Saturday, August 25, 2007

Redwoods National Park

We finally crossed the border out of Oregon, and made our way into California, arriving at Redwoods National Park in the early afternoon. Having been to a number of National Parks by this point, you can pretty much know what to expect when you arrive, a self-contained park, all in one place, a bunch of roads leading in, and some ranger stations here and there to offer advice. Redwoods is totally different. It was basically created by combining a number of state parks and reserves that were in various places around the area to prevent the total destruction of the amazing redwood trees, since the logging industry had already cut 90% of them down.

We found a nice park and campground, however, that was nearby one of the larger groves and went out for a drive and hike among the giants. These trees are absolutely massive – and apparently aren’t even close to the size of some of the sequoias. Their bark usually grows up to 12 inches thick, and the size of the trunk of some of the larger ones is just ridiculous. Sadly, there aren’t too many of the huge ones left, but we definitely found a few that were very impressive. While not the most beautiful park we will have visited on this trip, the sheer size of the Redwoods is definitely memorable in its own right.

Check out the pictures.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Crater Lake National Park

We left Greg & Melanie’s house on a typically “Portland” type of morning – misty, foggy and cool. Despite the weather, we were determined to see some of the Oregon coast, so we headed west from the city toward Newport. Although it rained the entire way, for some reason we were convinced it would just stop once we closer to the shoreline. Not so much… We hit hwy 101 and passed through some nice little beach towns (or as nice as they can seem through rain & fog), and eventually made it to Newport. The weather didn’t seem as if it was going to let up, so after grabbing a quick lunch, we decided to abandon our coast tour, and drive back toward Hwy 5, so we could more quickly make our way toward Crater Lake, NP, our next destination.

We arrived at Crater Lake in what was almost a complete whiteout. The rain, fog, and elevation provided about 100ft of visibility, and we were just happy to make it through the winding roads and cliff-edged dropoffs of the road through the park to a campground for the night. Since it was still raining pretty hard, we made some quick sandwiches for dinner while sitting in the back tailgate of the car, and contemplated who would be the one to put the tent up in the rain. In the end, we decided to put our extensive planning to the test, and sleep in the car. Yes, folks… we slept in our car! Luckily the campsite had a bear box, so we were able to put our cooler, food boxes, etc. in there and free up some room in the back. Everything else went in the front seats, and we blew up the air mattress on top of our clothes boxes. After Chris engineered some rain-proof window covers which allowed some air in so we didn’t suffocate ourselves, we actually ended up having a very comfortable sleep.

We woke up the next morning to clearing skies, and much warmer temperatures and set out to finally see this lake we had heard so much about. We stopped at the ranger station to ask about some hikes and then headed out for the “rim drive” which encircles the lake. Crater lake is actually the caldera of a huge volcano that collapsed when Mt. Mazama erupted over 7000 years ago. It is the deepest lake in the US, and one of the deepest in the world. In addition to that, its water is the bluest blue you could ever imagine. It puts a clear blue sky to shame. We stopped at a few overlooks on the drive, then did a 1.5 mile hike down from the rim to the water’s edge. The water was, if possible, even more blue once you were close to it. We rested a bit, had a snack, gave dirty looks to a family feeding some chipmunks, and then made the 1.5 mile hike back up to the rim.

After a few more stops at lookout points, we had a late lunch, then set out for our big hike of the day, a 5-miler to the top of 8900 ft. Mt. Scott, the highest point in the park, which promised amazing aerial views of the lake. The fairly strenuous hike up the mountain definitely delivered. From the top of the mountain you could see the entire lake, and its contrast against its surroundings… just awesome. We got some great pictures, enjoyed the hike down, finished our drive, and headed back to camp. The day turned out to be beautiful, we saw some gorgeous scenery, had a great dinner, and a campfire – just perfect. Check out the pics.

Today we are driving south toward California and Redwood Nat’l Park where we’ll spend the next few days.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mackenzie River Ride / Portland

Saturday morning we all dragged ourselves out of the tents, put on some coffee, had breakfast and figured out a plan to get everyone up to the trail and leave a shuttle car at the end. The trail we rode was the Mackenzie River Trail, a classic Oregon ride that is frequently featured in mountain biking magazines. It has it all, some nice technical sections, waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and streams, old growth forests and a few ascents to get the blood pumping. Sara and I are beginner mountain bikers so we were not sure what to expect from this 20 mile ride but Melanie reassured us it was mostly downhill and we could always hop off the bike if it got too crazy. It started out pretty tame with some rolling twists through the forest and then it passed into a lava rock field. We had never rode through lava before, so it was an experience. The lava is super sharp, if you fall, it takes the skin off like a cheese grater. We made it through (slowly) unscathed, however Greg slashed his tire somewhere along the way. Since the tire was cut so severely it wasn’t just a matter of replacing the tube, the tire had to be patched. So we began to ask passer-bys on the trail for things to patch the tire with. In the end it was successfully patched with some gum, a Clifbar wrapper and duct tape. Amazingly, it held out for the entire ride. The remainder of the ride delivered as promised, it was amazingly beautiful. It did have a few sections that were probably at the edge or beyond our abilities for rock scrambling on the bikes, but we made it through okay. Sara and I had a few crashes, nothing serious, but Sara ended up with quite a few gouges on her legs that required some trail medical attention which involved some skin glue and wound cleaning by Greg. At the end of the trail (about 6 hours later) we had some great hamburgers and celebratory beers at the Belknap Hot Springs.

After the ride, we decided to pack up and head back to Portland on Saturday night to sleep in a bed rather than in the tent… quite a luxury for Sara and I. We got the full tour of Greg and Melanie’s house, which is awesome. Greg and Melanie were awesome hosts for the remainder of the weekend. We went out to breakfast in their neighborhood, hit up the local farmer’s market, saw the Nike campus where they work and downtown Portland. The camping Friday night, the ride on Saturday, and hanging out the Greg, Melanie and their friends will certainly be a highlight of our trip. Check out their blog for Greg and Melanie’s take on the ride/weekend:

Mt. Hood and Bend, Oregon

After Olympic NP, we headed down through Southern Washington into Oregon and drove along the Columbia River to Hood River. Hood River is a cool town/valley area with a lot of fruit farms, B&Bs and outdoor sporting opportunities. It also has a great view of Mt. Hood which is about 20 miles South. We camped on Wednesday night along the Columbia River in a state park that was decent, with the exception of the freight trains coming through every 30 minutes and the strong gusty winds that actually lifted our tent up in the middle of the night and almost carried us away. On Thursday we headed up to Mt. Hood, checked out the Timberline Lodge and Ski area which is so far up the mountain you drive above the tree line and get some great glacier views; it was cold, about 50 degrees and windy. After a gross, but delicious chili dog from the ski lodge, we headed back down the mountain and over to Bend Oregon. Bend is a cool little town that seems to be quite up and coming with the richie riches from California who summer there and winter in Palm Springs. We stopped and had some beers in the Deschutes Brewery which is one of the main microbrews found in the Northwest (Mirror Pond, etc.). On Thursday night we camped in another state park, did some grocery shopping and made a good meal. Since Bend is on the Eastern side of the Cascade range it gave us a flavor for the terrain in central Oregon which is dry and sunny almost all year long.

On Friday morning we got up early, headed out of Bend and back into the Cascade range to meet up with Sara’s second cousin Greg and his wife Melanie for some mountain biking. After grabbing a few spots at a campground along the Mackenzie River, we drove into Eugene and hit the local Trader Joes, Sara was excited. We spent the afternoon lounging around the campground and the beautiful Mackenzie River which has spectacular scenery and the clearest river water we have seen yet. That evening Greg, Melanie, and Greg’s friend Joe rolled in. After getting reacquainted (Sara had not seen Greg since she was probably 7 years old), we made a great dinner and sat around the campfire enjoying some fine Northwest microbrew until the wee hours.