My first destination on this particular run was to be Lassen Volcanic National Park, but shortly after I arrived in Red Bluff and got out of the car to look around, it felt like an oven. I think it’s actually the hottest weather I’ve ever stepped out in – which really isn’t saying that much when most of the country has been experiencing heat in the 100’s this summer. Still, it’s the kind of heat that would put me in the hospital in short order if I stayed out in it longer than five to ten minutes.
When I got back in the van and checked the temperature, it was 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Matilda was overheating – and even pulling over to let her cool down wasn’t helping because the sun was so hateful. I started getting nervous about actually being able to reach my intended destination, much less actually get out and walk around once I made there. Instead, I chose to turn around and head back to the main highway and just bang on for Mount Shasta.
I will say, after stopping at a gas station to restock on water, I had what was easily the best pork taco I’d ever had. I love it when life happens like that. I wish I’d taken an extra one for the road.
The town of Mount Shasta has a very mellow, laid back and spiritual feel to it. Lots of people with brightly colored clothing that have an easy manner about them. Shortly after arriving, I tucked in for dinner at The Goat Tavern, and ended up chatting with a wonderful couple from Biloxi, Mississippi. I talked with them briefly about my trip, had a nice conversation with them about their own travels, and then was off to find a place to camp near Mount Shasta. (here’s the full run of Mt. Shasta pix)
Settled on a place called McBride Springs, and was welcomed by the Camp Host, a really friendly guy that gave me the rundown on how state campgrounds ran. I went ahead and picked a spot right near a small mountain stream, then signed in for the night. The campsite itself was small, but perfect. When I opened the van windows, I could easily hear the little stream burbling happily beside me while I slept. The Camp Host had suggested that I drink straight from the stream itself, so I did. I’d never had fresh water from a mountain stream before, and was delighted at how delicious the water was! Ice cold and straight from the natural source. Awesome stuff.
I spent a lot of the night hours just walking around, either dancing in the darkness (and getting out of breath quickly, because I wasn’t used to being at 5000ft after being in Napa for a few weeks) or gazing up at the stars and getting lost in them. The moon was just a sliver that night, so I could clearly see the Milky Way as it wound it’s way across the sky. Brilliance supreme. It seemed the stars themselves spoke that night, and many interesting conversations were had. The night was cool, breezy and there was enough ambient starlight for me to easily find my way in the dark from the van to the bathrooms a short walk down the road. I didn’t understand why so many people had to use flashlights. Maybe all those carrots I’m eating are improving my night vision.
I slept in a little the next morning, then packed up and headed up the mountain, finally pulling into the parking lot near the summit of Mount Shasta. Volcanic ash and rocks dominated the landscape, surrounded by a skirt of the surrounding forests surrounding the mountain below. In several flat patches, people had constructed spirals, peace signs and other geometric shapes with volcanic rocks.
I started heading out towards the waterfall, spotting small stacks of single rocks in various places. The waterfall itself was a small trickle of runoff from the glaciers at the summit. I’d been told that this area was a spiritual Vortex, and I must say – since I first laid eyes on Mount Shasta as I was coming up Route 5 (I literally gasped and had to pull over when I saw it) I felt as if I was being pulled towards the mountain itself.
Once I’d explored as much of the area as my legs would let me, I got back in the van and headed back into town to get some food before starting off to cross the Oregon border.
I had always been fascinated by the idea of the Pacific Northwest. Trees and mountains are a BIG happy thing for me, so I guess it should naturally follow that this would be my fascination. I was in no way prepared for how overwhelming the experience of visiting Oregon would be. My first stop inside Oregon was Ashton, a lovely little city just across the border from California. My father had wanted me to meet one of his friends up there, so I contacted his friend to let him know I was in town, then spent the afternoon wandering around Lithia Park downtown. (Full run of pix of Ashton)
It’s a wonderfully gorgeous and serene place with a duck pond, several large patches of very green grass that one can lounge around in, reading books. Connected to the edge of it is a modern day reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival takes place for a rather large chunk of the year, and many different professional actors perform both Shakespearean as well as modern day plays.
My nephew Alex would have been very cross if I didn’t explore, get pictures and report back. He’s quiet a fan of The Bard, as am I, so I wandered around, grinning and snapping pictures. The theater and surrounding area is very well kept, and the city itself has a really good feel to it. The people are very friendly, and there’s just a good vibe in general. I’m going to try to check out one of the plays when I head back through Ashton on my way south for the winter.
I ended up spending the night a fair bit up the road at the Valley of the Rogue State Park. There were no actual campsites to stay at, so I parked in the rest area and slept as much as I could before getting back on the road and heading towards Crater Lake. The first thing that struck me was how completely blue the water in the lake itself is. Like, toilet bowl cleaner blue. It’s stunning.
I hadn’t seen shades this brilliant since the trip to the Florida Keys earlier this year. An enormous indigo colored caldera lake that is 2,148 feet deep at its lowest point, Crater Lake was formed almost 8,000 years ago when Mount Mazama collapsed. The lake is 5 by 6 miles across and is the ninth deepest lake in the world (the deepest being Lake Baikal in Siberia, which I would DEARLY love to visit someday).
Depending on what time of year it is, and if there have been any rockslides recently, there is a winding road that takes you around the crater so that you can view it from almost any vantage point. There are also boat tours offered that go out on the lake itself, and I believe that you can also charter a plane to check the scenery out from the air as well. On my way to the ‘Phantom Ship’ in the lake – a Jagged section of rocks that juts out of the water, looking rather strongly like an old clipper ship, I found the road blocked due to a rockslide. Luckily, there was a parking area with a trail that lead up to a direct viewpoint for it that’s just spectacular. Apparently in certain types of light, the rock formation almost seems to disappear.
Wizard Island is the most prominent feature within the lake itself. A teal and indigo shoreline wraps around a base of volcanic rock and ash with trees peppering its surface. Had I sufficient time or funds, I would’ve taken a boat ride on the lake itself. At some point, I’m gonna make that happen. I’d love to see Wizard Island a little closer than the rim of the crater. As I drove around the rim, I noticed lots of patches of ice that seemed to be rimed with pinkish red waves. Stunning, almost surreal scenery, all round. Many totemic trees, bare of both bark and leaves, stand tall along the rim, looking like natural connective totems to something. There’s definitely a spiritual draw to the area as well, but it wasn’t as strong for me as the presence at Mount Shasta.
There was this fantastic, gnarled tree at the main viewpoint for Wizard Island, just across the road. To me, it looks very strongly of a harpy, twisted in anguish. I therefore named it the Harpy Tree.
Because I’d been getting such crappy service from AT&T throughout the trip, and I kept losing GPS information, I decided to pick up an actual paper map book at the Gift Shop on the Rim. Natural Geographic Road Atlas ADVENTURE EDITION. I have yet to regret this purchase. Yay, lo-tech! It has somewhat comprehensive maps of each state, and will keep me from having a panic attack the next time I think I’m lost. (full run of Crater Lake pix)
Next point on the map was Paulina Falls in the Paulina mountain range. Being that I’m from the Northern Virginia area, and am used to Great Falls, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Paulina Falls is a very nice set of falls indeed. I dipped my feet in and sang to Oshun, giving thanks for the natural beauty around me as I sat on the edge of the bank, just relaxing and enjoying the ice cold water on my tired feet. I’d already done a fair amount of hiking, and was still only halfway through the day’s adventures. It’s a short walk to the overlook, which I didn’t have any issue getting to, but I wasn’t up for trying to make my way down to the bottom. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it back up the steep switchbacks. I still had other places to walk through and wanted to conserve energy. (more Paulina Falls pix)
Next up was Benham Falls, near Bend. I could’ve done without the 7 miles of very bumpy dirt/gravel road, but the trip was well worth it. It had started to rain a little, so the surrounding earth was nice and dark – the greenery standing starkly out against it. The falls were ok, but the surrounding park is where the real beauty can be found. It’s a short-ish path down to the river itself, and it’s a delight to watch it roar along, skirting the islands in the middle of the flow. Very lush, verdant flora abounds, giving everything a somewhat storybook feel. (more Benham Falls pix)
After a short stop in Bend for dinner, I then headed out in the direction of Proxy Falls, taking the route through McKenzie Pass. The route is fairly hairy seeming, as I took sharp turns through tall sections of volcanic rock that looked about ten to twelve feet high in some places. The Lava Ocean, they call it. The black, sharp volcanic rocks dominate the landscape, looking almost like the world’s largest asphalt truck has overturned and spilled its cargo all over the landscape on a really cold day.
The Dee Wright Observatory can be found at the summit – the entirety of the structure, and the stairs up to it, is constructed out of the surrounding volcanic rock. Inside this round structure, you can peer out constructed lava tubes to see the surrounding mountains – each of them with their own small viewing window and sign carved into the rock. It’s a spectacular sight. Large windows also afford a larger view of the surrounding landscape.
On a lava rock pedestal on the roof sits a 36 inch diameter azimuth-like bronze plate that points out the direction, and distance to each peak. This view offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Cascades. The North Sister, “Faith”, is the most striking of the sights from the Observatory itself, although clouds LOVE it and tend to want to obscure it. (more pix of the Observatory)
There’s apparently a half mile long interpretive trail that winds through the lava beds, but the sun was setting, and I really wanted to get to Proxy Falls while there was still light enough to enjoy the sight. Sadly, I didn’t have time to take the trail.
By the time I arrived at the trailhead for Proxy Falls, light was quickly fading. I ran along part of the trail and was able to see some of the falls from the bottom, but couldn’t make it out in its entirety. I hoped I’d be able to find somewhere close to stay for the night so that I could go back in the morning and check it out in better lighting.
Something about this place had a STRONG draw for me, which I didn’t entirely understand until I was able to get back to it. The switchbacks down the mountain became thicker and took on a fairytale quality for me as I got back in the car and started the search for a place to bed down for the night. I kept expecting the Big Bad Wolf to pop out of the forest and proposition me – a la Into The Woods. (full run of pix for Proxy Falls)
“There’s no possible way
To describe what you feel
When you’re talking to your meal…”
The feeling of comfort and familiarity was fantastic as I headed down the road, finally finding what ended up being the PERFECT RV camping spot in the woods. In a county called RAINBOW, no less! 🙂 Tall trees surround each site, offering wonderous shade and a sense of privacy that I hadn’t yet experienced in an RV park. (day two staying here, and I’m still loving it!)
Although I could only make out the outline of trees against the night sky, the place felt just right. The guy at the desk let me have a space for $20 for the night, since I only needed to pull in and sleep with no electrical hook up. The park is very well appointed and everybody is remarkably friendly. It’s very quiet at night, and the sounds of the forest put me right to sleep. I feel absolutely no sense of discomfort when walking around the park alone at night, either. The next morning, I decided that I’d go ahead and stay here instead of heading into Eugene, which was the initial plan. This place is only twenty minutes from Proxy Falls, so it was easy to get back there in the afternoon, after having a lovely breakfast down the road. (Pix of the RV park)
Proxy falls. I almost don’t have words for how strongly the experience of the walk to the falls, and subsequent walk up along the falls had on me. I’d never seen something so beautiful and spellbinding in my life. I felt positive at times that I was walking along some of the same magical paths that storybook characters had traveled. I marveled at the long, thick tracts of bright green moss that covered lava rock and trees. Everything about this place just makes my soul smile.
When I caught full sight of the falls themselves, I was completely blown away. The water rushes over the top, cascading down in multiple skirting flows around slick, green, moss covered rocks, looking almost like nature’s finest fluid wedding dress. I quickly scrambled down from the viewpoint to the bottom of the falls, then made my way up to the highest point to the left of the falls that I could, snapping as many pictures as I could get. The spray from the falls was like a baptism of the highest order, bringing a smile to my face that still lights up when I think about the experience.
The draw to Proxy Falls was as strong as the one to Mount Shasta, and I find myself wondering if it’s another vortex. Several times I would stumble along the path, and my knees would twinge, but the pain would go away quickly as I felt myself pulled closer to the cascading flow of water. I stayed there for several hours, just wondering at the majesty of the entire thing as well as talking to people that were visiting from other parts of the country.
Today, I’m full of aches after hiking most of the weekend, but none of it is bad, injury pain, and each one of the aches makes me smile as I remember all the wonders I’ve experienced over the last few days.
I’m in Rainbow for the week, and then it’s on to the coast! I’ll be hitting Thor’s well, the Sea Lion caves up in Florence, then running up the rest of the coast before cutting over to McMinnville.