Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crater Lake: The Mountain That Isn't There

                                    Crater Lake as it often appears in mid-May.

Crater Lake is Oregon's only national park, but it is a beauty!
It is a worthy tourist destination, though it can snow there about any month of the year.
Most years, it is July before the snow has melted away.
Notwithstanding, the snow cover offers its own great views of this unusual lake.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America, at 1,943  feet (and ninth deepest lake in the world).
Its vibrant blue color and water clarity is unparalleled in most of the world today.
The lake's original name as "Deep Blue Lake" when it was discovered by White Men in 1853. The lake was also called "Blue Lake" and "Lake Majesty," before the Crater name stuck.
(Native Americans considered the area sacred and did not tell outsiders about it.)

  Crater Lake is the remnant of a huge, ancient volcano, Mount Mazama. A gigantic eruption about 7,700 years ago led to the collapse of the crater.
This "Mountain that isn't" was almost 12,000 feet in elevation.
With no inlet or outlet, the area's massive snowfall and precipitation, some 524 inches a year, filled it with water in an estimated 250 years after the volcano collapsed.
Evaporation and seepage keep the lake's water level almost perfectly balanced.
The National Park Services strives to keep pollution from seeping into the lake. The lake's record clarity was to 134 feet in clear depth in the mid-1990s.
 This is a high-elevation lake. The Crater Lake Rim Village sits at an elevation of 7,100 feet above sea level.

  The Crater Lake Lodge opened in 1915. It has been remodeled lots over the years, but typically withstands a snowfall of 15 feet on top.
 Crater Lake is from 4.6 to 6 miles wide. Its water temperature ranges from 32 degrees to 66 degrees.
There are some hydrothermal vents at its bottom.
  The lake contains some 5 trillion gallons of water. If its caldera every broke, a huge flood will result below.
  The shallowest portion of the lake goes from just 15-25 feet.
  A 33-mile loop road circles the lake, but is only open from late spring and summer to early fall.
  A tour boat seasonally operates on the lake.
  A 1.1 mile hike down to the water level at Cleetwood Cove offers not only the seasonal boat opportunity, but the only chance to touch its waters. That hike includes an 11 degree incline, dropping some 600 feet in elevation.
The tallest rim mountain is Hillman Peak at 8,151 feet. (There are taller peaks in the park, away from the rim.)

                                               Deep snow lingers here into late spring.

 Crater Lake is located about 60 miles northwest of Kalamth Falls (elevation 4,100 feet), or about 80 miles northeast of Medford (elevation 1,350 feet).
So, the drive from Medford is almost 6,000 feet upward and from Kalamath Falls, it is about 3,000 feet upward.
If traveling the Medford route, be sure to check out some Rogue River scenic points along the roadway.
Deep snowwalls along side the road highlight the upper portion of the road from Kalamath Falls.

 Wizard Island 

                                   Visit in mid-May and a lot of options will still be closed.

          Compare the 2nd photo up with this photo to imagine the vanished Mount Mazama.

Oregon Coast: Devil's Churn Along the 'Restless Waters'

            The frothy, milk-like Pacific waters, appear like this at times in the Devil's Churn.
                                                                                                                         Photo by Roger Arave

  The Devil's Churn is a "must see" highlight along the central Oregon coast and highway 101.
The "Trail of Restless Waters" leads down to the ocean level.
It is about a 0.5 mile loop, dropping/climbing several hundred feet.
 Located just 11 miles south of Waldport, there is a fee of $5 fee per vehicle here year round.
There are toilets, picnic areas and drinkable water here.
However, exercise extreme caution down below. The waves are powerful and visitors have been killed there.
Children must be watched carefully.
In low tide levels, monitor the ocean level closely and be ready to move inland quickly.
 A jacket is almost always in necessity here.
  Taking your time to explore Devil's Churn is a great two-hour to a half-day adventure.

(Note: Do not confuse Devil's Churn, with the "Devil's Punchbowl," located to the north at Otter Rock.)

                           At times, the water in Devil's Churn is frothy and milk-like.
                                                                                                                                Photo by Roger Arave

                                                                                                                            Photo by Roger Arave

                Even if you can't hike to the bottom at Devil's Churn, there are some overlooks.

                             Wave watching is a highlight here, as well as tide pools.

                                                 Waiting for a wave worthy photograph..

                               The power of the ocean is apparent all around visitors here.

                                                         Tide pools.

                                 The south trail back up to the starting point.

                                  Just south of Devil's Churn, the Spouting Horn goes off.

                                                The nearby bridge.

Oregon Coast: The Bird's-Eye Views of Cape Perpetua

                                         The view from Cape Perpetua looking south.

Cape Perpetua, just 11 miles south of Walport, is the highest point you can drive off Highway 101, rising some 800 feet above the coastal highway.
The paved, two-lane highway climbs to the top in about two miles.
The road is not particularly steep, nor is it frightening to drivers.
Back in 1933, the "CCC" (Civilian Conservation Corps) built a road to the top, plus a stone shelter on the summit and some hiking trails.
During World War II, the summit was a military lookout station.

                                              The stone shelter on top, dates back to 1933.

  On a clear day, it estimated that you can see 37 miles out to sea or some 70 miles up or down the coastline from Cape Perpetua.
(However, it is difficult to get a clear view of the north coast, because of all the dense forest.)

                                                    A lofty perch.

                Plan on one extra hour for a comfortable side trip off Highway 101. The turnoff to the Cape comes up fast, so watch closely or backtrack.

                                                                 Framed view.

                                 Devil's Churn is located just below Cape Perpetua.

                               Supervise young children, as there are some cliffs here.

  Below is a video of Cape Perpetua:

                                                    Historic sign on the summit.

Oneonta Narrows: Wading Through Heaven

Who knew walking in water could be such a worthy adventure?
Dump the crowds at busy Multnomah Falls in the late spring or summer and wade up a narrow, green gorge to waterfall paradise.
Oneonta is east of Multnomah Falls and is the second-to-the-last stop (heading east) on the scenic highway. 
You should wear aqua shoes, or old shoes and shorts and make my own trail up the narrows themselves. Start at the Oneonta Bridge, near the Botanical Gardens sign.
Wading in the water is the key here, but be aware that the river may be too deep and swift in the early spring for a safe passage. The water is cold, but not that bad in the summer.
If you don't want to get wet you can walk a few hundred yards up the gorge (and still catch some of its flavor) by stepping from rock to rock, or log to log, and along the side of the stream.
Sadly, the Forest Service rarely cuts fallen logs any more, like they used to. The start of the gorge here is a maze of fallen logs to negotiate through.
It's about 600 yards up the river to a narrow 100-foot waterfall. Although this distance is small, walking in the water, to get solid footing (and also to enjoy the botanical view), is slow. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the waterfall and return.
The water is so clear that you can see small fish. Water drips down from rocks above in the most narrow places.
The tricky part comes 100 feet before you reach the waterfall when the gorge narrows to eight feet in width. Here the water gets waist deep, though it is not swift in the summer. At this point some prefer to negotiate above the water, on the right side, by clinging to rocks and choosing careful spots to step and get a hand hold.
The narrows offer an unusual and unforgettable hiking experience. This hike/wade is a must, especially for outdoor lovers with little spare time to spend in the gorge.

If you've ever hiked the Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park or if you can't because of the long length of that trek, this short water hike may be for you. This is a mini version of that hike, but even narrower and with greenery.

 Note: Do not confuse this water hike with the actual Oneonta Trail, located to the west. This is a steep dirt trail, starting several hundred yards west of the Oneonta Narrows. It climbs about 1,000 feet on switchbacks and 1.7 miles to Triple Falls, another highly photographed waterfall that's true to its name.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The South Oregon Coast: Mystery, Mist and Adventure

The South half of the famed Oregon Coast, from the California border, north to Florence, is stocked with adventure, eye candy and something for everyone, of all interests.

Although it tends to be foggy here early in the day, that just adds to the mystery and also why you have to be patient and not have an inflexible travel schedule here.

There's Arch Rock, Thunder Rock Cove at the far end of the Oregon Coast. There are stunning views at every turn, along Highway 101.

The Rogue River offers some chances for thrilling jet boat adventures.

There's the West Coast Game Park, a great family fun spot and a chance to hold/touch young critters, like baby tigers.

The City of Coos Bay boasts a good modest museum, complete with a Steve Prefontaine room, dedicated to the late Oregon runner who died tragically in 1975.

Elementary school kids will run themselves silly in any sections of the Oregon Dunes, a vast sandy area and hills right along the ocean side.

'Gorge-ous" Playground: Oregon's Columbia Gorge

                                            Multnomah Falls

 A natural playground, the Columbia Gorge and surrounding area have become a popular year-round destination for visitors to the Pacific Northwest.

The western side of the Columbia Gorge is a green heaven water  with the mighty Columbia River and dozens of creeks, waterfalls, mist and cool temperatures.

If you love waterfalls, the gorge's west end is as good as it gets — it is simply "waterful."

Even those en route to Seattle or Portland — with only minutes to spare — can take exit No. 31 off I-84 and spend 15 minutes or less enjoying Multnomah Falls — a 620-foot-high drop, second-highest year-round falls in the U.S.

The eastern half of the gorge is drier but offers its own variety of activities.

"The further you get from Portland, the drier you get," said Mary Stocks, events coordinator for the Columbia Gorge Visitors Association, in The Dalles.

                             Multnomah Falls at the top, going over the cliff.

"Hood River is known as the windsurfing capital of the world," she said. "The Dalles is sometimes known as the cherry capital of the world."

Words like awesome, fantastic and beautiful seem to dominate the visitor log entries at the Columbia Gorge, Stocks said.

The community of Hood River is usually smaller than The Dalles, but Stocks said the many windsurfers on the Columbia in the summer expand its population greatly. Hood River almost has a bay/gulf of the Columbia River, and that, combined with wind, makes it excellent for the sport.

Hood River also has a historic railroad, offering two-hour scenic excursions, while the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler boat operates out of Cascade Locks.

The Dalles are also extra famous these days for being the location for Google's data center.

Stocks also noted that the entire gorge is very historic. For example, The Dalles boasts 10,000 years of being a trading destination among Native Americans. The Indians still fish on the nearby Deschutes River.

Hiking and biking are also popular in The Dalles area and Bonneville Dam has a visitors center that's not to be missed. White water rafting is also a popular summer activity.

If you prefer short, easy hikes, head to the western gorge. After all, it is almost sea level here, and that, combined with the cooler temperatures, means hiking is easier here than in the high-altitude, dry Beehive State.

But there's so much to see from the roadside that even visitors who never leave the roadway will not be disappointed.

The historic Columbia River Highway, Route 30, is the heart of this lush, spectacular place. As brief as a two-hour excursion here will let you see a sampling of this treasure. In a stretch of nine miles, this narrow paved road passes by six major waterfalls — only one of which you can't see from the roadway and have to hike to.

                                      Crown Point visitor center/gift shop.

Starting at the Crown Point Vista House (containing a gift shop, observation room and exhibits), you will have sweeping, panoramic views of the gorge. Then, you'll feel like you're traveling back in time on a narrow vintage roadway.

When at Multnomah Falls, take more time and walk about 400 yards to the Benson Bridge overlooking the falls from a slightly higher vantage point than the lodge area. Go another one-mile, one-way and hike on a paved trail to the observation point near where the water goes over the top.

The lodge, with a restaurant, gift shop and U.S. Forest Service office, was built in 1925 of natural stone. At Christmas time, there's a brilliant outdoor lighting display here, too.

But be warned — on weekends and holidays in particular — open parking spaces can be in short supply. Multnomah is very popular, and even getting a photograph without other visitors in it can be a rarity.

Still, Stocks said, the dining experience at the Multnomah Lodge "is out of this world," with an all-glass enclosure and a great menu. She also recommends the many excellent campgrounds the historic waterfall area boasts.

As awesome as Multnomah Falls are, having the time to go elsewhere in the gorge is well worth it just to get away from the heavy crowds.

                                             Bridal Veil Falls.

For example, it's a good half-mile round-trip walk to the bottom of the 140-foot Bridal Veil Falls (the only major falls you can't see from Highway 30), but having the solitude on the picturesque bridge below is very satisfying.

With plenty of picnic tables along the Columbia Gorge, taking a lunch along is a natural.

If you're visiting in spiring or fall, you need to be prepared for misty or wet weather. Don't let a little rain halt any plans you have made — it's tolerable if you are dressed for it.

Stocks said summer is the most popular season here, but winter has skiing at Mount Hood and spring has a short wildflower season. In the fall, the autumn leaves create their own colorful spectacle.

                                  Mount Hood.                                                          Photo by Roger Arave.

If Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest peak at 11,239 feet above sea level, isn't encased in clouds, it's a spectacle of its own.

Here's a sampling of some of the lesser visited attractions in the gorge:

Oneonta Gorge. Just two miles east of Multnomah. Here a 600-yard walk in water inside a Zion Narrows kind of green gorge ends with an 80-foot waterfall.

In recent years, you have had to scramble over a logjam or wood to access this, but it's well worth the water walk. The water is cold, but you get used to it after several minutes. Young children need lots of help here.

                                   Weisendanger Falls.

Above Multnomah: If you keep walking above the limits of this paved trail and go off on dirt, the crowds thin and you may find some solitude. An extra 500-yard walk, and you will see Weisendanger Falls, a small but outstanding drop. Double your walk and spot Ecola Falls. The lone drawback is that after rainstorms, this trail gets very muddy.

• Triple Falls: Trailhead No. 424, just east of Multnomah, switchbacks up the gorge and 2.1 miles later reaches Triple Falls, where the water splits three ways. Little crowds here, but it's steep. If you're up for a several-hour hike, it is also possible to wade one stream and cross over to the Multnomah trail and complete one big loop.

Elowah Falls: Located at the extreme east end of Highway 30, an easy path leads to this 289-foot water drop. Family friendly, this hike is just 1.4-mile round-trip and climbs a modest 600 feet.

                                          Punchbowl Falls.

Punchbowl Falls: A 4-mile round-trip is required here, and it seems to appeal mostly to locals. Although a modest 20 or so feet high, it's the bowl setting that stands out. The trail follows Eagle Creek (I-84 exit No. 41) and is pretty gradual. However, it's a steep walk down the falls, and there are some long drop offs and cliffs along this trail. Children need careful supervision here.

                                     The trail to Punchbowl Falls.

There's an upper viewpoint to see Punchbowl, but you have to wade in the water to snap the classic photograph at the bottom. Also, in recent years a big, fallen log obscures that view.

                     Punchbowl Falls' best views are from walking in the cold water.


Beacon Rock: It will cost $1 one-way per vehicle to cross the "Bridge of Gods" and get to the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. However, this hike is a man-made classic up an 848-foot-tall ancient volcano remnant. The trailhead is well-marked off Highway 14. Almost half of the path is a delightful series of bridges, stairways and platforms. It's about 0.8 of a mile to the top (750-foot vertical climb) and well worth it with a sweeping vista view. It can be very windy on top and children love this hike. It includes lots of railings, but, again, young kids will need to be supervised.

                               A section of the artificial trail up Beacon Rock.

Hamilton Mountain: Just to the north of Beacon Rock is a picnic area/trailhead to more waterfalls. They aren't just on the Oregon side of the gorge! It will take a 1.5 mile walk to reach the first falls. You have to pass under some power lines and you won't see or hear the water until you're almost there. Hardy Falls, the lowest, is pretty tame, but Rodney Falls is much more exciting. The "Pool of Winds" lives up to its name, though photographing it is a challenge, given the wind, mist and steep angle.

                                            The "Pool of Winds."

There's even a replica of Stonehenge, England, in Maryhill, on the Washington side of the eastern half of the gorge. Located on a lofty perch, this Stonehenge is a monument to World War I soldiers but is not nearly an exact replica. 

With free admission, it is worth a visit, a short jaunt off I-84. Vineyards, a new trend in the gorge, are nearby, as well as the Maryhill Museum of Art.

(-Distilled from a story by Lynn Arave in the Deseret News. All photographs by Lynn Arave, unless otherwise noted.)