Saturday, January 31, 2009

Opal Creek Wilderness w/ the Boys

We started out on a lovely Saturday afternoon. The goal-explore the wonders of the Opal Creek Wilderness in the Cascades-north of Detroit Lake, east of Salem. It didn't matter how far we got, we just wanted to enjoy the journey.

The boys were each given pictures of things that we might see along the trail. This really kept them interested as were searched for the next sight around the bend.

The trail was an old mining road that wandered into the thick forest where we immediately found unique sights. Here Shane discovers the remains of an ancient fir tree that had another tree grow on the outside of the trunk. The roots you see extend into a trunk of the new tree that was about 30 feet tall.

Woodpeckers work...

A short jaunt in, found us at Gold Creek.

One of our favorite sights. Play this video to see a stream that looks like it flows out of this tree.

Green was everywhere. The moisture was incredible. You really see how the wet air in the seas of the Pacific NW flows inland, hits these mountains and just dumps. The tree on the right was covered with moss so thick from bottom to top that it looked like a thick velvet coat.

Green. A photo by Shane.

Drake takes a moment to smile for a picture along the trail. The snow was melting, but off the trail, there was still about 18 inches of crusty stuff.

This is one of the mines we discovered along the way. Gold and Silver were mined in this area and the remnants of those activities are scattered around. An occasional mine rail car can be found rusting away by the trail. A mine, half dug then abandoned will remain open. This one is closed about 10 feet in and now serves as a bat habitat.

The canopy above from the photo gallery of Shane. The 5 year old has a knack for photos.

You can see the opal color of the river. The mineral content in these waters is amazing. This is just downstream from the beginning of the Little North Santiam River which begins at the confluence of Battle Axe Creek and Opal Creek.

After an afternoon of cool finds, we found a flat spot and set up camp. Here we are the next morning, Super Bowl Sunday, eating hot oatmeal. It's amazing how good most any food tastes on the trail!

Soon after the kids were ready to hike further in to find more interesting stuff. After a few miles, we came upon Jawbone Flats-an old mining camp converted to an environmental education center studying old growth trees.

Suddenly after a few miles of a sinuous old mine road that had clung to the hillside 100+ feet above the river, the trail flattened out and the mining camp appeared. There are about 20 out buildings of offices, residences and more lovingly restored. They are composting, reusing everything possible, generating power via PV and a waterwheel. The place was enchanting.

Old parts from early mill, timber and mining days were strewn about the place.
Mill wheels...


Battle Axe Creek is a dramatic flow from the steep mountains above.

We reached Opal Pool with just enough spunk left to smile for a picture before heading back out.

Opal Falls. Note the rock that fell and balanced in the middle of the picture and the falls. To give you a sense of scale, that rock is three feet across.

Opal Falls. Cacophonic or symphonic? Definitely the latter.

We started back and Drake made a great discovery. He found the largest fir tree in the area-circumference 23 feet!!! Wow, was this tree straight and tall. We could only guess it's in the 500-600 year old range.

You never really know how things look from the kids' perspective until you hand 'em a camera. Here Shane snaps a view of Drake and I hiking out.

I'll never forget these trips with the boys. Each trip is better than the last. They are such troopers going along with dad's crazy schemes into the wild. The only whining during the weekend came from me (and yes, I've learned my lesson). All in all they did 5+miles in two days, braved a January overnight and saw a lot of one of kind things. Pretty nice.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crater Lake-Snowshoe/Backpack

We had determined the moon-coming full that evening-but you can't plan the weather! It was absolutely perfect when Travis and I set out from Rim Village to snowshoe along the SW rim of Crater Lake.

Rim Drive, which encircles the rim of Crater Lake for 33 miles was our guide for the trek. With 6+feet of snow on the ground, the "road" was not always terribly apparent.

I stopped for a bit to pose with the lake in the background. Wizard Island is just behind me.

So, Crater Lake. Wrong name. Crater Lake is actually a caldera, not a crater. A caldera is when a volcano collapses unto itself as with 12,000 foot high Mt. Mazama thousands of years ago. The collapse created a caldera that filled with water and is now the deepest lake in the U.S. at some 1,996 feet. The rim generally now sits around 7,200 feet.

A crater is what is caused when a volcano builds upon itself as with Wizard Island and then leaves a depression in its peak. The flat top is a crater about 90 feet wide if I remember correctly.


We snowshoed across rolling knolls. The beautiful morning gave way to more folks coming out as evidenced by the nordic tracks adjacent to our snowshoe trail. It's always good trail etiquette to shoe adjacent to nordic tracks and not on them as it breaks up the smooth glide for the skiers.


The breathtaking scenery included the frozen hemlocks everywhere we looked. Travis was amazed at the tenacity of these trees. They gather inches of snow and ice on their branches-holding up tons of weight. Some wilt to the ground under the pressure, while others seem unaffected by the burden.


After a few short hours we stopped and began to look for a camp spot. We found a gorgeous spot just off the rim so as to be sheltered from its wind. We settled in just to the right of the trees in the left center of the photo.
A great thing about traveling with Travis is that he is an ultralight backpacking nut. Crazy with the stuff. Our shelter, seen to the right is not Dupont getting into tents. That's Travis' shelter! He skillfully took the superlight Tyvek house wrap product used in construction, sewed on some loops for guy lines & there's the shelter! We buried the far end of the shelter in snow to keep the wind and cold. We remained surprisingly comfortable all night!

The sun just beamed beautifully on the crystalized snow.

The wind blew with a bone chilling sound. Take a listen and you'll be there...

The sunset over our campsite.The moon light over our camp was so incredible.

The trees looked like a Dr. Suess book.
Photos never do it justice, they just joggle my memory of how spectacular the moment was.

We shoed out the next morning. Crater Lake National Park-a phenomenal experience anytime of year. I can't wait to take my boys here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Deschutes River-Dillion Falls

Dillion Falls. A few miles south of Bend and accessible EASILY in minutes. While the falls drop more like a rapid, it is still a dramatic spot and a beautiful site along the Deschutes River.

I grabbed a morning jaunt out there just as the new year began. Temps were in the 40's and sunny. There's a very visible influence of volcanic activity in this area. On the right of this photo, you see the cliff of lava. That flow (which I'm also standing on) fills this area for several square miles of denuded landscape.

The lava flow buried the river, which stills flows underneath it. This area is also a place where the river loses a lot of water. The porous lava flows act like giant holes into the groundwater table. At some spots, you can actually see where the water just pours into the ground. Apparently, billions of gallons of surface water drain from the Deschutes in this area every year.

At Dillion Falls, you get views of where the water sometimes resurfaces. The clip below shows water just gushing out of the lava flow.

Click below to hear and see Dillion Falls close up.

Just below Dillion Falls, the river flattens out quickly and becomes quite serene.

The scenic Deschutes. If you could see it in this low res photo, Awbrey Butte in the center of Bend, is the rise on the horizon in the middle right.

Several falls exist along this reach. The hikes area easy for all ages and very close to Bend. Get out here!