Road diary: August 2 - 14, 2013

    Friday, August 2

Leave home 10:25.
See bright red pickup on Martinez bridge: license CWGRL MG
Reach Auburn ~12:30. Pause for nosh on courthouse lawn.
Into Truckee 2 PM; congested, touristy, thoroughly unattractive place.
Into and through Sierraville; sign advertises Plumas-Sierra Cattlewomen, must be a hybrid.
North of Sierraville, country on CA 49 opens out onto vast plains of cattle pasture.
Reach Hallelujah Junction 4 PM; load up on Pringles and Clif bars.
Photograph shoe tree north of HJ.
Honey Lake is entirely dry.
Pull into Susanville around 5:30; 300 miles today.

    Saturday, August 3

Leave High Country Inn at 9; a good place.
Take pix of old barn N of S-ville, in Willow Creek Valley.
Eagle Lake is low and pastel-toned.
Stop at Juniper Junction west of Adin, at old lumber mill with teepee burner; buy more Pringles at store.
Adin a pleasant-looking little town.
Tremendous profusion of sunflowers beside roads up here; very sweet sight.
Driving on these country roads is balm to the soul after the interstate and tense, crowded places like Truckee.
Stop at Canby 11:30 for pix of Canby cave. Evidently some cult lived up here for a time.
Noon: Alturas. Stop at Harold's Frosti on Main Street for lunch.
Amble up US 395; pause at New Pine Creek on CA-OR border, buy plum jam at Stringer's Orchard.
Wander out to Goose Lake; it is gone, dry as far as the eye can see.
Into Lakeview around 3:30 after about 170 miles, a laid-back day.

    Sunday, August 4

Leave Lakeview around 9; east on OR 140 through Warner mountains and valley.
Bristly sage beside road resembles row of shaving brushes.
Vast sagebrush-covered plain, interspersed with wide basalt tableland and mesas.
E of road to Spaulding Reservoir, road turns south and climbs.
Take panorama pix from roadside.
View, photograph herd of wild horses at Big Springs Reservoir.
Stop at refuge's Dufurrena Field Station; Dufurrena Ponds are emerald oases in the desert.
Into Denio at noon; saw 30 cars in 120 miles.
SE Harney County sagebrush flats are very pastel; "Earth tones everywhere", says Joan.
Lunch at Fields Station (population 86). At next table is new schoolmarm with her parents, moving in for first school year. K-8 is divided into 2 groups; hers is 5 pupils.
"Open range" sign = cow pies on highway.
Seek old town of Blitzen, but all roads to it are blocked. Roaring Springs Ranch, local beef-raising giant, has been plagued by rustlers (really), is uptight about trespassing.
Travel SW toward Hart Mountain, see pronghorn, but he sees us first; no pic.
Reach Frenchglen around 3:30, check in to FG hotel.
Later, big family-style dinner.
Waddle off to room.

    Monday, August 5

7:30 breakfast at Frenchglen Hotel; large. Avoid heaviest stuff, reluctantly.
Leave Frenchglen 9 AM for top of Steens Mountain.
Unpaved gravel road a washboard for first 3 miles, then remarkably good.
Reach Fish Lake ~10, see actual fish jumping. Very peaceful, surrounded by green countryside.
Pass Whorehouse Meadow; fascinating history involving lonely Basque shepherds and enterprising local ranch girls. On other side of road is Honeymoon Lake.
To Kiger Gorge around 11. Words do not do justice to this astonishing site, "Oregon's Yosemite" (without the crowds); maybe 20 people here, mostly birdwatchers.
Then on to the summit; the last two miles are a narrow gravel road with no guard rail beside a steep slope down the mountainside. Some guidebooks recommend against it, and I was wondering if it was safe despite the number of campertop trucks navigating it when I saw a propane tanker descending the path. So I screwed my courage to the sticking-place as Lady Macbeth recommends and drove up.
Reach summit around 12:30, walk down to view of Wildhorse Lake, a glacial tarn.
Stunning view of lake; also many alpine flowers at rim.
Take 226 photos today (about 450 since start of vacation, should exceed 1000 by end); must edit down. Later, at home, count about 1400, select about 45.
Car is now a rolling gray dust ball; must wash.
But feel great sense of accomplishment; have reached Steens summit and related goals like viewing Kiger Gorge, east slope from above, even Wildhorse Lake which I was not sure was possible.

    Tuesday, August 6

Leave Frenchglen 9:20 north on OR 205.
Stop at Buena Vista Ponds overlook for usual amazing sight of vast green marsh filled with water birds in middle of desert.
Note to readers: avoid the outhouse at the BVP overlook, in 2009 it contained several hundred hungry mosquitoes.
At The Narrows between Harney and Malheur lakes, pause to view pelicans, egrets, and ducks feeding. Visit Narrows Store, buy a couple things, use the much nicer bug-free rest room.
Drive through Burns then north along Silvies River valley into town of John Day.
Lunch at our usual spot, the Grubsteak.
After 260 miles, reach Pendleton, find Pendleton House B&B, a 1920 mansion.
Dinner at Cimiyotti's, OK but no more. A/C is turned to "Freeze".
Walk around downtown, which is surprisingly healthy; a few empty storefronts, but not many compared to similar cities.
Browse Hamley's Western Wear; do not buy a saddle, instead get tube of cowboy lip balm. More affordable and useful, and does not require a horse.

    Wednesday, August 7

Leave Pendleton around 10, after visiting Armchair Books and buying a 2014 Oregon calendar.
Over the Columbia River and into Washington ~10:45.
Hot, sunny, dry; the Everbrown State. Amber fields in all directions, with occasional vineyards.
Highway rest stop at Prosser a pleasant surprise: clean and inviting. Has adjacent chapel on private grounds.
Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier both visible from highway north of Prosser.
Stop at Zillah to photograph Teapot Dome gas station, an architectural protest statement from the 1920's.
West at Yakima up into the mountains.
Brown, sere landscape soon turns to green, right up to the road edge.
Flowers in bloom everywhere: yarrow, red and yellow Indian paintbrush, pink fireweed, goldenrod.
Through Mt. Rainier park and out again to our lodging. Realize that the most useful tool we brought for the first time this year is not the laptop but the flyswatter.

    Thursday, August 8

Very cloudy; glad we photographed the mountain yesterday.
Head up Skyline Trail toward Panorama Point; amazing profusion of alpine flowers.
White heather, lupine, red heather, avalanche lilies, bistort, wild roses, and more.
The Nisqually Glacier is almost all gone; old records show it a mile long once.
Booming sounds from direction of summit, as of ice breaking off.
Strange sight; tourist descending snow field in dress shirt, white pants, and leather flip-flops.
Return to visitor center and meet Joan, who was ill and went partway.
Have lunch and buy "Mt. Rainier Animal Crackers": black bear, cougar, mountain goat and deer.

    Friday, August 9

Jim Cavin and Kathy from Seattle join us for a hike from Reflection Lake up to Pinnacle Saddle, a pass in the Tatoosh Range of mountains.
A vigorous workout, but we make it to the pass and fields of alpine flowers in bloom.
Then carefully back down the steep rocky path to their car, and lunch at the Copper Creek Inn at Ashford.
My calves are tired and sore, not to mention knees and a variety of other spots. Must. Have. Ibuprofen.
Take ibu, then shower and long nap. Much restored before dinner.
Brief but violent lightning and thunderstorm about midnight, followed by much rain, then quiet till morning.

    Saturday, August 10

Drive from Ashford WA to Eugene OR. Alexander's (a very nice place) is preparing for a wedding.
Pass through mill town of Morton; people and lawn chairs lined up along highway.
Not for us, however; this is the day of the annual Loggers' Jubilee parade, due in a half hour.
Giant logging trucks loaded with trees are decorated with balloons; Forest Service fire trucks as well.
Then through town of Mossyrock and onto the Interstate at ~11:30.
Reach Eugene around 3; get lost, shoot out of town by mistake, reach Eugene again around 3:15, find hotel (Inn at the 5th).
Have dinner with Joan's cousin at nearby Marche restaurant; sommelier congratulates me on liking Pinot Noir.

    Sunday, August 11

Breakfast in food court with belt-driven steampunk ventilation system near hotel; Inn @ 5th now our favorite stay in Eugene.
On way toward Crater Lake, pass 2 horses in field grazing blindfolded; wonder why.
See first Ron Paul sign on this trip; must be an off year.
Oakridge (SE of Eugene) is an intersection of cultures. Right-wing political and religious signs sit next to mountain-bike shops and recycling centers.
Beyond Oakridge, the road climbs into mountains through a narrow corridor of tall trees that sometimes meet overhead.
Reach Crater Lake Lodge around 3:30. Nicely restored old lodge in ideal location above lake, but the spirit of the place always puts me on my guard. Xanterra who runs it seems to be determined to squeeze the maximum profit from it, and guests are the sponges. Everything is as expensive as they think they can get away with.
Walk around the area. Scenery very impressive; so is green open-top Bentley sports car in parking lot.
Dinner and bed. Sleep like logs.

    Monday, August 12

Very smoky over lake today; 11,000-acre and growing forest fire ~35 miles to the west.
Relieves me of need to look for landscape photos, of which I already have plenty here. We can just enjoy ourselves.
After breakfast we hike the Discovery rim trail.
Lunch at lodge, then try Mt. Garfield trail.
Partway; I left my walking stick in the car, the trail becomes steep and crumbly, and our legs are tired. We turn back.
Nap time for an hour; then drive around rim to Sun Notch and down to Pinnacles.

    Tuesday, August 13

Roll over in bed about 6 AM. See incredibly beautiful sunrise over the lake. Throw some clothes on (it is cold up here) and run outside with camera.
Leave Crater Lake around 10; take OR 62.
Stop at "Rogue Gorge Viewpoint"; a must-see for natural beauty and geology. The river rushes through a narrow canyon carved out of soft rock and lava tubes.
Reservoirs like Lost Creek Lake show low water levels.
Into Medford, a sprawling mall-ized slurban environment.
Quickly leave it behind on way west to Jacksonville, former county seat with 1883 courthouse.
J-ville a pleasant community, the downtown a bit cutesy-poo for tourists a la Carmel and many other places, but otherwise fun.
Reach Yreka ~3:30; check into BW Miners Inn as usual; as usual have dinner at our favorite place here, Lalo's Mexican Restaurant on Miner Street, a cheerful family-run place with good food and reasonable prices.

    Wednesday, August 14

Down I-5 past very low Lake Shasta.
Reach home around 3:30, after 1873(?) miles of driving and who knows how many hiking.

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