking the bike trail. The views of Mt. Theilsen were gorgeous, the water was clear, and we found a great spot for a kayak launch the next day. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying the fire. Perfect. There was even a huge pile of debris all around us for burning, so we won’t run out of firewood. The sun was shining with no rain in the forecast, the temperatures just cool enough for a sweater, and not a soul within 100 yards of our camp!