Home in October

Home in October
Home in October

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

08-29-2023 to 08-31-2023 A Perfect Escape to the Mountains

Waking to smoky skies over Medicine Lake

 We woke early with the smell of smoke strong in the air. Sitting in the camp chairs by the campfire this morning I watched the stillness of the lake shrouded in the smoke. The campfire rings in this campground are gorgeous, made of the dark volcanic rock that surrounds the caldera.

Beautiful firepits at the Hogue Campground

I don't know who built these fireplaces, but they are huge and strong, angled with the taller side facing the wind coming from the lake. They remind me of some of the CCC rock work we have seen throughout the country but I never read anything about the CCC working in this area.

At first, I thought the gloom was morning fog, but no, it was actually smoke. Thick enough that the far side of the lake about a mile from us looked very vague, with just a hint of the meadow there that we often paddle to in the kayaks. The outside temperature at the lake this morning was 38F and inside the MoHo it was a brisk 49 degrees. We turned on the furnace and let it run awhile. Our house batteries are acting a bit strange, with nothing but the fridge running overnight and our juice down to 11.9, so we started up the generator.

Mo took Mattie for a nice walk around the campground while I cooked a sausage/ English muffin sandwich for our breakfast. When we first got up, the lake was glassy smooth, and yet before 9AM a slight breeze from the west ruffled the surface. We bantered a bit about whether we should go out on the lake or not, with the smoke and the breeze, but decided to let the temps warm a bit more before we went out on the lake.

Mo and Mattie walking through the Hogue Campground

In the meantime, we walked the campground together, paying attention to which reserved sites were level enough that we might be able to park the MoHo comfortably. At the upper part of Hogue Campground, there are two very large, very level sites that would be adequate for a big rig. Site 55 and Site 56 are roomy, but neither of them has a lake view other than a tiny sliver of water seen through the trees.

Medicine, Hogue, and Hemlock campgrounds are on the north side of the lake

There are a few things that we love to do when visiting Medicine Lake. Kayaking is our favorite, but the beautiful trails at Glass Mountain are a short drive north. On this day we decided that we could do both.

Still breezy but the smoke is thinning

We aren't a fan of kayaking in the wind, but the breeze coming from the west on the lake wasn't terribly strong and we launched our boats easily. We had brought them down from the car the night before so that we would be ready. There is a large log that is conveniently close to the water where we can tie up the boats and not have to bring them up until we are ready to load up for home at the end of the week.

Crystal clear waters of Medicine Lake

We can kayak all the way around the lake in about two hours, but with the breeze decided that a shorter trip to the west side of the lake against the wind and then returning with the wind behind us was the best plan for the morning. As always, it felt fabulous to be on the lake once again. I think it is our favorite. When we were at East Lake last month we thought maybe it was our favorite, but no, Medicine Lake has a special sweetness that is hard to put into words.

There is a spiritual quality to this place that feels as though all the spirits of all the indigenous people who have camped and fished and hunted here are all around us, doing their magic on anyone who cares to pay attention.

Mo in her kayak way ahead of me as we approach our campsite near the shore

It was lovely to be on the water but we were happy to get back home in time for lunch and a bit of a rest from the wind. Our next outing for the day was a visit to Glass Mountain.

Glass Mountain Obsidian Flow (from the USGS website)

We have been to Glass Mountain several times over the last couple of decades that we have visited Medicine Lake, but it never fails to be a thrill to walk among the sparkling rocks and listen to the clink of obsidian as we walk. Needless to say, we don't take Mattie with us when walking the trails in this area, with the sharp shards of obsidian that could tear up her footpads.

Glass Mountain is a spectacular, nearly treeless, steep-sided obsidian flow that erupted just outside the eastern caldera rim and flowed down the steep eastern flank of Medicine Lake volcano. The Glass Mountain flow, draped over the east side of the volcano, is the youngest lava flow at the volcano, erupting less than 1,000 years ago.

Two sticks and decent walking shoes helped me get up the trail

I knew that parts of the trail were steep, but once up the steepest part, things level out nicely, although most of the trail is rocky and uneven. The trails meander around the flow in different directions, but like a magnet, the dark shining outcrop of black obsidian draws us toward it every time.

Hard to capture the brilliant shine of the obsidian in a photo
Me attempting to take a selfie with the black rock in the background without falling

Mo waited while I walked up to the outcrop, then asked if I wanted her to take my photo. I really didn't want to walk back to her, so instead tried for a selfie. Here is the selfie, and the next photo is Mo smiling at me while I attempt to take the selfie without tipping over.

Mo hiking the rocky trail at Glass Mountain
Mo hiking up one of the more level trails around Glass Mountain

We chose to return to camp taking the road that circles around Lyons Peak to the east where we were treated to a spectacular view of the desert and the extent of the smoke plume which had receded a bit since we began our day.

View from Lyons Peak toward the eastern Oregon

It was wonderful to see that the smoke had cleared at Medicine Lake by the time we returned and we settled in for another wonderful supper and another perfect campfire as we watched the sunset over the lake.

The next morning when we woke it was a brisk 33 Degrees F. The batteries were low again, reading 11.6, and we turned on the generator at 7, hopefully not disturbing anyone. I was glad the sites were far enough apart that it wasn't much of a worry.

The water was mirror smooth, without the slightest breeze to mar the perfect, smoke-free air. I picked 40F as the breaking point for getting out on the water, and sure enough we reached that temperature by 9:30 AM. We again headed west on the lake, this time aiming for the shallow water that supports an amazing floating garden of pink knotweed, sometimes called smartweed.

My hot pink kayak floating in a bed of smartweed.

I love floating around in the pink flowers inside my pink boat. Makes me all happy inside. Mattie used to be a bit hesitant in the kayak but on this trip, she decided that kayaking was great fun and jumped right into Mo's boat even before we got into the water.

Mo got out on the beach and let Mattie run around a bit while I paddled around enjoying the simplicity of just floating gently on the lake looking for fish beneath the flower carpet. It was a spectacular morning.

Mo and Mattie on Medicine Lake

We followed the shore past the old cabin on the south shore and then crossed the lake to get home. It wasn't too windy but that beautiful glassy surface was a bit ruffled on our way back. I figured out an even easier way to exit my kayak. If I am deep enough in the water, I can use my sticks to push up from the boat. Works well if there isn't current or it isn't windy, and if Mo can keep my boat from floating away. Whatever works!

Our camp in the distance across the lake

Once back home we settled in for a quiet morning reading in the sunshine before lunch. One of the finer luxuries of camping is the nice nap I took with Mattie until 2 or so when Mo and I decided that a drive up to the Little Hoffman Lookout would be a perfect way to celebrate the beautifully clear afternoon. I wanted to see if smoke was still visible to the north and west of us.

Mt Shasta visible toward the west of Little Hoffman Mountain

It is about 5 miles of curvy dirt road to get to the lookout. We used to be able to drive to the top, but now they are locking the gate at the bottom of the steepest part of the road leading to the lookout. I read that they are now renting out the lookout for overnight camping for $75 per night. We hiked up the road to the top and were thrilled to see that all around us on all sides the skies were beautifully clear.

Mo and Mattie at the Little Hoffman Lookout

The view from the top was gorgeous with most of the smoke pushed toward the northwest beyond Klamath Falls. My legs were screaming by the time we got back to the car but I loved the hike so much.

The lava flow below on the left side of the photo is Little Glass Mountain
Mt Shasta and Little Glass Mountains from Little Hoffman Mountain

Back in camp, we settled in for more reading till dinnertime. I cooked burgers and made mac salad before we settled in for our last campfire of the trip and watched fish jumping until the full moon rose shortly after sunset.

Once again I got up around midnight to see the full moon and saw the constellation Cassiopeia directly overhead. Cassiopeia is a constellation we love to track through our skies at home as we sit in the hot tub at night.

We slept well on our last night at the lake, waking again to chilly temperatures in the low 30s. This time the generator was down to 9.6. Pretty sure this means we are due for new batteries for the MoHo. A side effect of the low battery output is the obnoxious beeping of the CO detectors every time we run the generator. We decided that if the temperature rose to 40F by 9am we would go kayaking one more time.

The people who owned this boat went fishing every day
Handy boat storage log

Sure enough, with the skies clear and the water silky smooth, we paddled once again on our favorite lake. This time we traveled east along the shoreline in front of the campgrounds, explored the swim beach and the local boat launch, and paddled as far as the meadow before turning back toward camp.

Silky smooth water and the meadow to the left

It didn't take us long to load the kayaks and get the MoHo ready to roll. We left the campground before the official checkout time at 12 and traveled back through Klamath Falls toward home.

The closer we got to Klamath, the more smoke was in the air, although it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been on our way through earlier in the week. We stopped at the cemetery to put some flowers on a family gravesite before continuing around Klamath Lake toward the mountains.

The egrets seemed to like the barrier

A somewhat shocking moment came as we saw the construction taking place along the narrow highway near Howard Bay on Klamath. Usually, this part of the lake is a resting and feeding spot for hundreds of white pelicans, great egrets, snowy egrets, many types of ducks and geese, and grebes.

Howard Bay on Klamath Lake adjacent to HWY 140

The road is quite narrow and it seems that people don't recognize the need to slow down as they navigate the curves adjacent to the lake. There have been repeated accidents with cars going into the water, and some deaths. It still made me sad to see the devastation along the lake as they widen the highway. The floor of the lake is soft silt and it takes a lot of rock to fill it in.

I will close with a photo from days past on Howard Bay.


1 comment:

  1. Nickie left this great comment that I mistakenly deleted instead of publishing. Thank goodness I had it in the email: I've read your posts about Medicine Lake since we've known each other and always admire your photos of camping and kayaking there, but Jimmy and I have yet to get up there. Maybe ... one of these days. We wouldn't be doing any kayaking, as we sold ours. But, man-oh-man, that pic of you in the middle of all the pink smartweed is outstanding! I love that photo. Glad you guys had another wonderful few days at Medicine Lake. (Morning's are so cold there already!) BTW, we bought new "house" batteries for Tergel this year. Sometimes ya gotta do stuff to keep 'er going!


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