Three Fingered Jack

21 10 2012

One of Central Oregon’s crown jewels is 7,844ft Three Fingered Jack. It is the core of an extinct volcano. Three Fingered Jack lies in between Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson and sits on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Jessie, Joel, Laura and I paid a visit there recently – camping at nearby Metolius River. We arrived mid afternoon Friday and got skunked at our favorite campsite on the peninsula at Allen Springs Campground. Figuring we had the luxury of time to search for a choice spot, we hunted around the local campgrounds. How naive we were! When we circled back one campground after another posted the “FULL” sign! We wound up with the very last site in the valley. No matter we made do and promised to try for a more choice spot that might get vacated in the morning!

Jessie, Joel and Laura by Canyon Creek

Though full the campground’s campers are gregarious but mellow. Nobody has trouble sleeping! Morning finds me fixing traditional bacon, eggs, and home made hash browns. All fueled up we head up to the trailhead at Jack Lake.

The three mile trail winds past a burned out area, then through shaded forest, then into wildflower-packed Canyon Creek Meadows and then into the basin underneath Three Fingered Jack. I’ve backpacked into the area and remember the view from the basin: You look straight up at the internal workings of a volcano! Spectacular.

And, this is not an ultimate challenge hike. It is a big payoff for easy effort hike! While we sweat on the trail, the climb is easy enough that we have no problem holding casual conversation on the way.

For the first three quarters of a mile of the trail passes through what was left after the B and B Complex fire, which burned 91,000 acres in 2003. It is a testimony to the catastrophic effects of climate change. Winters are warmer, allowing insects like the bark beetle to have longer reproductive cycles, leading to a population explosion. Normally lower temperature helps control the breeding season. With more beetles, the trees upon which they feed don’t stand a chance. The beetles feed on wood just below the bark – and when they complete a circle around the tree, the tree becomes “girdled,” and slowly dies. The only defense the tree has is to produce extra sap. In bark beetle-infested forests, mile upon mile of trees stand with the lower bark falling off to the ground, and the trees eventually dry out. They become the perfect fuel waiting for the moment of ignition = a forest fire in waiting.

Then it takes us through a section untouched by fire. It’s as it was. Mountain Douglas Firs and Cedars. Shady. A patch of snow here and there. A pond. No bugs. Then the it opens up into meadows carpeted with withering wildflowers, and the mountain dominates the view ahead.

Our goal is to reach the basin beneath the caldera, where we will take in the view and picnic.

We climb a forested moraine and descend into the basin. Wow! Above our heads lies exposed the plumbing of a volcano. Clearly visible are layers of lava but injected into the layers are volcanic dikes, which are like pipes through which lava flows to the top of a volcano. Cool!

I love this spot!

And all around us a sea of wildflowers.

Here, I glimpse a wildflower I’ve never noticed before, which is a kind of wild petunia. Beautiful!

We pause to drink in the view and warmth.

Laura makes the best picnic of all. Very European with fruit, cheese, and even some wine to accompany!

We love wildflowers. And there are plenty to see! But they won’t last forever.

It won’t be long before they fade and winter returns to these parts.

But for now we are happy to enjoy the moment!

Operation Bullwinkle: To Gibralter Island Camp

5 10 2012

This morning’s breakfast conversation focused on where to camp tonight. We kind of started chronologically backward. To get back to Portland by early evening and make the afternoon ferry on time, we’d have to leave Toquart Bay Campground by 7:00 a.m. the day of departure. So by default we’d have to spend the prior night there. But that day we could spend paddling mostly. So we picked a campsite farthest to the east – Gibralter Island.

We could take a long day paddling today and another long one from Gibralter back to Toquart. After eating we packed up our kayaks again…heavily laden of course. This time it was paddling east, to the head of Effingham, then north past a string of islands…Faber, Onion, Mullins, Keith, and then Jarvis and finally Jacques. There is supposed to be an interesting lagoon inside Jacques one can explore.

On the way we duck in behind some of these islands. Behind Mullens is the best underwater viewing I saw!

There was a quiet area with rocks and kelp. It was maybe 15 or 20 feet deep. More bat stars, sea stars, and even some 15-inch long fish. But the most amazing thing I saw here was the arm of a giant octopus. It was amongst a bed of seaweed atop a rock only two feet down. It was five inches in diameter! But just an arm. What chopped it off? Must have been something big. An orca?

We reach a shortcut into the lagoon at Jacques Island. Because of the low tide the channel is exactly kayak-width wide right now. The tide’s coming in, so we wait. And wouldn’t you know it a group appears on the other side and squeezes through!

Bill knuckle-drags his boat through and so I give it a shot. I feel the dreaded scrape of oyster on kayak but it’s not drastic and I do have a plastic boat. Lisa’s is kevlar so she wants to wait a bit longer.

We explore the lagoon and all of us decide it’s actually NOT that interesting.

Exiting the lagoon we saw the Lady Rose, a little ferry that shuttles kayaks from the mainland out to Sechart Lodge.

The Lady Rose

Gibralter Camp is just fine – and we’re the only ones here – at first.

Then a group of kayakers shows up, led by a couple of guides. One of the guides is a friendly Canadian girl and sure enough her conversation is full of “ey” and stuff. They have salmon for dinner and have lots of leftovers to offer us.

Tonight we play in the phosphorescence at the shore. Anything stirring up the water causes a brilliant effect!

Tomorrow we’ll take our time and head back to Toquart.

Operation Bullwinkle: Exploring Barkley Sound’s Broken Group from Our Base at Clarke Island

2 10 2012

Bill & Lisa cooking it up!

Morning dawns dry and cloudy. The temperature’s pleasant. Wiping our eyes, we crank out and eagerly consume some morning nectar: French press coffee. Then it’s time to fix a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash browns!

Other campers are doing the same – nobody’s rushing today. There are some families with kids out here. Many are bringing their youngsters via tandem sea kayaks. Some will be heading out to the reef to try their luck fishing! I’m anxious to see what they catch.

We’re going to head across the Coaster Channel and check out Effingham Island. We pack up lunch – put our immersion gear on, and set off. We head around the back side of Clarke Island – paddling a channel between Clarke and Benson Islands. In the shallows close to shore, I can glimpse myriads of bat stars, starfish, crabs, kelp, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and fish.

The channel is not very wide, and the islands lying to our right and left block our view. They focus our attention forward. When we reach the end, where it opens to the channel, we are treated to the most amazing sight of the whole adventure.

For right there, twenty yards in front of us, a gray whale surfaces! WOW! Its entirety reveals itself – from head to tail, for a moment. It is traveling right across from right to left in front of us!

Then it dives, its tail above the surface as it goes down. Completely amazed, we try to follow its path and be near when it surfaces. This turns out to be pretty challenging! It eventually surfaces at an island near the other side of Clarke – and attracts more paddlers. But that’s the last we see of it. Somehow it gave us the slip!

Having lost our gray whale we make our way across Coaster Channel to Camblain Island, then Cooper, behind Gilbert and finally Effingham Island. It’s only one nautical mile across Coaster Channel. Conditions are benign. A mild swell coming off the Pacific. Halfway across I hear a pfffuuuufff! And looking to my right I see a whale spout – and another! It’s two whales moving across the channel – now they’re over on the ocean side of Cooper and they’re moving inward. They are going to pass in front of us. We speed up but cannot catch them. Although they appear to be lumbering they are moving along fast. Judging from the tails I know these are Humpback Whales. It’s a mother and its calf! Like the gray whale, they move off until we can’t see where they are anymore.

Once we reach Camblain and the channel in between it and Cooper, we want lunch! We spot a beach and head for it. This beach has mountains of shells. A few other kayakers land on the beach – they say they saw Orcas further out towards the Pacific! We’d love to see some killer whales!

After lunch we continue the explorations and then once we reach Effingham we turn back to Clarke.
I confess to being tired. I’m looking forward to cooking dinner, some wine, and being out of my dry suit!

Nothing like fresh Lingcod!

Back at Clarke we go about the business of creating a meal and a fun atmosphere for dinner – and a beach fire! In the midst of dinner our neighbors pay us a visit. And they have something to share – they caught a good sized Ling Cod and cannot eat all of it! Would we like some? OH YEAH! You bet!

Bill cooked the fish up in butter and within just a few minutes it was done.

This was my first lingcod and it was delicious. The flesh is white and firm. Not flaky like sole, nor steaky like swordfish. Somewhere in between. To die for! I can’t even remember what we were supposed to have for dinner.

The sun went down and it was time for a beach bonfire! I had no idea the lengths to which bill was intent on going. It was man-sized!

Then it was time for freshly prepared dessert. Bill made something called Bananas Foster…with great fanfare!