On June 13 our day began favorably at Donut Haus and things went downhill (and actually a lot of uphill) from there. Being anxious to get to the PNW portion of the trip, we did one of those insane road warrior drives from Estes Park, Colorado, to Salt Lake City, Utah, with 40 mph headwinds and lots of hills. Leaving by way of Big Thompson Canyon, we saw more devastation from last year’s flooding and more reason not to build your house in a deep river canyon.
We cut over to Laramie, Wyoming, from Ft. Collins for the long drive across southern Wyoming. We have now managed to block those memories, and we don’t mean to diss Wyoming, but it was brutal. At least the weather was cool enough that our lack of air-conditioning was not problematic. There was another issue, however, that began to cause concern. In our experience, no Vanagon trip is worry-free and, true to form, we had begun to experience a rattle of undetermined origin. More on that later…
We made it to Salt Lake City around 5:30 p.m., just in time to have dinner with fellow syncronaut Bob Stevens, who graciously took us to dinner at Rodizio Grill, a Brazilian restaurant where the waiters come around to each table with different meats on a skewer and shave off a portion of whichever ones you want: beef, chicken, pork, fish, and our favorite (not) – chicken hearts. They also had a killer salad bar and some unique veggie dishes.
After a great dinner and visit with Bob, we opted for a hotel (cheaper than the KOA) for the night.
On the way out of Salt Lake City the next morning, we stopped at Home Depot where Larry, ever the optimist, picked up some materials that we hoped would cure the rattle, which was getting somewhat worse. We stopped for pictures along the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats.
We stopped in Wendover, Nevada, and made sandwiches in the park, then spent 30 minutes in one of the casinos, which was more time than they needed to strip us of a few dollars. The weather remained hospitable, however, with temps only in the 50s.
We made it as far as WInnemucca that night and found a free BLM camp site about five miles above the town on Water Canyon Road. The temps were around 60 that night – quite comfy. Leaving the next morning, we took highway 95 north before turning west/northwest on Highway 140, headed to Oregon. We were glad to have a full tank of gas as the sign turning on to 140 said “No Gas for 179 Miles” – and they weren’t kidding. We covered many miles of desert basin and range with beautiful wilderness and wildlife refuge areas and very little sign of human occupation.
We entered Oregon’s southern border and found our way to Mud Creek Campground in the Fremont-Winema National Forest east of Lakeview. We spent two nights there and were the only occupants of the human variety.
It was quite cool during the days and cold at night, and we were grateful that we had decided to bring the down comforter. Larry had questioned whether we would need the down, and Maggie had brought only one long-sleeved shirt because “Hey! It’s summer!” Apparently Oregon didn’t get the memo, because on the morning of June 17 we awoke to 28 degrees and snow! Once again we were thankful for the Propex heater and the good home-roasted coffee that started our day. Ever thoughtful, Larry offered to stay under the down and “out of the way” while Maggie made coffee.
We broke camp that morning and finally found a gas station at Lakeview. Then it was on to Klamath Falls for lunch, free wifi, and some grocery shopping. Temps only reached the 50s as we headed toward Crater Lake, our mysterious rattling noise becoming louder and more insistent with every passing mile. After a few failed attempts at remedying the problem, we recorded the sound and sent the recording to our friend Karl who was currently on his way to Oregon from his home in Maryland. “CV” he said. So Larry made arrangements with our friends Gary and Evie in La Pine to order one so it would be available when we got to their place.
Made it to Crater Lake National Park where we found an awesome campsite adjacent to Annie’s Creek Canyon (D-13 if you go). The sweet older lady at the registration kiosk, who had to hunt for each letter on her computer’s keyboard, gave us the wrong registration form, twice, and then charged us for the whole month of July ($720 charge to our credit card) before we finally got things straight.
After securing our spot and checking out the camp store, we drove up to the rim of Crater Lake, 7 miles up from camp. The lake is spectacular with beautiful blue waters and sheer cliffs all around. The lake itself is 1943 feet deep and six miles across. It was cold and windy with intermittent clouds and quite a bit of snow on the ground. We toured The Lodge and decided that, despite our unwashed camp couture, we would splurge and have dinner in the restaurant there. Larry had a pasta and Maggie opted for the pork tenderloin, both of which were quite good.
We returned to camp to find a Westy in the campsite next to ours. We introduced ourselves to the young couple, Ben and Jill, who had recently purchased the bus and had only finished week one of a 10-week excursion. During this first week Ben had set up a marriage proposal with the Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop and Jill had accepted. Hugs all around!
Cold again the next morning as we set out to hike the rim trail from our campsite. We hiked for a couple of hours before putting our chairs in the sun to read and fend off the mosquito bombardment. We armed ourselves with three kinds of repellent and put on long sleeves and long pants. When the sun had warmed things a bit after lunch, we walked over to take nice hot showers. After a dinner of tortilla pizzas, the temps began to cool again and we built a good-sized campfire. Down and dead wood was unfortunately plentiful due to an infestation of bark beetles. The chain saws in the park buzzed all day long cutting down the dead trees.
Another cold day followed and we took a couple of hikes – one on Castle Crest Wildflower Trail and one on Godfrey Glen Trail. We were a week or two early for the wildflowers. We made lunch at Goodbye Creek picnic area while Lar fought off the chipmunks/ground squirrels. Another afternoon of campfire and reading after which Larry made a tortellini and pesto dinner.
Here comes the fun part: Roadhaus was now protesting loudly enough that we had some concerns about making it from Crater Lake to La Pine without breaking down. The plan was to baby her up the seven miles to the rim of Crater Lake, take the West Rim Road (East Rim Road closed due to snow) and then head out the north entrance road. We made it up to the rim and part way down West Rim Road before we were stopped by a flagman for a 20-minute wait while four guys on ropes rappelled down a cliff face to knock down loose boulders and rocks onto the road for removal.
After this short delay, we continued on until we came to a large turnout/viewpoint for picture taking. We stopped and took a few pictures before continuing on West Rim Road. After about four miles, and lots of snow pictures, we came to a gate and a “road closed” sign. What? How could this be? Surely we were not going to have to retrace our steps, go all the way back down to the southern park entrance and around – a 100 mile detour? Much gnashing of teeth occurred.
We pulled out the map and noticed that the trailhead where the road was closed was past the junction with the north exit road. How could we have missed it? We drove the four miles back to discover that the junction was between the entrance and exit drives of the pullout where we had stopped to take pictures—so we had never encountered the junction. Huge relief and celebration ensued. We were going to make it! It was downhill almost all the way to La Pine! And so it was that we found our way to La Pine and the warmth and hospitality of Westy folk. More to follow…
For more photos of this part of the trip, click the link below;
Happy trails … Maggie & Larry