Thursday, September 29, 2011

Up the Volcano

Lemolo Lake at sunrise
Sunlight irradiated the mist covering Lemolo Lake as I popped my head out of the tent. Not a ripple, not a puff. Thor again fired up the 3-burner camp stove for our Promethian breakfast. I packed up my sleeping bag, tent, and gear, then joined Sarah on the beach to soak up the BTU's in the morning sun.
Sarah on the beach

The plan was for me to shuttle the truck, so Thor and Sarah pedaled off down the road for a long mountain bike ride along the Umpqua River. I drove to the lodge, gassed the truck and headed for the Toketee Falls rendezvous. The lodge, a beautiful 'mom and pop' operation reminded me of rural Alaska; I felt right at home as I talked to the owner about the season and the four species of fish in the lake: Brown trout, rainbows, lake trout, and the 'fishwitch', a hybrid from the Mowitch Lake and another species. "They grow really huge and are big predators", the fellow told me. "Keeps the rainbows in check!"

I pulled into the parking lot to wait for Thor and Sarah and take a hike downstream. A twelve-foot diameter redwood stave penstock squirted jets of water onto the parking lot at the falls. The pipe, built in 1949 carries water from the reservoir to the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project. I'm always fascinated by these reminders of America's great industry.
The 12 foot penstock squirts a shower on the road

After the mountain biking experience yesterday, I'm in great shape, and the half-mile walk down to see the falls is a breeze. I skipped along at high speed and stopped several times on the journey to marvel at the height and girth of the trees. The serene little stream suddenly drops 40 feet into a narrow cavity, then emerges and cascades another 80 feet into a large plunge pool. It's cold water from the mountains, otherwise it would surely invite me for a swim. tall Douglas fir trees hang over the cliffs. The Forest Service had built a solid wooden fenced viewing platform at the end of the trail.
Toketee Falls

Back at the truck, Thor and Sarah had finished their little ride, smiles on their faces. We were hot and dirty, so we used the jets emanating from the holes in the penstock to clean the bikes, shower, and in my case, shave.

Then we were off through the mountains; destination: Crater Lake National Park. Along the way Reynolds peak, a craggy volcanic 'plug' caught our attention and lured us off the highway to the scenic rest stop to read its story. It is one of the many peaks and buttes in the North Cascades formed within the past several hundred thousand years. The glaciers have worked them into various shapes and sizes. This peak, an older one has been worn down to the core, like the core of an apple, eaten away this time not by teeth, but by glaciers.
Reynolds Peak - an ancient volcanic plug

The road turned directly south and we began our ascent of Mount Mazama, the home of Crater Lake. The landscape soon had a barren moon quality to it, the remnants of huge eruptions within the past few thousand years that spread pulverized pea-sized gravel over many square miles. It reminded us of the Aniakchak Caldera in Alaska, surely fodder for another story.
The desert-like plain on the slopes of Crater Lake

We topped out at the rim of the crater and stopped to get the first view...and see the chipmunks, fattened for hibernation by a season of begging peanuts from tourists. We were all stunned by the clarity of the lake, the colors, the sheer verticality of the cliffs, and the general scene. No wonder it is a national treasure; even a jaded park ranger was impressed.
Sarah and Thor first view Crater Lake
It is one of the oldest parks, set aside from sale by the federal government by Grover Cleveland, then made a national park by president Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. It became the sixth national park. Mount Mazama, a huge volcano is part of the Cascade range and was violently active in very recent times. The lake was created 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the 5-mile wide crater due to loss of magma underneath. The floor dropped several thousand feet, then filling with snow and rain water and has no outlet. We commented on its deep blue color.
The happy tourists

If you are interested in Guinness-style facts, the lake is is 1,949 feet deep at its deepest point, making it the deepest lake in the United States, the second deepest in North America, and the ninth deepest lake in the world. Early explorers took a boat down the steep sides and lowered weights to measure the depth. Very cool!
Wizard Island in Crater Lake

Crater Lake Lodge is one of the premier national park lodges in the country, so we had to see it, also. Built a century ago but recently remodeled, it still looks the way it did long ago. The original copper roof and clapboard siding belie the beauty of the rustic interior.
Crater Lake Lodge
We oggled the interior like the tourists we were, along with a few thousand of our best new friends. I thought the fireplace was great, but instead of burning down the forest every night, a new gas log fixture had been installed. I asked the clerk the price of a room with a view and how far in advance to book. About $200 per night, depending on the room and a year in advance...hmmmm! Might just be worth it.
The lobby

The Fireplace
We stepped out on the terrace. What a great place to have a meal and a beer!
The view from the terrace
We ate lunch at the picnic tables across from the lodge, then hopped back in the truck heading for California as far as we could get before camping time in the evening. Thor found a small unused forest service road, so we pulled off out of sound and view of the highway and set up camp. A hatch of little yellow flies brought out the ninja woman in Sarah.
Ninja camper!
Again the sun rose clear. Granola, and a walk into the sunny meadow for morning coffee and goofiness. These are the best of times. I loved watching my Thor and Sarah enjoying each others company. I rolled up my sleeping bag and tent, helped Thor pack the truck for the final leg of the journey. Then we were off to Lake Tahoe and my sister Judy's place for the family reunion.
The lovely couple; Sarah brings Thor coffee

Big smiles!

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