9. National Park Road Trip…April/May/June 2016

day 24…5.14 
Wed all stayed up late last night, so we had a lazy morningbut no less special when you just sit around drinking coffee & chattingsomething I NEVER take for granted with my kids.  When your kids live close to you, those times must somedays just seem ordinary, but when you live far away from them & only see them a few times a year (at best), you dont ever take any of those moments for granted.

We headed into Eureka to tour the new Lost Coast Brewery.  It’s owner, a woman older than me, has an interesting history.  Their Tangerine Wheat is one of the few wheat beers I like…I call it my ‘lawnmower’ beer…I like it cold (most of my beer I drink a little warmer) & it’s great in the middle of a hot day.  It’s a low alcohol beer, so you can drink more than one.

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The other thing that I think is cool about Lost Coast is some of their labels.  Some of their labels are done by local artist named Duane Flatmo…I think his stuff is cool & quirky.  There’s a mural here in Eureka by him also.  He’s not doing their new beer labels, but I love his work.  Their was this funky statue in the lobby that mimics his work.

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We took the tour of the facility…it was good & I’m always interested to know some of the facts (how many states & countries they ship to; how much quantity they put out a day; their history; their most popular beers, etc.)  We tried a bunch of samples.  We all like their Raspberry Brown.

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They also had these great metal sculptures throughout the parking lot.  I LOVE METAL SCULPTURES!

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We went to a birthday party for two little girls…daughters of one of Pete’s good friends.  The weather was just barley holding out, but soon after we got back to the house it began to rain.  We laid low & just chilled until evening.  This is graduation weekend (when you live in a college town, you RARELY go out during grad weekend!), so we walked to a local pizza place then over to the yummy Logger Bar.  They delivered the pizza there & we sat for a couple of hours in this sweet little mellow bar.

day 25…5.15 
I was up early taking advantage of their washer & shower…then it was time to pack up.  The weather was rainy so not much to do outside.  Soon the morning was filled with hugs for the dogs, hugs for the boys, then more hugs again & again.  Everytime I think I’ve gotten beyond my ‘eye leakage’ condition, they sneak back & roll down my cheek (their sneaking back now even as I type & look over the pics of my sons!)  I was back on the road…the Redwood Highway —CA 101—I LOVE THIS ROAD! It’s narrow & winds around these magnificent tall trees with views of the Pacific at times….just perfect!  One of my very FAVORITE places to stop is where the Klamath River flows into the Pacific.  There is a pod of gray whales that live here, but I didn’t seem them this morning.  I’m always mellow when I leave one of the kids or Claire…mellow with a wet face.  So, very, very grateful for the time I have with them.  

This is a fantastic view & there was only one other person there this morning.  I pulled out some pbutter & crackers & water, sat on the top of a picnic table & just stared.  I LOVE THE PACIFIC OCEAN!  It’s calming, powerful, frightening, loud, comforting…all these things at once.  I’m such a lucky girl…& then my phone rang (wow!  I had service!) & I was Face timing with Claire!  So very perfect!  She is changing every single day…learning so many new words & practically running! 


Soon I was in Crescent City & my last view of the Pacific on this trip….I would be heading inland now.

From this fantastic ocean to some amazing rivers!  My route will lead me by some of the cleanest & clearest rivers in the country…starting with the Smith.  My drive takes me through the lovely Smith River Recreation area….just incredible.  You can stand on a bridge & look down at the Smith where it’s deep & see the detail of the rocks on the bottom.  Coming from a state where all of the lakes & rivers are mud brown—none I wish to play in—makes me love the Pacific NW even more!  I could sooooo live here!

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Once you leave the beautiful Smith, you find the Rogue river.  There are many pull offs for people to park & play, so I chose a random pull out to take some pics.


As I was standing there looking over the river, for maybe five minutes & I see a bald eagle…then another…then another flying low then up high….WOW….I LOVE TO SEE EAGLES! (My eagle photos are like my whale photos…I try but not the same as being there!)


I was up the road about 5 minutes when I saw another eagle flying by!  Just awesome!


I crossed over the border into Oregon & left my magnificent California!  Oregon is such a diverse state.they have the coast, awesome rivers, beautiful deserts, volcanic mountains, waterfalls everywhere & a ton of super great beer!  I stopped to check out the Rogue Gorge along the highway.



It was getting late in the day, the temps were dropping & it was misty & rainy.  I made it to Crater Lake National Park—my 11th National Park on this trip.  I visited with the Ranger at the entrance station for a little bit…most everything is closed here..zero trails open, no open campgrounds, no gasoline & this evening…no view.  He said the lake had been socked in all day with clouds.  They will still happily charge you to come in the park though….but…he told me a place I could pull off & car camp just outside the park, gave me the park paper info & I pulled a u turn & drove back down the road to find a site.  There was snow plowed on the sides of the road taller than my car.  Ten miles back down the road & much warmer, I found a good spot to park for the night (the bathroom was open & unlocked!)  Everytime I thought about pulling my stove out to cook some dinner, it would start to mist heavily again.  I hadn’t had much to eat, but I pulled out more crackers, nuts, water & my Kindle.  I read for the whole evening then tucked myself in for the night with the snowy forest all around me!


day 26…5.16 
It was dry when I woke up at 5:45 & light outside.  It takes me about 30 seconds to climb from the back into the front of the 4Runner…I used (gratefully) the bathroom & was back on the road up to the park.  I was driving slowly…taking in the views & being careful of possible slick roads.  I had no cell service & I knew the temps were cold, but didn’t know if it was freezing or not.  Not too far up the road, I braked for a deer running out through the trees.  I’d noticed a white SUV coming up from behind me, so at first opportunity, I pulled off to let him pass.  Instead he pulled up along side of me.  We both rolled down our windows & he barked at me “Did you hit a deer back there?”  What?  I said I’d just pulled on the road a couple of miles before…that I had camped at a pull off.  He yelled the same thing at me again.  NO... I replied, for the second & last time.  Someone got up on the WRONG side of the bed this morning…he took off up the road.  I’ve hit deer twice in my life back in Kansas…I’ve never driven away from either one of those encounters-- one of those totaled my car.  The ‘deer police’ wasn’t going to ruin my morning…I was pretty grateful I hadn’t hit anything!

This is my third time to Crater Lake & I’ve never once been here at a time of year to hike much or even do the Rim Drive.  I knew I was coming super early in the year.  Their website has good info, but it had said the lodge was opening yesterday, but the ranger said it wasn’t going to be until the 20th…no view & hot chocolate from their magnificent lodge.  Glad I’d been in it before, it’s one of the National Parks super awesome lodges.


The Visitor’s Center didn’t open for three hours, but I walked around up near the lodge, climbing over some snow to get some views of the lake.


I was the only one in the parking lot….check out the snow!


There was a mile road plowed to a view point open to cars, & then plowed a few miles beyond that open to hiking.  You can take hundreds of photos of this lake.  It wasn’t the jaw dropping turquoise this morning (I’ve seen that before & it’s incredible!), but magnificent none the less!



I hiked up the road to the first viewpoint, which was gorgeous, but clouds were headed over the lake…there would be no point in hiking 1/2 mile to the next one….it was getting thick.  But before the cloud descended, another couple hiked up to the same place I was standing.  A little older than me, they were from Colorado.  We visited all things National Parks & travel (they’d been to Patagonia…boy-- I had to show restraint not to ask them about that…I want to go there so bad!) & both photographed the lake..over & over.  And then an eagle flew over….floating on the thermals….it was magnificent & quiet & just perfect!


We hiked back to the cars together.  He was so impressed by my 4Runner…I told him I was too!  I stayed at the viewpoint for another 45 minutes….looking for the turquoise color to appear in the water.  I only found a little area near Wizard Island.


I drove down to the Visitors Center, bought my ‘Claire’ postcards & stayed to watch the movie about the park.  Then I drove up to the cafe & gift shop…waiting to see if the sun would bring out the turquoise in the lake.  Thank goodness someone plowed the sidewalk!


I’d been in the park about 4 hours…long for not hiking much, but I’d planned on two days (don’t ask me why), so I took off backtracking down the highway because the North Entrance isn’t opened yet.


I now had time to hunt for a couple of Oregon’s waterfalls.  When the northern highway met an east/west one, I headed west.  I’d have to back track later, but I’m great at backtracking!  I’d asked about gas stations…they are MIA in this area!  At the Visitors Center they told me there would be one at Diamond Lake.  I pulled off at the first entrance to the lake & drove down the road.  The lake was beautiful & I pulled off to take a pic…but I had noticed something black in the air.  There were swarms of some kind of flying insect…& THEY WERE EVERYWHERE! The buildings were covered in black, the air was thick with swarms & you could hear them hitting your car.  When I stopped to grab my camera, they instantly covered by hood & windshield….ICK!  I wasn’t getting out in this! (pic taken through my windshield)  I didn’t see a gas station or anything around, so I turned around & went back to the highway.  I snapped a quick pic through the windshield at my last view of the lake.



The highway is lined with the forest…lots & lots of forest.  Nothing else.  It’s beautiful, but desolate.  I found the sign for Clearwater Falls & pulled off, grabbed the camera & got out.


Next stop was Watson Falls…funny thing is, I didn’t have either of these falls on my radar…I was headed farther up the road.  But, I followed the signs & wasn’t disappointed.  Watson is highest falls at 293’ in southwest Oregon.  I may not be hitting the mountains at the perfect time for hiking, but this is definitely a great time to see waterfalls!  It’s a bit of a hike to get there, but it was beautiful!



Toketee Falls was the point of my drive…although I love the ‘bonus’ points & random surprises you have when your agenda & time frame are wide open!  This hike boasts 200 steps to climb, but it’s a great little hike along the stream & in the woods….& the falls were breathtaking!


It was time to turn around & re-drive the 25 miles back to the northern highway.  I was keeping a close eye on the gas tank & figured I had enough to get to the next town without trying to find the gas station at the second entrance to Bug Lake….I mean Diamond Lake.  I was headed to Bend…I’ve been through there once before but didn’t have the time to explore it.  I have always heard fantastic things about Bend…they have so much to do there.  My way to explore the town would be on the Bend Ale Trail.  There are about 30 breweries in Bend plus Cider places & tap houses.  Oregon makes great beer!  The Ale trail consists of 16 breweries…you get a Passport at the Visitors Center, so that was my first stop.  I asked my 10 questions I had, picked on info & headed out for my beer hike.  You get a prize if you get 10 stamps (one stamp for each brewery) & 2 prizes if you get all 16.  In order to be listed on the brew trail, you’ve had to be open at least one year & serve beer at least 6 days a week.  I was hungry…my crackers diet over the past two days wasn’t doing it for me…so I headed to Deschutes Brewery (stamp #1)…Oregon’s largest brewery.  I had an amazing burger & 6 samples.  We get their beer back in Kansas & they didn’t have anything special on the beer list…so I was kind of disappointed in that, but the atmosphere was cool & the burger & salad super good!  I had a great conversation with a local guy who told me he’d just bought a ’79 Westphalia….that sounded cool.  So, we talked travel apps & camping for awhile.

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I walked around downtown for a little bit; most of the stores were closing but I managed to get into a local craft gallery for a peek.  Bend Brewing (stamp #2) was just around the corner.  A young guy visiting from Portland started a conversation & we talked Oregon beer…love these random chats!  The beer was good, but not amazing.

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A few blocks away was a place on the passport called St Francis (stamp #3)…but the sign said McMenamins pub.  I had a cider there…they didn’t do tasters.  The guy wasn’t too friendly & said I had to go into the hotel for the stamp…he kind of acted pissed off he wasn’t given the right stamp.  Evidently this place also has salt water pools you can float in…kind of bizarre.

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My last stop for the night was too far to walk but I was told by the guy at Deschutes that this was the brewery with the best sunset view & HE WAS RIGHT!  It would also turn out to be the best beer I had of the whole Ale Trail.  No tasters to buy here either…samples, so when I tried it I knew I was in Beer-Heaven!  It was a Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout….soooooo damn good!  A huge beer, it would need to be my last of the night.  Crux (stamp #4) was such a cool spot with soooo many great little outdoor places to sit.  There were a lot of people there, but it didn’t feel crowed.

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I took my magnificent beer outside & sat on a bench facing the sun.  A couple sat next to me & we had a great conversation.  They ran a cattle ranch in Fresno, but came often to Bend in their RV.  They loved it here…they fly fish, drink good beer & seem to take advantage of Bend’s other outdoor pursuits (dog sledding in the winter).  I was pretty tired having started my morning at Crater Lake about 6:15, my short hikes to the waterfalls, a big burger & the beer…but what a superbly lovely evening…drinking a fantastic beer, visiting with like minded people & watching the sunset.

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day 27…5.17 
My morning started at Starbucks, as it usually does when Im in a cityvs being in the forests or wilderness.  They open early & have bathrooms & electricity…so I plug in & drink coffee & make some phone calls, work on this site, check email, etc.

My first stop on the Ale Trail this morning was confusing…I got directions to the  Rat Hole Brewing Company (stamp #5) but when I got there it was called the North Rim Brewery….long story, but they had the right stamp & some super great Peach Chili beer….interesting at 11:30 am but had it with some yummy Mac & Cheese made with some of their beer.  I only ate about 1/3 of it, drank a bunch of water (I swear this trail takes more water than a 6 mile dirt trail!).  They also had a super friendly owner & a neat bar.

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I originally had a Deschutes brew tour set up for tomorrow at 1pm, but ended up changing that to today.  I found my way over the wonderful Deschutes River & to the brewery.  You got four samples with your free tour, so I moseyed around the taproom, which was pretty cool.  The boys had been up here in March to snowboard at Mt. Bachelor & took the brew tour too…they’d told me it was great!

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The tour was very good & once again, I loved learning about their environmental practices (just awesome) & all the little facts of the history of the brewery & it’s beer.  Danny & I both really like their seasonal winter beer…Jubleale.  What I didn’t know is that they invite a local artist to make a new label each year…I loved seeing the hall with all the original artwork, then each bottle next to each other with all the different labels from the past years.  Our guide was super awesome.  Their employee break room is amazing complete with 2 chefs…they eat two meals a day there & wow…did it smell great.  Another thing I learned was that their ‘spent grain’ from their beer first goes to the third floor which is their bakery…so the grain goes into the breads & buns for the restaurant & the rest goes to a local cattle farmer who feeds it to his grass fed cows (it’s their last meal) then the beef comes back to the restaurant…which is why my burger was so yummy yesterday.  I really enjoyed the 45 minute tour & have no doubt that Deschutes is one of the top 10 places to work (from Outside Magazine).

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I was headed back downtown & passed Silver Moon Brewing (stamp #6), so I stopped in for a taster….It was totally empty except for the cook & the bartender.  

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My next stop was Sunriver Brewing (stamp #7) which was a really cool place—the staff was super friendly & nice. I had a sour that was pretty good.  In between all this beer, I’d eat my left over mac & cheese & drink water…this is turning into a quest..sort of, but I’m getting to know my way around & surprised that Bend is not a very big town….but oh. so. cool!

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It was time for a break, so I found Mirror Pond (Lukes favorite beer & one that Deschutes makes is named after this pond).  The Deschutes river is such an important part of this community….you can see SUP’ers & kayakers playing in the water.  Mirror Pond is a section of the river that’s been dammed (sort of…it makes the pond)…now a source of controversy as there’s a movement to set it free.  It will be noteworthy to see what happens.

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There’s a short hike here in the center of Bend, that’s more of a local’s workout area than hike.  Pilot Butte rises up in the middle of Bend…a mile up to walk or you can drive it, but either way has 360 degrees views at the top.  I chose to walk the path & it was great to be back on a dirt trail!  The views were wonderful of the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor & Bend below.  I even saw Black Butte…the namesake for Deschutes Brewery famous Porter.



I hiked back down & stopped in a the Oregon Store downtown to see what things are made here….I LOVE STORES LIKE THIS!  I bought a couple of postcards for Claire & a little something for someone else & continued on the Ale Trail.  I had heard my next brewery was ‘different’.  Read great things about their beer, but heard it was just a ‘shed’.  And when I drove up, that’s exactly what it looked like. Boneyard Brewery (stamp #8) was an old metal building…but when you got inside, it was wild!  Filled with black & white & red skull-themed everything.  A tiny spot, but filled with people.  The staff was dressed in the same theme & all were tatted up big time.  They only sell tasters, but will fill growlers, screamers & crowlers.   I had been told to try their ‘Diablo Rojo Fuego’ beer…a red chile beer which was dynamite.  So much going on inside my mouth & all my other senses dancing around in this crazy atmosphere.  I would love to spend more time here!  Hated to leave, but if I’m ever back in Bend, I’ll definitely be back to this brewery.  Crazy, fun, wild & so very interesting!  (PS:  All the other’s breweries have nice little stamps that fit into the squares….loved loved loved Boneyards stamp!)

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Stamp #9 came from Craft Kitchen & Brewery…I’d also be eating dinner here.   I sat out on the deck & ordered one beer & BBQ sandwich.  The beer was good, the food just ok, but the view was wonderful….watching kayakers & SUP’ers out playing on the Deschutes River.

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Before my last stop on the Ale Trail, I wanted to try a place Pete had suggested called Atlas Cider.  Pete’s a cider-drinker & thought this place was really good…so that was where I found myself next.  I had samples of their 6 ciders…three I thought were really good & loved the atmosphere of the place.  I sat by a young couple that lived both in San Diego & Bend.  She was telling me all kinds of places to visit while I’m here….what a great hang out spot!

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I put the next brewery in my map quest app & took off…turns out it’s back across town, next to the Sunriver brewery near Mirror Pond!  It was a busy hoppin’ place but I found a seat at the bar.  The food looked & smelled amazing & I’d wished I was eating here rather than the dry BBQ sandwich I’d had earlier.  They don’t sell tasters here, so I ordered a Cucumber Crush…it’s a cucumber sour beer & it WAS FANTASTIC!  I sipped it slowly & enjoyed the last of my Ale Trail Beer…it had been quite a hike!  10 breweries (plus one Cider place & a brew tour with four samples) in 27 hours!  My quest was completed.  I had a couple of icky beers, some ok beer & some great beer!  The thing about the Ale Trail is I went to places I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise & definitely not in this short of time frame.  I know it would have been fun to share this (& the costs of some of the beers) with someone else, but…no one else is here.

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Since I wasn’t in hot pursuit of any more beer today, I took on another quest…one much harder to photograph but totally free (& no alcohol involved).  I LOVE THAT BEND HAS ROUND-ABOUT ART!  I’ve never seen this anywhere else, but read about it while doing some research about Bend & picked up a map at the Visitors Center just pertaining to this trail.  Bend had a ton of roundabouts, which I think are super efficient….only some of theirs (I think about 20) have art in the middle.  So, after receiving stamp #10 & finishing my amazing beer, I tried to drive around town to see how many pieces of art I could see before night fall.  The tricky part is trying to photograph them…sometimes you can pull off the road, or into a gas station & at other times, you just have to try ‘drive-by-shooting’.  I just fell in love with this idea & looked so forward to every single round about I’d come to!  This one changed colors…ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME, KNOWS HOW I LOVE BLINKY LIGHT-UP THINGS…THIS WAS AWESOME!

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Soon it was too dark to hunt for any more & it was time to call it a night…it had been a long but super fun day & I LOVE BEND!

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