Camping: Lost Creek Lake, Crater Lake, and the Redwoods Part I

This July, the family loaded up in the camper for an epic journey to visit new parts of Oregon and to visit the legendary Redwoods. We’d been planning for 5 months, so we had a pretty good idea of our itinerary. We decided to shorten the initial drive by stopping off at Lost Creek Lake, where we stayed at the state park over the 4th of July weekend.

The reservoir was down considerably, and the campground wasn’t very close to the water. However, we did rent a pontoon one of the afternoons and ventured up-river to avoid the high-wake from water skiers and lake jerks. East of the bridge is a “no wake” zone, so we tried to quickly make our way to safety when a combination of large cross-wakes and a rather sudden deceleration plunged the bow, Michelle, and the girls briefly under water. It was a scary moment as the front of the boat briefly submerged. We recovered and sped to the safety of the no wake zone.

Once we reached the no wake zone, the girls jumped in and swam to a nearby sandy-looking shore. We tied the pontoon to a log and swam and played on the shore. The shore was an interesting mix of ash, pumice, and charcoal. It took a bit to realize that we were playing in an old volcanic eruption. How cool! After a while, we trolled up the lake, catching and releasing some trout, and pulled out again to light some sparklers (it was the 4th, after all), swam, had dinner, then headed back in as the sun was setting. It was a wonderful voyage.

Each morning, I would get up between 5am and 6am and drive down below the dam and fish hatchery to try my luck on the Rogue. It’s the 4th major Oregon river I’ve tried, and for once, there were lots of other people around angling for some early Summer run Chinook or late Spring steelhead. I didn’t have any luck besides an impressive strike where the fish leaped over a foot in to the air before ditching the spoon. But I didn’t see anyone else having luck either. And right below the hatcher, there were people standing shoulder-to-shoulder doing this odd jerking technique which I learned from a fly fisherman is called “flossing.” He shuns the practice, which is akin to just snagging fish. Odd.

On the 4th of July, there was also a kid-focused parade. The girls didn’t have bikes, but they loaded up their scooters with flags, garland, and tried to keep up with the bike parade for a while. How often do you get to follow a giant beaver around a campground?

On the 5th, we continued up the Rogue towards Crater Lake. We stopped at the Rogue River Gorge, a cool cut in the basalt near Farewell Bend CG. We learned more about the Mt. Mazama eruption that deposited all the pumice, ash, and charcoal that we’d been playing in the day before. Then we continued up to Crater Lake to take in the impressiveness of its blue. I insisted that we hike down to the lake, which was busy and dusty (who knew everyone else would be out on the holiday too?). We soaked our feet at the bottom for a bit, avoiding the inevitable climb back up until MG needed to pee. Michelle took her to the outhouses by the dock, but they were so incredibly dirty and gross that they just decided to hike up. Ella and I caught up with them less than two minutes later because Michelle had decided to hold MG over the edge of the trail so that she could pee down the cliff. It would have worked fine if she hadn’t lost her shoe, which fell about 15 feet down the steep slope. I was able to rescue the shoe, and then we hiked on, listening to MG complain about how much pain she was in for about half the climb. Finally, we picked her up and carried her. Ella was a champ though, and both girls spirits were reignited when we had early appetizers at the Crater Lake Lodge.

After the lodge, we hit up Lost Creek Lake for one last swim before journeying on to the Redwoods. Since the Redwoods are a primitive site, we filled up the tanks with water and took a last shower. On the way south, we stopped by the Oregon Vortex. It was … interesting. Wrapping up a few more details, we stopped at a Walmart in Grants Pass to get more mouth-numbing medicine for Ella (who was being a total trooper with her brand new braces), some groceries, and a half-rack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (which we left on the camper battery and drove for a couple miles around Grants Pass). The road to the Redwoods was very dry, and we saw a dead black bear off the highway outside Cave Junction. The road gets very interesting as you cross the boarder in to California, but the last few miles were exciting as we wound our way down the Smith River.

Camping at Jesse Honeyman State Park

We joined my parents and sister for a trip to Jesse Honeyman State Park, just outside Florence, OR over the last weekend. The campsite is well established and has some great amenities, including a monster of a playground with a dune-sand base. The girls were especially fond of the playground, but only MG ventured out to the dunes, first with Grandpa, then again with Grandpa and me.

My parents and the girls actually left Thursday to spend an extra day at the campground. They discovered the playground and the dunes, and it sounds like they had a lovely time exploring the giant dunes before the weekend arrived and OHVs descended on the place. OHV is short for Off-Highway Vehicles, btw. We couldn’t figure out why they used that instead of ORV like we were accustomed to.

Hilary, Michelle and I left Friday morning and drove down through Eugene, stopping at Cabela’s for a few small items. Michelle broke the tip of Ella’s fishing rod on the last trip, so I picked up a repair tip and glue. We ran in to one of the other students from my grad-school cohort who was also stopping through. Small-Freakin’-world when you stick to I-5. When we arrived, we quickly set up camp and put together dinner. We often split dinner nights and tonight was ours as we were celebrating my mom’s birthday, a few weeks late. Michelle decided to make things interesting and did a hot-smoked salmon filet over the campfire, scallops, and marinated prawns (also cooked over the campfire). Additionally, there was broccoli, asparagus (campfire grilled), and green beans. The whole meal came together nicely and was just excellent. I’m still full.

Saturday was somewhat gloomy. The clouds set in early, but that didn’t stop us. Michelle, Susi, Hilary and Ella went in to Florence while Greg, Madeline and I explored the dunes (Dooms, as MG called them) on foot. The weekend OHV crowd was busy, but we still got to explore the giant dunes in the misty, low-hanging clouds. The fog did lift enough that we briefly saw the coast on the horizon, but the gray skies and mist gave the dunes an eerie feel. We did our share of giant dune steps, then walked cross country through some woods back to the campground. MG and I found some gigantic banana slugs which I assume were somewhat isolated in their little forest island surrounded by sand. The walk was pretty long and I’m impressed that MG made it all on her own.

Later in the day we took the canoe and tried to fish on Cleawox Lake. The shore fishing was rather limited, partly by the shore access, and partly by the millfoil. We tried a few different locations but without much luck. My dad caught a rainbow, but that was the only action. Didn’t matter though, the boating and fishing was rather enjoyable on it’s own. Also, the excellent playground? MG decided that she was going to start doing monkey bars and in only three tries, managed to cross the whole span. She’s now officially a monkey.

Sunday was also mostly cloudy, and we tried going to swim in Cleawox Lake during a “sun break.” However, the wind was steady and the clouds came back. Still, the girls and I did get in the water and made a sand-bathtub like we made in Maui. It wasn’t as comfortable though. And sadly, Michelle, Hilary and I had to return home to get to work, so we left the girls and Grandma and Grandpa for the last night and headed out.

Quick trip to Stub Stewart in April

We packed up the camper and left town last Thursday and drove to Stub Stewart near Vernonia, OR for a quick camping trip. Turns out we had reserved the wrong weekend, but there were a couple less-glamorous spots left. We set up camp quickly and Michelle did a quick tele-conference while the girls played at the playground. It was cold that night, and it seemed that Maddie and Barley took turns waking up every hour, so I was a bit of a slug the next morning when I drove back in to Rock Creek to work half of a day. By the time I got back, the nice sun had gone and a chilly wind had driven the family inside the camper.

One of the other kids in the “neighborhood” invited the girls to go Bigfoot hunting. The kid’s description of bigfoot was all over the place, and MG grew concerned about the carnivorous monster that they were searching for. The girls left a food offering of plants, which sadly, was still there the next morning.

We set up the awning for the first time on Friday and didn’t take it down because it had been so calm. Around 2am, the wind came up and started to shake the camper. Next thing I heard was the awning buckle and hit the camper. I went outside and couldn’t find the awning. I walked around the camper and discovered the poles on the back side. The awning had flipped over the top of the camper. It took some time to flip back over and take apart, folding the wet, nearly frozen mess back in to the storage bag. Noticed that other campers around had stowed their awnings, but most of their awnings were mechanical. The next morning as we packed up camp, we discovered that when the awning had flipped over, the frame hit the roof so hard that it put a hole in the fiberglass. D’oh.




Spring Break Camping – Memaloose State Park

Trip number two for the new camper was a quick jaunt up the Gorge to Memaloose State Park. The park is between Hood River and The Dalles. It was a nice enough place, but the lack of leaves on the trees meant there was a constant presence of noise from the interstate and from the UP trains. This site was pretty deserted save for a few mega-coaches where folks largely stayed inside. Not much for other kids to play with, and the playground wasn’t the greatest. Luckily, we found other things to do. Plus lots of time on the tire swing.

The weather never quite turned great – though briefly on Saturday the sun came out fully and the temperature reached nearly 60F. We went to Hood River to refill a propane tank and pick up a growler from Full Sail, then took scenic highway 30 back. Stoping at the Memaloose and Rowena viewpoints made for some spectacular views of the Gorge, and even a peek down at our campsite.

The girls and I tried geocaching only to be disappointed at the tiny little cache we found. Instead of being bummed, we bushwhacked our way back to the campsite, adventuring down some basalt cliffs (to them), through some scrub oak stands, and occasionally around and over some blackberry thickets. It was fun, and the girls seemed to enjoy the route finding.

We’re in love with the camper. It is spacious, the kitchen works well, and it has a furnace, which we used much of the trip. It never got as cold as our first trip to Stub Stewart, but it never got as warm either. Luckily, we were able to pack the camper away dry this time.

Oktoberfest 2011

It’s been years since we last journied south to Mt. Angel for the Oktoberfest celebration. Yesterday, my parents, sister and the family all piled in to a van, took some back roads, and took in some Oktoberfest celebrations. We missed the wiener dog races, but the girls loved the petting zoo, pony ride and hay maze. The rest of us enjoyed the food and Spaten.

Student Atlas of Oregon is alive

I just got word from one of my instructors and the head of the Student Atlas of Oregon project that our work is now online. As always, it is satisfying to see your work, even if someone did make some changes to it. The final product is pretty nifty, and I suspect it will be much more useful to middle school students than any other current collections of maps of Oregon.

I posted a work in progress view of the cross section map, but here’s the final product. I’d originally made it as a two-page spread, but the format of the atlas changed, and someone else merged the content for the final version.