Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mt. Rainier National Park Day Two

We were up early Friday to get an early start on our 100+ mile, round trip drive to the Sunrise Visitors Center and back to the rig. 

We were relieved to be able to drive without endangering the bike racers, and stop at many of the view points along the way. 

We were able to get a good look at the blue ice of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier and the White River, which is the runoff  from  one of the glaciers.

As I watched Craig make his way across the rocks at the edge of the wildly churning ice water, I wondered if this might be the last picture I would have of him.

Of course it was not, he got up close to the waters. He could have done the same with my 25X zoom lens from above. But this was more fun.

There were many wildflowers growing along the roadside. 

We first learned about this kind (Fireweed) 
on our trip 
to Alaska last year.

The leaves turn brilliant red in fall, and look like small fires along the road.

Looking away from Mt. Rainier

Who needs to go to Alaska? Between the glacial-runoff rivers, fireweed wildflowers, and rugged peaks on the horizon, many of the landscapes were similiar to those we saw last year in Alaska.

There were many trails that start or go through the Sunrise VC area.
We walked one of the shorter ones and got a good view of the Edmonds Glacier on this side of the mountain.

This is a close-up of a crevasse that's visible in the Emmons Glacier above. We have no reference to know how big this feature was, but its size would probably surprise us.  

I think the river in the image above is the White River. 

Later in the afternoon we noticed some large cumulus clouds rising high in the clear blue sky to the east. The posted weather report at the VC said there was a chance of thunderstorms by evening.

Needless to say we were concerned, because while rain is welcome, lightning strikes start wildfires. As it happened the clouds blew away.

On Saturday morning, we were out of the park by about 9:30 am. We noticed a lot more traffic coming in on the road to the park entrance than we had seen in the two days before. 

image from web


I watched my odometer as we drove past them at the entrance. There was a back up of almost a mile and more coming.

The best time to see any National park is during the week, preferably not in the summer months. I think we will be back another time, it was so beautiful!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Mt. Rainier National park, day One ~ Cougar Rock Campground & Grove of the Patriarchs

When making our reservations in January, I was only able to get three nights at Cougar Rock Campground in Mt. Rainier National Park. 

Cougar Rock is all dry camping (no hookups), and has a size limit on motorhomes of 35'. Our Alfa is listed as a 35', but in reality it is a bit longer. Lengthwise, we just fit in the site, considering there were large rocks that can't be seen in the above picture, behind and to the passenger side. We only have slides on one side. If we had them on both sides, like some rigs do, we might have had more of a problem. Although the site was a drive-through, it took a bit of maneuvering to find a good position. The curve on the site, the curve in the loop road, and the curve in the road by the dump station were all very tight. Sometimes people with larger rigs will understate their rig size to get a spot in a park with limits. Most of the time this can work out all right, but I would not recommend doing that here. 

Like most National Parks, Mt. Rainier is very large and has only one main two-lane road with many turnouts for trailheads and viewpoints. 

There are a lot of blind curves, and many places have steep drop-offs with no shoulder to speak of.

Image from Web
On our first full day (Thursday) traffic was relatively light, but there was an annual bike race taking place, going in the same direction that we were. There were hundreds of riders spaced out and some in tight groups. Falling in line and not passing was not an option. Some riders were going very slow (uphill) and others wanted to go faster than we did (downhill). Craig was driving, and there were many times I would gasp or squeak (OK, almost scream) when he passed by accelerating into the oncoming lane, while approaching a blind curve. Just driving was hard, so we did not stop at any of the view points.  It was a nerve wracking 25 miles to our first destination for the day, the Grove of the Patriarchs. 

It's really hard to resist trying to take a picture that shows just how tall these trees are!  The one below wasn't even one of the very old ones.

There were a lot of people there, but it didn't feel crowded, once you got a parking space after waiting for someone to leave. There were several picnic tables that were in constant use, but the wait was short and the tables were in the shade, so we had a relaxing picnic lunch before driving on. Fortunately we were now going in the opposite direction from the racers and no longer had to pass them. But we did have one scary moment when another car was coming toward us in our lane around a curve, while they were passing some riders.

Choosing which pictures of the mountain to display is a challenge. We took so many!

Our second stop of the day, other than at viewpoints along the road, was the Paradise Visitors Center.

I was feeling a bit tired so we didn't go on any of the walks from there. Several looked nice. We did watch the park movie, which was one of the best we have seen in our travels, and brought our laptops in to check email and news of the day. 

Walking back to the Jeep, we noticed the Lodge, and went in to see it. Many National Park lodges were built by the CCC in the 1930s, and although some have been renovated, they still have the rustic charm we enjoy.

We inquired about dinner reservations and found we did not need any. We did have an hour wait before it opened, and spent the time relaxing and people-watching in the massive lobby while listening to a gentleman playing the piano. One could easily imagine the  bygone days when only the rich could take the time to visit such a place. Now it is only the rich who can afford the rooms!

I had the Salmon with wild blackberry sauce for dinner. Craig had the Ratatouille, which was good-tasting but not very pretty.

After dinner we drove out of the park to fill the Jeep gas tank so that we could comfortably drive over 100 miles in the park, the next day.

Finally, the two pictures below were taken at the same view turn out, from different perspectives at different times of day.

This image of "Reflection Lake"was shot in the afternoon, from the higher angle of the road level. It could be called "No Reflection Lake".

This one was shot earlier in the morning the next day from a spot that was lower, at lake level. The water was also much calmer. 

Our second day was calmer in other ways as well, and we had many wonderful views. I'll write more in the next post.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Champoeg State Heritage Area and Aurora, Oregon

Our drive from Crater Lake to the Champoeg State Heritage Area was one of the longer ones we have done in the last few months: almost 300 miles! 

If you follow this blog, you know I am a fan of Jane Kirkpatick. My primary reason for stopping at Champoeg was to go over and visit the small town of Aurora, and see what is left of the Old Colony that was featured in one of her trilogies.

I was not disappointed.

It was fun for me to see many of the items mentioned in her fictionalized experiences of Emma Wagner Giesy.

For example this is a "tower of bells" that was from Germany and was carried in front of important processions, such as marriages and funerals.

Making quilts was a very important part of a pioneer woman's social life. Often women would get together to work on a quilt. For my modern quilting friends, all of this was done by hand! No long-arm machines existed. 

The Aurora Colony was a religious commune in which individual households were maintained, but work and wealth were shared. This was the interior of the "Wash House." An early version of the laundromat? 

Porta Potty of the past! But this one was a two-seater. I wonder about that, did more than one person use it at a time? Was this the equivalent of a two bathroom house?

The  campground at Champoeg is about ten miles from Aurora and has its own history. It was the site of a town that had been established on the high banks of the Willamette River, somewhat earlier than the Aurora Colony. Unfortunately it flooded out and was destroyed, not once but twice before it was abandoned.

We explored the Visitors Center. The fur trade was one of the reasons for the early settlement. 

Behind the VC was a "Pioneer Kitchen Garden"

I have heard of Amaranth, but have never seen it growing before, and didn't know it was cultivated by Oregon pioneers. The seed from this plant can be ground into a gluten free flour and used much like wheat flour. I had read that wheat did not grow very well because of the wet climate.

There was also a nice Concord Grape arbor. 

The grapes were still green, but quite full and pretty. The garden also contained squash, corn, potatoes and herbs.

The area around the park was very agricultural. Many smaller farms, growing a wide variety of crops. Many fields of hops were interesting to see, as were the fields of small cone-shaped evergreens being grown for the landscaping market.

In the campground, just across from our space, there were lots of wild blackberry bushes.

I couldn't resist and went berry picking several times during our stay.

I really like them on my morning oatmeal. I ate some and froze 10 serving-sized portions.

After a conversation with our daughter, Craig decided to pick some to make a frozen sorbet.

After blending them and straining them through a sieve, he simmered the berry juice with sugar, water, and lemon juice. We don't have an ice-cream maker as called for by his recpie, so we just froze it (which took three days!).

With all of that activity, we had no had time to walk down and see the Willamette River itself. There was a trail to it right next to our campsite, so we went for a short after dinner walk.

I was surprised there were no mosquitos. By the time we got back to the Alfa, it had become a moonlit stroll.  Quite nice!

We were only there for two nights, and our next destination was 157 miles away. 

Mount Rainer National Park.  Check back.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Catching Up: Grants Pass to Crater Lake

Although we took a couple of short morning walks, it was just too hot to do much in our last few days in the Grants Pass area, other than visiting Sue Malone for a very nice supper on Tuesday evening. We were delighted to see their new house and meet the infamous Mattie dog. 

Back in January when I was making reservations, I was able to get two nights at Mazama Campground in Crater Lake National Park. After our time at the Rogue Valley State Park, we had a few extra days.  I filled them with a stop at a commercial RV park, called Crater Lake RV in Prospect, OR. 

The weather was hot, but not too hot. There was some smoke in the air, but we did take a few short walks. In fact we took one walk twice in the same day!

Near our campground were two nice waterfall views accessible by a half-mile walk down a pretty forest trail. When we went the first time it was morning, and the north-facing falls were in the shade. So we went back for a second walk in the late afternoon, and were pleased to see the water falling in the sunlight.

In fact there was even a rainbow in the spray. It's not often we can go back for better light, but we are pleased we did this time.

On Saturday we drove all of 28 miles to Crater Lake National Park. 

We quickly settled in our dry-camp spot, and headed up to the lake rim for lunch at the lodge and our first 2018 view of the lake.  Although there was a threat of haze from a nearby fire, the lake seemed almost as blue as we remembered.

Above is a very zoomed-in image of a couple of the very small spots of snow that remained in spite of the hot weather. 

We stayed in the lodge area for a few hours, and planned to drive around the lake the next day. 

That was a mistake because the smoke and haze increased overnight, but it gave us a different view. Instead of being the usual unbelievable blue, the lake color was a softer pastel and much more reflective of the sides and overhead clouds. 

This view of the "Phantom Ship" had a magical quality.

As we drove around the lake, there were many pullout view points and we were able to see some of the interesting rock formations on the sides of the caldera. The one above is called "Pumice Castle".

We also took a drive down a seven-mile side road to the Pinnacles formations. These are huge rock formations that were once lava tubes that cooled inside the volcano. Over time, the encasing rocks have eroded away, leaving the harder tubes exposed. I thought they looked like giant termite mounds.

We returned to the Alfa, parked in our Mazama Campground spot, late in the afternoon to get cleaned up for our dinner reservation back up at the Lodge Dining Room. Eating dinners at the National Park Lodges has become one of our little traditions. This time, although Craig had not been "wowed" by our lunch Saturday, we were both very pleased by our ribeye steak dinners. They were beautifully prepared and very tasty.

We had requested, and were seated at, a table by a window overlooking the lake. As our meal progressed, we noted that the smoke haze was increasing. By the time we were finished the surface and far sides of the lake were completely obscured by the smoke.

The image below was taken before dinner:

This fire was just within the north edge of the park. Monday we choose our route to stay away from it.

Our next stop is at the Champoeg Historic Site east of Aurora.