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.

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