Friday, November 29, 2019

Leaving Crater Lake...

Leaving Crater Lake behind us...
A ribbon of highway beckons...
One thing we find fascinating about Oregon is the variety of topography, and how quickly it changes. Almost as soon as we left Crater Lake park, the pine trees started to thin out. The landscape became more arid.

Soon though we were back among deciduous trees in our search for Oregon's mysterious House of Mystery of which we'll learn more next week...

The Oregon Vortex and the House of Mystery...
What would we find beyond the entrance?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wildlife on the crater's edge...

Chipmunks make cute for tourists...
Chipmunks of a different sort make cute for tourists...
Most Canadians would probably call these critters chipmunks. However, depending on where we have been in the States, we have heard them referred to as ground squirrels, or -- in the case here -- yellow squirrels.

In fact, they did have a patch of yellowish fur just behind their ears but, otherwise, they don't look much like the ones that turn up in a Google search.

A Crater Lake bird eyes the popcorn.
What is this mystery bird called?
As for the bird, no idea what it is, but I would guess a jay of some sort.

People seemed more fascinated feeding these enthusiastic eaters than admiring the fantastic panorama of Crater Lake before them.

Except for one woman with a German(?) accent. In cold and clinical tones she told her young boy not to feed them because "they are wild animals and have diseases."

Talk about a killjoy...

Monday, November 25, 2019

Crater Lake blues...

Wizard Island and Crater Lake...
Wizard Island in the middle of Crater Lake
The last time my wife and I saw Crater Lake was three years ago. At the time wild fire smoke lay over most of the state so we only saw it behind the haze.

This time we saw it under a sun-filled cloudless day... and it left us gobsmacked. My wife waited in the van -- we parked illegally on the side of a main road -- while I ran back to get a first glimpse and take a photo. When I saw the lake I ran back to the van and nearly shouted at her: "You have GOT to see the lake right now!"

Crater Lake should be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The colour of the water is impossible to believe. It's freakishly blue... almost a royal blue... so BLUE it almost seems to be glowing.

Crater Lake's rocky shoreline
The moon-like shoreline of Crater Lake...
The Internet tells me that the intense colour is the result of the lake's extreme depth and its extreme clarity. At nearly 2000 feet deep it is the third deepest freshwater lake in the world for average depth, and the deepest in the United States.

Because the water is so clear the sun's rays are able to penetrate deep into the water. This water absorbs the red end of the sun's spectrum. That leaves the blue light to be reflected which is why the water is that amazing shade.

Science!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Mist on the water

The beacon at the end of the Victoria breakwater...
Victoria's breakwater beacon...
At the end of Victoria's breakwater, the beacon warns ships and boats of the danger lurking in the fog..

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Namaste


Years ago I saw an interview with actor Richard Gere who is well-known for being a longtime Buddhist and humanitarian. He described a periodic practice of his... as he would go about his day he would offer up a silent blessing to each person with whom he came into contact throughout the day. I can't remember the exact words, but it was similar to "I wish you nothing but happiness and love in your life". He explained that it helped him feel more empathetic and more forgiving of himself and others.

The story stuck with me because in his early career Gere was frequently cast as douchey pricks... Looking for Mr. Goodbar, American Gigolo, Breathless, Internal Affairs... In my mind I just couldn't reconcile his acting roles with this practice.

However, I tried his suggestion and it really works. I tend to be impatient with people. I find that whenever I catch myself getting irritable, I will go for a walk and as I pass people I will gently extend my hand and 'pass' a blessing to them via my hand... like I'm some sort of karmic superhero. :D Sounds goofy, but it always leaves me feeling better.
This stuff is hidden in normal page view!!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Scenes on the way

A deep canyon on the way to Crater Lake...
Scenery on the way to Crater Lake...
The next leg of our Oregon trip took us to Crater Lake. On the way there though we passed some noteworthy scenery, including deep canyons and picturesque waterfalls...

Toketee Falls, Oregon...
Toketee Falls, Oregon...
We'll take a good look at Crater Lake next week... stay tuned.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Big-ass rig

Big rig seen while on our road trip...
One big mofo of a travel rig...
We've seen many big, big RV camping rigs during our travels, but this one still had us dropping our jaws. It started with a full-on semi-trailer with a sleeper cab. On the bed behind the cab it carried a Smart Car. I assume the Smart Car required some sort of external crane to lift it on and off the bed.

Behind all of this it was pulling a good-sized RV with three pullouts.

People watched in awe as the driver -- who appeared to be approximately mid- to late-60s -- expertly backed into the tight space available to him under the professional guidance of his wife. You just had to respect that level of teamwork and wheel skills.

An RV as big as our house!
Pullouts and antennae... 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sporks

Sporks... the ultimate salad tool...
Problems with salad? Not since I said "Fork off" in favour of these...
Sometimes it's the little things in life that are the most frustrating. Like those road signs that tell you "Last fuel stop for 120 kms". They always put these up on the outskirts of the town that you are leaving AFTER you've already passed the last gas station. How does that make sense?

Anyway to my point... one of those annoyances is eating salad. You struggle to get that right mix of leafy lettuce or spinach, and small crunchy fixings like croutons, carrots, nuts, cucumbers... whatever. You struggle to spear the leaves with your fork, and then awkwardly try to scoop up some small stuff without losing the lettuce. Then you have to quickly shovel it all into your pie hole before it tumbles to the table or back into your bowl.

Recently I figured there had to be a better way to do this. We can build and launch interstellar space probes...carry around phones that can access the total sum of human knowledge... make Twinkies that can last indefinitely on store shelves... but we can't make a simple tool to eat salad?!

Turns out we already have. It's the overlooked spork. Most of us think of it as some sort of cheaply produced camping implement. Or, we've seen small plastic versions at fast food outlets. We've never really paused to admire the simple utility of this modest tool.

Loosely speaking there are two versions of sporks. One is the version that has a spoon at one end and a fork at the other.

The other version is one which combines a spoon with a fork at one end of a handle. This is the version that I figured might best solve my dilemma. I logged on to Amazon and found these versions... large and functional stainless steel versions that are meant to proudly serve as true cutlery at the family dinner table. Indeed I would go so far as to suggest that they could actually REPLACE the separate spoons and forks we currently use.

They weren't even that expensive. The only minor downside was the two weeks or so that it took them to arrive from China. The people that continued to awkwardly scoop up their food with two small sticks long after forks were invented have now actually leapfrogged us in the race for superior cutlery.

We have four of these and will probably order more for camping. I look forward to eating salads, chunky soups and stews much more efficiently.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Old Perpetual

Old Perpetual geyser near Lakeview OR...
Really?
On the way to the Oregon coast we made a side trip to see Old Perpetual Geyser near the town of Lakeview. It was on our must-see list solely because it was mentioned on one of our favourite travel websites. It was described as a man-made geyser accidentally created by well-diggers in 1923. Supposedly, it erupted with regularity every 90 seconds.

We got to Lakeview and had a good laugh. It turned out that we had camped here four years previously right next to the property which holds the geyser. In fact, I had a hazy recollection that the owner of the RV site had mentioned the geyser to us at the time. We had walked over, couldn't find it and left again, figuring that we had misunderstood.

This time we knew exactly what we were looking for.

Well, the geyser might have been perpetual but it certainly wasn't 'Old Faithful'. We waited for nearly twenty minutes in anticipation. And when it did erupt we were underwhelmed. I've seen bigger jets of water in front of hotels.

Sign marking the location of Old Perpetual...
My response to Old Perpetual...
PS: To be fair, further research on my part since our return tells me that the pressure behind the geyser was compromised by the building of a nearby geothermal energy plant which siphons off some of the same hot water that powers Old Perpetual.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Fields Station

The very small community of Fields Station OR...
No wi-fi, TV or mints on your pillow here...
The nearest community to the Alvord desert is Fields Station. This is downtown Fields Station. I love the spunky ambition on display here. The 'motel' is barely more than a bungalow.

Reviews on Trip Advisor are all over the map. We've been here twice now and always found the staff to be courteous. Their humour can be dry though.

For example, the first time through we asked for directions to the desert. The kid pointed nonchalantly further down the road. "Keep going til you see a big-ass flat white thing on the right side of the road."

This most recent time, we decided to try one of their milkshakes. One of the flavours listed was Nutella and I asked the girl serving if it tasted more like chocolate or hazelnut.

Her reply, also with a straight face. "It's sort of Nutella-y." Upward inflection at the end of course.

In the end I had a 3C (chocolate coffee and caramel) milkshake. Probably the best damn milkshake I've had in my life. We watched as she loaded it up with real ice cream. It was so big and so thick it was a meal in itself.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Desert fun

So WHAT do you do for fun on the desert?

Bocce. Normally we play it on our local Vancouver Island beaches where my wife is the usual winner. She was unable to handle the near-perfect flatness of the desert floor though and suffered a crushing defeat at my hands.

Bocce on the playa...
Tossing some balls on the playa...
The Alvord Hot Springs. You wouldn't think that hanging out in some hot springs next to a hot desert would be comfortable. You'd be wrong. It was very comfortable. What WASN'T comfortable were the small group of adults soaking sans any clothes. It's fine that some people are completely comfortable in their skin, but the rest of us aren't necessarily interested in seeing your flappy bits.

Soaking in the Alvord Hot Springs...
Hot enough for ya'? No? We can fix that...
Wildlife. Our tow operator told us that it was possible to see scorpions at night with a UV light. We didn't have one handy but we made a game effort to find them anyway. No luck but we did find this guy/gal in the shade of our trailer.

A praying mantis on the prowl at night...
Six legged predator on the prowl...

Friday, November 1, 2019

Dragon He(art)

An imposing dragon sculpture in Saanich...
Now THAT'S a lawn ornament!
Strolling through our neighbourhood one day a few weeks ago, I came across this imposing ten-foot-high welded metal sculpture in the front yard of a house.

The artist is artist and welder Dan Iocchelli. He assembled it over the course of seven years before moving it from his workshop to his yard. It has a 12-foot wingspan. Each the wings alone weigh 350 pounds.

Currently, he is hoping that someone will come by with suggestions for a name.

Personally, I would suggest the name Sean, after actor Sean Connery who convincingly voiced the dragon, Draco, in the movie DragonHeart.