Tuesday, August 15, 2017

addenda to last post

Just found the missing pictures from McKay Falls.

The falls:

The kid, who oddly didn't want to go in the water despite it being about 90 out.  We had to settle for going in ourselves and laughing at the other feral children who were chasing each other around with sticks and bunches of wet algae-covered vegetation.


We *could* have sought out many, many waterfalls on our trip, but given that most of them were in vicious mosquito country during apocalyptic mosquito season, we saw but a few:

Chad at McArthur-Burney Falls

Same falls sans Chad

Rare picture of both of us on the trail that circumnavigated said falls.

Random rapids near Fall River Mills along CA-299.  Not much of a falls, but the gorge was scenic enough that we pulled off at the viewpoint.

Teeny-tiny falls in La Pine State Park.  This on is on the Fall River in OR (unlike Fall River CA in the picture above).

And finally, another real falls -- this double falls is Paulina Falls in Newberry Crater National Monument, a short hike down the Peter Skene Ogden Trail from Paulina Lake.  The trail continues down for miles and miles along the creek, passing several other waterfalls and a natural waterslide, which would make for a fine outing had we had all day left (we didn't, and had to make to with also making a brief stop at McKay Falls down near the bottom so I could play in the creek).
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Monday, August 14, 2017

Tour of the Volcanoes: Mountain Biking

You may have noticed from the earlier photographs that we dragged our mountain bikes all over creation on the back of the truck.  We rode them some too!

One of the trails I wanted to check out in Oregon was the North Umpqua Trail.  This is lovely 70+ mile stretch of singletrack through the woods along the north fork of the Umpqua River.  We only had time to check out the top section, which of course makes us want to go back and do the whole thing.  Just not in July, which as we found out is apocalyptic mosquito season... even the beer served at the restaurant back in town was called "Vicious Mosquito".

We found a fine dirt shortctut from the trailhead back to the main road

and the truck kicked up even more dust than our bikes did.  I kept hoping all the mosquitos that had pestered Chad and Nim were choking and expiring in our wake.

After that ride, fun as it was, I ruled out further expeditions into the part of the mountains deemed "Mosquito Central".  Fortunately, I had cleverly picked our next accommodation to be in the slightly warmer drier region further east (maybe I had an advance inkling that the bugs might be bad in the mountains...)

La Pine State Park was half a mile from our rental hut that you saw in an earlier post, and was chock-full of the most delightful easy (i.e. mostly flat) singletrack that you can imagine.  Most of the time you got to weave in and out of the trees along either the Deschutes or Fall Rivers, and there was just enough navigation of the trail maze involved to make it interesting.  I snuck out here one afternoon while Chad and Nim were napping after our day's activities over at Newberry Crater, and rode about 14 miles, only to head back to the hut and make Chad go back out with me so he wouldn't miss out.  And, I convinced Nim to get up at 6am the next morning so she would get her chance too :)

We were amused by the park's "Big Tree" -- the largest Ponderosa Pine in the state of Oregon.  It *is* a big tree, but my eyes have been jaded by the immensity of the redwoods and sequoia in CA.

Once up in WA, one ride that we really wanted to do was to ride up Ape Canyon and the Plains of Abraham near Mt. St. Helens.  This is the non-brutal part of a ride that we did on a previous trip.  I was appalled to note that the last time was seven years ago -- how could it possibly be that long???

The route climbs up a forested ridge that contains the only trees on the mountain to have survived the 1980 blast, and then pops you out above the treeline to some amazing views.  What I didn't quite remember was just how steeply some of the climb was -- but I knew the views would be good.

When we hit this point, a hiker hollered from the next switch back "You guys look just amazing there -- do you want me to take a picture?"  Naturally we said yes, and Chad ran the camera over to her.  Two little people on bikes with giant Mt. Adams in the background.

Around another corner I got to ponder

the immensity and nearness of Mt. St. Helens.

High on the east flank of the volcano are found the Plains of Abraham -- a desolate-seeming flat field of pumice with spectacular views of the mountain (peak would be to the left of the picture below).

We hit the timing just right to see most of the Plains covered in lupine and another purple flower that I couldn't identify.  The sheer weirdness of the lupine-blanketed moonscape doesn't quite come out in the photo.

After a few more corners, we were off of the worst of the pumice and the wildflowers were abundant all along the trail.  I don't think I stopped grinning along this stretch even though I was pretty tired.

We started taking more pictures as we both got tired.  "I'll just sit here and take your picture as you ride through over there."  The sitting part was good :)

And actually the riding was too!

We took a moment to balance the camera on a rock to take a picture of both of us before heading down a couple thousand feet of swoopy tree-lined descent.  Much easier on the way out.

And just for reference -- us on the same trail seven years previously.  We are this young in our own heads.  (I was also amused to note that my mountain bike shoes that Chad classifies as falling apart and I classify as just getting good were almost new back then.)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Teen Party

The teen party has taken over the atrium this afternoon.  Part back-to-school, part birthday, part let's-play-games.  Completely earsplitting.
(Easiest party ever; I just bought some drinks and chips and got out of the way!)

There is cake too.

Other things to see at Lava Beds

Aside from the lava tube caves, there were also a couple of points of historical interest at Lava Beds.

We spent part of an afternoon exploring Captain Jack's Stronghold, a sort of natural fortification in the lava landscape that a small band of Modoc natives used to hold off a US Army force that sometimes outnumbered them by 10 to 1 over several months in 1873.  Given all the nooks and crannies in the natural basalt ramparts, it's not surprising that this was possible.

We then drove around the remnants of Tule Lake, an important source of water for the natives in the area (being cut off from it was what eventually sealed the fate of Captain Jack and his band of Modoc)

to Petroglyph Point.  This formation was once an island

onto which natives carved petroglyphs roughly 500 years ago.

It is the largest petroglyph panel in these parts.

Of course, we had to look through the fence that is up to keep idiots from defacing the rock, but you could still see quite a lot.

Nim was happy to have a chance to run around aboveground for a change.

As we noted a few years ago on the Tour of the West, swallows seem to favor the same cliffs that the petroglyph artists did.

Friday, August 11, 2017


The underground portion of the Tour of the Vocanoes involved caving in lava tubes, which is a most entertaining way to escape the summer heat aboveground.

We stopped at Subway Cave just outside of the Lassen park boundary as sort of a warm-up cave.  This is a fairly benign place to explore, and gave us a chance to remember how to stumble about in the dark.

It also reminded me just how difficult it is to take pictures in the dark when you don't want to spend any extra time setting things up.

One can figure out how to hold the flashlights strategically.  Ooooh, spooky shadow.

Lava tubes have quite a different feel than other water-carved caves that we've been in.  Often the walls are quite smooth, and of course there are no stalactites or stalagmites.

Yay -- we found the exit!  Time for a hug.

When we got to Lava Beds, we knew that things would be a bit more difficult, with passageways that required some stooping and crawling.  Thus, I got to wear my stylin' old climbing helmet.

Nim and Chad had new helmets.  Can't you feel the style just radiating out from us?

After getting our permit and walking through their shoe decontamination trough to make sure we weren't going to spread any white-nose fungus to the bats, we set out to explore the cave loop.  On the surface, you can tell that you are in volcano territory (note the basalt on the ground and the cinder cone in the distance), but at first glance you have little insight into the maze that lies below.

Aha -- what's that?  A hole in the ground!

There are some places where lava tubes are close enough to the surface to have fallen in on themselves, leading to a series of natural bridges.

We had a listing of the caves with indications of which ones were open and what they would likely require in terms of motion and navigagion, but ended up poking our noses into pretty much anything that was open.  Once inside, the temptation to explore was pretty strong; at times we squirmed through side passageways enough to pop out onto the surface like prairie dogs at the entrance to an entirely different cave that the one we went in from.

Some of the caves had clearly defined paths to follow.

Others required you to find your own best route.

From the pictures it should be clear that we usually went into larger holes that the ones we came out of.

The ceiling of one of the caves had some visually interesting yellow bacterial mats that glittered in the light from our flashlights.

Another cave had hold graffiti from 1892.  Chad spotted this; I would have missed it entirely.

Nim was quite the intrepid explorer,

though she did find the occasional nook in which to rest

while Chad or I explored side passages to determine whether they went anywhere interesting.

At one point, it occurred to me that knee pads would have been nice.  The rough texture on the floor is just how the lava solidified, and in places it was very sharp.

It looks like dried mud, but in reality is hard, pointy basalt.  Ouch.

In some places, the walls of the lava tubes were smooth, but in other places they were covered in lavacicles -- small drips formed when lava drips solidified as they tried to ooze off the wall.

 At the end of the day, we quite enjoyed finding the openings where the sun shone down in!