Monday, August 17, 2015

usbackroads destination--Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway, Deschutes National Forest

usbackroads destination--Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway, Deschutes National Forest

Trip Dates:  June 16-18, 2015

I was the Recreation, Wilderness, and Trails Program Manager for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest prior to my retirement in 2007.  We were one of the big recreation forests in  Washington.  The Regional Office would always play us against the Deschutes National Forest which was the largest recreation forest in Oregon.  So after a few years of that, myself and my compatriot on the Deschutes National Forest decided to spend a week on each others Forest so we would have a better understanding of the recreation program on the two National Forests.

Now you probably will not get a week long guided tour of the recreation, wilderness, and trail opportunities on the Deschutes National Forest.  But go anyway, it is an amazing National Forest.  Lots of snow-capped peaks, lakes, trails, campgrounds, and interpretive sites.  AND of of this on a National Forest that is mostly flat ground!! A treat for those of us pushing the years or those with small children.

The heart of all this is the Cascades lakes Scenic Byway which stretches from Bend to Highway 128 just outside of Crescent Lake, Oregon.

At the Bend end of the Scenic Byway is Sparks Lake.  A very scenic and busy lake.  We were there on a weekday in summer and it was packed.  Weekends must be a total zoo.  Everybody seemed to get along rather well,  But for me fly fishing off a boat launch with canoes and kayaks coming on and off the water every few minutes is not that appealing.

But my favorite set of canoeists were a couple of grandparents paddling on the the lake.  The I noticed that at the end of the canoe they were "towing" a small child.  So where is Health and Human Services when you need them??  Click on picture to enlarge.

Here is a link to the entire route:

The route is just as scenic as Crater Lake National Park but much flatter and many more places to explore.  It is popular with bicycle riders since it does have a wider shoulder than Crater Lake National Park.

There are a lot of lakes to explore.  Most of which are much less crowded than Sparks Lake.

The good news is that all of them come with boat docks, campgrounds, resort stores with food and boat rentals.

The campgrounds are popular with all sorts of folks.  So a typical campground will have fishermen, boaters, bicyclists, kayakers, bird watchers, and even some rest and relaxation folks.

All the new recreation fads show up fairly quickly on the Deschutes!  First you unload the surfboard from LA.

Then kneeling on it for several minutes and noticing that there is NO wave to ride.

So you just stand up and paddle.  Handy if you own a surfboard, but not a kayak or canoe or any type of boat.  Ok, maybe I should try it ONCE, before jumping to conclusions.

Throughout all these lakes flows the Deschutes River.

The dispersed camping or boondocking is primarily found along the river.  Lots of places to camp if you do not like campgrounds.  The only downside is that outside is once off the paved and gravel roads there is DUST!  Lots of it.  Be sure to turn on the air conditioning and make sure it is on recirculate.  I have never been on one of these roads after a rain, but I think I would like to have tires with some tread on them.

At the headwaters of the Deschutes River there seems to always be a colony of white pelicans.  This is the only place on a National Forest where I have seen white pelicans.  Must be something here to attract them year after year.

The Cascades Lakes Scenic Byways ends rather quickly.  Given all the stop signs I suspect there was a lawsuit somewhere about "inadequate" signing.  These are just the signs saying that there is a  STOP SIGN AHEAD!  Now it just becomes a funny picture!

You might not remember the stop signs, but you will have the memories of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.  A special spot on your National Forests, but sure to spend some time here to justify all the recreation funding the Forest Service sent to the Deschutes National Forest!

As always, double click on the picture to see it full-screen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Crater Lake National Park

usbackroads destination-Crater Lake National Park

travel dates:  June 17th, 2015

Since we were staying in the neighborhood at Crescent Lake, Oregon we decided to load up the bicycles and take the short trip to Crater Lake National Park and ride around the lake.

We did want to do the boat trip to Wizard Island, but we were to early in the season for the trip.  The boat trips started a week after we left the area.

Even though I worked for the National Park Service they are not my favorite areas to visit.  Too many rules and regulations.  As I noted in a previous posting about the National Park Service.  Here is my quote from that posting:

"The National Parks are famous for their rules and regulations.  In many ways the Park Service is the agency of NO.   The best mindset for visiting the National Parks is to think of them not as wildlands, but as a museum.   A very pretty and large natural history museum in most cases.  Walk carefully between the lines, speak softly, and do not use flash and you will be all right."

Crater Lake National Park could use a few lines.  Particularly, on the edge of their roads!!

We took one look at the narrow roadways and decided that it might be best to leave the bicycles on the truck and drive around the lake.  Notice the lack of ANY shoulder on the roadway.  That did not stop our bicycling friends from Switzerland.  They took a "zero" miles day camping inside the park. Well, a zero miles day without panniers as they did the whole loop with their bicycles.

When visiting Crater Lake take the loop in a clockwise direction.  That will put all the viewpoints and turnouts on YOUR SIDE of the road.  That way you will not have to cross traffic to get to the viewpoints. 

Here is a link to the map:  Crater Lake Visitor Map.

For us the trip started at the Wizard Lake overlook.  See picture at top of blog.  We were not the only ones enjoying the view.

There was also a version of the world famous SST toilet.  However, no plaque or other notice of the famous Sweet Smelling Toilet.  In fact, the National Park Service did its best to hide it behind a stone face!

The other impressive item on this trip was the pollen fall on Crater Lake.  So if you have allergies June might not be the time of year to visit Crater Lake.

National Parks have this urge to name all natural features.  So this becomes Shiprock Island.  It is interesting in its own right.

At the visitor area I discovered that the Park Service loves the stone face design for all its buildings.  For some reason, I  just have this feeling that the Park Service architect liked having stone forts as a kid and decided to live out his childhood by building these thing inside the National Parks.

At Crater Lake the difference between sky and lake is minimal at best.  This is a picture of the LAKE, not the sky.

We did make a turn from the rim and headed to Annie Creek Restaurant within the park boundaries.  It had good reviews on TripAdvisor.  We are not sure why the good reviews.  Expensive and awful food.  Not just bad food, but awful.  Pack a picnic lunch.  In our case, the main lodge was not serving lunch. So we though Annie Creek might be a decent alternative.  It is NOT.

One thing that we have started packing in the truck is foldable chairs.  Now a scenic view spot for lunch or reading a book is just seconds from unfolding.  In my case, I am usually more interested in nap, but forgot to pack the LaFuma.