Adventure Galore at Whistler, BC, Canada
January 15, 2016
SUMMERTIME in MY COUNTY, CRATER LAKE COUNTRY
August 11, 2015
‘Summertime, and the livin’ is easy‘ composed by George Gershwin for Porgy and Bess (and made famous by many, including Ella Fitzgerald) sorta sums up the land of my birth and the land that is still my home, though my travels have taken me far and wide. The more I travel, the more I realize that I was born and raised and still live in some of the best country on the planet: Klamath County in Southern Oregon. Summer is the perfect time to live in, and also to travel in, Klamath Country. A friend of mine once said (he was then the Public Utilities Commissioner for Oregon), “There are many places in Klamath County that would receive attention as possible national parks or monuments if they were located back East.” I limit my summer travels to elsewhere because my front and back door is as good as it gets…so let’s explore a little of it, but not all of it (some will always remain secrets!).
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Surprisingly my home county is the home to Oregon’s only national park: Crater Lake National Park. I’m surprised that my home state does not host any other national parks. Many call Crater Lake one of the Wonders of the World, and wonderful it is! It is at the top of the list for the Seven Wonders of Oregon (www.traveloregon.com). Many call it the Crown Jewel of Oregon, and I will not dispute that, though my son is named after the Steens Mountain of southeast Oregon…obviously, a very special place in my heart.
Crater Lake (www.craterlakenationalpark.com) is achingly blue, especially when viewed from one of the three tour boats on the water (brought to the lake via helicopter but housed permanently in boat houses on Wizard Island). It is America’s deepest lake at 1943 feet and only Canada’s Great Slave Lake (by seven feet) is deeper in North America. Crater Lake is the world’s ninth deepest lake. The water in the lake is pure and amazingly gin clear.
In late July this year, my brother-in-law Rob Crawford, my nephew Max Crawford and I hiked down Cleetwood Cove Trail (the only legal trail to access the lake) and boarded the tour boat Umpqua at 8:30am.. The boat took us directly to Wizard Island where we would spend the next six hours hiking, fly fishing and exploring. We would return on the Klamath boat. In the trilogy of tour boats maintained by concessionaires Zanterra, Rogue is the name on the third boat. The headwaters of the famous Rogue River begin as springs in the national park.
FISHING CRATER LAKE
Crater Lake was once stocked with a variety of fish but stocking stopped and the only fish remaining are rainbow trout and kokanee. No license is required and fisherman are encouraged by the park service to keep their catch but we returned everything back to the lake. That said, the best trout I’ve ever eaten came from Crater Lake. Flies and artificial lures are allowed but no bait. The best patterns will mimic a crayfish. Because of the water clarity, the trout are very wary and highly selective. They fight like steelhead. Wizard Island is a volcano in this collapsed caldera (technically, it should have been named Caldera Lake) and its distinct feature gives an unforgettable signature to this lake. It is my preferred place to fish as opposed to the area around the Cleetwood Boat Dock.
This was Max and Rob’s first outing to Wizard. “I hear that the trail down to Cleetwood is one mile but seven miles back,” laughs Rob. “Sure enough,” I reply, “because that is what it feels like when you’re hiking out of the crater back to the Rim Road after a long day on Wizard.”
We gave ourselves an hour to hike down the trail with our gear, though we made it in a half an hour. Within half an hour, the tour boat dropped us off at Wizard. “Let’s hike to Fumarole Bay,” I said. “It is more picturesque and the trout fishing has always been good to me there.” We kept our provisions to a minimum: fly rod, one box of flies, spare tippet, water, sandwiches, power bars, an extra pair of socks and photography equipment. Good boots and a walking staff are essentials as you are walking on lava rock the entire time.
The beauty of the lake, viewed from the Island, is arresting. Multiple stops to gander at the grandeur is essential. The water surrounding the island is mindful of Belize, Honduras and Hawaii, the color varying depending on depth.
Though a few other tourists showed up, we had this part of the island relatively to ourselves. Many people take the Wizard Island Summit Trail after embarking from the boat. There are boat tours throughout the day, including interpretive tours. They are a bargain in my book for what you get. Book early though, yet a certain amount of tickets are released from the Crater Lake Kiosks 24 hours before departure (http://www.craterlakelodges.com/activities/volcano-boat-cruises/).
I took both wet and dry fly lines and I had skillful luck with both. The largest trout was around 20 inches. From the rock perches along the shore, large shadowy trout can be viewed. Casting to them always gets a look but not always a take. I love wading in the water for casting but too much time spent might make you numb. The rocky bottom can be a challenge so corkies are recommended if you don’t mind the extra weight.
Our day was stunning with broken clouds, plenty of sunshine and a vast palette of water and topographic colors to absorb. In no time our six hours expired. It felt like we had been there but one!
After embarking from the boat, we huffed and puffed our way back to the rim road and the vehicle. Though a margarita was on our mind, we rewarded ourselves with one gin and tonic. There was a flotilla of fresh tourists going merrily down the trail but I knew their ascent would not be so merrily! Take plenty of stops, enjoy and view, and ascend deliberately. Max (he did not have a gin and tonic) continued on to Portland. Rob and I took our time and drove around the rim road, periodically stopping a lookouts, each having their own view of topographic magnificence. I especially like the lookout views of Mount Thielsen and the Phantom Ship, a small island in Crater Lake that looks like a ghost ship.
Check out historic Crater Lake Lodge. Be warned: make reservations way in advance. There are several campgrounds within the park and there are stores (and gas) at Mazama Village and on the Rim near the Lodge. The nearest airports to Crater Lake are Klamath Falls and Medford. The Lake can be accessed via road from Highway 97 (Klamath Falls), Highway 38 (via Roseburg), Highway 140 (Klamath Falls) and there are several other routes with signage from the Rogue Valley. Summer is a great time to visit but my personal favorite is autumn as less folks are out and about. And if you get a chance, climb to the top of the Watchman and Mount Scott for some grand views of the Lake.
WOOD RIVER VALLEY
Since I live in the county, I generally access Crater Lake via the Wood River Valley and Fort Klamath. Having said that, take some time to explore and visit this historic valley, north of Klamath Lake, which is Oregon’s largest lake. It is also a great place to stay, using it as a staging area for Crater and other places. Accommodations are available at www.josmotel.com, www.theaspeninn.com, www.craterlakeresort.com, http://www.sunpassranch.com/contact-us, www.craterlakecountrysuites.com, Crystalwood Lodge and www.thewilsoncottage.com. Several of these areas have rv and tent camping, too. And make sure that you give Robbin and Jim some business at their Jos Motel Organic Food Store.
The mouth of Wood River is as clear and pure a water that you’ll find in the United States. It begins as springs from the lower flank of Sun Mountain. Crater Lake is its underground source. Kayaking and fly fishing are my favorite activities while visiting this river which flows through the pastoral Wood River Valley before emptying its contents into Upper Klamath Lake. Big brown and rainbow trout exist in the river’s lower stretches or at its mouth. I like to kayak from Kimball Sate Park (the rivers beginning) to Fort Klamath or to the day use area before Fort Klamath. There is a campground at Kimball. Kayaks can be rented from friend Christy by calling 541-281-7775.
This is one cold river at its source and for many miles down the river. Your best chance of ever walking on water is to dive in! On a hot day though, it is immediately satisfying…actually, downright bracing! I have photographed great blue heron, great egrets, bald eagles, bobcat, beaver and a variety of other critters while paddling my kayak. Cares and worries slip away like autumn leaves when floating the Wood. And speak about autumn: the river is gorgeous with banks lined with glowing aspen trees.
OK, I’ve given you a little taste of my home county. Maybe with time, I’ll give you more. Time now to get out and explore!
Further In with Rocinante: A Winter Journey
February 13, 2015
Oregon to New Mexico
This month long journey began from my Oregon home. The first evening took me to Lynette Shirley’s home in Surprise Valley, CA as she would join me for this month long (plus) road adventure. Our trusty stead (hopefully) would be a 1996 GMC pickup which I had just traded photography for. I named the metal road beast Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse. An old 1969 green Ford pickup which my late wife and I traveled in throughout the USA and Mexico had also been named Rocinante. When John Steinbeck traveled with his dog which led to the book Travels with Charley, his combo pickup and camper was named Rocinante. A few days prior to leaving on the adventure, my dear friend Rick Ponte called from his Rogue River home and mentioned that someone had a 1967 Caveman Classic Camper for sale. Rick and Carol looked at it for me, gave me a call back and said that it was in good shape. I made a quick trip over and purchased it from a river rafter/mountaineer. Rick suggested that I name it Further after Ken Kesey’s bus from the Merry Pranksters. I took his suggestion with one more addition. The camper is officially Further In (in a sense, it could be Inn, too!).
Leaving Surprise Valley, we made our way to Fallen, Nevada where we picked up some extra supplies, then we headed down the Loneliest Highway in America, Highway 50…which nowadays is not even remotely close to being the loneliest. Departing 50, we made our way to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, spending a bitter cold evening inside the embrace of Further In. Ice was on all of the windows upon awakening. The propane portable heater (with some venting) warmed up the camper quickly. The hot coffee never tasted so good. Clear blue skies and a warming sun greeted us. After breakfast we hiked and explored this fascinating park where fossils of the prehistoric fish exist abundantly. We were the only people in this remote spot, though the park ranger later came and he gave us a tour of the fossil museum. Thirty seven Ichthyosaur have been found in the park. On our way out, we walked the ghost mining town of Berlin with its fascinating building and bone-yard of relics from a bygone period. Departing Berlin, I photographed a small herd of pronghorn antelope.
The day was spent traveling to our second evening camper encampment, Rachel, Nevada along the Extraterrestrial Highway which is adjacent to Area 51 and is famous for alien sightings. We saw none…but the night heavens and stars were glorious. Lynette went into the Little Ale’Inn and purchased some alien trinkets.
We entered Utah the following day and made our way to Cedar City where we spent the night in the Jiffy Lube parking lot. We arrived just in time to get Rocinante serviced. A bitter cold night again but we were hooked up to their electricity so we were able to use our little space heater. Leaving early we headed through the spectacular colorful canyon which skirts Cedar Breaks National Monument, threading our way to Kanab and eventually Page, Arizona where a longtime friend Carol McCartney met us at the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center. She took us to an overlook that most tourists pass up and we were presented with an awe inspiring canyon view of the Colorado River. After a quick shower at Carol’s, we hit the road, driving into the night to Monument Valley. We parked on a side-road near the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park but just after retiring a car pulled up and started honking. A Navajo lady told us that we shouldn’t park here as “there are drunks and hobos that show up here.” Unable to sleep, we pulled out and spent the evening in the parking lot of the Tribal Park.
We were greeted with speechless natural beauty when we awoke. We spent a memorable morning exploring this glorious slice of tierra firma. We traveled several miles of the 18 mile dirt road which leads one to many of the Monument Valley rock towers. A visit to the new museum is a must. One section is dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers of WW11.
Leaving Monument, we made our way to Four Corners, arriving just before the gates were closed. We placed ourselves whereas we were able to stand in four states: Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The sunset was brilliant and lasting as we made our way to a friend’s home between Cortez and Dolores, Colorado. We slept in front of their fireplace that evening. The natural warmth felt wonderful! After a tour of Rich and Mary’s 11 acre property the following morning, we aimed Rocinante to Durango and Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort…where we would spend the next four nights and five days in the luxury embrace of a condo that overlooks the ski/boarding area. Our www.nasja.org Western Summit gathering took place here. Along with NASJA friends from the west, friends from the east coast joined us, too, including NYC, Florida and New Jersey. I had several days of great skiing including one day of cat skiing the back country with www.sanjuanuntracked.com. Yahoo! I died and went to Heaven at Purgatory!
The small city of Durango opened itself up to us with a big embrace. I’ll certainly come back!
Departing Durango we spent a night at Macos State Park as a big storm was a brewing. We made our first campfire of the journey and enjoyed a gin and tonic gathered around it. We were the only folks in the park. In the dark hour, I started Rocinante and drove to Mesa Verde National Park in blizzard like conditions. We were able to get in a ranger tour of Spruce Tree Pueblo Ruins during a snow storm. It was scintillating! They closed off the roads to the other Pueblo ruins though, so we made our way off the lofty mesa, drove to Durango and then to Pagosa Springs where we spent the night in a foot of fresh snow behind the San Juan Motel. After a dinner inside the cozy Rocinante, we walked over to Riff and Raft Brewing Company and tried a sampler flight of their beers.
The following morning we took a walk, photographing this picturesque town known for its natural hot springs. We even pleasured ourselves with soaking at the www.overlookhotsprings.com. The rooftop soaking pools with a view is a must. A named Pagosa Colorado’s Winter Riviera.
He next leg of the journey took us to American icon artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s fabled Ghost Ranch. On the 23,000 acre ranch, seven and a half acres of it was purchased by O’Keeffe. Her home is off limits to the general public. The ranch (www.ghostranch.org) was bequeathed to the Presbyterian Church who administer it to this day. The scenery blew me away and I understood immediately what drew O’Keeffe to this southwest landscape. However, we awoke to a flat tire on Rocinante. Anthony, who works for the ranch, helped me put on the spare…and we made our way to Espanola and to Walmart which was the only place open to repair our tire.
It was a beautiful bluebird day and in the distance the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were singing with a fresh snow cover. We took the High Road to Taos toward our destination of Sipapu Ski Resort, Four days of skiing Sipapu were memorable. This resort probably brings more young kids into skiing and boarding than any other in New Mexico with their special discounts and their family friendly attitude. Departing Sipapu we made our way back to the High Road and had a lovely drive to old Taos, one of the America’s most unique cities, including Taos Pueblo, a world heritage site and the home of the longest continuous living community in the USA. I hooked up with old friend Steve Eske who, along with his wife Wanda, established the first micro brewery in New Mexico, appropriately called Eske’s. We would spend two nights in their parking light—under the illumination of lumarnarios—and one night in the parking lot of Taos Ski Resort (where we skied two days at 11,500 feet! Bluebird, beautiful days. We strolled and explored picturesque downtown Taos. We also found our way to the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Rio Grande River Bridge, walking out to the center where your heart beats more rapidly and your legs get wobbly. Once I had taken a hot air balloon into the Gorge and on another occasion, I rafted this stretch. We treated ourselves to a cold beer at the Mesa Taos Brewery—it has a Burning Man like feel to it, architecturally and artistically—nearby the Bridge.
Supplies were gathered and we headed south toward Pilar where we would spend two evenings in a great encampment (with electricity, even!) called Rio Bravo on the famous Rio Grande River. The river was clear, singing deeply and it was filled with a lot of waterfowl. We befriended our camp neighbors Debra and Mark, sharing an evening campfire and breakfast. We marveled at their tricked out camp trailer.
Departing Rio Bravo, we drove south and met Mika, the head distiller at www.kgbspirits.com, and followed him on a labyrinth to their unique distillery which creates the famous Taos Lightening. The distillery is located next to the old Spanish government headquarters which ruled the southwest all the way to California for nearly 300 years. Henry Cabot Lodge would later purchase this unique and sequestered away property.
The next leg would take us to where I write these words at this moment: Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa (www.ojocalientemineraldspringsresortandspa.com) , where we have spent the last two evening. Heaven on this earth!!! We’ve done all the pools, many times over, and yesterday we even did the mud soak and dry in the sun. Everything is skin tighter today!
Sometime time we turn Rocinante and Further In and head back west. We have reached the eastern end of our journey and it has been quite the adventure.
Tenmile Lake, Oregon
November 17, 2014
Several years in a row I’ve come to my friend’s autumn cabin, accessed only by boat from a marina in downtown Tenmile. It is a place of deep solace and solitude…and beauty. It’s my double autumn cabin dose. Actually, it’s normally three autumn cabins that I go to: last year was such. After returning back to Oregon from Montana, I went to the Lake of the Woods cabin in my home county of Klamath, then the Tenmile cabin and finally the Double Tree Ranch cabin on the Rogue River which I care-took for a friend. Autumn is my favorite season so to be out and about and close to nature is what the doctor orders within my soul during this season. A cozy cabin is perfect as the warm summer season changes with cooler nights and camping becomes less desirable.
It’s a 5-7 mile boat ride to get to this cabin…about a 20 minute ride. The speed of the boat is surprisingly intoxicating…something that I seldom do as I am a canoe/kayak kinda guy…but speed downhill snow skiing is one of my favorite thrills so I should not be surprised that I like the thrill of a fast boat. This is a large lake with many arms and fingers but it is not a wide lake so the water wave conditions are not an issue, except for the oddball rare storm which could cause a stir.
After getting set up in the cabin, I’ll often take short boat journeys to photograph egrets, herons and other winged creatures. You can get surprisingly close to them in a boat. There are days, like yesterday, when the sun beckons me to the nearby coast. I love hiking along the beach south of Winchester Bay. Another favorite hike are the nearby sand dunes, the largest coastal sand dunes in America. Crabbing and fishing is nearby, too, at Winchester and other points north and south. It’s great to be able to get a deep dose of the coast, the lake, the rivers and nearby streams. There are endless recreational possibilities here.
The quiet of the cabin though serves me best. Near day’s end, I love sitting in the easy chair near the large window overlooking the lake: the perfect spot for sunsets…and a good martini, too! Sunny morning will often catch me on the deck reading. Always from the deck, one can hear the sound of the ocean surf as it reaches shore. The steep, short trails that lead from the cabin are excellent for a cardio workout. If I get to the cabin in October (as I did last year), there are huckleberries for the picking. Mushrooms abound now. My mornings generally begin with the hoot of owls, and the evenings end as such, too.
I come to the cabin for writing, editing photographs and thinking…but more than anything, I come for the deep peace. In quietness, there is clarity, and wisdom. The maddening crowd does not bring me contentment. I hope that I always have cabins to come to, especially during the richest season of all.
Grant Tetons and Driggs, Idaho
September 19, 2014
It has been a dazzling week of exploration, friendship, photography and adventure here in Driggs, Idaho and Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. Oh, and a birthday, too!
The Condor Kid Reunion took place with folks coming from St. Louis, Colorado, California, Oregon and Idaho…eight in all of which four are original members of the Condor group from the old days at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo…named after their friendship camping together looking for the rare and endangered California condor. All four—Karen, Syd, Lynette and Ron—wrapped up their first degrees in wildlife and natural resources at Cal Poly…and Karen, Syd and Lynette were roommates. Ron and Lynette wrapped up their masters at Western State College of Colorado, where they were roommates. Every two years the group gets together in a different part of the country. Two years ago in Mammoth and two years before that in Colorado.
In Driggs, we all stayed together in a great two story log cabin home with a spectacular view of the Tetons Range. Our day outings took us fly fishing, hiking, canoeing, vodka tasting, photographing, boat touring and eateries. Evenings were spent with special home prepared dinners, hot tubing and campfires.
Our day trips have taken us to the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, Jenny Lake, Cascade Canyons Trail, Teton River, Bitch Creek, Buffalo River, Grand Targhee hiking (accessed by the ski lift), downtown Jackson, Snake River Brewery and the remarkable new GeoTourism Center in Driggs. Oh yes, huckleberry shakes in Victor and root beer floats in Ashton.
I’ll let the photos do the remainder of the talking as we’re packing up and heading to Yellowstone today.
September 4, 2014
There has been an eery quiet and pall over the landscape the last few days. Smoke and quiescent clouds have owned the air-scape. The river though is unchanged, its sweet murmur constant, the cadence and rhythm static, predictable. The surrounding landscape is the driest I’ve seen. My camp is green though and unchanged since I arrived three weeks ago. Surrounded by springs, it keeps a verdantness deep into the summer.
I do have my walking paths to the river where I’ve tramped down the grass and the grass, too, has succumbed to my tent, shower, outside kitchen, writing table pavilion, fire-pit and the movement grounds (better known as a shovel/ dirt/ rock delineation).
I’ve spent many solo days in camp with occasional weekend company. I’m never alone though as I have my constant bird, squirrel and deer companions…and just last night an Angus bull who wandered in to graze and in my night nakedness, I tossed a couple of sticks at it (successfully), getting it to thunder away. Luckily it didn’t come after me as my tent retreat would be a mere matador’s cape.
The birds are most abundant…the first morning voices I hear and the last when the night’s curtain closes. Seated in my creek chair last night, the sky above me was a swirl with nighthawks. These crepuscular birds and the mammal kingdom bats arrive before dawn and at dusk and beyond. I marvel at their aerial acrobatics as they gather their insect dinners, maneuvering like circus acrobats and fighter jets.
As I write these words before 8 am and the sun just starting to peak through the mountain junipers and pines, I hear the rapid buzz of a hummingbird. The flycatchers are busy all day in camp, as are the woodpeckers (mainly Pacific sapsuckers), orioles, Rufus-side towhee, robin, dove, vireos, western tanager, belted kingfisher, white-faced ibis (rare they land here if they see me), tree sparrows, warblers and dippers. There is a resident osprey, too, and I occasionally have an owl, bald eagle or raptor visit.
There are a couple of resident chickaree (Douglas ground squirrels) that chide me from the creek cottonwood located beside my writing table. A couple of golden mantle ground squirrels inspect my kitchen table everyday for crumbs. I keep everything sealed though and food remains in coolers. Dried goods are encased in large plastic containers, kept in the pickup whereas I can easily access them from the tailgate.
Yesterday when arriving at camp near sunset, a doe and her two spotted fawns greeted me…or should I say, I greeted them. I clicked off a few nice photos before they bounded away.
I love camp days when I do not leave for anythings other than my daily 2-3 mile hike. Days are spent reading, writing, piddling on projects such as new backing and line for the recently purchased 5 weight fly rod and reel. Several times during the day, I’ll slip into the river to refresh and cool down.
I know and feel the camp similar to what naturalist Henry Beston once wrote: “I would answer that one’s first appreciation is a sense that the creation is still going on, that the creative forces are as great and active to-day as they have ever been, and that to-morrow’s mornings will be as heroic as any in the world.”
One of my favorite pleasures is to be seated in my river chair, enjoying nothingness but the moment. The river is filled with the activity of dragon and damsel flies. I have a table in front of the chair where I can prop my feet when I wish to get them out of the water. Oftentimes crayfish will nibble at my feet and toes but they give up quickly knowing that I’m not ripe enough for them! I have two umbrellas attached to the river chair…a small one when I want just my head out of the sun and a large one for complete shade. There is a guest chair, too, next to the table. Not once since I’ve been here has an uninvited vehicle driven down, nor has there been a fisherman wading or walking by. In the old days when the river was stocked, fisherman passing through the camp was not uncommon.
My kitchen is simple: a large table with a propane stove, water container, dish washing and cooking supplies. I eat and drink healthily. The simple elements nourish me well.
The camp is filled with memories of days gone by with my wife (some of her ashes were released in the river) and son, my family and friends. I started coming here as a kid. During higher water, I float the river with raft and kayak. I’ve been to the river’s source in the wilderness and I’ve been to its end at a high desert lake. I’ve fly fished practically every stretch of it…and I’ve hiked sections of it just for the pleasure and exercise. It is a river of dreams and memory…and a river of the moment, with new memories to be made.
In his book Upland Stream, W.D. Wetherell says, “Coming to the end of Walden Thoreau summed up his experiment in living thus: “That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams…he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” This was written from optimism that seems amazing to us now, and yet there are people who every day learn the truth of this, and among them are fisherman, who in the precious hours on the water, possess an optimism and strength of purpose worthy of Thoreau.”
This river nourishes my soul deeper than any other. I have a love affair with it that will last for eternity.
July 23, 2014
In the doldrums of summer, in the land of my birth, I go to the mountains to quench my thirst.
It will be called UnNamed, USA where I go. All of us have a special place called UnNamed. Some are fortunate to have many. It’s not a place available for general public consumption, like we travel writers make a living exposing, or in most cases, ruminating about places from our own subjective experience that have been written about time after time. You have to find your UnNamed on your own. I’m sure you already have. If not, find your own and tell no one (or very few). There are places that I have found and that I have explored that I will not write about in specifics, though maybe so in broad, general, unnamed terms.
As a travel photographer/writer, I get to experience a variety of places in a variety of lands. It pays my bills and it always leaves me enriched and thankful for the breadth and depth of this Old Earth…and the reader can go there, too, either literally, vicariously, or both. Yet these journeys only partially fill me. UnNamed fills me completely. To the brim. To overflowing…and it is relatively inexpensive as it is close to home. In times of travel penny pinching, our UnNameds are wise travel investments.
My wife—mortally deceased fourteen years ago—and I spent part of many summers at UnNamed. Our son Steen—now 29—did, too. UnNamed was our camp, our sanctuary, our Shanghai-La. It was our eye from which we explored our region. Family and friends had and still have the pleasure of UnNamed, too.
Everyone should have an UnNamed. A place to go, to be alone, to be away from it all…or just to be with whom you want to be with.
My first memories at UnNamed were with my Dad and brother, often accompanied with other friends and family, too…and many times, just Dad and I. We came to fish this stream of dreams. It is where my Dad taught me to be a very proficient spin fisherman. Though I fly fish only now, my Dad made me into an expert at bait and spin fishing. Trout trembled at the approach of both of us…or so we liked to think. In those days, it was rare that we would catch and release. We had a large family to feed, with few resources, and we wanted to “bring home the bacon” to prove that we actually had been fishing. We didn’t want anyone outside the family to sense that we were having great fun in the process for fear that they would seek too much information about UnNamed and then we would have to stretch the truth and send them on a wild trout chase (few geese were involved) in the general vicinity without naming UnNamed specifically. When I took up fly-fishing, catch and release became the mantra, though the old black skillet still gets used on occasion.
We came to UnNamed right after the school year ended and before the summer haying began. Mom and Dad had a custom hay hauling business. Between hay cuttings in August, we came, too. Our lives were simple. We worked hard and played easy. Still do.
The UnNamed River that runs through the canyon where I sit writing at this moment—at July’s ending, seated in a chair, in the water, wearing my summer black short shorts with a cold margarita placed on a flat rock a hand length’s away( it’s 80 plus in the sun; I’m in the cooler shade of the creek cottonwood)—has the soft cadence of languid summer days.
The river starts as a series of brooks that come together as a creek, cascading from the base of a wilderness area’s highest elevation. The flow is tamed by the first large valley where it meanders gently through pine, willow, aspen, red osier dogwood and alder thickets: home to small mountain brook trout, beaver, song birds, butterflies, deer, coyote, squirrels, raptors, a few eagles and occasionally elk. There are mountain lion and bobcat here, too, though I’ve never seen one. A few cattle graze this area, but less so than in years past.
FIRST HIKE 30 YEARS AGO
My first hike to the headwaters was 30 years ago. JJ and I hiked into the wilderness, setting up our mountaineering tent in a sequestered grove of aspens near a bend in the creek. The following morning, both of us fly fished for brooks en route to the source. Along the way we marveled at the richness of the summer wildflowers: delphiniums that towered above our heads, the delicate and intricate columbines, paintbrush, yellow monkey flowers, elephant heads and an array of penstemons. With her pad and drawing pencils, she illustrated several scenes.
Hummingbirds were active in this fecund garden of nature. Somewhere en route at a deep pool, we stripped naked and slipped into the water. The cold, clear, mountain creek was like a jolt of electricity, energizing us for the remainder of the upper valley trek. We eventually arrived at UnNamed’s source: a Garden of Eden.
The natural tending by Mother Nature was extraordinary: a scene mindful of manicured French and English gardens, abundant with a variety of wildflowers and a series of little brooks gushing from springs at the basaltic rock. There were still a few remnants of snow. Gathering as one, the little brooks tumbled from its high mountain nest over a small waterfall, the beginnings of NoName Creek which later (30 miles distant) gets a name change to NoName River—the only such body of water in the state which I know whose adolescent name is changed when reaching adulthood. From beginning to end, NoName winds from high pine and fir country to the high desert—a near hundred mile course—and then exhausts itself as though dying from old age.
Every time that I come to the camp at NoName, the past comes with me. I hear the laughter and stories of days gone by. I see my Dad in the prime of his life along solitary stretches of the river making casts toward the wary and elusive rainbow and red band trout. Occasionally, he would take a break and light up a Pall Mall, a habit which he overcame the last 20 years of his life, but he had to live with the lung damage along the way. His choice though, as I’ve recognized that all humans have vices, one way or the other, and some things that some people call vices are really not vices at all. It is the fabric of our intricate makeup. NoName makes me philosophic, yet, concurrently, it also makes me—that is, allows me—to be empty and pure again without any philosophy, religion, imprints, prejudices and DNA encoded weight. I’m light at NoName, like the feathered flight of warblers, spotted sandpipers, tree sparrows, flycatchers and the Western tanagers that frequent the camp. NoName is anonymity and anonymity is freedom.
The presence of my wife is here, as are part of her ashes, released the summer after her death, by our son and me, and her sister and husband. The last time we stayed here together as a family was the summer of the year she died. The three of us threw our bedrolls on the ground and slept under the stars. The night was still and the twinkling stars glistened in the heavens. We counted falling stars. Little did we know that her star would transcend later in the year.
Our NoName camp has been from simple to deluxe, depending on how much time we stayed. Sometimes, it would just be a pup tent or a sleeping bag on the ground. Most times though, we had a full tent (or the 16-foot antique camp trailer), a screened kitchen tent, two umbrella tables, two hammocks and a portable dining table. Often, we brought a kayak or inflatable raft. Often with family and friends, we spent the Fourth of July here, sometimes the camp swelling to 20 or so. Today, I’m camping alone.
NoName has many names, among them: love, family, honor, celebration, peace, tranquility, the moment, nature, harmony, simplicity, tradition.
Wherever your NoName is: attend to it. Let it flow through you and become a part of you, and never let it go. If let go, you are denying a vital aspect of your soul. In a sense, your NoName is an ultimate freedom.
Highway 101 & 1 California/Camping Journey
May 20, 2014
It has been a 3-week adventure traveling down California Highway 101 and 1 along the coast from the Oregon border. We reached our southernmost camp at Morro Strand State Park, making it our eight and final encampment. These words are written at campsite A. The view is perfect of the beach. The sun has come out drenching unique Morro Rock—home of the peregrine falcon—with morning light, as foreground to fog and clouds at Montana de Oro in the background.
Our campsite is unique and campground host Jeanie says it’s the best site tho’ overlooked by most because of the proximity to the restrooms and the walking trail to the beach. Our tent is on a small dune, abuts to the snowy plover protection zone for breeding and nesting purposes. Literally our tent is against the cable, directly facing the Pacific…indeed, a room with a view and surprising privacy, too. It is amazingly quiet here during the week. Surfers come for the weekend and things amp up.
Daily we walk the beach for exercise and refreshment…and photography. The coastline is quieter here, much less rugged than what we’ve seen driving down. The strands of waves that come in are lace-like, as they break on the gentle, ample beach. There is a constant conversation between the surf and shoreline. Our friend Kevin at Big Lagoon camp (where we stayed on the first leg of the journey) mentioned that when he got a motel in Eureka one night to stay, he couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t hear the surf. Shore birds are abundant.
Our eight campground stays: Big Lagoon (3 nights; our only encampment off Highway 101; the remainder were off Highway 1), Westport, Gualala, Sunset State Park (near Monterrey), Limekiln (Big Sur), Kirk (Big Sur), San Simeon State Park (near Hearst Castle) and Morro Strand. We’ve stayed mainly in state parks with the exception of one county park (Big Lagoon) and a private campground south of Gualala. Five nights were spent sleeping in the back of Lynette’s pickup and the remaining nights in my 5-star tent. Each encampment has had its’ own uniqueness, beauty and pleasure.
Highway 1 is one of the most picturesque highways in America. The coastline is spectacular with a combination of rugged (mainly) and gentle scenery. Spring is a great time for travel because of the abundance of wildflowers, greenness and mild weather…and less traffic during the summer months.
We intentionally started with no itinerary, as this is my favorite travel mode, to go with the whims of the wind, if you will…to stay where you wish, as long as you wish. Only once did we find a campground full whereas we had to go elsewhere.
Our notion was to explore back roads as much as possible…and so we did. Literally, the first day—after departing Talent, Oregon—we departed the main road to the coast, traveling a dirt road through Stout Redwood Grove, ending up south of Crescent City. Yahoo!
The Big Lagoon camp was the perfect start. Our view was idyllic. The following day we explored the charming hamlet of Trinidad with its’ lighthouse, new dock, art shops, eateries (we had clam chowder) and the wonderful Moonstone Crossing (www.moonstonecrossing.com) Wine Shop with their whimsical wine label names such as Wish Upon a Star, Temptation of Angels and Midnight Caress.
The day of our departure we joined Kevin at the Arcata Saturday Farmer’s Market. Try out their famous waffle and potato/gravy concoction (which they’re famous for). We purchased some artisan bread (a couple of days later, a skunk made a raid in our food box, absconding with a $7 loaf!), greens and fruit for the road.
Driving south, we went through the Avenue of the Giants…the land of redwoods that will leave you awestruck. At Leggett, we departed Highway 101 for the start of Highway 1, winding our way to the coast, north of Westport, where we had a campsite not to die for…because if you did, you would miss the glorious sunset which we experienced. We had cocktails on the bluff overlooking this magnificent coastline.
Quaint, quiet and under-spoken Westport (which I had a history with 30 years ago) was our first stop the following day as we wandered the streets, getting in our morning walk. Passing through Fort Bragg, we made our way to Point Arena Lighthouse (a must stop), the town of Point Arena (a town that I could live in) and the old, funky, charming Point Arena dock where we ate fish and chips, a great Manhattan chowder and drank a couple of Old Rasputin beers. Heaven! Then we made our way past Gualala and found a private campsite for the night.
Bodega Bay, Tomales, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes, Stinson Beach, San Francisco and Santa Cruz we traveled through the following day, en route to our Sunset Camp. We walked to the beach that evening and had it all to ourselves. This campground is a nice find and it is unique being right next to farm fields. I fell in love with Tomales and Tomales Bay with fresh oysters and lamb sandwiches to be had. The countryside pulsated with spring green.
Departing Sunset, we made our way to Big Sur, stopping by Caramel-by-the-Sea briefly. Forty years ago, it was charming. I couldn’t wait to leave this time tho’ because of tourists like me. I have no desire to go back. I remember back then photographing the Bing Crosby Open (I met Pat Summerall and Katherine Crosby) and pissing off Johnny Miller because my shutter went off prematurely when he was putting! Yahoo!
The Big Sur coastline is as I had remembered it from years ago. Rugged, stellar, achingly beautiful…but with much more traffic than way by then. Our Limekiln and Kirk Creek encampments were blessed, as was our hike to a nearby waterfall and rocky beach explorations. This is a place (especially Kirk) to take a deep breath and exhale slowly a landscape that is utterly profound to the eyes and heart. Get one of poet Robinson Jeffers books and read about this area.
I’ve never been to Disneyland and I have no desire to. Hearst Castle the same…but we did stop at the Hearst Ranch Winery after departing Big Sur and it was most enjoyable. I did photograph the castle in the background and we stayed at nearby San Simeon State Park which was pleasant. The following day we arrived at Morro Bay.
The Morro Bay stay has been memorable with day trips to beautiful downtown San Luis Obispo (Lynette got her first degree at Cal Poly), Morro Bay Harbor, Montana de Oro, Los Osos, Avila Beach, San Luis Bay and downtown Morro Bay.
The pics will tell the rest of the story.
April 8, 2014
Just released my latest story on www.highonadventure.com. It’s about my recent trip to Whistler, BC, Canada…skiing, bobsledding (with famous Jamaican bobsled coach Pat Brown from the movie Cool Runnings) ziplining and exploring the Olympic Village. Enjoy and read and the photos of this world class destination.
March 14, 2014
At 365 yards, we reached 80 MPH in the four-man bobsled and G forces of 4plus. It was the most exhilarating ride that I’ve ever taken…likened to astronauts being blasted into space. My respect for bobsledders reached a new level with the experience at the Whistler (Canada) Sliding Center, the site of the luge, bobsledding and skeleton events during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. And of all things, the driver of our sled was Pat Brown who once coached the Jamaican Bobsled Team, made famous in the movie Cool Runnings. View the general public offering at www.whistlerslidingcentre.com. I was rider #2, in the yellow jacket, right behind Pat. My friend John Paulsen was rider #4 in the sled. Out of seven teams we had the top time Last Saturday evening which was also the top time of the week and our top speed was equal to that of the Sochi Games (where Pat just returned from as a bobsled women’s judge) winners. The Whistler track is the fastest in the world.