Greetings to all,
In just a few days we'll be back in Bisbee, enjoying a stationary lifestyle for awhile. In some ways it feels like we have been gone forever but in other ways it seems we just got started.
September was busy and productive month. We finally completed Willamette, Deschutes, and Mendocino National Forests, then spent a few days on the California coast before exploring Death Valley National Park. Yep, it was a good month.
There were times when we thought Willamette National Forest would never be done. One reason - the "forest experience" itself. A "forest experience" includes the condition of the campgrounds, the health of the surrounding woods, and attitude of the people, among other things. For us, the "forest experience" in Willamette was a disappointment until our last cluster of campgrounds. We camped at the under-maintained Gold Lake campground, about two-miles down a rough dirt single-lane roadway, but near some of the prettiest campgrounds in Willamette on Lake Waldo and next its Wilderness.
Two notable features of Gold Lake campground are its cross-country ski/hiking trails and Gold Lake's natural beauty and fishing. Now, take those features and throw in campsites large enough to accommodate any size recreational vehicle, a huge lake ideal for sailing and with lots of coves and inlets to explore by a canoe, and trails that are both challenging and interesting and you have the Waldo Lake complex. Yep, a good way to end our time in the Willamette.
However, still in our opinion, folks should just pass through Willamette and head directly for Deschutes National Forest. The Deschutes has lots of opportunities to make the trip worthwhile. Metolius River will always be a great area for camping, hiking, and fishing but the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, about 25 miles south of Bend, has even more to offer. Often referred to as the Newberry Crater, technically, it is a caldera, like Crater Lake but on a smaller scale and more accessible. Once a huge lake, several eruptions built a "dam" through the middle of the lake forming Paulina and East Lakes, the two lakes you see today. These lakes boast world-record size Brown trout and some of the clearest water you can imagine. There is also the youngest obsidian lava flow in Oregon, an enormous lava tube, and numerous other volcanic features within the Monument.
People have been "recreating" at Newberry Crater and on Paulina and East Lakes since the 1920s when a resort was built on each lake's shore. Even with chilly temperatures and a little snow we experienced while there, Newberry Volcanic National Monument was a great way to end our research of Deschutes National Forest. Then, we left Oregon and headed for Mendocino National Forest in Northern California to finish researching some campgrounds that were under 7 feet of snow in the Spring of 2005.
Having successfully completed the last of the Mendocino campgrounds and our research for this year, we drove to the town of Ft Bragg, CA for Fred's annual saltwater fix. It always amazes us to see the green and lushness of the north California coast. No whales but we enjoyed our time there.
After a few days at Fort Bragg, we departed for Death Valley National Park. (Did you know it changed from a National Monument to a Park in 1994?) We stayed at the full-hookup campground at Furnace Creek Ranch. It was centrally located to the Valley's sights we wanted to see (Suzi is developing a photo album for our Death Valley experience in the "Camping with Suzi" section of our website - www.forestcamping.com.) Although we never topped 100 degrees, the nights didn't cool off all that much so A/C, courtesy of the electric hookup, made sleeping comfortable and was greatly appreciated.
We could do a whole issue of the Wanderings just on our adventures in Death Valley but here are just a few hightlights:
Exploring Titus Canyon via a 27-mile off-road trail. It was breathtaking on many levels. The roadway alternated between mountain hugging stretches and white-knuckle steering wheel grabbing places, but all along the way, there were incredible views of the Grapevine Mountains. The trail then dropped into Titus Canyon and wound through it via a dry riverbed snuggled between towering cliffs. Although there was no water at the time of our drive, the depth, power, and force of water rushing through Titus Canyon was illustrated by the five-foot or more, smooth surface high water mark on the walls. The whole experience was most memorable.
Dante's Viewpoint is at the end of a 13-mile drive to a point more than 5,000-ft above the Valley's floor. From the Viewpoint you can, on a clear day, see as far as 110 miles across the whole Valley and down to the lowest place (282 feet below sea level) in the Northern Hemisphere - Badwater Basin. Badwater Basin is really just a huge white salt flat with a briny pond, four times saltier than the ocean, that was Lake Manly. Amazing!
Artist's Drive is a must do. The sea green, lemon yellow, periwinkle blue and blushing pink colored mineral deposits provide a splash of color to an otherwise dull landscape. They say sunset is the best time for this Drive. We were there for a cloudy sunset and were still impressed. So pretty.
There was more. This is just a sample. To see some photographs click here.
The wonders of Death Valley seemed to be a fitting conclusion to another season of research, adventures, and experiences. This winter we'll be publishing two Guides, one each for southern and northern California, and updating and marketing the website. Next year we plan on researching the national forests in the state of Washington. Imagine the fun we'll have there. Until then, we're signing off and wishing you a happy fall and winter.
Suzi and Fred