Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon - August 17 - 21, 2009

We then moved on to a different volcanic story, that of Crater Lake. We entered Crater Lake National Park by the North entrance. All that we had read about going to Crater Lake spoke of entering the South entrance off Highway 62 and that the campground would be nearby. Since we were traveling from Idaho and going South, we couldn't see why we should go miles out of our way to enter the South entrance. Well, we probably should have as I would not recommend that entrance if you're driving a 40' RV with a car in tow! Entering from the North takes you right through the park which meant we were traveling up the large mountainous, narrow road with drops offs and no guardrails. We had seen signs that say "Abrupt Edge" -- very scary when you looked down at the steep drop offs. Rene did great, but I was hanging on and putting the breaks on and can say for the first time, I was nervous. But with a big sigh of relief, we made.

Crater Lake National Park protects the deepest lake in the US. Fed by rain and snow -- no rivers or streams, the lake is considered to be the cleanest largest body of water in the world. The water is exceptional for its clarity and intense blue color.

The lake rests inside a caldera formed approximately 7,700 years ago when a 12,000-foot-tall volcano collapsed following a major eruption. The eruption (known as the Great Mazama eruption) may have been the largest in North America in the past 640,000 years. Later eruptions formed Wizard Island, a cinder cone near the southwest shore.

There is a 33-mile loop around the top of crater with many pull offs for viewing the lake. There were also many different hikes to view from various vantage points.

We spent a day hiking on different trails -- did a couple short walks in the morning and then tackled the 3.3 mile hike up Garfield point. Sure was worth it -- what a view!

There is only one trail down to the water (a steep one) - Cleetwood Cove where you can take a guided boat ride around the lake, which we did. Tour was lead by a Park Ranger what pointed out interesting places/facts about the lake. They also allow you to swim in the lake -- water is about 55 degrees and felt refreshing when I put by feet in.

We were treated with viewing a bald eagle while touring on the boat.

I found it fascinating that the lake was strictly filled by rain water and snow melt considering the depth of the lake -- 1,943 feet, and six miles wide. After the floor of the volcano cooled, which took decades, it then took centuries to fill. The water level remains pretty constant. What was amazing about the lake was the color and why was the water so blue? Crater lake's depth and extreme clarity allow sunlight to penetrate many tens of feet into the water. Sunlight is made up of all colors, and as it passes through the water red light is the first to be absorbed. Orange, yellow, and green are absorbed next, leaving only blue light to be scattered back to the lake surface. The color of the lake changes as the sun and clouds shift, and the appearance of the lake's surface is also altered by wind and wave patterns.

We loved Crater Lake National Park and would recommend a visit to this unique place!

Craters of the Moon, Idaho - 8/14 - 16, 2009

Moving westward, we camped at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho for a couple of days. This was a place where ancient volcanoes created a bizarre landscape featuring massive black cinder cones, where caves formed from lava flows and the vast expanse of twisted lava hardened. This barren landscape is 1,100 square miles of national park (about the size of R.I.) This volcanic area was created with two plates in the earth collided forming huge cracks in the earth. In time the lava exploded. In 1969 the Apollo 14 astronauts, including Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell came here to study volcanic geology in preparation for a trip to the moon. We know now that the moon is much different.

There was a 7-mile loop around the park with various places to stop and walk to get close up view of the lava. I learned about 'a'a lava (thick lava that is rubble-like - looks like piled rocks) and pahoehoe lava, very fluid flowing lava that is smooth and rope-like.

We climbed what was called Inferno Cone, a half mile trek up this steep mound, that is a massive natural pile of cinders, that levels off and then there is a second mound to climb to the top. The climb was worth the grand view we saw of this strange landscape with its seemingly endless expanse of black lava, the vast openness, the trees and other vegetation that strive to survive this harsh area.

There was a short walk to see spatter cones. These were formed near the end of a volcanic eruption when the hot lava was shot only a short distance into the air and fell back around the vent opening. The lava built up, creating walls resembling mini volcanoes.

Some of the most interesting volcano features were the lava tubes that formed caves. We were able to crawl down for a closer inspection. The National Park Ranger told us that Shoshone Indians likely witnessed some volcanic eruptions along this great rift. He also told us that they used the caves in various ways -- to store buffalo meat in the cold recesses of the caves, but also used the caves for protection against their enemies. They could hide easily.

I continue to be amazed at the flowers, trees and shrubs that thrive and have adapted to this harsh environment. In all, a very interesting place to visit and glad we stopped!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jeepin with Friends - Estes Park, CO

We left Wendy and Troy on August 10th to meet up with friends we had met in Red Bay, AL. They were camp hosting at Rudi Reservoir, CO for the summer and we planned to camp with them for a couple of days in Loveland, CO.

Meet Maddy, Don and Linda's year old Goldie -- we fell in love with her!

Maddy loves to go jeepin too and we wouldn't go without her.

We went jeepin somwhere in Estes Park and had a great time.

Maddy is checking out what's going on behind us.

Whoopie Pie Mission

While we were visiting Wendy and Troy, whose house is at 8800 feet, I was on a quest to bake whoopie pies at that high altitude. Wendy had said everytime she made them, they would taste delicious, but they were flat and crumbly.

I ended up trying them three times -- the first was that I only changed the recipe to use crisco instead of butter. I used Hershey chocolate powder, lessened the baking powder and soda. They came out pretty good, rose nicely, but were not chocolaty enough. I also felt they were a little dry.

The second time, I again used crisco, used 2 eggs instead of one, changed the chocolate to baking chocolate. The results are at right. These tasted pretty good, but the chocolate taste wasn't quite right.

For the third trial, I used Nestles pre-melted chocolate, crisco, 2 eggs, a little less sugar, baking powder and soda. These came out the best of all.
Mission Accomplished!

Royal Gorge - August 9, 2009

On Sunday, August 9th, we went with Wendy to Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Canon City, Colorado. (Troy, unfortulately, had Guards that weekend). On the drive over at the end of an exit ramp was Mamma deer and her little one at the end of an exit ramp. We were afraid for her as there was lots of traffic, but people were slowing down and hopefully she made it across.

Royal Gorge Bridge is the world's highest suspension bridge that only took six months to build, beginning in June 1929 and completed in November. It is breathtakingly beautiful, is 1,260 feet long, that crosses the Arkansas River.

We took the tram over first for a good viewing of the bridge and then we walked back over on the bridge.

In addition to viewing the Royal Gorge from the bridge, we rode the world's steepest inclide railway down to the bottom of the gorge.

Wendy and I at a viewing point on the bridge. This was well worth the visit.