Fremont National Forest Fun

Tumalo State Park has a few caches in it, but we left without finding any, mostly because we wasted some time on a bad hint on one and another looked like it was going to be a longer walk than we had time for. We did have time for breakfast at Shari’s Restaurant before leaving town; warm comfort food washed down with hot coffee.
It was slightly misty outside, which suited my mood and memory. The Shari’s is right across the street from the Shiloh Inn that my ex husband and I stayed at a few times. He had always wanted to move to Bend, and we had gone as far as to meet with a realtor and consider houses and jobs in town, but ultimately we stayed in Texas. If we had gone then, we might have stayed together, it is possible. Part of what drove our misery together was his misery over living in Texas, or not living in Oregon, or sacrificing his dream of Bend, although to be fair, he never made any efforts to make it happen. I felt like he wanted me to make it happen for him, although it wasn’t my dream, per se. I did always like Bend, though, and we spent quite a few weekends here both when we lived in Oregon, and when we visited later.
These are the things I remembered as we left town: the store where we bought presents for an impromptu third birthday for our oldest son during a break from deployments, a restaurant, a bar, a hotel we visited during our weekends there, a turn off even for caches we found later on. I was surprised at both how much I remembered, and the details I couldn’t conjure up.
And soon, we were on the road, this time heading down a road familiar to me – to his parent’s house, a few hours drive from here. My kids were there, they had been spending a week with their grandparents in Oregon that they hardly ever get to see. Part of the reason I chose the West for our vacation was to give them a chance to have this visit this summer, since their dad wasn’t able to take them. They had been there a week, since I had handed the kids over to my ex’s aunt in Ashland, Oregon the following Friday. This was the first time I had seen my ex’s parents since the divorce, and indeed it was the summer before that happened that I had last seen them, so three years had gone by now since I had pulled up at their drive. They had also never met Jason, who took the place of their son in my life, so all this has me a little nervous.
I knew the way to their home, still, and remembered some of the landscape, although this day, due to our explorative nature, Jason and I saw parts of the wilderness along the drive that I had never seen before.
We spent quite a bit of time at this rock formation in the above picture. Although we never did find the cache that was our incentive for getting out of the car there (coordinates were like 50-70 ft off and the hint was bad), we had a really good time walking around out there, feeling the cool Oregon air and listening to the wind blow the trees around.
We pulled off several times along the way to drive down forest roads in the Fremont National Forest. These roads appear on the map something like, “200” or “260”, but in reality are just dirt roads with no signs used by loggers or wilderness enthusiasts, hunters maybe. A few times we weren’t sure we were on the right road – in fact we probably wasted half an hour or more than morning on wrong roads – but we did find some cool places.

This is one of those cool places – aptly named “Hole-in-the-Ground”. This is an area known to geologists as a “maar”, formed by a series of eruptions that caused magma to come into contact with ground water, forming a crater in the ground. The road around the rim is 3 miles long, and we made it all the way around, but not without crashing into a rock and causing the bumper of our rental car to get pushed out of place in an area, which Jason fixed when we got to my former in-laws, having to borrow some tools to my ex-stepfather-in–law. It was interesting….but we had a fun adventure tale to tell, which took some awkwardness of the moment away.
When we got to their house, we were literally at the border of Oregon and California. We had stopped at the Burger Queen for lunch before their house (my favorite place to eat in the Lakeview, Oregon area, reminiscent of former visits), and when we left their house, it was mid-afternoon, and time to get a move on to get to the next leg of our journey – Mono Lake, CA, which deserves its own entry.

Crescent Lake

In between the Salmon Cascades near Sul Doc and the Hurricane Ridge viewpoint, we stopped here to complete the requirement for a virtual geocache.
This place reminded me of Bear Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park. I think it was the way the mountains cupped the lake between them. I have a picture from my younger days of a day at Bear Lake and it looks almost just like this photo.
There are a number of trails surrounding this lake, with one of them leading to “The Devil’s Punch Bowl”, a popular swimming and diving hole. Lake Crescent Lodge nearby offers accommodations to overnight guests that are an ideal base of operations for exploring nearby areas, including Mount Storm King.
What is interesting about this lake, I think, is that its depth has proved hard to measure. I think to this day, no one really knows how deep it is. Originally, it’s depth was recorded as 624 feet by the National Park Service, because that is how far equipment could measure in 1964. However, later in this century, as they tried laying power cable in the lake, the depth was recorded as 1000 feet…because again, that is how far the equipment of the time could measure. It is officially the second deepest lake in Washington, even though the actual depth still remains a mystery.

Hiking link for Mount Storm King:

GC1AA06 The Crown Jewel: The Unforgettable Smith River

One of the other highlights of this day of our trip, besides the Eight Dollar Mountain Road and subsequent mud issues, was an exploration of a section of trail in the Smith River National Recreation Area that lead to the confluence of the Middle and South forks of the Smith River.
The hike we took was not a long one, but was scenic. A wet, dripping dark green laced trail led to an area where you had to go down a little rock ledge to this overlook.
This area is part of the Six Rivers National Forest that forms the east and northern boundary of the Redwood Forest, stretching from Northern California to just past the Oregon border. The area is composed of 957,590 National Forest acres and 133,410 acres of other ownership.  Of this space, 450 acres were designated as part of the Smith River National Recreation Area by Congress in 1990 for protection of wild and scenic rivers, ecological diversity, recreation opportunities, and sustained productivity of natural resources.

The Smith River is unique in that it is the only river system without any dam in California. This means that the entire river system is accessible for any length of trip by rafters and kayakers.  Due to the lack of a dam, though, and also to the rocky watershed that contains little soil to hold moisture, the river only runs well during a rain or within a few days after.  February is said to be the best month to kayak or raft the river, with the season running from November to April.

Some of the best fishing in the US is said to be offered by the Smith, including trophy sized steelhead trout, chinook salmon and other game fish species.  Besides rafting and fishing, camping is a popular activity. There are four campgrounds in the area. Some hikes lead to popular swimming holes, and there is always opportunity for bird watching or plant/wildflower walks.  The summer weather is allegedly dry and in the 80-100 degree range, so of course it figures that the day we were there, it was like 50 degrees and raining.

We were there for, you guessed it, geocaching along the trail. Since I really enjoyed the location and this cache find, I left two travel bugs in the cache that I brought from Texas for the next finder. This is another place I would like to spend more time in next time we are ever in this area of the country, and a place I would recommend to others traveling this way.