NorCal and Oregon

With our final hours at Crater Lake, we aim for an early start. One important activity  remaining to do is to take the boat tour around the lake. Tickets go on sale in the morning and we must be on the 10am departure otherwise we won’t be back in time to make it to Ashland in time for our show. We have breakfast Crater Lakein the room and are at the boat dock by around 8:30. With only a few people ahead of us, we secure our place on the 10am slot.

To get to the boat, there is a hike down around 700 feet of elevation over 1.1 miles. Certainly easy on the way down, but we know it will be more work on the return. We get down to the boat dock with plenty of time to just relax before lining up to get on the boat (which seats around 40 people). These boats are the only allowed ones on the lake and this place is the only legal access to the lake.

The tour departs right on time and we take a leisurely two hour ride around the lake. The park ranger on board is very informative and we learn about many of the things we saw yesterday during our rim drive. The views are a bit different from the lake level than they are from the rim level. It’s another perfect day on the lake and we enjoy our tour and take our sandwiches on board that we picked up last night. Right on time, the boat returns to the dock at noon and we’re on the road before 1pm.

We use our GPS toy to navigate us to Ashland and much to L”s delight it takes us on the more scenic route. It turns out that it’s nearly the same distance as the other route we considered. It was a scenic drive and we make it to Ashland by mid afternoon. I did ignore the GPS direction to go down a dirt road. It turned out this would have cut off some distance, but I prefer the highway. Next time when we are in L”s car, she can go that way.

Tonight is our first show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We are seeing "Ruined", which won the Pulitzer prize. It’s about the uplifting topic of prostitution and brutal gang rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. You know, a real comedy. It is an excellent show and not nearly as depressing as the topic might suggest. It’s clear that the OSF gets top notch actors and the small theaters really let you appreciate the acting skills on display. By the time the play ended, it was time for some much needed sleep.

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Today we have all day to explore Crater Lake. Our plan is to do the Rim Drive, which is about a 30 mile road that goes around the (surprise, surprise) rim of the lake.  We picked up a booklet last night that details many of the stops and provides useful commentary. It informs us a lot about the lake and the views are, of course, Crater Lakefantastic. It’s another picture perfect day and I take many perfect pictures. We alternate driving (see note below) and finish the tour after over 6 hours of site seeing. This leaves enough time to change and enjoy our dinner at the Lodge.

After dinner, we return for a nearby stop along Rim Drive to watch the sunset.  It’s pretty and getting cold fast.  We return to our room shortly after it’s dark out.

Note:  This trip was another big step in our married life.  Other than when L’ picked me up in my car after I sold my old one, she has not driven my car.  I kept saying that it had to be two years with no tickets or accidents before she could drive it.  Capitulating to convenience, L’ drove the car down to San Jose prior to our departure on this road trip.  It was a big step and she handled it almost flawlessly (the flaw being her continued refusal to wash and simonize it).   She now was official driving number two with stored seat and mirror settings.

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To maximize our time in Crater Lake, we depart by mid morning and arrive at Crater Lake by lunchtime. After lunch in the Lodge, we gear up for a hike that starts right from the back of the lodge.

We hike up to Garfield point (named for a park dude, not the cat or president). It’s 1.7 miles each way and about a thousand feet of elevation gain. It starts at around 7,000 feet though so it’s more challenging than it would be starting at sea level. We tackle it like the veterans we are though and the view from the top is fantastic. I work on taking a huge panorama (that it’s giving me some trouble getting stitched together) and enjoy the view. The hike down takes much less time and we’re back at the room for dinner and showers.

View from Garfield Peak

Since Crater Lake is in the middle of nowhere your dining options are the Lodge restaurant (where we have a reservation for tomorrow), a takeout sandwich, or the buffet restaurant. We go to the buffet restaurant which has decent food and then we return home. While L’ goes to sleep early, I venture to the back of the Lodge to watch the stars. We heard a rumor that the Northern Lights would be visible tonight. I go out with clear instructions to wake L’ if they are in fact visible. Sadly, they are not, but the stars are spectacular because we are at elevation and in the middle of nowhere. You can see the Milky Way (our galaxy, not the candy bar) along with boatloads of stars.   As it starts to get a little cold, I quietly return to the room and go to sleep.  We’ve got a full day exploring Crater Lake tomorrow.

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Departing Crescent City, we make one last stop among the redwoods. It’s a short hike in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park and takes us along a river and to another pretty oregon204[1]grove of very tall trees.  It’s a quick stop, but trees that are this large are always a treat to see.

The drive to Caves National Monument is uneventful and we arrive around lunchtime. We book our afternoon guided tour and time it such that we can get lunch now and get milkshakes at the conclusion of our tour before the snack shop closes.  Milkshake time is as critical as nap time as my loyal readers know.

The cave here is a marble cave which, we’re told, is less common. It was found in the 1800s and has been pretty picked over. Many of the bigger stalactites and stalagmites were broken off long ago by people who didn’t know they take thousands of years to be created.  Because of that, there are not as many intricate formations to view.   The cave is around 44F year round so right before we go in we put on many layers (it’s easily in the 80s outside the cave). The tour guide is knowledgeable and there are some interesting rooms, but it wasn’t something I would call “beautiful”.


After about an hour and a half, we emerge from the cave and quickly remove our layers since it’s about forty degrees warmer outside than in the cave. The previous schedule strategizing worked out and we head back to the lunch room for milkshakes. The milkshakes are yummy, large, and refreshing. From here it’s time to shower and have dinner at the Lodge dining room before our departure tomorrow for Crater Lake.

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After a wonderfully caloric loaded breakfast at the B&B, we head to downtown Eureka. It is filled with many Victorians and is mostly deserted since it’s early for a Sunday oregon148[1]morning. We stroll the main drag and I’m disappointed the chocolate store is not yet open. We head down to the Carlson Mansion which is a stunning Victorian along with a smaller one built for the couple’s son across the street. It’s not open for tours so we just admire it from outside. Our other possible tourist stop in Eureka was closed so we depart for the sister city of Arcata.

Going across a big bridge on the other side of the bay is Arcata. Its downtown is much smaller than Eureka’s and is even more nutty crunchy. There’s not much here (I don’t need any more hemp) so we head towards the Redwoods with a planned evening in Crescent City.

There are many different redwood parks around the area and we hit Redwood National and State Park which is one of the bigger ones. We stopped in the visitor center for the relevant info and then hit a short stop at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Following that we did about a three mile hike recommended by the ranger staff. Both let us see some spectacular old growth redwoods and pretty scenery.

oregon186[1] We then resumed our drive to Crescent City. A town of only about 8,000 it only really exists now for hotels and some local fishing. The second hotel we call has a reasonable rate and availability. The GPS and our map lead us astray a bit, but we find it and check in.

After cleaning up we head to the recommended seafood restaurant right down the road. I’m looking forward to the fresh salmon and L’ gets the other fish special. We are sadly bummed that the fish is not very good. Mine is overcooked- mediocre restaurants at home have far better food.   It just goes to show us again how spoiled we are by the food we get at home.  In any case, we head back to the hotel to get some sleep for tomorrow we leave the state.

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We awoke to a beautiful sunny day in Mendocino.  The weather gods were following the forecasters. After some breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed out. Our first stop was a nearby Pygmy forest inside (Jean Claude) Van Damme State Park.

Because of the proximity to the ocean, the soil is poor in nutrients. Geological forces have created a series of adjacent terraces. Only in the gaps between the terraces do enough nutrients and soil develop for normal plant development. The result is the terraces contain pygmy trees. These are trees that could be just an inch around and two feet tall, yet have lived for a hundred years. This is in great contrast to the redwoods we will see later in the trip. We follow along on the nature trail and loop back to the car.

oregon073[1] With such spectacular weather, we then go to the seaside downtown area which looks as much like New England as it does California. We do a short hike to take in the coastline and then wander downtown. After stopping in the candy store, we have a nice lunch.

Having seen our fill of the town (it’s not really that big), we drive over to the nearby lighthouse. Before walking to the lighthouse (officially known as the Point Cabrillo Light Station), we take a walk towards a small waterfall and picturesque coastline. While L’ plays with a few basset hounds that are enjoying the sun with their owner, I take a few photos. Walking along the coast we make it to the lighthouse which is still operational.oregon122[1] There are some exhibits about the lighthouse and a woman with a strong New York accent manning the gift shop. The lighthouse is now fully automated, but much of the lighthouse keepers’ homes have been restored to what they were like at the time they were lived in (one of them is even available for rental in case you want to spend the night). We take ourselves through the self guided tour of the house and then return to the car.

We head north for a quick stop in Fort Bragg. The coast is not nearly as pretty here and it is much more crowded. The colored glass beach is neat to see, but not worth a lot of time. We return to the car and depart for Eureka. While it is getting late, we take a quick stop along the Avenue of the Giants for at least a short walk among the giant redwoods. There was a huge grove within a very short walk from the parking area so it fits the bill.

From the car, L’ calls a hotel that was recommended by Lonely Planet. While they are booked, they recommend a B&B and they have availability. We book that, swing by to pick up the keys and get a dinner recommendation, and then go eat. It’s very late for dinner for us, but the day’s activities were worth it. The B&B is a beautifully preserved Victorian home and more than sufficient for a night’s stay in Eureka.

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After checking the weather forecast, we saw that the weather was predicted to be sunny along the California coast. This is unusual in the summer so we adjusted our plans to spend our first night in Mendocino rather than an inland location. I checked for hotel availability during the day and wrote down the name of one that had one. We didn’t book anything since we didn’t know how the fickle Bay Area traffic would be impact how far we would be able to get.

We had moderate slowdowns through the wine country but found a pizza place in Santa Rosa. While it doesn’t rank on my pizza poll, it was adequate to eliminate the grumpiness factor from both of us being hungry. We called the hotel to enquire about availability which they fortunately still had. The hotel receptionist thought we would be in Mendocino in about four hours while by our reckoning it would be only two. We agreed we’d call again when we got closer.



The drive to the coast is windy, but manageable. Unbeknownst to me, but, to paraphrase, Spaceballs, knownst to L’, there is little to no cell phone reception in Mendocino (Note:  Spaceballs is one of L’’s favorite movies). We just drove to the lodging establishment instead and mentioned to the receptionist that we had called earlier. Surprised that we did in fact make it, she informed us that the room was still available (and for a phenomenal price given Mendocino’s normal prices). With keys in hand we were on our way.

At the entrance to the room, L’ tried the key to no avail. Puzzled, I also tried to open the door without success. We returned to the receptionist who accompanied us to the room to try and open it. After a few seconds, someone from inside the room yells for us to go away since they are in the room. Back at the hotel office, the receptionist figures out someone was in the room but it wasn’t properly listed as occupied. At this point, she upgrades us to a bigger room with a fireplace and fortunately the key works this time. So in the end, it all worked out. The remaining bonus was that the hotel was the scene for the filming of “Murder She Wrote”.

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