The plan was for me to shuttle the truck, so Thor and Sarah pedaled off down the road for a long mountain bike ride along the Umpqua River. I drove to the lodge, gassed the truck and headed for the Toketee Falls rendezvous. The lodge, a beautiful 'mom and pop' operation reminded me of rural Alaska; I felt right at home as I talked to the owner about the season and the four species of fish in the lake: Brown trout, rainbows, lake trout, and the 'fishwitch', a hybrid from the Mowitch Lake and another species. "They grow really huge and are big predators", the fellow told me. "Keeps the rainbows in check!"
I pulled into the parking lot to wait for Thor and Sarah and take a hike downstream. A twelve-foot diameter redwood stave penstock squirted jets of water onto the parking lot at the falls. The pipe, built in 1949 carries water from the reservoir to the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project. I'm always fascinated by these reminders of America's great industry.
After the mountain biking experience yesterday, I'm in great shape, and the half-mile walk down to see the falls is a breeze. I skipped along at high speed and stopped several times on the journey to marvel at the height and girth of the trees. The serene little stream suddenly drops 40 feet into a narrow cavity, then emerges and cascades another 80 feet into a large plunge pool. It's cold water from the mountains, otherwise it would surely invite me for a swim. tall Douglas fir trees hang over the cliffs. The Forest Service had built a solid wooden fenced viewing platform at the end of the trail.
Back at the truck, Thor and Sarah had finished their little ride, smiles on their faces. We were hot and dirty, so we used the jets emanating from the holes in the penstock to clean the bikes, shower, and in my case, shave.
Then we were off through the mountains; destination: Crater Lake National Park. Along the way Reynolds peak, a craggy volcanic 'plug' caught our attention and lured us off the highway to the scenic rest stop to read its story. It is one of the many peaks and buttes in the North Cascades formed within the past several hundred thousand years. The glaciers have worked them into various shapes and sizes. This peak, an older one has been worn down to the core, like the core of an apple, eaten away this time not by teeth, but by glaciers.
The road turned directly south and we began our ascent of Mount Mazama, the home of Crater Lake. The landscape soon had a barren moon quality to it, the remnants of huge eruptions within the past few thousand years that spread pulverized pea-sized gravel over many square miles. It reminded us of the Aniakchak Caldera in Alaska, surely fodder for another story.
We topped out at the rim of the crater and stopped to get the first view...and see the chipmunks, fattened for hibernation by a season of begging peanuts from tourists. We were all stunned by the clarity of the lake, the colors, the sheer verticality of the cliffs, and the general scene. No wonder it is a national treasure; even a jaded park ranger was impressed.
Crater Lake Lodge is one of the premier national park lodges in the country, so we had to see it, also. Built a century ago but recently remodeled, it still looks the way it did long ago. The original copper roof and clapboard siding belie the beauty of the rustic interior.