Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deep Blue Waters, Tall Trees, Koncrete Kampgrounds

We went through Washington after spending two hours in the infamous I-5 traffic through Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. We had packed the mini van tight with travel supplies, tents, sleeping bags, camp mats, a cooler, clothes and peanut butter and jelly. Our plans were to stay in tents, eat mostly from the cooler and see some new parts of the country. We were fifteen miles from the house when out landlord called with news a package had arrived at our doorstep. We U-turned and went back for one truly final look at Puget Sound from the hills of Edmonds. We watched the ferry pull in to the landing as we drove east on Main street.
Our first night was in a hotel just outside of Portland, Oregon. We left a day early and hoped to get closer to the first destination, Crater Lake. The first night in the hotel was going to give the kids a chance to swim in the pool but the stop and stop then go five feet and stop traffic slowed our progress. We pulled into the hotel late Friday night, no swimming just tired kids and frustrated parents. We unloaded, settled into bed and slept through the continental breakfast served in the lobby the next morning. We filled the cooler with fresh ice and had a meal and hit the road. So far we had neither eaten anything from the cooler nor slept in a tent. We had reservations at Diamond Lake six miles north of Crater Lake and there our camping adventure would begin.
We drove down into the camp site and set the tents in a clearing surrounded by wildflowers. Everyone was excited with our new home for the evening. The tents went up quickly without problems. We filled the air mattress for Traci, unrolled the sleeping bags and went down to Crater Lake.
We drove into the park from the north, crossing a field of pumice stone called the pumice desert. When Mount Mazama imploded over 7000 years ago it left a hole in the ground where rain water, ice run-off and snowmelt has been collecting ever since. The cobalt water reflected the walls of the crater in the bright evening sunshine. We drove to the east side of the crater and watched the sunset.

On the east side of the crater I met a guy who reminded me of my brother Tom. He didn't look like Tom. This guy was large with dark hair, not much taller than me. He had been in Portland for a conference, after his conference he found he had a day before his flight back to the east coast. He decided Crater Lake would be a nice place to take a couple of pictures so he rented a car, drove the four hours south to the lake and slept in his car the first night. The evening we met him he was taking photos of the sun setting across the lake. He would spend the night and drive back to Portland to fly out the next day. Before leaving he planned on waking early and taking pictures of the sunrise. It seemed a great effort for a few pictures.

We slept well our first night. That's how I remember it. I woke early and watched the sun rise over Diamond Lake, taking pictures. The rest of the family woke and grumbled a little about the 30-something degree temperatures then we had breakfast, summer sausage and cheese on crackers, pop tarts and some milk to wash it down. The camping had begun with success.
We broke camp and drove back to Crater Lake. The sights over looking the lake were beautiful.
We wanted to get to the majestic sight of the redwood forest. We drove through the rest of Oregon, stopping for a bathroom break and some peanut butter and jelly goodness.

The redwoods were magnificent, big trees with rough craggy bark and huge straight trunks. We drove to the camp site in the middle of the forest. Having these giant trees hovering over the tents was unreal. We had dinner in Orick at a little diner, the only place still open at 7p.m. On the drive to town we saw several Elk chewing grasses near the highway. It was a great place to spend the night, except the bears.
As we entered the camp the forest ranger gave a small lecture about the bears in the park. The camp site was dominated by the large metal box set off to the side. Everyone around us was grilling and cooking, sending the wonderful smells of warm meals out into the forest to surely attract the bears into our camp. There was this sound coming from the edge of the woods. A screech cry sort of noise followed by retching. "reeeeee reeee" then "aaack, AAAaaack!!" We never did figure out what made the sound.
All night I heard those metal boxes in the campsites bang and clang. I would wake up and stare into the darkness, sure a bear was about to tear through the nylon tent to get to the graham cracker I must have left in my tent. I was convinced a lumbering bear was just outside my tent just waiting for the right time to get the graham cracker and spread me all over it. I slept horribly.

The redwoods and fern canyon made up for the poor sleeping conditions. We hiked into the forest and found fifty foot canyon walls covered with five fingered ferns. We had stepped into a different world. The canyon walls spilled water over moss and ferns, the trees stood tall and strong. We hiked through the canyon then played on the nearby beach where seals played in the surf about fifty yards in front of us. There was a foggy marine layer drifting in and out of the trees making the whole landscape misty. It was a great place to see.

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