Western States, September 2014: Yellowstone to California

 Yellowstone to California

We left Yellowstone last Thursday morning (September 11) and drove through Idaho, into Oregon and finally into California. In Idaho we saw the mountains around the ski resort of Sun Valley and visited the lave fields called the Craters of the Moon. Here there is evidence of the re-birth of life (from lichen to small trees) in a vast expanse of black lava, which comes in many forms from sharp basalt rocks to dusty ash. The terrain was used in some of the early astronaut training and one can imagine the lunar rover picking its way over some of the most forbidding landscape.

Craters of the Moon Lava Hill

Craters of the Moon Lava Hill

Struggling for Life in Craters of the Moon

Struggling for Life in Craters of the Moon

On entering Oregon we followed the Pioneer Trail for many miles and actually were able to walk in the ruts made by the wagons over 150 years ago.

Oregon Pioneer Trail Wagon Wheel Ruts

Oregon Pioneer Trail Wagon Wheel Ruts

Vast Oregon

Vast Oregon

We then reached the mighty Columbia River which we followed to our two night stay in Hood River. From here we followed the old Columbia River Gorge tourist route (popular since the early days of the car) and viewed several of the magnificent waterfalls formed when the Gorge was carved out as a result of a breach in an inland sea ice wall over a thousand miles away in northern Montana. The climax of the drive was at Vista Point where we had magnificent views of the River – upstream towards Hood River and downstream towards Portland and the Pacific Ocean.

Columbia River from Vista Point

Columbia River from Vista Point

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge

On leaving Hood River we visited Mount Hood (11,000 feet and snow-covered year round) and climbed (by car) as high as the Lodge at 6000 feet. Actually Robert and I walked a little further up the mountain to a point where the Pacific Rim Trail crosses.

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

From Mt Hood we drove south to Redmond and visited another lava field near the town of Sisters. This field is the result of an eruption that occurred only 2700 years ago – a second in geological time – and consequently has very little in the way of vegetation. However, it is slowly beginning its re-birth and if we come back in 1000 years who knows what we will see? DSC03480 On Tuesday we spent four hours in Crater Lake National Park which is a 2000 feet deep body of water in the hole created by a massive eruption 7700 years ago. The water level is at 6000 feet and the rim around the lake reaches heights of almost 8000 feet. The mountain itself had been 12,000 feet high before it blew its top! The entire drive around the lake (30 miles) provides some magnificent views and with deep blue water, pastel blue skies and deep green pine trees it is virtually impossible to take a poor photograph.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

On Wednesday we crossed from Oregon into California and entered the Coastal Redwoods area and made a couple of detours and several stops to view these magnificent trees. These are considered the tallest of the Redwoods (not the largest girth, but still huge!) and can live as long as 2000 years or more. We made one lengthy stop to walk the Lady Bird Johnson Trail, named for the former First Lady and her work on landscape beautification across America. Apparently she had been particularly enamored by her visit to this area.

Magnificent Redwoods

Magnificent Redwoods

Today, for the first time on the trip, we saw a lot of rain. We were fortunate that it didn’t interfere with our walking and viewing plans but we went through some torrential downpours as we approached Eureka – our final overnight stop before San Francisco. More then we hope, Bob and Molly

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