Crater Lake
It was time for our annual summer vacation. Like last year we decided to drive
towards Portland, but unlike last year we decided we were going to make it.
The reason to go to Portland is that we're thinking of moving there some day,
but neither of us have actually been there. So on Saturday August 7, 2004, we
got up kind of early and headed north on the 101, to meet up with Ron and
Andrea in Oakland. In San Jose we stopped at a Dutch food store where I purchased
lots of licorice and cookies. The shop is small, but packed with all kinds of
goodies. It was fun just to browse. We had lunch at a local fast food joint
where you get to put your own condiments and toppings on your burgers.

With full bellies, we went on to Oakland. Ron wasn't home yet, so we went for
a walk with Andrea. We visited the rose garden which is close to their
apartment. It's nice, and was surrounded by tall trees. Oakland has some
pretty nice parts, although I'm sure there are also parts that deserve the
city's reputation. For dinner we at chicken with couscous, while watching Spellbound, which is a very
entertaining documentary about the spelling bee. Afterwards we watched Underworld which was quite
amusing, including a fairly creative final battle.

Sunday we slept late. After Andrea cooked us a delicious breakfast, we left
around noon. The REI chosen for this trip was the one in Berkeley. We bought
an inverter, so I could charge my camera battery in the car, and a car-camping
gas stove with 2 burners, along with a few small things. After that, we were
finally on the road, making our way to the 505. I-505 was actually quite
pretty, as we drove past huge fields of sun flowers. Lunch was at a Black Bear
Cafe, which fooled is into thinking it was a local restaurant. It was
certainly better than the general chains, but not as local as we'd thought. We
drove further north. Shasta lake looked really low, though that didn't take
away from the view of the mountain in the distance. We got into Oregon pretty
late, and started following directions over small country roads to Daley Creek

We settled on a spot, and then on a different spot. We went for a short walk
on the trail, where a sign said that beavers might be seen. We walked about
1.5 miles one way (and then back), but saw no sign of them. For dinner we
tried out a freeze dried backpacking meal we picked up at REI, just to get a
feel for what they're like. They seem OK for backpacking, but pretty bland
otherwise. While cooking/eating, we were continually chasing 2 raccoons away:
a momma and a baby. Throwing rocks, and chasing them to the other side of the
campground road helped a little, but they kept coming back. It was pretty neat
to actually see them climb trees, and if they hadn't been so annoying the
raccoons would have been very cute. The campsite itself was pretty nice, with
a fancy pit toilet, fire pits and tables.

The next day we got up a little after 8. After breakfast we started driving
towards Crater Lake National Park.
Somewhere early on we missed a turn, though, which added a little bit of
distance. It also led us through White Creek where we found a grocery store.
We bought buffalo meat since neither of us had everhad that before, together
with some other more normal food. On the road to CLNP we passed through all
kinds of livestock farms: cows, horses, emus, and goats. We didn't see any
buffalo, though. As the road went up, we entered forest. Somewhere in there we
stopped at a famous gorge which had water flowing through it very quickly, and
was pretty impressive. A little after lunch-time we arrived at Crater Lake
itself. It is quite an amazing sight, but we entered the food court-type
restaurant they had there for some mediocre food. Afterwards we attended what
was probably the best ranger talk I've ever been at. The ranger was engaging,
funny, and his gimmick (a top ten list) wasn't annoying. The most interesting
thing he talked about was an insect with an impressive life-cycle. It's a fly
which lays its eggs in the lake. The eggs sink to the bottom (well over 1000
feet deep), where larva live for a year. Then they swim to the surface, mate,
and die soon thereafter.

After the ranger talk, we drove clockwise around the lake to the other side,
where a trail leads down to the lake itself. The trail was busy, with OK
scenery. At the bottom there really was nothing to do except turn around. Boat
tours leave but it's hard to get tickets. Some people were swimming in the
lake, which was quite cold. I got my shirt wet for the way up, and then we
hiked back up. We continued driving clockwise until the turnoff for our
campground for the night: Lost Creek Campground. From descriptions I'd thought
this was a primitive campground, but that wasn't the case. It was quite dense,
had flush toilets and running water. We were lucky to get the last spot that
night. Having secured a campsite, we drove further east to the Pinnacles: a
place where rising gas in a lava stream has left some other-worldly columns of
rock. For dinner we had buffalo fajitas, which came out great. The buffalo we
bought was tasty and tender.

Tuesday morning we got up at 7, which was a little later than we'd hoped for.
We were going to hike up Mt. Scott, and wanted the weather to be cool at least
during our ascent. We were all packed up and done with breakfast by 8:10am. 15
minutes later we were going up the tallest peak in the park. It was a
well-maintained trail with a nice, steady incline. The views kept improving as
we climbed, and there were a number of wildflowers to enjoy as well. At the
top we had a great view of the lake, as well as a view of Mt. Shasta far to
the south. The fire tower on the top is closed to the public. A friendly hiker
took our picture, and after a short break we headed back down.

After our hike it was time to drive on to Portland, but we took one last look
at the lake from Cloudcap Overlook. We drove on smaller roads for a while,
until we finally hit I-5. We'd stopped at a fruitstand earlier to check out
there "bodacious" peaches. They were indeed good. After joining with I-5 we
ate at a grill place, which was OK. Several hours later we finally approached
Portland, an event marked by the drastically slowing down of traffic. We
crawled around for a while, stopping at a Fred Meyer for groceries. A Fred
Meyer is a lot like a Walmart, only bigger. It was hot in Portland. While
driving around looking for a grocery store, we passed 3 big thermometers: 92,
93, and 98 degrees. On our way again, we crawled to the east side of Portland,
and from there traffic picked up as we entered the Columbia River Gorge area.
We found our campground at Ainsworth State Park. For the most part it was an
RV campsite, but they had some walk-in tent camping. This meant a parking lot,
with a handful of tent sites in walking distance. We got the first pick, and
ended up with a campsite right by the parking lot. Next we discovered the
campsite had showers, which we gladly made use of. Finally we made dinner of
pork, mushrooms, onions with too much seasonings, and bad corn.

We slept in the next day, and used some of the many blackberries that grew
around the campsite in our oatmeal. On our way to Portland we stopped by
Horsetail and Multnomah Falls. In Portland we started walking along the
Columbia River, which has a nice park running along it. Pretty soon, we
decided it was too hot and were getting hungry. It feels we walked all over
down-town Portland before finding a place to eat: Long Island Cafe, which
advertises pizza, pasta, and Lebanese food. We both had Lebanese food and it
was excellent. In the afternoon we visited the Oregon Historical Society,
which AAA recommended, where we saw the "Oregon My Oregon" exhibit. They had a
lot of artifacts on display, but did not weave them all into a single
narrative. Instead there were a bunch of disjoint stories, and the years
weren't enough for me to get a good mental picture of the history. On the way
back to the car we took a detour through Chinatown, which has a nice-looking
gate but looks to be a bad neighborhood otherwise. We picked up salmon and ice
cream (still hot) on the way to our campground, where we ate and went to bed.

Got up sort of early. Because of the heat we'd decided to head to the coast.
On the way to Portland we'd check out some houses that are for sale because
we're thinking of moving here some day. We drove by 4 houses. 2 that were
about $150k, and 2 that were about $250k. The ones that were $150k are
reasonable enough, but not what we'd call nice. Both $250k ones were in decent
neighborhoods. One we really liked, partly because of the blackberries that
growed on the street around the corner. All these houses have at least 3
bedrooms. You'd be lucky to get a 3-br in SB for <$700k. We drove west
towards Tillamook, stopping at a Newport Bay to eat. While driving we passed a
sign telling us to turn to 1410 am or something for info the air show. I
tried, but didn't find the station. A few minutes later, we did see the Blue
Angels flying around, spitting smoke and doing barrel rolls. In Tillamook we
first stopped by the cheese factory, mostly to say we've been there. It's a
big tourist trap, where you can watch the workers through big glass windows.
Makes me appreciate my job. Then we stopped by a Fred Meyer. Signs said the
county fair was going on today, so we went over there. The county fair was
quite an experience. We watched one round of the Pig-N-Ford races. The gist of it is that
every racer runs to a box, and grabs a small pig out of it. He then runs to
his Model T, cranks the starter, jumps in, and races a lap. At the end of the
lap they stop, kill the engine, and put the pig back in the box. They then do
the whole thing over again. They did 3 laps in the race we watched. The best
visual was somebody cranking the engine while holding a squealing pig under
the other arm, but it was definitely an experience not to be missed. The
second highlight was the beef show, where kids (4-H and FFA) were showing
steers they'd raised. We learned that the main thing you want in a steer is
for it to "hang a good carcass." We also checked out the livestock in display,
including a goat that was eating the ribbon it had won. Once we'd seen most of
the stuff at the fair, we drove south to a campground along the beach. We were
lucky that, just before we arrived somebody had cancelled their reservation,
giving us a spot. This campground was very crowded, has showers, tables, and
fire pits. It's also right next to the water (but small dunes prevent you from
seeing the beach from the campsite)

Up fairly early. We took a shower and headed south. In Newport we stopped at
the aquarium there. I really enjoyed it. Danielle says the Monterey Bay
Aquarium is better. There was an OK exhibit about bats, but their normal stuff
was much nicer. We got to see sea dragons, big jellies, and a variety of fish
that live in the area. Outside they had a very nice seal/sea lion setup, and
they had 4 active otters. There's also an octopus there, which had stuck
itself to the glass nicely. Finally in the bird exhibit there were a lot of
tufted puffins and murrels, and a pair of oyster catchers. After the aquarium
we decided to get some driving in so we wouldn't have it all left at the end
of the day. We cut over to I-5, and went south. Close to Ashland we went into
the forest, and camped at a BLM site. It looked to be full, since a few other
cars were driving around aimlessly, but they had walk-in sites which nobody
was using. We camped maybe 40 yards away from where the car was parked, and
enjoyed our privacy.

Up and out early, but we didn't leave before the caretaker found us and asked
us how our stay was. The BLM site is in great condition, with all the
amenities. We drove down to Lassen National Volcanic Park, which was the
furthest south cool thing that would allow us to arrive kind of early, since
we didn't have any reservations. It ended up taking until 2:30pm before we
finally rolled into the South Summit Lake campground, where we must have
gotten one of the last spots. For the afternoon, we hiked up Lassen Peak. We
made it to the top pretty easily. There we took over 45 minutes to explore the
strange volcanic formations, watching the pretty obsidian, and sulfur-tainted
white rocks. The first part down was quite cold, because it was windy and that
part of the trail was now in the shade. Just before we got back to the
campground, we noticed 3 deer grazing below us. I had to answer a different
nature call, though, otherwise I'd have taken some pictures. Back at camp, we
ate and went to bed.

In preparation for a lot of driving we got up just after 6 and were on the
road just before 7. We stopped at Bumpass Hell trail though, because everybody
who goes to Lassen should see that. Steam coming out of the ground, and
boiling water are all over the place. There are very pretty color deposits.
The boardwalk extends a lot farther now than it did when Tone and I were
there two years ago. I
was tempted to see if we could find the purple ninja homey, but its mountain
was just too far out of the way. So at 9:20 we were in the car, heading home
for real. We stopped for lunch between Sacramento and Stockton, and it was
Danielle's turn to drive. At Kettletown we stopped for gas, and to change
drivers. We were parked, waiting for the guy in front of us to finish filling
up his car, and I asked Danielle to start the car again because it would make
the AC run better. The car wouldn't start. I fiddled with the car some, but no
luck. By the time the guy in front of us was done, the car did in fact start.
I had to turn off the car to fill up (so says the sign), and it wouldn't start
again. We rolled the car out of the way, and went to the garage across the
road to see what they could do. They had a battery tester (I suspected the
problem was with the batter), but would charge $35 to test a battery, so we
went back to the car, planning to ask somebody for a jump. Before looking for
a jump in earnest, I gave starting the car one last try. It started, though
hesitantly. We drove all the way home from there without any problems. The
traffic southbound from Santa Barbara was horrendous, but luckily we're locals
so we took surface streets.

Lessons learned:
Too much driving on this trip.
Yoghurt and cereal makes a good breakfast.
Buffalo meat is good.