Crater Lake

Crooked River gorge (green old bridge; red new)

Umpqua Lighthouse

Dick Estel's 2006 Oregon Trip
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July 1, 2006: It’s cooled down from 105 to around 100 in Fresno, but it’s still warm enough to send smart people off to a cooler location. After Grandson Mikie finished his hockey game this morning, his parents jumped on their Harleys and headed for the Santa Cruz mountains, while Mikie and I set off for Oregon.

We left Fresno just after 9, and arrived in Weed CA, right next to Mt. Shasta on Interstate 5, about 5:30. We drove just under 400 miles, which is longer than I like, but we made good time, arriving eight and a half hours after our departure time. We took California 99 to Stockton, then moved over to Interstate 5 for the rest of the journey.

We’re getting ready to microwave some pizza, and in the morning will take US 97 through Klamath Falls and to Crater Lake OR. Other planned stops include the Crooked River and the John Day Fossil Beds in the central part of the state, then a trip across to the coast for some real cooling.

It was in the high 90s most of the day, but slid up around 100 going through Redding; here it was 85 when we arrived, and is cooling off as the sun gets down behind some pine trees. This area is heavily forested, and is in the heart of the southern Cascade Range. We can see Mt. Shasta through the trees to the east, and Black Butte, a volcanic cinder cone, to the south. Of course, we’re heading toward some of the semi-high desert country in Oregon, but ultimately we’ll be in what is essentially a rain forest along the coast.

Through the central valley, which was pretty much the first 300 miles of the trip, we saw very familiar territory – flat agricultural land, big and small cities, and plenty of traffic. Once we got past Redding, we were in the mountains, and had a nice drive by Lake Shasta, with views of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta here and there, and lots of pine trees.


July 2: Today’s drive was much shorter, about 160 miles, and we made a couple of long stops, the last one just 25 miles from our destination to fix lunch. This was my first time on this section of US 97, which goes northeast from Weed into Oregon. We turned west at Diamond Lake Junction on to Oregon138, the road to the northern part of Crater Lake National Park. The scenery along US 97 was very nice – some large meadows, lots of evergreens, and occasional views of the next volcanic mountain north of Shasta, possibly Mt. McLaughlin.

We were hoping to stay at the only campground in Crater Lake Park, Camp Mazama, but it is closed, as is the loop drive around the lake and the eastern side of the park. So we are at Diamond Lake, about 25 miles from the park, where I stayed in 2002 on my journey to Ohio and back. It’s a very nice area, about 4,000 feet elevation, with pine trees, a large lake, and cool weather. This RV park didn’t open till May 30, several weeks later than usual, although a park host said that most camp sites were clear of snow; just the road was blocked.

Mikie and I did some bike riding, played a little hockey, took a shower, and are ready to fix supper. He’s having a good time, and is a much better traveler than he was two years ago.

Tomorrow we’ll go to Crater Lake, since the west side of the park is open, which includes the visitor center and the all-important gift shop.


July 3: Crater Lake was great – lots of snow around as soon as we got up near the rim, but warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. We stopped at several vista points around the rim, and visited all the gift shops (five, counting those in the Crater Lake Lodge and in the visitor centers). We brought our lunch and ate at Rim Village, setting up our lawn chairs near the edge, with a view of the lake and the mountains above. Despite the snow, Camp Mazama appeared to be open, but our camp is only 25 miles from the start of the rim drive, and it has electricity.

It was breezy across the lake most of the day, so the bright blue was less evident, but the reflection of clouds in the water looked like an abstract painting, and it was quite beautiful. When Tim & Teri (Mikie’s parents) were here last year, the lake was very smooth, with sharp reflections that looked like a perfect mirror image. Probably every visit to the lake reveals different moods.

This evening we had a few very brief rain showers, just enough to get the truck really dirty. Most of the time before, in between, and after, it was clear.


July 4: We’ve been sleeping in pretty good (after all, it IS vacation/retirement). I’m usually up around 8, but Mikie has slept till 8:45 or later every day. So we get a late start, but after the first day, we have only had to go 125 to 150 miles per day. We retraced our path back to US 97 today, then headed north.

We made a stop at the High Desert Museum just south of Bend. We were there a couple of hours or more, including lunch in the trailer. They have a lot of exhibits relating to the history of the area (original native residents, ranchers, miners, etc.) There are also a number of live animals in nice habitats, including three or four fish tanks, an otter exhibit, a bobcat, a lynx, raptors, reptiles, and arthropods. They have a live raptor show, which we saw only part of, but the ending was a trained free-flying hawk that flew between the three handlers, swooping low over the audience.

We arrived at the Crooked River RV Park, near Terrebonne and Redmond, about 4 p.m. On my trip in 2002 I had the experience of looking down into the Crooked River canyon, but today we are down one level into the canyon (it’s still another 200 to 300 feet or so down into the bottom). More about this tomorrow.

This is the first RV park with a swimming pool, so after setting up, Mikie and I headed for the pool. I swam a few minutes, then read; while he swam for at least an hour and a half. We’ve now finished dinner and it’s time for a little TV. It’s nearly dark, but still a lot of light over the river cliffs at 9 p.m.


July 6: Yesterday we drove to one part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, about 90 miles from where we are staying. This is one of the richest fossil areas in the world, although the best stuff is not open to the public. There were mud flows in the area as well as other geological events over millions of years that allowed scientists to determine what the area was like and what plants and animals lived there during different time periods.

The area is quite remote; it’s the type of country the word “hinterlands” was invented for. We turned off US 93 on state highway 293, which doesn’t even have its number on the map (although it’s in my Rand McNally trip planner program). This connected to Oregon 218 which goes to the Clarno unit of the monument (there are three widely separated units). From the US 97 junction to the monument, we probably didn’t see more than a dozen vehicles, and two were clearly local. There are some farms and ranches along the way, and the countryside is quite scenic, with grassy hillsides, western junipers, and some rugged rock outcroppings here and there, especially in the monument.

This area of the monument has a couple of short trails, with markers along the way to point out fossils in the rocks. These are all plant fossils, but it was still an interesting experience.

Both on our way up and back we stopped at the Crooked River overlook, just north of Terrebonne. When I drove down this way in 2002 I crossed the river without noticing it, but did see the rest stop/vista point sign. At the edge of the parking area there was a sign warning: “Danger: 300 foot cliff ahead. Watch children and pets.” A short walk took me to an amazing sight – a narrow, deep gorge carved into the high desert plains, with the river flowing west at the bottom. The current highway bridge was built around 2000, but you can walk out on the old bridge for an even more breathtaking view. Mikie had a good time throwing rocks into the river from 300 feet up.

Our camp is down a cliff of 50 feet or so to an ancient flood plain of the river, with a couple of square miles of flat land south of the main gorge. In addition to the RV park, there is a golf course, residential areas, and a small village with restaurant, real estate offices, etc. By the camp there is a viewing platform that gives you another breathtaking view into the gorge. When I was there the last night, there was a couple there who had been watching through binoculars as a doe suckled two fawns down by the river.

Our trip took a good part of the day, but there was still time for swimming and our usual evening TV watching.

Today was mainly a travel day. We went back south a few miles from where we were camped, then headed west thorough the Cascade Mountains toward Interstate 5. A good part of the way we followed the McKenzie River, a swift-moving stream with lots of white water areas. We went south on I-5 from Eugene about 20 miles, then west over the coastal mountains to Reedsport. Much of the way we followed the Umpqua River, a large, smooth running river that joins the ocean south of Reedsport. We also saw some relatively recent lava flow areas (meaning a few thousand years ago or so). I deduced that they are recent by the sparseness of trees and other vegetation, indicating little time for the material to break down into soil.

We’re set up in a tree-filled RV park with plenty of privacy, and the one feature that rates four stars from Mikie, a swimming pool.


July 7: Today we drove up the coast about 40 miles to Cape Perpetua, where there is a hiking trail through the rain forest. We followed a loop trail that covered about two miles. It takes about a mile of hiking to get into the old-growth area, but once there, the terrain is marked by huge spruce and hemlock trees, and nearly unbroken growth of low bushes and plants. The wet aspect of the area is evident from heavy moss cover on fallen logs and standing tree trunks, although during our visit it was warm and dry.

At the visitor center we watched a slide show about tide pool life, then went down to the ocean, about two tenths of a mile, where there are some really nice tide pools. We saw purple sea urchins, many anemones, dozens of starfish in several colors, probably millions of mussels and barnacles, one fish, some pollywogs, and a few crabs. Tide pool exploring is one of Mikie’s favorite things, so he had a great time.

Driving back, we stopped at the Aztlan Restaurant in Florence. You never know how things will turn out at a Mexican restaurant in a strange town, but everything was delicious. Mikie had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, which came with some of the best French fries I have ever tasted, while I had a carnitas burrito.

Many miles of the coast in this area feature large sand dunes; it’s officially the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We drove in to a view point, but dune recreation is not really my thing; it just looks like big piles of sand to me.


July 8: We’re still at Reedsport for a third night. Today we went to the Umpqua Lighthouse on Winchester Bay and went on a brief guided tour. It was my first ever visit to a lighthouse. The first lighthouse here was built in 1856, but it was built on sand without knowledge of flood conditions, and was abandoned in 1864, in danger of collapsing. Construction on the present 65 foot tower began in 1891, and it opened in 1894. The lighthouse is now part of a state park, but still operates after being automated in the 1960s.

Then we drove up the coast about 30 miles so Mikie could play in the tide pools; these were not as good as the ones we went to the day before – mostly anemones plus lots of barnacles and mussels.

We ate at the Aztlan restaurant again; I had enchiladas and a taco, and Mikie had the same thing as the day before.

We’ve been having great weather, sunny nearly all the time, and about 65 degrees.

July 9 & 10: Today we headed south on US 101 from Reedsport to Whale's Head Resort, seven miles north of Brookings. I stayed at this same RV park in 1999 with my older grandson, Johnny.

A lot of the trip was slightly inland through forest, but there were also a lot of great ocean views. Of the parts of the Oregon coast that I’ve seen, I think the most dramatic views are the 20 or 30 miles along the southern-most section.

About two miles north of the resort is the Thomas Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Oregon at 345 feet. The creek itself is not much more than a trickle, but the view from the bridge gives you that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach. The creek joins the ocean just a few hundred feet from the bridge, winding through a smooth sandy beach.

The big attraction to me at Whale’s Head is the Oregon Coast Trail. This trail is a wonderful resource for old, tired, sore or lazy hikers, all of which applies to one or both of us. The trail consists of many short segments that begin and end at parking areas along US 101. Some are “official” stopping points; others are just wide places along the road. When you step away from the highway, within a few paces you are deep within a dimly lit spruce forest, with a thick ground cover of plants and bushes. Most segments are about a half mile, and wind down the hillside a ways, then return to the highway, often just a few hundred feet from where you started. Some segments have views of the ocean, and most have side trails that lead out to headlands or down to the beach. During the two days, we covered about six different sections.

When I was here with Johnny in 1999, we found one tiny secluded beach where he drew a picture I call the Sand Alien (check it out here). We also went down to some natural bridges, and went across the narrow neck from one side to the other. Mikie and I decided to go down there also. Either we followed a different trail, or the path is no longer being maintained, because the trail Mikie and I took was thickly overgrown, so that it was like forging your way through the jungle. Nonetheless, we made it down to the bridge and back with no mishaps and no scratches. I shudder to think of a similar hike pushing through the kind of thick growth we have in the Sierra foothills near home, with thorny chaparral and spiny oak leaves at every step.

The rain forest is known for huge banana slugs, and Mikie was anxious to see one. He was not disappointed, as we saw them on almost every trail segment, counting up nine or ten altogether. We also saw one snake, a tiny creature that quickly disappeared into the thick growth.

On our second day, in addition to hiking, we drove into Brookings, seven miles south of here, and seven miles north of the California border. We did some shopping, bought gas, and ate at McDonald’s, Mikie’s first choice for dining out.


July 11 & 12: Tuesday and Wednesday’s trips were dedicated solely to getting home, so we drove longer distances (322 miles on the 11th and 246 on the 12th). Aside from 397 miles the first day of our trip, our longest drive was 227 miles from Crooked River to Reedsport, and other days we never went over 160 miles.

The weather was foggy and misty and maybe even rainy for the first fifty miles or so, requiring windshield wipers off and on. We soon left that weather behind, and most of the day we were in warm, sunny terrain a few miles inland. Much of US 101 winds along the Eel River.

We stopped for the night at a somewhat rundown RV park in Windsor, about 15 miles north of Santa Rosa. At least it had a swimming pool, so Mikie enjoyed an hour or so in the pool before dinner and TV.

We got an early start both days, getting on the road by 8:15 each day. Normally Mikie is asking about lunch by 11:30, but the last day he was so anxious to get home he did not want to stop, so we arrived at my house about 2:30, tired and hungry, glad to be home, and happy that we had missed the 105 degree heat of a few days earlier.

It was interesting to observe some of Mikie’s growth and development and changes in attitude on the trip. Back in 2004 on our long trip to Ohio, he made it very clear that he did not like scenery. However, he enjoyed the arches in Utah, waterfalls on a recent trip to Yosemite, and eventually most of our hikes. I warned him that the rain forest would be nothing but scenery, and after the first few hundred feet of our first hike at Cape Perpetua, he was in a grumpy mood. His main complaint was that there was nothing but plants, and “what’s so good about plants?”

I’ve found that logical explanations are of little interest to people under 20, but I mentioned that many medicines come from plants. Even this would not have meant anything, but I told him about my mother’s two brothers who died in childhood of diseases that are now readily curable, and this personalization seemed to get across. In any event, his attitude improved for the rest of the hike, and he ended up having a good time.

On our hike at the fossil beds, he also started out complaining; however, after we saw fossils he made a 180 degree change and even agreed to go on an additional half-mile section of the trail.

Always a fussy eater, he has become more adventurous in this area lately. He has always avoided hot spicy foods, but began eating radishes on the trip, and at the Mexican restaurant dipped his chips in salsa for the first time. He also ate several bites of my burrito, which contained chopped up onions and jalapeńos. The following day he ate about half of one of my enchiladas. And though he ALWAYS picks olives off pizza, he ate a piece of combo pizza without removing anything, including the artichoke hearts (don’t tell him about these). He also put crushed chili peppers on one slice, but decided he did not care for this.

We have several ways to pass the time during long drives. Of course, he has his Gameboy and I have the CD player, but more often we discussed one of his current biggest interests, ancestry and origin of names. He’s a mixture of Swedish, Irish, English, German, Hungarian and who knows what, and as a hockey player is deeply disappointed that he’s not part Canadian and/or Russian. He went through nearly all the names in his school yearbook, asking what kind of names they were, and was unhappy to hear that most were English. Of course, I explained early immigration patterns and the fact that England is the “mother country,” but this did not relieve his pain at hearing “English” as he asked about name after name. He also asked me about kids I went to school with and people I knew back then, but again, way too many were English names, even the Native Americans. At least I was able to dredge up from my memory the names of storekeeper Charlie Glizinski and mail carrier Bill Cerwinski to provide some variety.

The other thing we do a lot while driving is the hockey player initial game. Each person takes turns giving the initials of an NHL player, and the other has to guess who it is. When we can’t come up with the answer quickly, we can then ask which team he plays for, whether he’s North American or European, and if the latter, which country he comes from. Although there are a bit more than 600 men playing major league professional hockey, it’s hard sometimes to think of a name that isn’t too easy, or hasn’t been used over and over.

On the 2004 trip I taught him the capitals of all the states, the Canadian provinces, and the countries of South America. We review these once in a while, although I’ve been very lax about Canada and South America (I can’t remember all the Canadian capitals myself). He was able to come up with most of the U.S.capitals during this trip, and we also worked on naming other cities in various states. He can usually come up with ten Texas cities, and knows at least thirty town and city names in California.


Statistical Notes: We traveled a total of 2,037 miles, 1,602 of that pulling the trailer. We spent a little over $500 on gas (OUCH!). By way of contrast, we spent $920 traveling 5,200 miles in 2004. The highest price was $3.60 per gallon at a tourist stop in the Mendocino County redwood country on Highway 101. However, I question the accuracy of this figure. I didn’t get a receipt, and wrote down the information on a scrap of paper. It seems like the posted price was in the $3.30 range. The highest confirmed price was $3.32 at Weed, CA. Prices are generally lower in Oregon, with the cheapest being $2.86 at Creswell, and the highest being $3.06 at Diamond Lake Junction.

Mileage was generally around ten to eleven miles per gallon. This figure is pretty close, but again, I have some doubts. In Oregon you cannot pump your own gas, and I suspect some attendants topped off the tank, which I never do. In any case, I never expect to get more than eleven MPG towing the trailer.

Our camping costs were generally around $20 to $25 per night, which has been the norm for several years. This includes water, electrical and sewer hookups. Most of the parks provided free cable TV, although we did not use it. At several parks, I got a discount due to my membership in a travel club. The lowest cost was $18 at Surfwood RV in Reedsport; the highest was $27 at Windsor, CA, although the condition of the park did not justify this high cost. Also, I got a senior discount there; normal price was $30.

I could do a Mastercard joke here, but I’ll spare you and just say that the scenery, the cool weather, and the long discussions with Mikie during our daily driving made it well worth the cost.

--Dick Estel, July 2006


(Photos open in a new window)

Klamath Lake & Mt. McLauglin (?) Crater Lake
Mt. Shasta Klamath Lake & Mt. McLauglin (?) Crater Lake
Crooked River gorge (green old bridge; red new)
Wind-smeared reflection on Crater Lake Crooked River gorge (green old bridge; red new) Railroad bridge over Crooked River 
Rock toss at Crooked River RV park viewing platform Rock formations from ancient mud flows Leaf fossil at John Day Fossil Beds
Old growth rain forest at Cape Perpetua All green, all the time Sea stars in tide pool at Cape Perpetua
Sea anemones in tide pool
Sea anemones in tide pool Umpqua Lighthouse Inside the original Fresnel lens
Southern Oregon coast View from the highest bridge in Oregon Natural bridges
Mikie on the Oregon Coast Trail

Spanish moss - a sign of a wet climate

Banana slug

Related Links

Klamath Lakes Crater Lake Diamond Lake
High Desert Museum John Day Fossil Beds Cape Perpetua
Oregon Dunes Umpqua Lighthouse Thomas Creek Bridge
Oregon Coast Trail Sand Alien Hockey Players
Bend Crooked River RV Park Crooked River

Natural bridges

Banana Slug

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Updated December 28, 2017