Traveling South Through Central Oregon

After two and a half months in my home state of Washington it was time once again to move south while the roads (mountain passes in particular) were still clear of snow and ice. After bidding my family farewell I followed the Columbia River south into Portland where I remained for a few days, allowing me just a little more time for visits with my brother Topher, and friends Bruce, Joe and Dana (all mentioned in my last post). Other than the pocket of nasty weather described in my post about Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, it could not have been nicer during my visit to the northwest. These last few days were no exception. Mount Hood stood out clear and bright as I crossed the I-205 bridge over the Columbia River. A few hours later, after parking The Beast, I was on my way back over the bridge looking for a good spot for a sunset shot. By the time I found a legal place to pull over the best light was gone, but I managed to get the last of the light anyway.

Mt. Hood at Sunset above the Columbia River

Mt. Hood at Sunset above the Columbia River

Two days later I continued south right along the base of Mount Hood on Hwy-26. I stopped at one of the ski areas (still closed for the season) to take the dogs for a good walk up the slopes. While I was imagining the skiers who would soon be enjoying the first snow of the season right where we were hiking, the girls… oblivious to such fun… were just happy to be trotting along untethered. As we walked I found myself smiling at a memory… one that I’ve shared here before, in The Mountains Beckon Me. It’s a fun story, and I think it’s worth sharing again so here’s an excerpt from that post; {I remember vividly my first [mountain] “encounter” and that was from a distance. My family was on the move from our home state of Nebraska to our new home in Washington when I was seven years old. Dad, Mom, me, three brothers, two dogs, a VW bug, and a wood-paneled station wagon pulling a pop-up trailer motored across the country to what would become our home. Mom and Dad traded off who was driving what and who was riding with whom. I was too young to know how that decision was made and why, but I do remember my Dad had all of us kids with him in the station wagon. As we drove down the highway through a forest of giant evergreens (fascinating enough to us “children of the plains”) he pointed out ahead of us and said, “Look kids! THAT is a mountain!” We looked out the windshield and in unison refused to believe him. “No way Dad! That’s a cloud!” It was in fact Mount Hood, just outside of Portland.}

Oregon

Mt. Hood from Hwy-26

Not long after getting back on the highway I was watching Mt. Hood disappear behind the trees in my side view mirrors as I traveled toward the high planes of Oregon. The weather, still clear and sunny, left me to enjoy many more incredible vistas of the Cascade Range… the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson in particular.

The Sisters, Cascade Mountain Range, Oregon

The “Sisters”… South, Middle and North

Before leaving Portland Topher asked me if I’d ever been to Smith Rock State Park. When I told him I’d never even heard of it we immediately got on-line to check it out. Needless to say it was enticing enough for me to stop and hike for a few hours with the girls and my camera.

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Smith Rock and the Crooked River

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Asterisk Pass with Mt. Jefferson in the background

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Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Smith Rock and Crooked River

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Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Looking down the Crooked River at “Christian Brothers”

I discovered that this park is very popular amongst the mountain climbing crowd, for obvious reasons. I encountered no one on the trail, but observed many climbers scaling the sheer faces of these peaks. Since I’ve never attempted anything more than the climbing walls at such places as REI, I was highly impressed to say the least! That wee little red speck in the image below is someone climbing the wall. There’s another climber, legs splayed, near the bottom.

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Climbers scaling the wall

IMG_5487IMG_5493Smith Rock State Park, Oregon On my way south I stopped in to visit old friends Sue and Atilla Kovari in Madras. They quickly convinced me to stay and camp for the night on their property which gave us plenty of time for reminiscing the “good ‘ol days”. With Atilla it was catholic grade school days with me and my brothers. With Sue… it was water ski family vacations at Lake Chelan and weekends at Lake Mayfield. Lots of fun and funny memories! I left the following morning to camp for a few days in the town of Sisters near Bend, where I hoped to catch up with another high school friend, Lisa.

Oregon

The Three Sisters of the Cascade Range

Sisters Oregon

Sisters Oregon

Metal horse sculptures along with the “real thing” decorate the high planes below “The Sisters”

Autumn color near Sisters Oregon

Autumn color near Sisters Oregon

Sue and Atilla drove down over the weekend and took me for a scenic drive out to the Proxy Falls trail where we enjoyed a leisurely hike with our dogs. We made a stop along the way at the Dee Wright Observatory which is surrounded by a huge lava field and impressive views of the mountain peaks of the Cascade Range.

With Sue and Atilla

With Sue and Atilla at Dee Wright Observatory

Cascade Range, Oregon

Mt. Washington

Cascade Range, Oregon

South and Middle Sister

near Sisters Oregon

Sue, Atilla, Jazzy, Sadie and Remi on our Proxy Falls hike

near Sisters Oregon

Moss covered rocks on Proxy Falls trail

Near Sisters Oregon

Upper Proxy Falls

near Sisters Oregon

Lower Proxy Falls

Happy trail dogs, Jazzy and Sadie

Happy trail dogs, Jazzy and Sadie

The following morning I visited my friend Lisa Wachs before heading on to my next destination, Crater Lake National Park. My planned route south included not only Crater Lake, but also Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef National Parks. Needless to say I was wondering if I would get to see them with our government shut-down. Thankfully the parks re-opened only days before I departed Washington for my journey south. I had been to Crater Lake only once, on a family trip when I was a child. I remembered it as being a very unique place… a place I knew I should experience again during my journey. Because the park closures coincided so closely with the onset of “winter season” none of the facilities, nor the park campgrounds re-opened. Only the north and south entrances and the West Rim drive were open to visitors. The plan I made before setting out that morning was to approach from the south entrance and park my motorhome at U.S Forest Service “snow park” just outside the park (where I could stay camped for the night) and drive my car into the park and along the west rim of the crater. It was a spectacular afternoon for my visit, and my disappointment about the East Rim Road being closed dissipated soon after arriving at the edge of the crater on the west rim. There were relatively few other visitors while I was there making it easy to gawk along the way and pull over for several images when I wanted to.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Wizard Island and Hillman Peak

Oregon

Union Peak and Mt. McLaughlin from the West Rim of Crater Lake

When I got back to my motorhome in the snow park I decided against camping there for the night. Little doubt I would have been perfectly safe but staying seemed a bit imprudent because the park was completely deserted, very remote and I had no cell phone coverage. Instead I opted to continue on toward Klamath Falls in hopes of finding a more suitable spot along the way. What few campgrounds I saw were closed for the season though, and it was after dark by the time I arrived in Klamath Falls. I decided to stop for gas and groceries at a local Fred Meyer and while there, with nothing but wilderness on the dark horizon, I got permission from the manager to camp for the night in their parking lot. Shortly after sunrise the following morning I crossed the border into California. I had no plans for how far I would drive or where I would camp for the night, only that I wanted to be in Reno in a few days to see my niece Madeline who’d recently started her first year at the University of Nevada. As it turned out I drove all the way to Reno before stopping. Next up… zig zagging between California and Nevada, college days revisited, celebrating my birthday in a ghost town, and… gulp… a costly breakdown in Mammoth Lakes.

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