I’m back! Since my last post, we have made our way from Northern California to Southwest Texas via a circuitous route that allowed us to visit family along the way and a whole bunch of national parks! Much of the time, I’ve had little to no cell service. Rather than be frustrated with zero or slow uploading speeds, I decided to forego trying to post anything here until we landed in SW Texas and got settled in our new spot for the winter months.
I have a ton of catching up to do and I’ll be sharing adventures and photographs – but not in chronological order! It’ll be fun and I’ll mix and match varying geographical locations we’ve traveled over the past year.
I get to spend the next 5 months in a very special place – Big Bend National Park. Looking forward to some quality time here exploring parts of the park and surrounding area that have eluded us in past visits!!
Big Bend NP has experienced some great rainfall in recent weeks and it’s caused the desert to come alive! It’s unusually green right now and some desert plants have taken advantage of the extra moisture and are blooming out of season. Along the Hot Springs Historic Area roadway, I spotted Eagle Claw cacti showing off their blooms!
The Chisos Basin area is awash with green, gray, and blue hues across the landscape.
Jim walked around the other side of the picnic table on our site and reached down to pick something up off the ground – and heard a hiss…..he was inches from this rattlesnake! Jim backed off and the snake moseyed on along and disappeared behind a pile of lava rock. We caught a glimpse of his rattle and he gave it a little shake as he headed away. I wonder if he’s been hanging out that close to us all summer??
The sunsets here at Lava Beds National Monument are some of the most spectacular that I’ve ever experienced. As much as I love my morning sunrise walks, my favorite time of the day is dusk.
As I walk in the evening here (and everywhere), I am always taken back to one particular childhood memory. When I was a little girl, I came down with a serious case of appendicitis. It was right after the Easter vacation and I missed a couple of weeks of school. Since I was raised by a single mom and she worked full-time, my grandparents were my caregivers during my recuperation. I loved the time that I spent with them.
During this time, my grandfather had just retired from Longwood Gardens and they moved into my grandmother’s family home outside of Kennett Square, PA. It was an old Sears and Roebuck kit house built in the 1930’s – the materials arriving via the railroad just down the hill from the property. I remember the built-in floor-to-ceiling kitchen cupboards, the extraordinary millwork throughout the house and the stone fireplace most of all. My great-grandfather was a house painter and I remember the interior walls painted with a mottled, textured surface in dark earth tones. I’ve never seen anything else that compares to it.
From 1908 to 1940, the Sears and Roebuck company sold over 70,000 kit homes across the country. The depression and, ultimately World War II, brought an end to the kit house era of that time. I hope the house is still standing today. It would be interesting to visit it!
One particular night during my convalescent stay with my grandparents, I observed my grandfather standing at the screen door in the sunroom at the back of the house. He was gazing out into the darkness listening to the night sounds as dusk was settling in. I can still conjure up a pretty vivid picture of his still silhouette by the door. It’s one of those memories that stays with you always. I asked him what he was doing and he told me it was his favorite time of the day and his evening ritual. And so, at that moment, it became my favorite time of the day. 🙂
My day here in Lava Beds NM almost always starts with a solitary walk up around the Cave Loop Road. It ends up being about a 2.5-mile trek and gets my day started nicely! I usually do not carry my camera with me on these walks choosing instead to focus on lazily sipping on my thermos of coffee as I move along enjoying the scenery. The other day I decided to bring the camera so I could take advantage of the early morning light and also because I’m almost done my tenure here and running out of time for some sunrise photos!! It proved a good morning for photographs!
There are still some late flowering plants adding a small splash of color to the landscape – namely buckwheat and rabbitbrush. Both were picking up the early morning light nicely!!
As I walk along the Cave Loop Road, I am constantly flushing out the California Quail who populate the sagebrush landscape. They never cease to startle me with their explosive movement and loud “wing” noise as they fly away! Later on in my walk, I spotted this lone quail perched on top of a curl-leaf mountain mahogany.
By the end of my walk, the sun was up and the sky was about as blue as I’ve seen it all summer!! 🙂
We embarked on our final day trip to Crater Lake this past week before leaving the Northern California area. For some reason, the dead tree trunks with their twisted roots and branches kept catching my eye along the trail! We hiked part of the Rim Trail which intersected with the Watchman Peak Trail and climbed to the historic lookout on the summit.
Our hike ended up being a 7.5-mile roundtrip affair with stunning views of the lake the entire way. It always amazes me how uncrowded the trails are even though the visitor center area and turn-outs are so congested! We experienced substantial solitude for most of the hike – very relaxing and peaceful!
As we started to gain in elevation, I noticed this very discreet little native bleeding heart – Dicentra formosa – along the side of the trail – so sweet and delicate!!
When we reached the junction with the Watchman Peak Trail, we started to wind our way up the steep slope via a series of switchbacks.
I snapped these two pictures on our descent which is why it appears Jim is heading in the wrong direction to reach the summit! 🙂
The historic lookout is perched right on top of the rocky summit. The Watchman Observation Station was built during the early 1930’s and operated as a fire lookout and educational site for a time. As with many of the early park structures, the construction incorporated the use of native materials and emphasized simplicity in design. I wish it was open to the public but unfortunately it is not accessible.
This is where we hit the crowds! We found a quiet corner on the summit to eat our snack and I took some photographs before we decided we better start back. It was getting late in the day and we had 3.5+ miles to go to return to the truck!
From the summit:
Jim decided since the sign said NPS Personnel Only that it meant I could go around the barriers and sneak a peak inside the building. He kept egging me on – see what I have to contend with?! 🙂
When I do an out and back hike, I always marvel at the different views you get – going in the opposite direction you notice other details with the change in perspective!
We finished the day with a gourmet snack consisting of smoked gouda cheese, rice crackers and grapes – while sitting on a nice spot overlooking the lake. Thanks Crater Lake for the memories we’ve made this summer!!
Finally got out to get a Milky Way shot – taken on the Cave Loop Road in Lava Beds National Monument near the Catacombs Cave entrance! 🙂
Although not technically adjacent to the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Diamond Lake is a short drive north of the northern most section of the road and is in the shadow of two volcanic peaks – Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey. It resides within the Umpqua National Forest in Douglas County, Oregon just to the north of Crater Lake National Park. Glaciers covered much of the area starting with the Great Ice Age over 1 million years ago. At one time, the landscape that is now occupied by Diamond Lake was a giant ice field! As the glaciers eventually started to melt and recede, the shallow lake was left behind. I came across a National Park Service publication that directly speaks to the geology of the Diamond Lake area. For a detailed analysis of this special place, visit here!
We decided to make the road trip up to Diamond Lake because I had read that there was an 11.5-mile bike trail that circumnavigated the shores of the lake. I was getting itchy to get back on the bike for an extended ride and the reviews of the trail were all positive. The trail, known as the John Dellenback Trail, is paved and is considered a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and, in the winter, cross-country skiers. Part of the trail winds through the national forest service campground on the east side of the lake with the remaining sections traversing through forest and along the lake affording excellent views of the two volcanic peaks that rise above the lake.
We started our ride from the amphitheater parking lot at the Diamond Lake Campground operated by the national forest. I chose a clockwise route that would take us around the south end of the lake first. At the south end of the lake is a great little picnic area called the South Shore Picnic Area. After our ride, we drove to this spot and had a snack before getting back on the road to Lava Beds NM.
We rode to about the half-way point of the trail of the western shore and stopped for a snack. Our impromptu rest area had an awesome view of Mt. Thielsen across the lake.
I read an interesting fact in the NPS publication that I referenced above. Mt. Thielsen is also referred to as “the lightening rod of the Cascades” due to the frequency of lightening strikes that it endures. This results in the formation of fulgurites – a glass-like substance that is created when silica sand and rock are fused together as a result of a lightening strike. Wow! I’ve never heard of that! Apparently most of the fulgurites formed on Mt Thielsen are within the top 10 feet of the summit – so get hiking all you fulgurite seekers!! There is a trailhead for Mt. Thielsen accessible from Rt. 138 east of Diamond Lake! Maybe next time…
After leaving our rest stop, we rode through a pretty cool fir/pine forest with masses of fireweed growing in the understory of the sparsely spaced trees.
There’s a nice little beach area on the north end of the lake but since we were not prepared for swimming we did not stop. The trail climbs a bit on the east side rising high above the lake before descending once again to the campground area.
As we got back into the north end of the campground, I spotted these ducks lazing around on this log. Too cute! Worth posting again!
This concludes my tour of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway! There is much, much more to see and do along this “All-American Road” so I encourage you to explore the website and create your own journey!
I’ll get back to my Volcanic Legacy Byway tour next time, but could not resist this quick posting of a family of ducks taking it easy on a log in Diamond Lake! 🙂
This mule deer decided to hang out in our campsite the other day totally oblivious to our presence. There was something at the base of the Western Juniper tree that seemed very tasty to him!
The view from our campsite in Lava Beds National Monument shows how stark the landscape is here. Last night, the full moon was rising just to the right of the above photo behind one of the cinder cones to the south of us. It was a blustery evening. The tree branches in the foreground show that with their blurry twigs blowing in the wind!