I had to start this blog with a picture of Crater Lake, as I know that is what turns out to be the heading. It is just the most beautiful sight.
Crater Lake - The Deepest, Cleanest, Most Blue lake around.
In our last blog I said I would explain why Charl has morphed into 'Chuck'. Apologies to Mil (mother-in-law) who loathes her children's names being shortened or altered. However, as in Aus., the Americans are battling with the pronounciation of Charl who becomes, Charles, Shaaar, Cherl, but we cottoned on that Chuck was an easy pronounciation, hence Chuck!
After Chuck's mountain biking 'incident' on our last day in Bend, when he fell off, landed on his backpack, and broke the screen of his phone, we had to wait back a bit in Bend to have it fixed. No problem as we needed to fill the tank with gas (what we call petrol), do a shop have a last good coffee for a while etc.
The drive out of Bend was beautiful, the road became narrow, uphill and down dale, over passes and down the other side, with trees about 15m high, hugging the sides of the road, left and right, leaving no space between us and the trees. Due to the height of the trees, they formed a tight dark corridor with a little light shining from the sky above us, it was quite spectacular. There is no shortage of either trees or rivers and lakes in Oregon. Unfortunately, because it is so very dry, we are finding fire bans throughout most of our trip and we might have to invest in a propane (what we call gas) bbq. Our other option is heat up meals in the microwave or salads. I could live on the latter but Charl would not survive. It is difficult to comprehend a state which has cold winters, snow, so much water flowing through rivers and waterfalls and yet now in summer, fire bans, due to the heat. Well, we all know what has been happening with fires, for months, in California, so it is not assigned to any one state, but rather 'the state' at present. But..... We managed to sweet talk the camp host at the park in Prospect (Crater Lake RV camp) and were allowed to use our bbq as long as we used briquettes and not wood. The 'camp hosts', not to be mistaken for 'camp men', (ha ha) were so good to us, Kathy even provided her personal Wi-Fi details for us to use, when we mentioned that the public Wi-Fi was very slow.
Terry hard at work
Prospect is tiny but is called a town....I guess because it has an hotel, post office and small school, that qualifies it as a town! We had such a laugh; Charl packed the backpack with eats and drinks and we set off on the scooter to explore the town, well we didn't know it was a one horse town and that the horse had died, so after 20 minutes, we were back at camp!
On our first night, the camp host, came by and told us that there were some singers in town and would be playing guitars and singing around the camp fire. After our dinner we ambled along, the camp fire was a porcelain dish, with ceramic ‘logs’, fed by a propane (gas) cylinder - did the job and looked very realistic. The guitarist, Steve Ide and wife, Lesley, were pretty good musicians and we had a wonderful evening, keeping the insects out of our wine, chatting and listening to the music. At one point the Lesley said 'play a cowboy song', so Steve started to strum the acoustic guitar, Lesley backing and Steve singing and he also started yodelling! When he was finished Charl said 'since when do Cowboys yodel?' Well apparently they were well taught by the immigrants and yes, man, Cowboys yodel. The trio, although only two of the three band members were present, have a band called Old West Trio; it's worth googling them. A link to one of their You tube is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW7pB5frj58. We got to chat to this couple, and when they learnt that our trip was flexible, they asked if we would meet at their camp site the following day, bring our maps along and they would set us a better route. We were on for this!
Nestled in amongst the trees
A little aside here.....we thought we were in a national park site, but around the camp fire we soon learnt that this lovely rustic setting was in fact a private camp. It was a sad story; the owners had RV’ d for 10 years and decided to build a camp site that they felt, after their travelling experiences, would be what many people would want in a camp site. So they developed this one, but the owner has recently been diagnosed with stage four cancer. The singers were in fact on their way back to California via east Oregon, but when they got word that the owner was so ill, they changed tac, headed down the west and came to sing for the owner. They knew the owner well as they often entertained at the camp site.
We set off for Medford to have the scooter looked at. MMm....glad there was a shopping Centre close by, because it was a wasted sort of trip of 45 miles! There was nothing wrong with the scooter, except for the fact that somehow, the 'kill switch' had been activated and that was the reason for it not starting, after the carburettor problem had been sorted by Chuck. Humph. Chuck was suitably embarrassed.
So ...a coffee sorted out the head in Medford and we looked at maps and on the way back, decided to take the park rangers advice, us, lovers of good sites, to see the not to be missed Flounce Rock viewpoint. WELL......said park ranger should be shot (it is the USA where they all have guns).... this road was suitable for a 4x4 not an RV. We got onto a 'road of no return' we gave it that name because there was absolutely nowhere to turn around, once we had started the uphill climb. We kept saying 'do we try to turn or do we continue?' Eventually we saw the wood for the trees, so to speak. Left RV in a spot and hiked up a bit......views....yes...of Lost Creek Lake, Pacific Coast Mt Range, Prospect etc.., worth the added stress and wrinkles - NO! Anyhoo.....(to quote Heather)..... We took some pics, lots of deep breaths and braced ourselves for the downhill trek home. Now the RV was absolutely fine but the scooter, attached onto the back, slowly started to resemble a 'scrambler bike' although it had never 'scrambled'. There was so much dust and dirt attached to it, Chuck was not a happy camper.
This is the view we had from Flounce Rock
But this is what the scooter on the back of the RV looked like - NOT happy Jan!!
That over and done with, we survived, the RV was no worse off, and just a very dirty scooter - we headed to the Mill Creek Falls and Avenue of Giant Boulders, which luckily for us, were located at the same place. A site to behold and on tar road, an even better site to behold!! I felt I needed to confront said park ranger, although he looked like a very gentle soul and we had interacted with him at the music evening the night before, we decided to just let it go. We had, after all, ended on a high note.
Mill Creek Falls
But that's not all - no - we had another sticky bum experience - gee we seem to attract these dudes!! The singer, Steve, without wife and change of plan, came over to our site, instead of us going to them, to give advice on our next travels. Eventually, very rude of me I know, but after seating him with a beer and a map....an hour or so later, I couldn't contain myself. So I clanged pots, went in and out of the RV shut cupboard doors loudly and eventually put the plates, cutlery and food on the table outside. OH!!! the penny dropped ....I did also say that he was due to play at camp fire and he may well be late for that - he left taking unfinished beer with him. Great of him to give advice, but we honestly didn't need the amount he was giving, he was almost directing us to the airport out of NYC it was that complete.
The day Lesley and Steve departed, we presented them with an Australian souvenir and they, in turn, gave us a copy of their CD.
We ate dinner, composed ourselves with the help of a vino or two and then headed to listen to Steve (still no Lesley) play the guitar and sing again. It was another convivial night around the 'gas camp fire', seems quite odd that, for a camp fire, not to be wood burning, but another fun evening with different guests from the camp site. What we appreciate about this site is the fact that it was rustic, but the camp hosts were very mindful of their guests, interacted with us and looked after us in a special way and a way which we haven't experienced before in other countries.
Crater Lake.....the main reason for us to visit this area. We set off around 11am not quite knowing what to expect, other than a very blue lake, within a national park. Well......after checking out the visitor centre we started to make our way through the park and there, in the distance we spied it...... The bluest, most beautiful lake we have ever seen, surrounded by steep sandy banks, absolutely awesome! We were also extremely lucky as there were no fires around to cause any haze. Another bonus was the fact that they were celebrating the 'centenary of national parks' and the entrance fee had been waived for four days. Sorry to give you a little geography/history session here, but if you don't have much knowledge of Crater Lake, you will be interested:
Way back 7,700 years ago the active volcano on Mt Mazama erupted, kaboom....taking all those who were there, with it; no cremation coats! Thankfully they would not have known what had hit them. This crater formed and centuries of rain and snow filled the basin forming the deep blue lake. Apparently this is the cleanest, large body of water in the world and the bluest lake; also, it is the deepest in the USA. No rivers or streams lead into or out of the lake - the depth of the lake is 592 metres, and the width is 5-8 miles, annual snowfall in this area is 13 metres. The rim of the crater around which we drove was 33 miles. The blue of the lake, is due to the depth and clarity, allowing the sun rays to be absorbed. The Crater Lake park was established in 1902, it is 183,000 acres in size and attracts over 615,000 visitors per annum.
Crater Lake - Beauteous!
We chose to drive east to west, so that we had the pull off views on the right side, which saved us crossing onto the other side of the road and incoming traffic. There were over 30 scenic stops around and, I should add, that we stopped at most of them, it was just too good not to! Around every corner we thought we may get a better view of what we had just left behind us. Some of the lookout stops were: Phantom Ship, Pumice Castle, Sun Notch, Cloudcap Overlook and Wizard Island. Crater Lake was a photographers dream!!
And the Everywhere Man appeared!
Phantom Ship or Disney castle?
At one of the stops a family was feeding, although all signs said 'do not feed wildlife' but one 'gets them' the world over - these amazing Golden Mantled ground squirrels (not chipmunks - those have stripes on their head) - they were obviously looking to be fed, skittish, running along the ground, their heads peeping up looking here and there for food, they were so cute! They were very quick which made photographing them a huge challenge!
I nearly forgot to mention, that on our drive to Crater Lake, we stopped off at Rogue River Gorge, it too was very pretty and worth the stop. Strangely, one of the few places we have seen, thus far, in America, where it was fenced off for safety. We had been to far more dangerous, non-fenced areas than this one. Perhaps there is a story behind it that we were not aware of?
Rogue River Gorge
Due to the fact that we so enjoyed the Prospect RV park, people and surrounds, we booked in for a fourth night. The extra time gave us a chance to re-plan our route to Lake Tahoe, which would now include more things to see, whereas our original route was one 'just to get us to the lake'. And by sheer good luck, we have managed to secure 2 nights at Yosemite. So now we are including that in our itinerary. We were very lucky - there is normally a 6 month waiting list to get in!
Last night at Prospect, having sundowners at the river alongside the park.
Over the border....bye Oregon we had the most special time with you..... Hello California....
We diverted and back tracked a bit, on our way out of Oregon and onto California. The neighbour at the Prospect RV Park had waxed lyrical about Diamond Lake, so we decided to investigate. It was a lovely lake, quite busy with holiday makers, but nothing, in comparison to Crater Lake. We filled up with gas and 🎶 🎶'hit the road Chuck'....🎶 🎶
We saw quite a few dead buck (roadkill) on this easy drive to Tule Lake. About 15 miles before the Californian border, we started to drive alongside a lake, Klamath Lake; it was so beautiful, travelling with this lake for such a long way. Pelicans were flying above and a little further on, we saw some Eagles soaring up in the sky. Thus far, Diamond Lake is the only lake on which we have seen any activity, as in canoes or boats.
We went through a mini tornado and it shook the van a bit, threw up sand onto us but not too bad. We could see the whirlwind happening on the ground as the dust turned and then spewed over. Exciting!
Our GPS failed us and led us to the wrong turn off and we got a bit lost; but eventually, found.....our RV site was another 25 miles further up the road, than expected. The site was fine, but small in facilities. For example there was one small washer and dryer, whereas previous places have had at least four of each. Fortunately the park was not busy and due to the machine being so small, we had to do two washes and two dries. But we were able to get the weekly washing loaded and dried, our camp for the previous four nights, had no laundry facilities, so we were happy we had clothes to wear. We were getting a tad desperate for clean clothes! OOohh....that's why there have been so many flies following us around.
The animals are becoming scarier than in Oz! Saw a dinosaur.......well it was a large lizard.....the ground squirrels are so hard to photograph as they move faster than a flea. Saw birds that have heads similar to that of the Hoopoe bird, but each time I grab by camera they fly away.
Lava Beds - Modoc National Park - (to see the lava tubes) - was the reason we found ourselves here, near to Tule Lake in the middle of absolutely nowhere......but there have been a few films shot in this area, such as 'Stand by Me'
The 15mile drive through the national park, to the visitor centre was not dissimilar to the Nullarbor crossing, in that it was miles of scrub. The road had clearly been built without the help of either engineer or surveyor, it was tar, but very bumpy indeed.
Charl going down into one of the Caves - Note the two big flashlights.
We stopped at the information centre and found that the centenary week of national parks, applied in California as well, so entry was free. We picked up maps and borrowed flashlights and did some caving. It was amazing, walking and crouching in these caves, which have been formed by volcanic lava, one can see the formations on the floor, as the hot lava came down and formed these amazing patterns. Overhead, the lava rock, some small and some large. This was also the place where the Indians fought hard to keep their land.
The roof of the cave had really interesting features.
There were very few tourists, so the stillness around was unbelievable, with a few crickets chirping outside, that was all the noise we heard. I was totally fascinated with the landscape. Hills, a butte or two in the very far distance and the scrub and red ground in the foreground. Butte (pronounced beaut), is an isolated hill with a relatively flat top and sometimes steep vertical sides.
I tell you, you don't want to be in one of those caves and lose your flashlight. We turned ours off and you would have absolutely no chance of finding where you had come in from, just scary pitch black nothingness before one’s eyes.
Taken from inside the cave looking out - Taqui is the Sillouette
We were very lucky to get into an RV site, as the famous Burning Man week-long festival was taking place in the 'nearby' Black Rock desert. I said 'nearby, because the festival was some 138 miles from the RV parks!! We could not attend the festival, as the tickets were all sold out. Lucky us!!
'Highway' 139 how they call this a highway I don't know! It was 80 something miles of uneven, bumpy, lumpy narrow type farm road! This was the first time I was really aware of rattling cupboards land clinking glasses, thought we would have only glass shards and no glasses by the time we arrived at our destination, Virginia City, but all was good. We drove up and down arid mountain passes until we finally reached civilization of Susanville, where we stopped for gas and lunch. Also checked air in tyres of RV also oil into engine and gear box, it didn't need the latter.
Bugger....I'm just too darn honest! We got stopped at inspection, the lady asked if we had mangoes, citrus etc., ,I was about to say no to all them then I admitted that we did have a lemon and a few avo's ..She took them but they never got placed onto a " disease bin' so we feel sure that these border people never buy fresh groceries, they live off their takings! We visualised her waving us on whilst she whipped up an avo/lemon sandwich for morning tea! Ha, Ha.... I still had a sliced lemon for my G & T she didn't ask about anything sliced only whole!!
On that note... Eat your heart out G&T drinkers..... How about a bottle of Bombay for $27 I'm talking 1.75L? Can you believe how cheap that is??? Bye bye Mr Gordon's....see ya in Noosa again....
My Gin in the Trolley!!
There was great excitement in Susanville, not just for the fact that we had arrived, but we stopped to fill up with petrol and I saw smoke billowing from the direction we had just come. The next thing sirens were blaring, and the police and several Lassen County Sheriff cars came buzzing by. Interesting note is that when police or fire engines have sirens on, cars in both lanes pull over, not just the lane in which the car sirens are in. We must have seen at least 10 cars, but strangely not a fire engine in sight.
We hit Reno at rush hour time and it had been a while since we had been through a city...madness....lanes of traffic trying to merge...us in unknown territory being guided by GPS.... saying to ourselves we hate city life and roads!!! Whilst navigating lanes ducking from left to right ...phew eventually out of the hectic traffic and into the mountains again ahead.
This is a 'standard' size ute in the USA - compare it to the size of me!!
We had the most incredible, uphill drive to Virginia City; we got to an elevation of 6789 feet. And levelled at 6000 feet when we finally reached the park. We had a little hiccup on arrival as we had our booking confirmed on email, but the lady had no record of it - when Chuck gave the reference name - it turned out we booked the same name park i.e. Virginia City RV Park, but the one in Montana, not Virginia City! Hope the Montana people are not still waiting for us to book in! A plus is that we had no mobile coverage when we booked ahead, so only booked by email, therefore no credit card details were given, thus no wasted money on a site not used.
Good thing for us the park was not full and we could be accommodated. Our 'neighbour' told us 'that things close real early so we best head on out' so we hooked up, grabbed our joggers and hit the town.
Which way to go?
Lots of Junk Shops called "Antique Shops" - ha, ha! BTW - you can see who they support for President in this area.
Oh my word!! This was touristy, but not a tourist to be seen, and so much fun. For SA people think Gold Reef City on a very small scale with nil people. Charl headed into a saloon, I left him there to order beer and wine and I ducked off to grab some photos. I eventually found him back at the pub... Just him, one young local bloke and the bar lady. Turned out the local bloke has a friend who lives in Perth, who is his snow ski buddy. We then chatted to the bar lady, got some local info as she works by day at the tourist kiosk. Then an elderly regular arrived. He was so happy to chat to out of towners and when we told him we were on the road for three months, he asked 'is this work related?' I replied 'no, retirement related'. 'Humph....he said, I've been retired for twenty years, Miss, and ain't been nowhere!' We then went in search of dinner. Oh, we found the Bucket of blood saloon before dinner, so had another drink and chatted to more locals.
The Red dog Saloon
We wandered down the street as we heard music coming from a cafe, where a band was jamming. They obviously didn't usually play as a band and were just jamming. The guitarist, on a Gibson Les Paul (Chuck was in Awe!) was amazing, he was also blind. How is it that his compatriots could tease him about being blind, but it's politically incorrect to have jibes at other people? Blind guitarist loved being teased. It was such a fun evening.
Blind Guy on his Les Paul - might be blind, but he could make the guitar talk!
We were not able to buy alcohol from the cafe, so I chose the table, whilst Charl went to buy our dinner drinks from the saloon down the road. Whilst he was in the queue, the chef/waiter from the cafe, with whom we had a lady put in our dinner order, was also in the queue. He admitted to Chuck that 'he was quite drunk, was getting grog for the band players and would soon have our dinner cooked'. Well it all happened so quickly, the next thing our food was at the table and I wouldn't have guessed it had been cooked by a drunken chef. Chef’s wife/ waitron brought us our cutlery and soon she was up singing Hotel California with the band. These are the types of experiences we love and why we enjoy travelling this way. Everybody here, so forthcoming and friendly, smiling and happy - population here is 800.
Today Charl called immigration, (still trying to sort out visa problem but getting nowhere fast) , we had no call wait time and the lady on the other end was so helpful 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full Sir, thank you sir for your patience, then, thank you sir for holding, thank you sir for calling etc'. it was amazing!! Let's hope we will have an amazing outcome eventually for our two days grace we are looking for. We may yet be passing a hat around or asking to be bailed out of prison for overstaying by two days.