Alaskan RED

A lifelong Alaskan learning about the world one backroad at a time

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Housesitting Perks – A Room with a View

When you housesit, you look at pictures of the home and discuss it with the homeowners but you never really know the whole arrangement until you are there, settling in for the duration of the owner’s vacation. One somewhat regular housesit for us is on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, Washington. It comes with a funny cat who is rather standoffish initially but wants attention on her schedule – when she jumps up on her bench to be petted and brushed and when the sun is coming up and she thinks it time for breakfast! It also comes with a lovely lagoon front property which is just two blocks off the ocean and huge windows to immerse yourself in the view.

Whidbey Housesit (12)

I truly enjoy watching the world go by on that lagoon with a cup of tea or a glass of wine in hand. There’s the neighbors coming up from their Seattle home for the weekend. It takes them just 45 minutes to run up in their shiny new boat; much faster than driving up and catching the ferry across to the island. The folks across the way got their big catamaran underway for a couple days so we were able to watch him maneuver in and out of his berth in that big craft, a mighty impressive feat. There’s a guy up the way who sets crab pots near the ocean entrance giving us our own ideas about crab fishing. And there are several folks who gets their exercise paddling the lagoon in kayaks.
And then there is the wildlife. In our Juneau, Alaska home, we see all manner of wildlife – eagles nesting behind our house, deer browsing alongside the highway, an occasional coyote behind the local grocery store, whales feeding when we are out fishing, and bears underneath our bedroom window in the middle of the night. Nonetheless, a wildlife sighting is still occasion to stop everything. The first thing you notice on Whidbey is the plethora of deer. They are everywhere and have little fear.


This momma and her fawns were usually found lunching across the street and paid no attention when we stopped the truck for a picture.


We saw lots of ducks in the lagoon but this lady mallard came most days to wander on the patio in search of birdseed the doves left behind.


Then there was this great blue heron who came almost every day to try his fishing luck from the docks in the lagoon.


On this day, he was having a bad feather day!


But he managed to get them under control


Ever wonder what they look like underneath?


He did a pretty good job of sneaking up on his prey and darting his beak into the water for dinner.


His dinner looks a little startled!


And then there was the day hubby came in the house saying “Get your camera quick”. Turns out there were otters on the dock.


Not only did they wait for me to get the camera but it almost seems they are posing for the pictures.


So to our homeowners whom we now call friends, thank you so much for sharing your room with a view with us!


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Klondike Highway – A Surprise at the Robinson Flag Stop

On our last day of our summer roadtrip, we were headed from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Skagway, Alaska on the Klondike Highway.  It’s one of my favorite drives and one I’ve made many times.  There is so much wonderful scenery and historic significance from the Gold Rush.  It still feels almost novel to me because I remember when this highway didn’t exist. There was so much talk around building the road and what a treacherous mountain pass it would be but the economics of transporting ore by road made it feasible.

Before the road was built, there was a railroad that traveled the entire distance – the White Pass Yukon Route, a narrow gauge railroad.  It now runs only as far as Lake Bennett for tourists and and to pick up hikers following the Gold Rush route on the Chilkoot Trail.  Mom and I took the train the year before I graduated from high school and as it happened, the year before the road was built. But the story of the train is for another day.

Inevitably on our roadtrips, we make our first stop not long after we’ve gotten underway – a symptom of drinking lots of water and coffee while we are packing up the truck to head out!  On this day, our morning rest stop was at the site of the Robinson Flag Station, a whistle stop on the original railroad line.  It closed in 1983 after the train quit running the full distance into Whitehorse.   It was a nice day and I grabbed my camera to walk the short easy trail.

I saw this little guy not steps from our truck.  It’s a gray jay but we just call them camp robbers, a name well deserved as they are always on the lookout for food and will steal anything they can find in your camp.  All About Birds by Cornell University calls them “deceptively cute”.


There are some great signs about the history of the area and I walked slowly along reading each of them.  There is also a lot of discarded stuff,  various remnants of the flag station here and there, including this old stove about halfway down the trail.


I emerged from the brush next to the railroad tracks and was rewarded with this view of the original building.


I thought I might be able to get a good picture from the railroad tracks and once up there, I turned west but the view was mostly of an overgrown rail line.  Still hopeful for a good picture, I turned around to look down the tracks towards the east and there it was:


I was surprised to see him and from this look on his face, apparently he was surprised to see me too.  How long had he been watching me?  Fortunately, the bear wasn’t too close and he wasn’t moving at all – just standing there staring at me.  I zoomed in and snapped a couple more pictures before backing off the tracks and heading down the trail towards the truck.


I hollered for hubby to let him know there was a bear in the area and at first he thought I meant a black bear which we see all the time both at home and on the highway, in fact we saw a baker’s dozen alongside the highway in just two hours a couple nights before.


When I told him it was a brown bear,  we had to walk back to the tracks so he could see it for himself.  Surprisingly, it was standing in the very same place and looked back at us again before ambling off into the brush.


We’d been talking just the day before about all the wildlife we’ve seen on our recent Alcan Highway drives and realized one thing we had yet to see was a brownie.  They are pretty rare in Juneau proper so we only see them when we are outside of town or traveling.

Happy we’d seen some wildlife, we returned to the truck and got back on the road.  Not too far along, we came across these two.


Not as exciting as a brownie, but a couple of nice deer who thoughtfully posed for my pictures.  What a great end to another fabulous drive on the Alaska Canada Highway!

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Adventures in Housesitting – South Whidbey Island


First things first – an apology for how lax I’ve been at writing.  I need a bit of peace for the thoughts to flow out my fingers and I’ve found that rarely happens until later in the evening when we are traveling and by then the activities of the day are usually making my eyelids a bit heavy.  When we get home, we are moving a mile a minute catching up on chores and diving into projects.  All that to say, I’ll try to do better because I’ve so much to share from our adventures.  So here’s the first….

We already know Whidbey Island so scoring a housesit there was a little like coming home, especially for Cabana Boy who spent much of his youth there. His parents had property in Coupeville where his dad and his wife still live.  When I saw the housesit ad on Trusted Housesitters for somewhere in Greenbank, I knew we had to apply.  Looking through the ad, it appeared the home was on the water so I scrambled to get our application in – if you know me, you know I’m all about being near saltwater – having my morning coffee with that salty smell surrounding me is pure bliss!  When I got the acceptance from the homeowners, we did a little celebration dance (thank goodness no one was watching that!) and called Dad to let him know we were coming. Despite the fact that we’ve already done this, he asked the same question…”so you don’t know these people?”  Everyone is always surprised by this; that we housesit for people we don’t know.  And it is a big leap of faith for them and for us but we always hope to meet new people, experience new places and maybe make new friends.

The trip down to Whidbey is a story for another time.  Suffice to say, we packed up our truck, grabbed the Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Haines, and drove down the Alaska Canada and Cassiar Highways.  We arrived on Whidbey the day before our homeowners left and made our way to their home in the Lagoon Point neighborhood on the south end of the island.  While they headed to Europe, we were in charge of their lovely home on the lagoon – actually a manmade ocean estuary – two blocks back from the ocean, their sailboat docked out front, and their lovely kitty, Rachel.  We toured the house, went over their housesitter list and started making friends with Rachel who was a bit standoffish to start.  The next morning, we retrieved their car from the shuttle stop and settled in.  It could not have been a more beautiful day to try out the patio and watch the boats, birds, and people.

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Rachel was a breeze.  She let herself in and out through a window, exhibiting full disdain for the cat door.  When she was ready to be petted, she would jump up on a little bench and wait for her human servants to brush her.  If you didn’t respond quickly enough, she would come for you and lead you to the bench.  She wasn’t the kind to sit on your lap but she would walk around us – on the floor, on the sofa back, on the patio.  But two nights in, I awoke to find her on the bed, staring at me.  I began to pet her, she began to purr, and it wasn’t long before we were both asleep.  When I awoke, she was gone.  It was a pattern to be repeated many times during the stay.

Our first trip together was to Whidbey and we’ve returned so many times but we’d always been near the upper end of the island.  We decided we had to take advantage of our time to not only revisit our old favorites but also to explore new ones.  Since South Whidbey State Park was just a couple minutes up the road, we started there.  It has a campground, walking trails and beach access.  We stopped at the kiosk to buy an annual Discovery Pass, good in any Washington State Park for twelve months from the date of issue (day passes are also available).   After looking at the trail map, we took the trail to the beach, winding through the tall trees, the beautiful fall leaves, ferns and mosses.  It’s a bit of a walk and downhill so the uphill portion awaits your return to the car but it’s well worth it.  The walk itself is so lovely but when it dumps you out on the beach, it’s the icing on the cake.  The beach is sandy, long and on our first visit, fairly narrow because of the high tide.  There were people fishing both from the shore and from nearby boats.  We walked at least a mile down the beach, alternating between watching the water and the sand in front of our feet, looking for beach treasures.  Even the hike back uphill didn’t seem too bad after the peace and quiet of the beach.



Another day found us revisiting Ebey’s Landing mid-island for another beach walk.  The beach is part of the larger National Historic Reserve.  Many people walk the bluff trail many feet above the ocean for the beautiful views but I can never wait that long to get to the beach.  And it’s a big beach, taking you far into the distance – far enough that we started our standard beach walk conversation.  CB – “I’m about done.”  Me – “just a little bit more.”  CB – “we have to walk all the way back too.”  Me – “how about just to that rock/log/point?”   Eventually, he wins and we walk back to the truck…me lagging well behind!  You can also make a loop of both the bluff and the beach.  Ebey’s beach is littered with driftwood and well used by locals for both walking and fishing.  And yet, its big enough that even when the tiny parking lot is busy, it’s not too far into the walk before you are mostly alone.  The day we went was windy and the surf pounded the shore making for a lovely walk.

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And no trip to Whidbey is complete without a visit to Fort Casey which looks out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  On our first visit to Fort Casey, the entire Fort was open and you could explore all the rooms through the bunkers and buildings.  It was a test of my trust when he took me through “The Switchboard”, a narrow passageway that runs around the outside of a room in one of the buildings.  In the dark!  Where there could have been spiders!  Yep, that’s love there!  Even though its all closed up, its still a great place to visit and you are almost guaranteed to see deer and rabbits frolicking as you walk up to Admiralty Head Lighthouse and peer over the bluff to the water below.

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Lest you think that this was all about beaches, I assure you we managed to fit in a few other activities.  We spent part of a day wandering around Langley, a small artist type community on the south island overlooking the water.  The main street is lined with shops, restaurants and a wine tasting room. We visited Prima Bistro, a French inspired restaurant where I had a tough time deciding which of the lovely items to try off their menu.  Fresh clams?  Penn Cove Mussels?  Cheese and Charcuterie?  All that went by the wayside when I saw my favorite – Croque Madame with house made bread, Parisian ham, gruyere cheese, a fried egg, and béchamel.  With a cool drink, it made a lovely brunch!  CB had to have the Fish Frites (fish and chips for those who do not parle francais) served with a caper remoulade and fennel slaw.  He declared it was the best fish and chips he’d had in some time which is saying something – he’s a bit of a Fish Frites hound.

Prima Bistro

We walked off our meal visiting some of the shops and made our way up to Callahan’s Firehouse – a glass blowing studio in, what else, an old firehouse.  If you go, ask to see what’s in the back – where they keep lots more inventory of hand blown glass.  I did not leave empty handed.  We also stopped at Ott and Murphy Wines for a lovely spot of red wine and on our way home, at Blooms Winery tasting room. I’ve always enjoyed their space in the historic Bayview Corner Cash Store where they have art, gift items, some lovely bites, and usually live music on Sunday afternoons.

One Saturday, we met with a friend, formerly from Juneau, at the farmers market near Langley just off the main highway that traverses the island – not far from Blooms.  It was one of the last for the season but we managed to fill our shopping bag with fresh veggies and bread and held firm resolve against the lovely pies and pastries.  Looking for a place to sit and catch up, we drove south on the island, following our friend as she turned off the main highway and drove some ways through the forest until we arrived at Mulkiteo Coffee Company where they not only roast the coffee but they have a lovely little café with both inside and outer seating (maybe you want to sit on a horse saddle stool?), a nice menu including breakfast served all day.  It was a lovely place to sip coffee and catch up!

And no trip would be complete without a visit to Coupeville – well, actually it was three visits.  We had to go to the farmers market where we were able to pick up baked goods, fresh veggies, and a lovely pair of earrings for mom-in-law, all while debating an order from one of the food trucks parked among the stands.  20151003_095013Our second visit was a day that started and ended at the Knead and Feed.  We had to have a pastry from the upstairs bakery to fortify us for wandering through the shops that line this little town on Penn Cove and ducked back into the downstairs café for a light lunch later.  And since we are, after all, us, we had to drop in for a little tasting at the Vail Wine Shop where they have both reds and whites open so you can sample before you buy, which of course we did!  Our last trip is a tradition for as long as I can remember – lunch at Toby’s Tavern with Dad and his wife.  As with so many buildings, Toby’s has some history.  The back bar was originally brought around the horn and took up residence in Fort Worden in the officers’ club sometime around 1900.  It moved to Fort Casey and then to the Central Hotel in Coupeville.  After a fire at the hotel, the back bar moved to Toby’s.

We also took some time to meet with friends of our homeowners, who we actually made contact with through the Trusted Housesitters site.  As petsitters, they handle daily visits when people are traveling but were interested in meeting us to recommend for those folks who want someone to stay in their home.  We had a lovely visit and exchanged information.  As of this writing, we have one new contact and are about to embark on a new housesit because of these connections.  And Rachel?  Well, we decided we will actually leave Juneau in the summer (I know – no Alaskan leaves in the summer but there you have it!) so we can visit with her again.

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Growing up in Juneau, Alaska meant very little locally produced food. We have the proteins mostly covered – my family hunted moose and caribou in Alaska’s interior – dad’s idea of a vacation – and we hunt deer in the fall and do some occasional grouse hunting.  Then too  there is the incredible bounty from the sea – all varieties of salmon, halibut, cod, clams, crab and shrimp – for which we are eternally grateful.

But when all is said and done, there’s not a lot of land available between the mountains and the sea for farming.There was a dairy in town long before I was born but the land became the town’s first shopping mall accompanied by a variety of businesses stretching south along…you can guess this…Old Dairy Road. I was in my 20s before I saw an apple hanging on a tree, a sight that thrills me to this day. (See my prior post on apple orchards.)


Cabana Boy loves radishes (!) and laments that we can’t buy anything but plain red radishes that are usually on the old side.  A local produce manager tells us radishes, in particular their leaves, don’t keep very well as they are shipped north in a refrigerated van so they don’t even try. Back in the day, we ate “boat eggs”, shipped in by barge and weeks old.

Things have become much better recently for finding locally made foods.  We live near the Alaskan Brewery which has grown their distribution throughout the western states but still retains the craft brewery vibe and awesome seasonal brews.  We can smell Heritage coffee roasting their beans when the wind is right.The Wild Oven and Silverbow Bakery provide fresh baked breads to local restaurants and there are some artisan foods available at markets held periodically.  But fresh produce is limited to what we grow in our backyard, including a huge quantity of rhubarb, and what can be purchased at the end of the short growing season from the folks who have overflow from their plots in the community garden or greenhouses scattered here and there in Juneau and neighboring (and by that I mean a 4 hour ferry ride away) towns.

So when we travel, we love to visit farmers markets, local seafood producers, cheese shops, dairies and of course, wineries.  Our first search in a new area is to find places where we can buy locally produced food and our recent foray to Vancouver Island was no exception. The homeowner left us Creekmore Coffee, roasted just up the road from her home.  From there, we checked out every supermarket, natural food market, little food shops we saw on our drives, and the Qualicum Farmer’s Market which was the only one open in the winter.

The farmer’s market produced some green onions, squash, and carrots, a loaf of bread, and some whiskey bacon.  Also available was locally roasted coffee, some meats, and various jams and jellies.  We branched out into other food emporiums and this is what we found.

Island Farms – Dairy products of all varieties, including the critical half and half for my morning coffee.  This is a corporate dairy but they do make their Island sold products in Victoria from local dairy milk and are readily available in most markets.

Avalon Dairy – Not actually on the Island but rather in Burnaby in the Fraser Valley, I found their half and half in Naked Naturals, a natural foods store.  They had me at certified organic and of course the cute signature glass bottle didn’t hurt.

Fanny Bay Oysters – Lovely little briny oysters harvested from right off the beach near their processing facility.  Nuff said!

French Creek Seafoods – down in the French Creek Marina, these guys have lots of different fish and shellfish, including lots of local stuff but it wasn’t fishing season so most things were frozen.   On the list for a return visit.

MooBerry Winery – located on a farm between Parksville and Qualicum, they produce some wonderful fruit wines including apple, blueberry and my favorite, raspberry.  Drink it as a after dinner sip or mix a little with champagne for a delightful treat.

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks – in the MooBerry tasting room, you can also watch them make cheese and sample some until you find your favorite.  I love them all but their brie is especially yummy and I discovered spiced cheese, a lovely white cheese speckled with cumin, which I believe is related to dutch Leyden cheese.

Hillier’s Gourmet Foods – a lovely discovery on our very first day during a drive to Port Alberni, thanks to their sign which was visible from the road.  We knew we’d hit the jackpot when a local lady insisted this was the “best bacon on the island”. So we bought a half dozen slices, along with some sausages, and were delighted by the different seasonings, Ukrainian inspired perhaps.  We ended up going back for more and a nice steak for dinner one Saturday night.

Island SodaWorks – naturally fermented probiotic low sugar sodas made in Errington. Yes…soda.  I rarely drink soda as I don’t like sweet drinks but these are light, not too sweet and so refreshing.  We found them at Unicorn Farm and bought all the flavors but my favorite is the Ginger Salal.   I hear the Skookum Tonic is wonderful if you are a gin and tonic fan. And did I mention the weekend tacos?

Tree Island – the piece de resistance in my mind, I found their yogurt in Naked Naturals and realized my search for locally made yogurt may be over, at least on the island. I have raved about some local yogurt Mom and I had in Scotland and have been searching for a similar experience ever since.  These folks came very close.  We were delighted by the vanilla bean specks in the Cream Top Vanilla,  their lightly flavored Lemon, and the unique Chai spiced. Even Cabana Boy, never a yogurt lover, succumbed to their charms.


There were so many other food experiences and I’m sure a summer visit will produce many more local fruits and veggies but I felt we made a successful start.  Now if we could convince their liquor stores to carry a better selection of Okanagan wine!

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Adventures In Housesitting

You’re going somewhere you’ve never been to housesit for someone you’ve never met?  And there’s a dog to care for? Really?

That was the reaction from our parents, which we expected, but also from some of our other family and friends, including, I suspect, a few that did not say the words but thought them just the same. Regardless, that’s exactly what we did…and this is how we did it.

I’d read about housesitting as a less expensive way to travel over the last few years and was intrigued and it wasn’t just because it could help us travel more on our soon to be fixed income by eliminating lodging costs.  When we travel, we like to really learn about an area, to live like locals, shop at the grocery, cook the foods, see the places that locals go. We like to stay long enough to really explore.  And housesitting came with a bonus – most housesits are actually petsitting and since we no longer have pets of our own and aren’t likely to get any because of our travel, the thought of a furry companion for a week or two or even more sounded great.  We’d taken care of pets for friends, housesat for family and felt like this was the next logical step.

The website that came up most often was  and I began to look at the options there.  (I’ve since been watching and  Eventually I paid the nominal annual fee, created an account, and signed up for their daily email showing housesitting gigs listed each day.

There were many from all over the world, most from the United Kingdom and Australia and a scattering from other countries, but there were also enough in the US to keep my interest.  Finally The One came along.   The listing was for a housesit in Parksville on Vancouver Island and it included caring for a Springer spaniel.  It seemed like a great fit.  Canada is our neighbor and frankly doesn’t feel like a foreign country most times (well, until they offer gravy with french fries!). We had a Brittany spaniel and are familiar with bird dogs. And we have been to the island but never got very far from Victoria so we’d like to see more of it.  We talked about the dates and how they would work into our other travel plans and decided that with a few modifications, including leaving my truck in Seattle when we came home for the holidays, it could work.

I contacted the homeowner through the website messaging system, authoring a cover letter that gave a little background on us and all the reasons listed above as proof that we were the ones for the job.  Not long after, I got a message back saying she was interested in us and we exchanged email addresses, followed by pictures, specific details about what was expected, and in short order,  an agreement that we would be housesitting in January.  It was so exciting.

When the dates drew closer, we exchanged travel plans, agreed that we arrive the day before to meet the owner, S, and her dog.  We were a bit nervous when the day came.  Would she like us, would we like her, would the dog comfortable with us, would we like the house and area?  All those anxieties were put to rest as soon as we arrived.


The house was more beautiful than the pictures showed and the dog was rubbing against my legs like a cat within the first 2 minutes.  We talked, sharing our life stories and found that S had fifteen responses to her posting – she says she chose us because of the spaniel connection and we were from Alaska. Fifteen responses!  We felt the exhilaration of being the chosen ones!

We went through routine of feeding the dog and walked through the house to see where things were located and got instructions for special items like the complex garbage/recycling system required in this area, that the mail should be checked occasionally, and how to use the security system.  We pressed for things we could do to help out and she finally offered that we could pick up some of the tree branches scattered by the wind.  We had dinner, packed our things into the guest bedroom, and turned in for the night.

The next day, S headed off on her vacation and we were left to our own devices for two weeks. We walked the dog, explored a little of the area, marveled at how beautiful the home was and counted our lucky stars that we had found this wonderful opportunity.

We’ve spent the ensuing days just living in the moment in this place.   Every day, we are awakened by a cold, wet, spaniel nose and feed her breakfast while we drink coffee.  Then its off for a walk at the beach, one of the local parks, or through one of the little towns.  Qualicum Beach has the oldest average population in Canada and Parksville is sixth. We feel young here!   The people are friendly and the shops and restaurants are plentiful. We shop for groceries, searching for local foods.  We’ve cleaned up those branches, including one on the garage roof, and swept pine needles off all the patios.

But above all, we spend time with the dog, enjoying our new furry friend and laughing at her antics.  We feel comfortable here, in the area, in the home and with our foster furkid.  And judging by the fact that she thinks I’m her personal pillow for napping, I think the dog is pretty comfortable too.


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National Park Tour Part Two – Yosemite

I remember some years ago when I took the opportunity to drive through the redwoods in Northern California, a park employee recommended Yosemite as the premiere California park destination. I’ve always remembered that and so it made the short list of required stops for this road trip.

On our way south from an overnight in Alturas in northeast California, we came over a hill and got a surprise – Mono Lake with its white edges and tufas spread out below us. We stopped at the visitor center for a closer look and enjoyed the exhibits explaining how tufas are formed including a replica that was made to be touched. Tufas are created when underground spring water containing calcium leaches up and mixes with lake water containing carbonate and forms crystals which build hills over time.


After exploring the lake, we decide to stay in Lee Vining, a small town whose claim to fame is that they are the gateway to Yosemite and has hotel prices to prove it. The Lakeview Motel is clean and convenient but only the upper section has a view of Mono Lake from several miles away.  As its late in the season, some of the shops and restaurants are closed but we found a diner dinner and hit our pillows early.

After a walk for coffee in the morning, we begin the drive, climbing up to 9949 feet at the entrance to the park – Tioga Pass.  From there we drive into what turns out to be our favorite part, the rocky upper portion of the park with gnarled trees growing out of bare rock, smooth flows of rock topped with random boulders, and beautiful Tenaya Lake.


We continue on and drop down yet another twisty winding road to Yosemite Valley where we can look up at El Capitan and see Half Dome from the bottom.  It is pretty with a lovely creek running through boulders, but it is busy even on an offseason weekday so we don’t stop for our planned picnic here.  Instead, we climb back out of the valley and choose to return the way we came rather than drive out to the south through Mariposa or out the west entrance.  It is just as beautiful in reverse and we take time to check out a couple of campgrounds in anticipation of our next visit before stopping at Tenaya Lake for a picnic and a bit of wading. (It wasn’t that cold, honest!)  I’ve been itching to climb the rocks and we finally stop at one turnout where clambering over the rocks affords us a beautiful view of the valley.


All the way back out of the park, we talk about what we want to do during our next visit.

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National Park Tour Part One – Crater Lake

While we were driving through Oregon, we decided to drive through the south side of the Columbia Gorge and up through the Deschutes River valley. This twisting winding drive down one side of the river and up the other would have been really fun in a sports car! Returning to the river for some rafting and fishing are definitely on our list. We dropped down into Bend Oregon and passed through quickly, hoping to stop at the Lava Beds National Monument at sunset but we were greeted with locked gates – closed for the season. So on we went, hoping to find somewhere to stay along the road before the turn off to Crater Lake but nothing really presented itself – again, several things were closed for the season. On we went to Klamath Falls where we checked into a Shiloh just off the highway.

Up early the next morning, we drove back to the turnoff towards the Lake and crossed wide flats of cow country and a couple small settlements that included some small cottage type lodging options – wish we’d taken the chance to drive in here the night before. On we went towards the mountain in the distance until we finally left the flats and started driving up into the pine forest. We stopped to take a picture of a river canyon and were amazed by both the chill in the air and the pine scent it carried. Onward and upward and we came to the visitor center where we bought a National Park Passport and put the first stamp in it. Then came our first decision – do we drive the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. As the driver and photographer, I chose – counterclockwise so the morning sun would be behind us as we looked at the lake.

We stopped early on to walk up to a viewpoint and found that the elevation does take its toll on a couple of sea level dwellers – the air felt thin – but the view was well worth it and the forest was so peaceful.  While the star is the lake, the trees are equally amazing in their own ancient, twisted way.P1050550~2[1]

The view from the first overlook is a rock formation called Phantom Ship – it is possible to see it from other viewpoints as well so you really get a see its different sides.

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Back in the truck, we found the road to be very twisting, narrow and some areas of sheer dropoffs on the side,  but the views were well worth it. There are many viewpoints to see the incredible color of the lake and a few places to picnic, though none have a view of the lake.  However, there is only one place to get to the water and it is supposed to be a very steep dusty trail – we were going to try it but it was the only truly busy area outside of the the visitors centers so we skipped it.

At another viewpoint, you can see the crater wall and a rock formation called the Castle – it is a completely different color as the wall it perches on and reminds me of the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.


While we were there, this little chipmunk came out to visit.  He was obviously used to people and seemed ready to run up my pant leg looking for a handout.  When I had nothing to offer, he ran up on the sign and posed for this perspective shot.


Back down the mountain, we stopped again to look over the river canyon and some interesting formations in the walls of the canyon – hollow spires of soil that looked like fairy temples.  We did not see those on the way up, pointing out that driving both directions around the lake would also have been a good idea.  I think a return trip will be on our list.