Blowing its top!

Lassen Volcanic National Park owes its existence to eruptions of the peak by the same name between 1914 and 1922. But several other volcanoes in the area have also contributed to the park’s unique landscape featuring large rock piles, lava beds, gurgling mudspots, hissing steam vents, sulfur springs and waterfalls. Lassen lies in northeastern California with the Cascade Range to its north, the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south and the Great Basin Desert to the east, and scientists continue to monitor the landscape, not knowing when the next eruption will occur only that some day one will. To the north of Lassen, is beautiful McArthur-Burney Falls, well worth the short drive, and on the day I was there, when temps were in the high 90s, down by the base of the Falls it was a refreshing 65 or so.

More than a tree

The biggest trees on the planet? That all depends on what you mean by biggest. Giant Sequoias are the biggest if you are considering weight and girth. But if you are going by height, it’s the Coast Redwood. They dominate the northwestern Californian coast as you drive south on 101 and spiral upwards — on occasion — to 390 feet. I met a family who had visited the Redwood NP. They were from Illinois by way of Australia and had one word for their hikes through the towering stands of majestic trees: humbling. I couldn’t agree more. Crescent City, the first large town you enter when crossing over from Oregon, has experienced tough times in recent years, owing in large part to lumber and fishing restrictions, and Mike, a friendly guy I sat next to in Crescent City’s Port O’Pints pub, painted a grim picture of the area his family moved to from southern CA in 1968. But he loves to dance, and that’s what he did when the band started playing.

It’s beautiful, but…

There’s only one problem with the Oregon Coast as spectacularly beautiful as it is. It’s not made for swimming. Rip tides, large waves and frigid temperatures make it somewhat less than ideal for a summer plunge. And then there are the sneaker waves.” One of the locals was telling me how he was almost swept out to sea one day when he was fishing near shore and a wave broke on top of him just as he saw it. He had to jab his pole into the sand several times to prevent from going under. Nevertheless, the Oregon coast is absolutely breathtaking. I stopped in Bandon and Port Orford, both on Rte 101, as I headed south to California. They’re neat little towns with rich maritime histories and friendly people, and worth a stop or short stay if you’re in the area.

Into the blue

That’s where you’ll be when you visit Crater Lake, Oregon’s only National Park and our country’s fifth oldest, established in 1902. I took a trolley ride around the lake, which lasted for about two hours — and highly recommend it if you should ever go. Lake Crater highlights, besides its dazzling blue color? The NP ranger who accompanied us on the ride had a top 10 list. Here are a few: at a depth reaching 1,943 feet the deepest lake in the U.S.; also, perhaps, the body of water with the greatest visibility in the world — 143 feet; annual snowfall — 43 feet; and, created by a massive volcanic eruption some 7,700 years ago. Oh, and btw, it’s still considered an active volcano! Before Crater Lake, I stopped in Corvallis, home of the Oregon Beavers, passed through Sisters, a beautiful little town, and spent a night in Bend. Leaving Bend, I spent some time at the High Desert Museum, just off Rte 97. It’s outstanding, and through a display of permanent and changing exhibits, paints a wonderful picture of the area’s history, people and culture.

After Astoria

You could easily spend a couple of days in Astoria, but, at this time of year, rooms are dear and I decided to move on. Nevertheless, I went to the Flavel House, the movie museum, which highlighted the making of The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop, and a couple of breweries; my rec would be Buoy Beer. From Astoria onto the Clatsop Fort, just south of Astoria, where Lewis & Clark spent several months preparing for their trek back East. Then onto Rte 101. If you are ever on this road — heading north or south — allot more time than you had planned for. Around every bend and pullout is another spectacular vista. Ecola State Park and Hug Point are especially spectacular. From Newport onto Bend (today) and then Crater Lake (tomorrow) where I have secured a campsite for two nights (thanks, Jack, for those recommendations!!). And a special thanks for new travel friends Jim and Carol Schneider, who allowed their wonderful dog, Leroy, to have his photo taken with me. BTW, their son Paul is starring in a new play on Broadway: “Four Straight Men.” Check it out!

On to Oregon

I met a fellow traveler on the road a few weeks back in Alaska (Micah from a previous blog). He was from Oregon, headed north with his dog, Huck, to Prudhoe Bay. He provided several great recommendations for the OR coast, but forgot to include Astoria, the town I’m in now and, might, perhaps, be staying in for another night or two. Route 101 So. from Washington takes you across a nearly four-mile bridge that spans the width of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark spent more than two weeks there overlooking the river in 1805, waiting out a merciless winter storm before forging onward, referring to their stay as the “dismal nitch.” Astoria, at the other end of the bridge, is a gritty town of about 10,000, perhaps less gritty now than in its heyday when commercial fishing operations brought in millions of dollars. Its outstanding maritime museum recalls the town’s — and area’s — rich history in waters that have been described as among the world’s most dangerous. Astoria is also the film location for “The Goonies.”

Olympic it is

The Olympic Peninsula, from what people tell me, is an often forgotten sidenote to Washington’s fortunes — and misfortunes. That’s hard to imagine, given the area’s tremendous beauty, natural resources and wonderful people. You can sample much of that heading west on Route 101 and veering off onto spur roads that take you to temperate rainforests, misty beaches, crystal blue lakes and, occasionally, the town you should probably avoid. I’ll be entering Oregon tomorrow, but leaving the great state of Washington with wonderful memories!

Another world

It has sometimes felt like that to me, gazing down from Hurricane Ridge above Port Angeles and looking out to glacial ridges, snow-capped mountains hovering to east and west, and the immense Pacific cresting beyond. Hurricane Ridge is a gateway — and great introduction — to Olympic Nat’l Park, a true gem in our National Parks system. Leaving Port Angeles today I drove out to Cape Flattery and Shi Shi beach, the latter just north of an amazing archaeological discovery of the Makahs, dating back more than 500 years. As I walked along the muddy trail to the beach, I thought about how it was not just a different world, but a different planet, and how the things I saw within a finger’s reach were things I had not seen  before and would probably not see again.

I also thought about John, the motel manager, when I returned my key to check out this morning and asked him if he still did any fish guiding or charters. “No,” he said, “I can barely walk now without a cane.” He told me how he had signed up to be a cook, but when they found out he could handle a gun, it was front lines, infantry. Vietnam, ’67-’69. “Agent orange,” he said with a soft smile. He and his wife moved to Sequim from Clallam when John returned from Vietnam. A better school system, he was told. His two kids are doctors now, doing well in Bellingham. John and wife still reside in Clallam.

On the other side

Across from the hustle and bustle of Seattle lies the most northwesterly part of Washington state — home to rain forests, beautiful beaches, waterfalls (lots of them), the Olympic National Park and…the John Wayne Marina! Wayne frequented the area and his family donated the land where the marina now sits in the 1980s. The marina is part of Sequim (pronounced “squim”), where I decided to do some catch-up work (car, laundry). It’s considered the lavender capital of America and purple is the town’s dominant color. At Sequim’s far southeastern end is the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, where a 5-mile walk along the beach will take you to a still-working lighthouse. Mount Baker, barely visible in one of the following photos, looms in the background.

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