Friday, January 25, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Day 4 - Mill and Barr Creek Falls and Oregon Caves National Monument

Mill Creek Falls (above) and Barr Creek Falls (below) are really beautiful, and as long as you know where you're going and don't turn in at the wrong place like we did, they're relatively easy to find. They're definitely waterfalls worth visiting, but I would have liked to be able to get closer to them. We had to take these pics from across the mountains. We experimented with the front camera on my ipad to see if we could get a picture of both us and the waterfall. It worked, but the front camera's not nearly as good in quality as the back camera, so we wouldn't end up using it much for the rest of the trip.


As we continued on our way to Oregon Caves National Monument, we passed some lovely lookouts. Oregon is just so pretty!

And after ignoring googlemaps and going the "shortcut" my GPS suggested, we arrived at Oregon Caves National Monument. Lesson - don't always trust the GPS! It took us over the mountains instead of around, and it certainly didn't save us any time.

This was a hot day in the 90's, so taking a cool break in the caves was nice. We had to wear long pants and bring our jackets since it's around 40 degrees in there. It was pretty nifty though. It's much better lit and considerably easier to walk through than the other caves we've visited (click here for the lava tube in Bend, OR and here for the lava tube in Hawaii). None of our pictures are fantastic, but there were some cool sites. One is a big area so open it's actually been used as a dance floor for weddings. Someone risked their life and invested a lot of money into dynamiting further into the cave in order to discover it. In that same room they found a jaguar skeleton, which is surprising to scientists since they hadn't realized jaguars ever lived this far north.

The cave's exit and entrance are not the same place. You actually have to take a hike to get back down to where you parked. There are 2 ways to go. 1 is direct and the other climbs a bit higher so you can get a nice view of the valley before you head down. This is Oscar and I, so of course we had to take the scenic route!

We felt a bit rushed that day since we'd planned on seeing Mill and Barr Creek Falls, Oregon Caves National Monument, Redwood National Park and the coast of Northern California, and make it to our campsite in Eureka, CA. It turned out California was rainy and cloudy by the time we got there, so we didn't end up doing much there besides checking in at our KOA and taking advantage of their internet. Fortunately we had visited the area before so not being able to see it at its full beauty that day wasn't a huge loss.

The most disappointing thing about California was how expensive camping was, particularly after the $8 and $14 campsites in Oregon. We booked a KOA tent site that night because nearly all of the camping in California is $35 a night. The KOA was less than camping in the woods! Nearly every park in California is a state park, and that's where the big fees come from. If you're at Yosemite or the other National Parks, it's $20 a night. But the state parks charge a lot simply for a tent site. There are some first come/first serve sites that are cheaper ($20), but they all require backpacking at least a couple miles, which I wasn't up for simply to save a few bucks.

Click here for our next epic adventure

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Day 3 - My Favorite Day of our Trip - Umpqua Valley Waterfalls and Crater Lake

 Our third day in Oregon also ended up being my absolute favorite day of our 30 day road trip. That's saying a lot considering this trip also includes driving the coast of California, seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time ever, seeing torquoise waterfalls bursting from red rock canyons in Supai, hiking in southern Utah's national parks, and spending several days in Yellowstone. Those things were all wonderful, but I'm still a sucker for the northwest. I just can't get enough of the lush greenery, sparkling blue lakes, and beautiful waterfalls of Oregon and Washington, no matter how long I live here.

We hiked several miles that day by doing multiple short hikes. Our first hike took us to Fall Creek Falls. In addition to the lovely waterfall at the end (which admittedly would be better in the spring), the path itself had some interesting sites, like the center picture above.

Next we took a drive down to Steamboat Falls. The steps on the far right are a fish ladder to help the salmon swim upstream.

And then the really good stuff began! Here we are at lovely Toketee Falls. I'd found a website a couple of years ago advertising for tourism in the Umpqua River Valley. I'd heard of Umpqua ice cream since they sell that here in Washington, but I was amazed by all the pretty pictures of the waterfalls in the area. Typically when I travel through Oregon I go down the Columbia River Gorge, travel straight down 5, travel the coast, or hit just the northeast corner on my way to Utah. The Umpqua National Forest is more central, so we had to make a special trip out in order to see it. But boy are we glad we did! These waterfalls did not disappoint. The fact that it was no longer spring didn't seem to decrease their flow all that noticeably, and the scenery surrounding Toketee, Watson, and Lemolo Falls was amazing.

Watson Falls is an incredibly tall, single drop waterfall measuring in at 272 feet. Though Oregon has even taller waterfalls than that, the fact that you can get so close to this one is pretty cool. I've never posted a picture as big as blogger will allow me to, but I think this one deserves it. It helps you better understand just how mesmerizing it is to simply stand there and admire the height of it. Oscar was delighted to discovered that the camera in his Samsung Galaxy tablet had panorama capabilities. The best our regular camera could get is this pic directly above. The panorama camera definitely came in handy for this falls as well as the rest of our trip.

We continued down the road to much more modest Whitehorse and Clearwater Falls. Each are easy to view in their respective campgrounds.

And then began the terrible drive to the Lemolo Falls trail. Lots of potholes, lots of sun, lots of frustration, but we made it. Thank goodness it was worth it! This is what it looks like in a straight shot.

And below is Oscar's panorama of the valley.

We had one more quick hike nearby to see pretty Warm Springs Falls.

And then we were off to Crater lake. On our way we stopped at a viewpoint for lovely Diamond Lake with Mt Bailey behind it.

And finally we made it to Crater Lake National Park. We'd come here before on July 2nd, 2010, and it was very cold with temperatures in the mid 30's. We made this trip on July 10th, so only 8 days later in the season. It's amazing the difference a week can make, though 2010 may have just had a colder start to summer than 2012. Considerably more snow was melted on our 2nd trip and it was warm enough that we didn't need our coats when we got out to take pictures, though there was still an area closed off from vehicle traffic. We were also delighted to see that the weather was so clear. Gray clouds hovered over the mountains surrounding the lake during our last trip here.

Oscar enjoyed experimenting with his panorama application in the Pumice desert and around the lake. I used my ipad camera for straight shots. The ipad has a better camera than Oscar's tablet, but it didn't come with its own panorama application.

Food was not an easy thing to come by that day. We'd eaten lunch at 10:30am in a lodge not far from our campsite, but then hadn't seen even a gas station for food. Above was the dinner that Oscar and I split that evening around 7pm. It was $17 for a small salad, ham and cheese croissant, and a bag of cheetos.

I love all these panorama shots!

It's the only way to do Crater Lake any justice.

Taking 3 separate pictures and putting them together doesn't quite work.

This is an adorable pic of the two of us, but it wasn't easy to take. We were staring straight into the bright sunshine. I'm surprised our eyes are open as much as they are.

Next we toured the Natural Bridge Falls area.

And we finished our night off in the tiny town of Prospect. We were looking for Mill Creek and Barr Creek Falls, which will be featured in the next post. My map shows a trail connecting these falls (Pearsoney Falls on the right and Prospect Falls on the left) to their more impressive counterparts, but we could not find any sort of connection in spite of wandering into some dangerous, unmarked territory. It was dark by the time we figured out we'd have to drive to another area in order to access the other two falls, so we decided to camp at the nearby Mill Creek campground. It was only $8, but it had a terrible outhouse! I couldn't even stomach the smell enough to use it. It was a bit of a let down after the fantastic warm showers and flush toilets we'd had at the Susan Creek Campground.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Days 1 and 2 - Little River Valley Waterfalls

On July 8th, 2012, Oscar and I set out to begin our 30 day long epic road trip. It was full of awesomeness! Our lease at our former apartment ended at the end of June, and we found a new apartment closer to Oscar's work that didn't have an opening until August 10th. Oscar was able to take an entire month off of work, and my sister was kind enough to let us stay with her for the week before the trip and the week after we got back. After attending church in Redmond, we left her house at around 11am and made our way down to Cavitt Falls campground in central Oregon.

We stopped off for a lasagna dinner in the nearest city. I think it might have been Roseburg, OR, but I'm not certain about that. Whatever it was called, it was pretty small.

Though we made it to the campground without a lot of daylight left, we were still able to see one waterfall - Shadow Falls. We hiked just under a mile and arrived just before it became too dark to get a decent picture.

Cavitt Falls campground itself was pretty decent for being a campground without facilities. It was only $8 a night, and the outhouse was clearly well looked after, well lit, and even smelled decent. And Cavitt Falls the waterfall makes for a cute little swimming hole.

The next morning we headed on out to the Little River Valley. Our first stop was at Wolf Creek Falls. I'd read that it was a 2 mile hike, which made me think it was 4 round trip, but it turned out to be only 2 miles total, 1 each way. It was a nice surprise to get to the waterfall much earlier than we were expecting.

You can see from these pictures that it's actually a double drop, but it was difficult to view them both together due to the foliage, and the lower drop wasn't easily accessible.

I could see this much (left pic) from the trail, but Oscar bushwhacked down to the base and got the above pics and the one on the right.

We continued down the valley and hiked .7 miles to this lovely drop - Yakso Falls. This is one that would be worth coming back for in the Spring when there's more water flow.

Just across the street from the Yakso Falls trail is a campground with 2 more trails. One trail leads to Tributary Falls and Middle Hemlock Falls. I'm not sure which of these 3 small drops qualifies as which falls. 

Just further up the trail is Upper Hemlock falls, which is the best of the trails cataracts. We had to bushwhack down to it since the view on the left is all you'll get from the trail. The trail continues on, but I have no idea what it ultimately leads to.

The other trail in the campground leads to Lower Hemlock Falls. This one was fairly pretty, and I braved walking out onto a scary log to get a better view of it. It wasn't terribly far from the ground, but I have the world's worst balance and nearly fell off getting out to where I need to be.

Our last destination in the Little River Valley was grotto falls. There was some beautiful scenery on the way up to it.
Grotto Falls was pretty nifty since you could walk behind it. This is another one that would be worth returning for.

Oscar had a fun time playing in the spray. It would have made for a pretty intense shower. I kept my distance off to the side.

We then drove out of the Little River Valley and made our way into the Idleyld Park area to get to Susan Creek Falls campground. This is a fairly popular campground that fills up quickly (most Oregon campgrounds are first come/first serve) since it's right in between Eugene, OR and Crater Lake. It's also has showers and flush toilets for $14 a night. It was nice to get a warm shower after all of our hiking that day. Before showering, though, we checked out Deadline Falls. I saw a really big salmon trying to jump the falls in its attempt to swim upstream. We saw a few other small ones too.

And of course, we couldn't stay at Susan Creek Falls campground without also hiking to Susan Creek Halls. It's definitely another one that would be nicer in the Spring, but it was still pretty.