I didn’t linger in bed watching the morning talk shows. Instead I was up and working on the final packing for a travel day. I don’t rush. It’s a do a little, have a little breakfast then do some more type of activity. It was close to the 11AM checkout when I pulled out of the campground in Gold Hill. The air was hazy with smoke and the temperature was in the low eighties. At the completion of my 90 mile move to the coast, it was clear with temperatures in the mid seventies.
Most of my trip was on US 192 from Grants Pass Oregon to Crescent City California. It’s known as the Redwood Highway and is primarily a two lane road as it climbs over the coastal range down into the Redwood National and State Parks. I had read reviews of the road on the internet that ranged from horrific to easy travel. With the wide range of opinion about the road, my stress level was higher than normal. Judging by how tired I am this evening, it must have been much higher than normal. It turned out that the climb and most of the trip through Oregon was easy. The California part was the down hill part. It included a tunnel and many sharp turns around rock slide prone cliffs and steep drop offs. I met and successfully passed several big trucks going in the opposite direction at less than desirable locations. At times I had to go pretty slow to safely negotiate some of the turns and managed to get a few cars backed up behind me. There were plenty of turn outs to allow others to pass. Overall it wasn’t a bad drive.
The worst driving part of the trip was the last few miles through the redwood forest. The trees add an additional complication. Tall redwoods six feet or more in diameter line the road. The pavement winds between the trees. The turns seem sharper than the ones around the cliffs at higher elevations. I think it was a very pretty area, but I didn’t really have a chance to look at the scenery. Tomorrow I’ll go back and check the area out.
I wasn’t able to buy gas in Grants Pass. As I feared the station that was accessible for my large rig, was full of cars. I would have had to wait in the busy street for an available pump. I continued on my journey to the coast. I found cheap gas, for California, by a lucky mistake. The sign for my destination campground is not very visible from the highway. I was passed the entrance before I knew I needed to turn. Looking for an easy place to turn around, I found an Indian Casino with a gas station about seven miles up the road. Gas was $3.359 a gallon. I put $100 worth in today and may fill the tank the rest of the way on Friday when I leave here.
After stopping for gas I returned to my destination. It was just before 2PM when I arrived. I’m at the Crescent City/Redwood KOA for two nights.
The temperature was in the comfortable range today. It peaked in the mid eighties and the smoke wasn’t a big problem. Today was the best day since the Milepost 97 fire started last Thursday afternoon. Visibility was better and you couldn’t really smell the smoke for a change.
Today is my last day in this part of Oregon. I’m moving to the coast tomorrow. The first two nights will be in northwestern California and then its back north along the Oregon coast. I needed to get a few groceries, so I drove into Medford this morning. The Walmart Super Center was realatively new and big, but it had a smaller grocery section than I’m used to finding. The food aisles were shorter and narrower. To fit the entire variety of products they seemed to only stock the larger sizes of packaged products. I don’t have room for a large box of Cornflakes and I don’t use big cans of vegetables. I got the essentials of meat, bread, milk and a few other things and will wait until next time for the right size packaging on other items.
Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax. I’m trying to take advantage of that to buy a few things that I need or just want. I don’t have a list, just random thoughts and memories. To prompt my buying urge, I’ve been wandering through stores. Some people call it shopping. I just look at it as an indoor walk. So far I’ve only bought a couple of shirts to replace a few stained and ratty ones in my current wardrobe. I expect to visit the inside of a few more stores over the remainder of my stay in Oregon.
Back at my RV home this afternoon I started the travel preparation process. For some reason I’ve gotten more stuff out than usual at this stop. I got caught up this evening so I won’t have anything additional to complete in the morning. The one hundred miles of travel tomorrow will not be easy Interstate driving day. I have to travel on a twisty hilly route over the coastal mountains. I never know what I’m going to come across.
The forest fire smoke conditions today were a little better for most of the day. Late in the day the smoke settled in a little more, but it wasn’t a big concern most of the day. The temperature was also much more pleasant in the mid eighties.
Late this morning after a leisurely breakfast watching the overnight residents pack and depart, I resumed my scouting mission for an easy to access gas station. I should put gas in the RV when I travel on Wednesday. With just less than 100 miles to travel, I could get by without filling up. The tank would be likely be under a quarter full when I arrived at my destination in California. Every indicator I’ve seen says that gas on the California coast is significantly more expensive, so getting gas in Oregon is worth the hassle.
I found one station in Grants Pass on my exit route with easy access as long as it isn’t very busy. If the pumps have a line up, I’ll have to skip the station. There isn’t sufficient room for me to wait without my back end sticking out onto the road. If I miss that opportunity, there is one other possibility I saw 35 miles down the road in Cave Junction on my last scouting trip. After that, it’s probably California.
On my way back to camp I stopped at the Ti’lomikh Falls on the Rogue River again. When I was there last week I saw a couple of rafts running the rapids. I hoped to see similar action today. The trails were empty and the river didn’t have any action either. I spent some time watching the water flow over the rocks and taking pictures. A couple of times I thought I saw fish trying to fight the current, but the location was well away from the bank. It may have just been wishful thinking.
Tomorrow I’ll make one more shopping run before I leave the big city area. I know there are plenty of stores on the Oregon coast, but I won’t be there until Friday. The two night stay in the northwestern corner of California will be busy seeing the sights. Starting Friday I’ll be in the Coos Bay area for four weeks at two different campgrounds. I plan to range up and down the coast a hundred miles or so north and south from Coos Bay while I’m there.
The heavy smoke filled the valley overnight and all day today. The previous two days have had some noticeable variation in the smoke density, but not today. The milepost 97 fire is burning over 9000 acres on both sides of Interstate 5 now. The campground I’m staying at is located at milepost 40.
This morning I made a search for clear air and visibility. Thirty miles to the south was just as bad. I couldn’t see the details on the sides of the valley. I looped back 15 miles to the west and it wasn’t any better. It’s really kind of depressing. Luckily I’ve seen most of the things I wanted to visit in this area. I have two more full days in this area before I move on.
I spent most of the day inside watching TV and reading. The NASCAR race from Pocono PA and a little bit of golf kept me from total boredom. Late in the afternoon people started arriving to fill the campsites vacated this morning. Watching people park and get setup has its own level of entertainment value. I’m sure watching me setup is equally amusing to others.
The smoke in the area from the Milepost 97 fire fifty miles to the north shifted away from this area Friday night. This morning the haze was much lighter and higher up. The sky directly above looked blue not gray and the smell of wood smoke was not present. It didn’t last all day, but it was nice while it lasted.
The fire is now over 9,000 acres. Responsibility for fighting the fire has been transitioned from the local county firefighters to a state response team. They are settling in for a long fight. Baring a very favorable wet weather system lingering over the area, they are looking at thirty days or more to get the fire controlled. This is definitely fire season. Several other small fires have been reported in the area today. One was along the side of Interstate 5 about three miles south of my campsite. It was controlled and put out in a few hours.
Late this morning I went for another hike in the Valley of the Rogue State Park. The trail along the river is an easy hike with nice views of rapids and calm sections of the Rogue River. Last Saturday there were lots of people rafting and kayaking in the river. Today I didn’t see anyone on the water. It might be concern for the smoke or just my bad timing since there were cars with trailers at the boat launch. I still enjoyed the exercise and the scenic river.
Late this afternoon the wind or other steering currents brought the smoke back to the valley. The smell of burning wood, hazy fog like conditions and a very red sun were the dominant characteristics. Eventually I retreated inside my RV home with the AC on.
I woke up this morning to a very hazy day. The wind direction changed overnight and the smoke from the Mile Post 97 fire had settled into the area. The fire had also increased in size from a few hundred acres to around seven thousand acres by the end of today.
The smell of burning wood was in the air and there was a fine white ash on my car. The amount of smoke varied throughout the day, but the sky never cleared. The sides of the valley went from invisible to partially visible through the smoke haze. Similarly, the sun was blocked by the haze most of the day. Toward the end of the day the haze lifted enough that a red ball sun was visible through the haze as the sun set.
I went out for groceries and to start the scouting mission for a gas station to fill the motorhome on my departure next Wednesday. Oregon gas stations tend to be smaller with tighter turns. They only need to have as many pumps as they have staff to service the pumps. The smoke in the Grants Pass area, nearer the fire, was thicker than at my RV home. I drove west on the Redwoods Highway about thirty miles and the smoke haze persisted. My search for a good gas station wasn’t that successful either. I’ve got a few more days to figure it out. Going a few miles in the wrong direction is always a possibility.
Loaded up with enough food to last another week, I returned to my RV home around 3PM. I decided the prudent thing to do was close the RV windows and turn on the AC. Other than a few minutes to cook a couple of hamburgers on the grill and another couple of minutes to take a picture of the red sun, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening inside. The fire is expected to continue for weeks, so I need to plan my activities accordingly.
The weather forecast for today predicted temperatures in the high nineties with some locations in the area reaching triple digits. Yesterday in this location was in the low to mid nineties, but I was about six thousand feet higher in elevation at more than seven thousand feet in the Crater Lake National Park region. The Crater Lake National Park area was only around seventy. By the time I got back down to my RV Home at 1200 feet in altitude the peak temperature of the day was starting to wain. Today I had to deal with the heat.
The overnight temperature was still in the comfortable sixties. I’m parked under heavy tree cover, so the temperature doesn’t rise quickly. The inside temperature was still in the seventies by noon. Outside under the trees it was a few degrees warmer, but out in the bright sun it was uncomfortable. By about four in the afternoon, it was time to close a few windows and turn on the AC. The temperature in this area reportedly peaked at 97 degrees.
Everything is dry including the air and forest fire danger levels are very high. On Tuesday there was a small forest fire between here and Crater Lake that was quickly brought under control. Late Wednesday a bigger forest fire started about fifty miles north of here along Interstate 5. They are calling it the Mile Marker 97 fire. Crews have been fighting it since Wednesday evening. It still isn’t completely contained or under control. Some residents have been put on alert for evacuations.
Every year I hear about fires in the west. Now that I’m our here it is easy to see how they can get out of control. Everything is so dry. There isn’t more than an occasional light and short rain shower to dampen the vegetation. All of the grass that isn’t irrigated in some way is brown and brittle. The ground under the trees seems to be equally dry with the deadwood prime for burning. Then you add in the wind and a major fire isn’t far away.
I didn’t leave the campground today. A little relaxing and a few chores filled my day. Tomorrow will probably be a grocery restocking day.
I got another late start today, but I didn’t wimp out on a drive up to Crater Lake National Park. I arrived the park after 11AM and the first parking lot I tried to get into was full. I continued on to the main area at Rim Village and managed to find a place to park. My first view of the lake was stunning. The huge mass of deep blue water surrounded by steep rock and dirt walls is very impressive.
I was concerned about finding parking places on the drive around the crater rim, so I elected to leave the driving to someone else. I booked a seat on the 1PM 33 mile 2 hour trolley tour. It is a Park Ranger lead tour that stops at a number of overlooks around the rim. The ranger provides a continuous narrative with plenty of stories along the way. It was well worth the money.
I took about 120 pictures. Here are some of the interesting ones.
I got a late start this morning that caused a change to my plans for the day. My plan to drive the eighty miles to Crater Lake National Park at the top of the Cascades will have to wait until tomorrow or the next day. I don’t want a repeat of my trip to Mount Rainier National Park last month. There is nothing worse than arriving after all the parking places at the popular stops have been taken.
Trying to be optimistic, I set out for the National Park anyway. Traffic along the Crater Lake Scenic Highway was heavy and I wasn’t making very good time. The decision to put off the trip until another day was made along the way. I stopped about halfway at the Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery. Oregon has a lot of hatcheries to compensate for all the dams on the Salmon spawning rivers. This hatchery is right below the Lost Creek Dam on the Rogue River.
This hatchery has a more year round fishery support role than the hatchery I visited on the Columbia River, but my visit was still during a slow time in the spawning and rearing activity. The majority of the pools and holding ponds were empty. There were a few ponds with juvenile fish from the winter and spring spawning. A couple of holding ponds have started to get filled with fish making there way up the fish ladder for the fall spawning. I watched the ladder for half an hour and saw two fish attempting to make the last jump into the first holding pond. Clearly the run hasn’t started yet. This fish ladder is more than 1500 feet above sea level, so the fish have work to do to get to the hatchery.
After visiting the hatchery and the day use area on Lost Creek Lake, I returned to my RV home to get a head start on one of tomorrow’s tasks. The long delayed laundry finally got done. I had to do two loads just to get caught up on my dirty clothes. The towels and bedding remain for another day. Two plus hours of schlepping laundry, waiting for and then monitoring machines is enough for one day. The good thing is this campground’s laundry is one of the cheapest I’ve encountered. It only took 5 quarters for each washer and 4 for the dryer.
It was another hot day in the mid 90s. There was one nice temperature mitigator today. A breeze blew cooling air all day. Tomorrow is forecast to be a few degrees cooler.
Today started with a drive to the big city of Medford Oregon. It’s about 15 minutes south of my RV home along Interstate 5. My mission was to get a haircut. My last hair cut was in March back in Florida. Let’s just say I didn’t look like myself. I found a SuperCuts that didn’t have more negative reviews than positive on the Internet. The last couple I’ve considered were not highly regarded. I try to use SuperCuts or GreatClips fore haircuts. The franchise guaranties at least the experience, if not the cut is consistent.
Freshly coiffed, I stopped into a few stores looking for anything and nothing at the same time. Then I returned north toward my RV home the long way. I took the Crater Lake Highway northeast before cutting back to the west along the Rogue River. Tomorrow or the next day I plan to finish the trip up the Crater Lake highway to the National Park.
On the way back to camp I stopped at the Golden Nugget Wayside parking area and hiked down to the Rogue River. Dillon Falls is located along this stretch of the river. A couple of rafts were pulled up on the far bank after coming through the rapids and a single kayak was “playing” with the whitewater. The guy would try to paddle up river through the heavy rapids by hugging the bank. Once he lost headway he would turn the kayak enough so the nose would swing around and he got to ride the whitewater back down the river. Since he was parked at the Wayside parking area beside my car, I think he was just having fun in the river, rather than really trying to make his way up river. Several other people were also watching the kayak show.
When I got back to the campground I had all new neighbors. The area of the campground I’m in seems to turn over every night or two. Last night I only had immediate neighbors behind me. Tonight I have neighbors on both sides. With both sides occupied, it is a little tight. It’s good enough for another week.