After an early’ish breakfast with Tom and Emily we said our goodbyes and headed in opposite directions. Today we were planning to visit Crater Lake and the Oregon National Cave Monument. The omnipresent mist accompanied us until we headed inland.
I have always associated lumberjacks with Canada but Oregon also has a huge forestry industry and we passed several of these huge lakes covered in tree trunks. We didn’t see anyone working them though.
Until the central lines have been repainted after roadworks they install these indicators which are made of metal. At first we were wary of crossing them but soon discovered they collapse when run over. We were surprised to see workmen installing them by hand as we assumed a machine would do it.
As we approached the Crater Lake area the ground became much more sparsely vegetated and it was odd to see huge swathes of land with only odd trees popping up here and there.
And then we came to one of the ubiquitous view points where we parked and walked up the side of the crater for our first sight of the famous lake. By now the sun had come out but there were still lots of clouds and it was very hazy. The lake wasn’t as blue as we had expected, it was still lovely though.
The lake was formed about 7,700 years ago when a massive volcanic eruption blew the top off a mountain, leaving a deep basin in its place. Over the centuries snow and rain have filled the basin forming the lake which is the deepest in the US with an average depth of 350m. The only source of water is precipitation so the water is very clear and pure.
The little island is called Wizard Island and was formed by another eruption after the lake had begun to form.
A sign for Rogue Gorge, which was through a short forest walk, intrigued us so we decided to stop and have a wander as we weren’t in a hurry. We were treated to a lovely gorge with a furious and fast-flowing river running through it.
The Gorge is a chasm 500 feet long with a drop of 45 feet to the river. Enough water flows through it every minute to fill an Olympic-sized pool (410,000 gallons). You certainly wouldn’t want to fall in, or even try wading across the river.
A sign by a tree stump announced that it was still alive because trees growing so closely together have a habit of entwining their roots with the result the roots feed both trees. It didn’t look very alive – there were no branches – but bark had covered the entire stump, including the top, which I assume is what indicates it still lives.
We had a lovely ride through a tiny, wiggly, mountain road up to the Oregan Natural Caves where we had booked into the Chateau for the night. The Chateau is a very interesting building that is actually 6 stories ‘high’ although a lot of those are buried in the gorge that it spans. The original stream has been incorporated into the dining room. It was built in the 1930’s using local labour and natural materials and looks very comfortable in its surroundings. Stepping into the building is like stepping back into the 1930s.
Talking to the waitress during dinner she told us she drove back down the tight twisting curves to the nearest town, 12 miles away, after her shift – “Slowly!”. I’m not sure we’d have fancied riding the road at night on the bike as there were no edges, some very steep drop-offs and, no doubt, lots of animals. I assume you get used to it if you have to drive it every day. Lots of the cars we passed were clearly not familiar with it as they were cutting the corners (across double yellow lines) all the way along the road.
We got onto the first cave tour of the day which was conducted by a very knowledgeable geologist who explained how the caves had been formed. He also pointed out quite a few little creatures, including several different species of bats which have made the cave their home. At the moment there is a nasty disease affecting North American bats called White Nose Syndrome which has wiped out between 6 and 7 million bats nationwide. Hopefully they will be able to contain or cure it as it would be a great shame for these tiny creatures to disappear altogether.
We finished the tour at the top of the hill and as we didn’t have our bike gear on decided to take the extended route back down which was about another mile uphill then down through the forest. The view overlooking the Siskiyou mountains was spectacular.
After our short walk we enjoyed breakfasting in the 1930’s style coffee shop where we were very grateful for the advice to share a milkshake as they are enormous. We continued our ride down the coast via the Redwood National and State Parks.
I’ve no idea where all the wood comes from but most of the beaches along this stretch of the coast have dead tree trunks scattered on them.
We had an appointment with Rick Mayer, a motorcycle seat specialist, on Thursday and had fewer miles to do today and tomorrow so we stopped mid-afternoon.
After a bit of a lie in we faced east towards Anderson and through gold-rush country. Even though it was relatively late in the morning the trees seem to hold onto the mist but when we left the coast it turned into a beautiful hot day.
By the time I was beginning to think we wouldn’t find anywhere to eat breakfast, as the towns were small and few and far between, we found a gem of a restaurant which had photos and stories on the walls of the old-time gold miners. I was surprised there seemed to be quite a few women involved and chuckled at my desire to see a bear when I read about a lady who hid under her bed as a grizzly bear entered her house, ate all the food and trashed the place. She was still hiding when her husband returned. They don’t do much gold mining now, it’s tourists who provide a living for the people still there.
US299, recommended by Don, has lots of long sweeping bends which we both really enjoyed. The scenery is wonderful but in common with many roads in the US there are rumble strips in the middle of the carriageway which Kevin doesn’t seem to worry about but I don’t particularly like. As we went further east there were more streams and lakes than I imagined there would be in California.
The Gaia hotel in Anderson had been suggested to us as an overnight stop by Rick and it was a good recommendation. It was unusual with a series of round units surrounding a landscaped area and a large pond. Rick came over to meet us for drinks and we had a really nice meal in their restaurant (Kevin: “The best fish and chips I’ve had in the US”). The hotel was only about 15 miles away from Rick’s so we anticipated another lie-in. This was turning out to be the most relaxed riding we’ve done for ages.