Friday, October 14, 2016

Northwest Trip 2016

Lava Beds, Klamath Falls, Lassen, Yosemite and home.

After a few days in Portland and the Columbia Gorge, we drove south to Crater Lake. The weather changed as we approached the Crater Lake. We started seeing some snow on the mountain sides. Then, without much warning and only being a few miles from the crater, it began to snow hard. 

We continued on for another mile or so, but just as we were ready to call it quits, we noticed the road ahead had been blocked off. We made a U-turn and starred at the snow. Crater Lake was not going to happen.

We drove onward to Klamath Falls, driving along Klamath Lake for quite a stretch. After checking in to our hotel, we looked for a place to eat and found an obscure pizza joint known as Mia and Pia's Pizzaria and Brewhouse. At first glance, it didn't look promising. But we didn't have any other ideas so went in and ordered. 

It turned out to be surprisingly good - both the pizza and the beer. A light crust with tasty toppings and the beer choices were excellent. 

The following day we continued our southern route, passing through the California agriculture border stop. They asked me if we had any fruit. I told them we had one banana. They motioned us on.

As we approached Lava Beds Monument, we first passed by Lake Tule, a refuge with thousands of migratory birds. We even spotted a few Pelicans.  

Lava Beds Monument is a volcanic park that has lots of lava tubes and caves that are accessible - some are easy walks that have metal stairways and others are more rugged. We walked into a few of them that were grouped around a loop near the visitor's center. 

Some of the caves had ice at the bottom. There was a story about how early settlers would enter the caves to ice skate. Unfortunately, the ice has begun to slowly melt. But it was still visible.

After our visit to the Lava Beds Monument, we drove to the small town of River Fall and found an old hotel to spend the night. There weren't many choices but fortunately the hotel was pretty nice, offered us a suite with two bedrooms and a small living room. Dinner at the hotel turned out to be quite good too. 

                                                   We were on the top floor.

The following day we continued our drive south and headed for Lassen National Park. It was a beautiful drive, particularly as we approached the park.

   In the early 1900's, the Lassen volcano erupted. It spewed out boulders such as this one.

         The eruption created a moon-like surface on much that surrounded the volcano.

                      One of a number of small lakes with crystal-clear water.

Although the park has several areas of hot, boiling sulphur-laced water pools, we only stopped at the Sulphur Works, which is quite close to the road. It was gurgling and smelly but fun to watch. There were signs warning visitors to stay on the trails lest they break through the crusty soil and fall into one of the pits.   

After spending the day at Lassen, we continued our drive south and made it as far as Sacramento where we checked into a hotel and later had Pho at a local Vietnamese restaurant by the name of Corriander. 

The following day we headed for Yosemite. We hadn't realized that it was Columbus Day weekend - a big mistake. It took us nearly an hour of being queued up near the entrance gate to finally pass through. Needless to say, the park was a zoo.

We drove in to the valley, hiked in to see the Bridalveil Falls, bought some picnic supplies and headed for Glacier Point. It was momentarily closed due to too many people. We waited for nearly an hour until enough parking spots were deemed available.

But we got there in time for sunset.

We listened to Ranger Rachel as she told stories of how the geological formations we were looking at had formed millions of years ago. And how Galen Clark became the park's first guardian and went on to do that job until he was 80 years old. But he continued to live in Yosemite until his death nearly fifteen years later.

Thus, in spite of the crowds, we enjoyed our brief visit to Yosemite. We drove home that night and were glad to be home again.