Waldo Lake: Clear Water Paddling and Huckleberries

26 10 2021

There’s a magical lake high in the Oregon Cascades. Waldo Lake. It’s so pure, you can see down 140 feet! And since there are no powered boats allowed, it is the same experience as hundreds of years ago. Sailing or paddling along its shores is a truly memorable experience. In fact, just sitting by the lake, listening to the water lap at the shore can cure a multitude of urban stresses.

Speaking of stress, we picked a weekend early in August when there happened to be a number of wildfires in the area. On the way up each of us, in different vehicles, experienced smoke so thick we considered turning back. But our experiences told us to push on, because depending on the wind, it just might be good. And voila! In the last 5 miles of the state highway to the turn-off, it cleared up and was beautiful!

Jessie, Joel and I met up with Bill and Julie and their kids. We had two campsites, both walking distance to the water. Many of the car camping sites at Waldo Lake have significant real estate! Some have an eighth of an acre.

A four-minute walk away were Bill and Julie and their kids. They all brought their kayaks as well.

The smoke was still very close. As it turned out, mornings and mid day were always clear, but then in the afternoon, the wind switched and smoke would to start to cross the lake. Toward day’s end, one couldn’t see the other side. Then at night it would switch revealing a star studded sky.

Sunsets were spectacular!

The following day, after breakfast, we set off to cruise along the north shore, with the goal of finding the headwaters of the Willamette River. We had beautiful skies, warm weather, clear water, and yes, we found the treasure: Huckleberries!

Pictures say it all! Considering that there were wildfires not 10 miles away, we totally lucked out! If you ever come to Oregon to paddle, put Waldo Lake on your checklist. FYI, there are dozens of wild campsites on the west side of the lake with guaranteed privacy!





Birthday Campout on the Metolius River

26 10 2021
Dine-In at Hola! in Camp Sherman

For my June birthday, I reserved two campsites at the Allan Springs Campground on the Metolius River. I’ve always loved the Metolius region. It is a sparkling jewel, and the river is a designated National Wild and Scenic River. It’s one of the largest spring fed rivers in the USA. The river winds around the campground. All along its banks one can fly fish and hike. But there is more in the area. One can hike to the 360-degree view summit of Black Butte. Or, swim and fish at Suttle Lake. Or hike to Three Fingered Jack along the Canyon Creek Trail.

For the first night we went out to dinner at Hola! in Camp Sherman. Saturday, some, like myself and Janis, went to Suttle Lake and went kayak fishing. Others, like Brent and Joel, hiked Canyon Creek Meadows trail all the way to Three-Fingered Jadk. On the second, birthday night, we made dinner in camp and then enjoyed a stir-fry meal! Then, enjoyed a roaring campfire. It was a terrific way to spend a birthday weekend!





John Day River Glamping at Service Creek, Oregon

25 10 2021

In April 2021 I had a couple of mid-week days off, and a great weather forecast. I also had a newly minted fishing license and was anxious to go angling! The John Day River is a beautiful, snow-melt fed river originating in the Elkhorn Mountains of northeast Oregon. Its flows are most favorable for fishing and rafting in the late spring to early summer. After that, as the snow melts, its levels drop. I hadn’t been out there in some years, but I remembered a riverside business at Service Creek. It’s called Service Creek Resort. looked at their website, and discovered they were launching a glamping (luxurious camping) area! I called, and they told me to come on out. I would be their first and only customer, being so early in the season. It’s a 4-hour drive through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and into the rolling farms filled with rows and rows of wind generators.

Service Creek Resort is a multi-service operation. They rent river rafting gear, have a shuttle service, a small bed and breakfast, a restaurant, and the new glamping area. It is in a field behind the bed & breakfast. In old-school style, a staffer was waiting for me at the B&B and came out to greet me. I parked at the B&B, we boarded an ATV and she took me to my glamping tent.

The B&B has several rooms to rent. Glamping is behind, across the creek!

The glamping area has several tents of different configurations in a field. There is a common area with a fireplace, propane grills, and games like foosball.

My tent was set up on a platform. It had a porch with chairs. On the inside, an area carpet, king size bed, nightstand, and sofa. Very comfy! $65 a night.

The staff was great! As I work in the paddling business, and we rent rafts and other gear, I was instantly brought into their family. We heartily shared stories about customers and renting gear. I felt right at home.

I took my fishing gear down to the river and tried my luck. A number of fishermen floated by on rafts, in inflatable kayaks, or drift boats. VERY beautiful. It is canyon country, and in springtime the canyon walls can become green.

I picked a spot easily accessible by foot, with a deep pool I hoped held fish. After some time, and trying different lures, a strike! The John Day River is a warm river, and holds lots of Smallmouth Bass. The fight was on! But this one got off. Oh well, try again. After a few minutes another hit! This one I brought home. It flip flopped around and got all dirty but I snapped a photo.

That made my day! When I showed the photo back at the restaurant the waitress said it was a good one. I quickly took out the hook and let it go back into the river.

I had dinner at the restaurant, and enjoyed sharing stories with the staff. The waitresses on this night were high school girls, and this was their first night of the season. So I was their training guinea pig! It was super fun.

Sleeping in the tent was very comfortable. The bed was sumptuous. I left the mosquito netting at the front zipped, but left the canvas open. Later in the night, a breeze kicked up and I closed it up. It warmed up quickly without the breeze. It was so nice I would definitely do it again! Glamping is glorious!





Crooked River, Oregon: Skunk Near Miss!

31 12 2020
A bend in the very crooked Crooked River

In late September 2020, with Oregon still engulfed in wildfires, I was able to find a spectacular smoke-free area for camping. Oregon’s Crooked River is a National Wild and Scenic river system. It has a scenic drive and scenic bikeway running along its length. It wends its way along a forested canyon, into Prineville Reservoir, and then continues out of the reservoir until it empties into Lake Billy Chinook. The section I visited is below the reservoir. It has some 10 campgrounds sprinkled along its length.

I looked at all of them, and picked out the biggest site I found, Chimney Rock Campground #1. Wow. Set at the end of the campground, it offered complete privacy as it had no neighboring sites. It was capable of handling six tents. And it had 100 feet of riverside real estate. Still, privacy was no concern, as being late September, there was only one other site used.

It was super peaceful. I settled down to read a novel. It wasn’t long before the wildlife came back to its routine. I saw kingfishers, dragonflies, red-tailed hawks, ducks, a family of otters, robins, blue herons, and more. It’s also known to be home to mule deer, bald eagles, ospreys and golden eagles. Redband Trout, re-introduced steelhead, and rainbow trout are sought by anglers.

Here’s a photo of my tent…which will help my explanation of my encounter with a skunk in the night!

I have several tents. They all have “bathtub” style floors, with some solid material running up from the bottom to form the ‘bathtub.’ This one has a pretty low tub wall. When the weather is fine, I skip the tent fly so I can star gaze. On this night, I fell asleep by about 10. A few hours later, I awoke to sounds of scuffling outside. Something scratching about. Usually, these sounds are from deer walking to the water for a drink. I switched on my headlamp. But, similar to using high beams in a snowstorm, I only saw the screen on the inside of the tent. My head was just at the bathtub wall. So, I put the light up against the screen. And immediately I was horrified! What did I see? Not more than six inches from my head, black fur with white stripes! Skunk! Now, it cannot kill me, but it sure can ruin my trip! There must have been four of them. I kept perfectly still. Best not move! Incredibly, they were not bothered in the least. They just kept on sniffing around, seemingly in search of a meal. Unimpressed by me, they ambled along on their way.

The next morning I took it very lazy, and made a mid morning breakfast, and read some more. I packed up, and then spent some time fishing. I caught lots of weeds, had three fish get away, and caught one very juvenile landlocked steelhead. This river was once home to steelhead which made their way all the way up from the Columbia, but dams caused extinction. They have been reintroduced and a small population is expanding in the area, but they cannot reach the Pacific.

I highly recommend!





Wildfire Pivot: Waldo Lake to Lake Quinault

30 12 2020

Myself, Chiyo and Chester had reservations at Waldo Lake, Oregon for early September. We were so looking forward to paddling its famous clear waters, the week after Labor Day. But then the 2020 Oregon Wildfire Season struck! Wildfires and smoke lay all over Oregon. The night before our Waldo reservation, the US Forest Service ordered an evacuation. And I mean immediate evacuation. Campers were to ordered to leave without even collecting their gear. We had several days off from work. With our trip suddenly smoked out, we wondered what to do. In the Covid lockdown of 2020, we were desperate to use our days off out of town.

But where? We used the online weather map, pointing the cursor at different places in Oregon. Every one had wildfires or wildfire smoke. So I said, “Let’s look up in Washington. How about the Olympic Peninsula?” Zooming in, I saw Lake Chenault. I’d heard it was nice. We clicked on the lake. The forecast? Sunny, no wind, and most importantly, no smoke! So, without reservations, we just picked up and drove up there. It has several campgrounds. We checked out one of them, and found a guy leaving his site. Turned out he had a 3-day reservation and was leaving after day 1. The Park Ranger came by. He said, “Why don’t you just take it.” With that, we had a FREE campsite! Talk about a “pivot to luck.” We had three kayaks, and wasted no time exploring the lake, and the famous Lake Quinault Lodge.

Just a 15 minute walk from the campground lies the rustic lodge. It was built in 1926, designed by Robert Reimer, reminiscent of the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. It has a central area flanked by majestic wings enclosing a beautiful lawn, which leads to the lake shore. There, guests can swim, and rent canoes or kayaks. I grew up visiting mountains and lakes in New Hampshire and New York State’s Adirondacks, and this property is very similar. Inside the front hall, it’s all beautiful wood and wood carved.

The road along the lake to the lodge, village and campgrounds runs behind the lodge, which is equally similar to being in the Adirondacks.

We had terrific weather. The lake is surrounded by the Olympic Mountains. To the east, we could see some snow still clinging to the peaks. The lake is quiet. That is because it is managed by the Quinault Nation. Power boats are allowed only for tribal members and homeowners. The lake is 30+ miles in circumference and over 250 feet deep. We jumped in and learned that, after the initial shock, the water temperature was really nice! We practiced kayak rescues.

Later, we had a warm crackling campfire, and I brought accessories like a propane grill, tiki torches, and some battery operated holiday lights. My salmon fillet impressed.

In sum, our cancelled Waldo Lake trip turned into a success! We discovered a new place, and we plan to return!




Camels in the Sahara

7 05 2020

We’d all been looking forward to being in the Sahara Desert – by far the biggest in the world. Riding camels, and seeing stars. We’d be spending the night at a glamping campsite on the edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes. It’d been a long day on the road getting out there, across the arid steppe. But in the late afternoon, the dunes rose above the village of Merzouga.

Reaching Sahara resized

We were to ride camels into the desert and stick around until sunset. It was a really epic experience being out there. Not long after arriving at an auberge (lodge) we began suiting up for the ride.

Aditi and Mohamed resized

Aditi and Mohamed

We brought along minimal supplies such as water, cameras, and jackets for after sunset.

While we waited, a truck drove up to me and the driver asked me in French, “Where can we get water, is there a natural water source around here?” I was like, “Dude we are in the Sahara!” Anyway, it wasn’t long before we found our camels. They all seemed to know what was coming up.

 

Our guides assisted us getting into the saddle and getting the camel to stand up.

David gets his camel to rise! Well done! When the camel stands up, you’d better hang on! And trust the camel knows what it’s doing.

With everybody on their camels, it was time for a group shot before we set off.

Group on Camels crop

We entered the dunes in a “camel train,” with lines connecting each beast. Since they have done this thousands of times, the camels all know what to do. The sand seems bottomless, but the camels feet are quite wide and don’t sink in very much. Still, it’s a very bouncy ride, and when climbing, descending and turning on a dune, it’s pretty unsettling for a newbie like me! Add to that trying to take a photo!

Before long, the timeless view of the rusty colored desert in the late afternoon brings up awe and emotion. I’ll never forget the endless sea of dunes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We reached a spot where we could explore the dunes under our own power. There was something about the setting that made me just take in the wonder. How many millions of years have these sands been here, shifting, moving, changing shape.

Rod on Sand resized

Once the sun set, we rode to our glamorous camping site. I’m used to roughing it, but this was something else! It had rooms with blankets and beds. A bathroom with flush toilet. But still, it had a spot with a campfire for music and conversation. Katie and I were hoping for a sea of stars. Instead, it was a full moon, which blocked out the sky for much of the night. I was able to rise an hour before dawn, just as the moon set. But I only got 20 minutes of Milky Way Galaxy viewing.

Dinner time with a toast!

Group Dinner Sahara resized

CHEERS! No shortage of wine tonight!