Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Circle Tour

On Monday we decided to go sightseeing. The obvious sight to see in Southern Oregon is Crater Lake, but the round-trip from Howard Prairie Lake to Crater Lake is about 240 miles and we weren't sure we wanted to drive that far. Actually I was sure but Vicki, who actually does most of the driving, wasn't. So we decided instead to go to Klamath Falls. There are a number of wildlife refuges in that area extending from Upper Klamath Lake down to Tule Lake in the California. Unfortunately, Klamath Falls is about 50 miles away and we didn't have 50 miles of gas in the car, so first we had to make the 20 mile trek back to Ashland for fuel. Fortunately, in the Subaru the trip only took about 30 min. Then it was an hour back to Klamath Falls where we stopped for breakfast. When the meal was done, we got down to figuring out what we were going to actually do for the day.

Mostly cattle country
After some discussion, we decided to go to Upper Klamath Lake to start with and we headed north on Highway 97. When we reached the cutoff to Crater Lake, we realized there was only about 10 miles difference in distance between the two destinations, so we decided what the heck, we'll head up Highway 62 to crater Lake after all. We drove for about 40 miles through rolling hills that are really beautiful and quite green this time of year, mostly cattle country. It seems a shame to waste it on cows, but it would be an equal waste to put in housing so I guess we will leave it as is.

When we started seriously climbing up Mount Mazuma we were surprised at how much snow was left. By the time we reached the summit, the piles of plowed snow on the sides of the road were twice the height of our car. We turned left on the circle road that goes around the perimeter of the caldera that holds the lake and pulled off at the first opportunity. There wasn't really an official view site here, but we hiked 30 feet uphill to the rim and as we came over the edge, what we saw was this:

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

It was surreal. The water was an unbelievable blue mirror reflecting the rock and residual snow of the surrounding volcano. The last time we came here they were burning off the fields in the valley down below and the air was smoky and dense. This time it was crystal clear and all you could do was stand and stare and be amazed.

Puppies first snow trip
We continued around the rim road, stopping at each turn out as we came to it. "Should we take another picture?"  "We just took pictures 500 yards back."  "But look, the angle of Wizard Island is 3° different from the last place! This may be a better view. Better take some photos." So while only a couple of snaps appear here, rest assured we are the proud owners of about 1000 pictures of Crater Lake. Oh, and also a brief cell phone video. By the way, just to give you an idea of the visibility, that is Mount Shasta in the background of the upper right-hand corner, just over 100 miles to the south.

Origins of the Rogue River
The northern half of the rim road was closed, presumably to save on snowplowing expenses, so we turned back and headed down Highway 62 on the other side of the mountain towards Medford. The road follows the path of the Rogue River from its origin high on the mountain. We last encountered this river at Gold Beach on the coast where it is a majestic 50 yard wide ribbon of water. Up here, it's little more than a creek, tumbling down over rocks and fallen trees. We pulled into a site known as the Rogue River Gorge where it has cut a deep gouge into the mountainside and we took the
dogs on the quarter-mile hike up to the waterfall at the top.

The falls into the Rogue River Gorge

Next we stopped at the Natural Bridge. We have seen a lot of arches and natural bridges around the Southwest. Most of them are created by cutting through a rock outcropping. This one is a little different. It started life as a lava tube during the last eruption of Mount Mazuma 6600 years ago.

As you can see in this educational video, the Rogue falls into the lava tube and disappears for about 50 yards underground, leaving a dry crossing over the river. The lower part of the tube collapsed at some point, so the river emerges in multiple places, giving the impression of water flowing continuously from solid rock as it did for Moses in the wilderness.

We followed Highway 62 down to Medford where we got on the interstate and drove back to Ashland. There we stopped for beer and food at a brewpub associated with the Caldera Brewery.  They had outdoor seating on terraced wooden decks where dogs were welcome, so we tried out a few of their craft beers and had some light dinner while the waitress brought doggy treats for the schnoodles about every ten minutes. It reminded us of Germany where our dogs were welcome at any restaurant in town. It seemed like a happy ending for a long day of driving.

Puppies at the pub

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