Monday, June 30, 2008

6/30/08 The following pictures were from the last part of our trip to southern Africa. They start in Capetown and go north to Namibia, Botswana and into Zambia. More pictures from earlier in the trip will be posted tomorrow (hopefully). Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2008

6/27/08 We are now at Mike and Marilyn's place on Agency Lake just north of Klamath Lake in southern Oregon. They have a very nice house and have provided us with a great parking space with a beautiful view of the lake. The weather has been beautiful and we all have been doing projects during the day and then having Happy Hours and dinners together. Almost every day Elaine and I drive down to the wetlands area (for waterfowl) where we can do a long walk and appreciate nature at the same time. There has been a big mix-up with regard to something important that had to be sent to us, so we will have to stay about 4-5 more days until that item arrives. After that we will head a bit further north and also try to hook up with a few of the RoVing Rods for some fishing at a nearby reservoir.
Prior to coming here, we were camping at Lava Beds National Monument. As we approached the Monument from the south, on a road that was totally deserted and had lots of chunks of asphalt lifting up to create potholes, we were wondering what we were getting ourselves into. Then we found the very modern Visitor's Center with friendly and helpful rangers, and the small but adequate (and nicely priced, especially for us Oldsters) campground, and we knew we would enjoy it there. Lava Beds National Monument has over 500 lava tube caves, and the first day we were there we hiked in one on the guided ranger hike. It was a challenge in several places because the top of the tube was low so we had to "duck walk" for a while to get through it. Good thing they supply flashlights and require hard hats (we used our bike helmets) because nearly everyone was hitting their heads in the low spots! We learned a lot about lava flows and the most important thing we learned was that we didn't really need to hike through the other 500+ caves...
In the following days, daily we drove to one of the park features and did a hike. One day we hiked to the top of Schonchin Overlook, which is a manned fire lookout station with great views. It is at the top of a cinder cone. The view of Mt. Shasta from there was excellent, and we could also see snow-clad Mt. McLaughlin in Oregon in the distance too. There were beautiful wildflowers all along the path. Another day we drove to Mammoth Crater and did the Big Nasty Hike, which was different because part of it was in a pine forest. The variety of wildflowers here was good and different from other hikes. At Symbol Bridge there was a lava cave with lots of pictographs in it, painted by Native Americans from long ago. Lave Beds also has an area where there are petroglyphs but we never drove over there because it was quite far. Another day we hiked to the Thomas/Wright Battlefield, where the Modoc Indians got the best of the army patrol that was trying to catch them to relocate them to a reservation in Oklahoma. That was the last battle that the Indians won and they ended up losing their ancestral homelands. Sometimes we lament that we have such a sad history where the Indians are concerned, and then we remember that they are now getting the best of us at the Indian Casinos! Oh well, enough commentary; please see a few pictures below. By the way, if you ever end up going there, the campground spots look too small for long RV's but there really are about 6-8 spots where you could fit and B-23, which was our spot, was the largest and we even had our slides out. With the Golden Access Pass, it was $5/night. There is no dump station but water is available and there are nice bathrooms.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

6/17/08 Yes, we finally were able to leave Magalia last Saturday, when the main road to Chico, called Skyway, was reopened. The fire was still burning in other parts of Paradise. We were able to see many burned areas, although not the areas where houses were destroyed. Because the weather forecast was for temps over 100 degrees, we wanted to head for the high country. We also had never been to Lassen Volcanic National Park, so that became our home for the next few days. We were somewhat dismayed when we looked across the beautiful landscapes and our views were marred by very smoky air. Yes, it was from the fire we had left behind! Another surprise was that there was still quite a bit of snow here, enough so that we could not take the Bumpass Hell trail. This was a real disappointment because this is the main geothermal area. Also, some of the campgrounds were not open yet, because of the snow. In order to get to the only open campground where our rig would fit in a site, we had to drive all the way through the Park to Manzanita Lake, which is very close to the north entrance. One of the perks of getting to be as old as I am, is that I now have a Golden Access Pass. This got us in the park for free and gave us 50% off on camping, making it $9/night. The campground was only about half full and we got a nice spot to collect sun on the solar panels and the openness allowed us to tune in the satellite TV. So there we were with our slides out, and most of the perks of modern day life (but not phone or internet as our air card wouldn't work here), while our neighbors were tenting. The days were sunny and the temperature was perfect (about 75), but it got down to 45 at night. The second day we walked around Manzanita Lake, which is a beautiful small lake surrounded by trees. We then drove back into the park to explore the Devastated Area. This was an area which had been totally destroyed by lava flows in 1914 and 1915 when the last big eruptions occurred at Lassen. Now the area is reforested and you can barely tell that there was an eruption. An interpretive trail helps explain everything and shows some interesting lava rocks. After that small hike, we drove to the Summit Lake campgrounds (closed) and walked around Summit Lake. There were still patches of snow there.
Monday, before we left Lassen, we walked around Manzanita Lake again and saw 4 deer and a muskrat. Then we drove to Lava Beds National Monument, which is where we are camped now. It is located very near the Oregon border up near Tulelake. It is a 14 mile drive to get in here from highway 139 over some fairly crappy road, and there was no traffic at all, so we wondered what we were getting ourselves into. Then we arrived at the very nice visitor center and campground area and were relieved. There are 2 loops in the small campground and most of the sites are designed for tents. But there are 4-6 sites where fairly large RVs can fit, and because it wasn't busy when we arrived, we got the largest and most level one. Here we are only paying $5/night and there are lots of nice juniper trees all around us. Today we just took care of a few things at our rig and then took a guided tour with a ranger through the Catacombs Cave. There are lots of lava tube caves in this park (over 500!) and about 10 of them are open for exploring by the public. We also went through the Mushpot Cave, the only one that has a few lights. In order to go through the caves, you have to have a hard hat (we wore our bike helmets) and a flashlight and we recommend wearing hiking boots. They loan out flashlights at the visitor's center. Tomorrow we are going to drive to a few more of the various formations and also do some hikes to other attractions, such as pictographs. The weather is about perfect here - 80 degree days and about 50 degree nights. The campground isn't really busy so it is quiet. And this place is better than Lassen because our phone and air card work here. I am posting some Lassen pictures below and will post Lava Beds pictures next. I would also like to get back to posting more Africa trip pictures in a few days. Our plan is to stay here until Saturday and then drive to Agency Lake, just above Klamath Lake, to stay with our friends Mike and Marilyn Harrison.