From K’s journal…
Just outside of Medford, we stop at RoxyAnn Winery to taste their award-winning Pinot Gris. The hillside of vineyards are breathtaking and a delicious way to start our hike through Oregon. In Umpqua National Forest, we climb to the umpqua hot springs. The pools stair-step down the cliff where clothing is optional. There is a warning sign that nude bathing is common, but much more concerning is crossing the wooden bridge marked “unsafe for crossing,” After the ascent, we settle into one of the the four tiered springs. Each natural pool juts out from the cliff and a rushing cold-water river at the base creates a lavishing paradox. The largest of the pools is covered by a make-shift roof, and decorated with peace signs, rainbows and candleholders but it’s too hot to bask in the spa for long, so we hike back down. We make sandwiches for lunch, and cool off in the river.
Within the Umpqua Forest are twenty-four known waterfalls. Clearwater Falls and Whitewater Falls are breathtaking, but Tokeetee Falls is unforgettable. The trek alone is inspiring but after wondering through dripping trees and lush rain forest, the trees open to a 40 foot decent of plummeting water. There, the water pools into a turquoise filled cliff before spilling over again to cascade down striated rock. A moss-covered opening has been carved out at the base, where the water appears quiet and serene. The air on the hike back is so thick with humidity that every photo appears misty and soft. We wander from the path and find the river that feeds the falls. Several smaller spouts carve their way through tall rock, and are completely shaded from the sun. Here, a giant fallen tree creates a four-foot wide bridge to the lush cliffs that wait on the other side.
The next morning, a hot, pumice desert is our pathway to Crater Lake. From stone to snow, we ascend into a winter wonderland. We learn that the park has snow eight to nine months of the year, and it is often too hazy to even see the sunken lake. We wait patiently and America’s deepest lake is soon revealed to us. There is really nothing like it. The lake is only five miles wide, but its water is the richest cobalt blue. Wizard island juts up from the depths and, where the land touches the water, it forms an outline of teal green. It is said that this is also one of the cleanest lakes on earth but it didn’t form quietly.
The water is cradled in the fractured remnants of Mount Mazama, a volcano that erupted so violently that the structure imploded on itself. Now 7,000 years later and 1,943 feet deep, eruptions continue to form beneath the surface, growing cone shaped landmasses such as Wizard Island.
Every step of our voyage is educational. We’ve learned that we know nothing about history, geography, and politics within this land. And everything we did know is layered in more enlightenment. Sometimes these life lessons are earth moving, other times, they are just little nuggets of knowledge learned through experience. Falling into that category was our first stop at an Oregon gas station. Alfonso went to reach for the pump and heard “stop, you can’t do that!” Turns out you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon! It is one of two states where customers are banned from fueling their own vehicles (New Jersey is the other). In Oregon there is a $500 fine for pumping your own fuel.
Oregon Dunes Nat. Rec. area forms part of the Oregon Coast, Eugene is full of tie-dye and VW buses, and in Salem’s state capital we sit in the governor’s chair. Matt Groening grew up in Portland and named several of the characters of The Simpsons from the street names, and here the Idaho inspired painting is displayed at the Portland Art Center.
Along the Columbia River Gorge there are more amazing waterfalls including Horsetail Falls, but Multnomah Falls is a celebrity as the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Bridal Veil Falls is covered in dripping moss and has less of a tourist appeal, so it quickly becomes my favorite. Along our hike, we snack on wild strawberries, raspberries along the cliffs, and before leaving the state, we fill our little fridge with rainier cherries from a tree that arches over the road. The natural beauty of Oregon certainly ignites all five senses.