Monday, July 28, 2014

The Great Wide Open III - Hot Stuff


Some days go as planned, others, not so much. On this day, we decided to take the scenic route from our campsite in the foothills of the Jefferson Wilderness to the high lava lands east of the Cascades. The mission was to scout hikes for an upcoming field trip, most of which I had already seen. The only new hike looked and sounded from the description pretty easy. No big deal we thought. Yeah.

First, we decided to make an extra stop at an old-growth grove, which turned out to be neither a .25 mile loop nor particularly packed with old growth. A couple of miles later we emerge scratching our heads, wondering how such a nice trail got put in such a strange and remote place.

Two hours and one delicious roadside lunch later, we reach our real destination, get out, and start to hike. Uphill. Like really, really uphill. It's one of the few downsides to studying volcanoes, the hikes are almost always brutal climbs. So up we go to the beautiful viewpoint, planning to continue down and around the lake. But we miss the trail marker and an hour of hard hiking later, land right back at the car. 

Take two. We skip the cinder cone the second time instead walking through one of the largest and longest campgrounds either of us have ever seen. Eventually, we reach the juncture we should have been at almost two hours ago. We hike on past, towards the promise of an obsidian flow and hot springs. The sign at the trail head states that the hot springs will be about 1.25 miles past the flow, on a WELL MARKED spur trail (their emphasis, not mine). We find the flow. It is, in fact, obsidian. We hike on. And on. And on. We turn back at the halfway point, obviously having gone miles too far. Less than a mile beyond the flow, there is a side trail, entirely unlabeled, that leads to the hot springs.

Oh joy, oh rapture, hot springs! We are tired, dusty, and about four miles past what we were prepared to hike. We are ready for a soak. But. But the springs, being natural as they are, are blazing-lava hot. And also about five inches deep. Apparently, the winter snows and high lake levels are what locals use to fill the dug out tubs and cool the water. In midsummer, the best you can hope for is some dangerously hot splashing in muddy puddles. Which we do. For about four minutes. And then we start the long hike back.

Finally, after an accidental eight mile day, we load up and out, finding a cool place with a view to drink a somewhat cold beer dug from the bottom of our cooler. 

And so it goes.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fair Thee Well


Nothing is more exhausting and rewarding than the week-long extravaganza of music, light, love, art, and general mayhem that we call the Oregon Country Fair. Its a party, an arts and music festival, and a gathering of happy people looking for a few days to be and do entirely as they please. The fair is one of the few places I know of in which people wear their inner children on the outside, where strangers smile and hug, and generosity rules the day. It is a throwback for sure, to simpler times when food was cooked by scratch, goods were made by hand, and music was made by real people playing actual instruments. But it's a good throwback. While there has been much debate this year about the direction of the fair, its rules on amplification (very little), late night partying (do it, but keep in acoustic) and environmental impact (can you say site archaeologist?), the reality is that there is something important about preserving the old-school mentality. There are plenty of festivals for electronica and all night parties. It is, in fact, the direction in which things, hip, important-type things are going, its just not the Country Fair thing. It's nice to hear world music and see bands and other acts be given the chance to perform to a wide and diverse audience they normally wouldn't get exposure to. Someday, when the novelty of our electronics wears off, we might be glad we preserved a place to celebrate the crafts, arts, and traditions of a pre 21st century time. Love is free and analog, spread it around.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Great Wide Open I - Hole In The Ground


It has been at least five years since I have been to Crater Lake, and on that occasion I was so out of season that I was the only person at the one open lookout and didn't get to see the lake because of the dense clouds. Not so this weekend. This time, I took the opposite approach and joined the crowds on the park's busiest weekend of the year,the 4th of July. Used to the crush of the more than ten million visitors the Grand Canyon gets annually, I was bracing myself for long lines, tube socks, and RV's trying to see four parks in one week. 

But that wasn't the case. It turns out that due to its remote location Crater Lake only receives about 500,000 visitors a year so even their busiest weekends are mellow in comparison to many of the other National Parks. Sure, the lodge was busy with the usual assortment of tourists, mostly from West Indian,a fact for which I have no explanation, the trails and view points were fairly mellow. 

The odd thing about visiting Crater Lake is how inaccessible the lake itself actually is. The only access to the lake itself is via the Cleetwood trail, which loses more than 700 feet in elevation in just over a mile of trail. It's steep, packed, and on this weekend, stupid hot as well. But the best parts of the park, away from the spectacular blue of the lake, are in side canyons cut through great stacks of volcanic airfall where hoo doos stand as sentries and clear lake water runs its course out to the Klamath Basin. In these parts of the park there is solitude, spectacular views of Oregon country, and a true sense being squarely set in the middle of no where. It is a wonderful reminder of just how big the world really is. So, if you haven't made it out to Crater Lake in a while or ever, put it back on your list.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flock of Birds


Last year a flock of wild turkeys moved into the neighborhood. For a while, they were an oddity, a kind of over-stuffed and mean version of the peacock. Then they took to blocking traffic, slowly crossing roadways like great herds of bison, in no particular hurry and not at all concerned about the schedules of humans. And this too, was fine, as I harbored no resentment towards the deer, even though they also stop traffic. The turkeys though, do lack a certain soulful look in their eyes, and tend towards aggressive squawking and charging.  All gods creatures and whatnot.

Then, two weeks ago, their first batch of babies appeared. And they were cute, kind of. For a couple of days they looked like a great flock of somewhat ugly quail. But now, they don't. They look like the Skeksis from the Dark Crystal, only with the behavior of adolescents. And there are dozens of them. They feed outside the window in the early morning hours, climbing down from their roosts high in the old firs that surround the house. They are loud, and bully the other birds from the feeder. And they will only get bigger.

I want to resent them. For stealing my sleep, being loud and aggressive, driving away the baby chickadees, also just emerging into the world, for fighting and pooping everywhere. For being so very very turkey. But I can't. They are right, this is a lovely corner of the world in which to live and more than likely, they are also likely serving some kind of purpose, filling some niche of which I am unaware. Or, this time next year, we will have a turkey farm. Could go either way.