Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Central Oregon

Once up a time, the biggest mountain in the Cascade range that runs from Washington state to California was mount Mazama, technically it was a stratovolcano and stood 12,000 feet tall until one day around 5600bc, as volcanoes sometimes do, it popped. The huge magma chamber beneath the peak vented upwards creating, no doubt, a spectacular bang and a huge space for the peak to fall into. 
Nowadays the mountain stands around 8,000 feet tall and contains what we call Crater Lake. The lake is 2000 feet deep which makes it the deepest in the US and it’s also one of the clearest being too high for any creek or stream to flow into. Therefore, all the water gathered there has arrived as rain or snow which gives it its exceptional clarity. It’s also quite beautiful and that’s what took us there. OR - crater lake Panorama
The place is about 3 hours from Ashland, OR and the road travels through some very snowy country. Some of the highest snowfall in the US is around here and there’s 6 feet of it on either side for many miles. Much of that is from the action of the snowploughs, but there’s still plenty for snowmobiles, snowshoes and cross-country skiers to use. 
We wanted to stay in a sno-park but we needed a pass. we visited a shop to get it where the friendly owner  told us how much he loved the area, and one of the reasons he liked it so much was that it’s safe enough that he’s not locked his front door for 13 years! That and the fact that he’d not be prosecuted for shooting anyone who wandered through the unlocked door!So we stayed a night in a Sno-park which is an area that’s usable for $5 a day to go snowmobiling or whatever. They allow overnight camping and they even offer a warming hut which includes, amazingly, a stack of firewood and a stove. That’s value!Here’s Steff using the facilities: IMG_9989
The next day we hired some XC skis and went up to Crater Lake. This was a lot harder than the last time we tried it. There were no groomed trail or tracks and I nearly lost heart with the whole project after falling over far too many times and repeatedly dinging my knee on the ski. 
The snow was about 6 to 10 feet deep on much of the 33 mile loop road. This road stays closed until June and they begin moving snow in April. The little video they showed us at the visitor’s centre told us that each quarter mile of road can contain 1,188,000 cubic feet of snow, so it takes a while.We skied about 4 miles and after expending about 2 million calories and exhaling/sweating what later seemed like 5 gallons of water, we headed out to Bend with an unquenchable thirst that fed our need for craft-brews.Bend is a very cool town that is famed for its mountain biking, trail running, hiking, motorcycling, fishing, etc. It’s a cool town… it even has 6 breweries and only a population of 50,000. We liked it so patronised the Deschutes brewery for an evening before a visit to Wal-Mart for an overnight stay in their car park. Cheap, but not much fun. 
Back to downtown Bend the next morning. We settled into a coffee shop for an hour’s remote IT work whilst Steff looked at the tourist information and confirmed that this is, indeed, a cool town.
 Off back to Ashland, but on the way, make sure you’re sitting down for this one… we saw a Kelvin-Helmholtz wave cloud! Can you believe it? Just in case you don’t know what that is, here’s a picture of this very rare phenomenon:
 KH wave cloud

Back to the road. Ever coasted a 5000lb car for 15 miles? I have, and it was because we found ourselves on a snowy, surprisingly deserted highway between Klamath falls and Ashland very low on fuel. We had about 2 gallons for a 40 mile journey which is just not enough in that behemoth. We climbed and climbed and the needle did the opposite. Thankfully with 15 miles to go the hill went downwards all the way to Ashland. With the headlights dipped to save energy and the car in N, I smoothed out the innumerable bends to maintain speed until we reached town. We pulled into the first of 5 gas station with relief and probably a teaspoon of juice remaining. 

Now I’ve got a cold so I’m laying in bed watching Jef’s ustream music performance.

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