Saturday, September 11, 2010

Three Summer Trips

(Guest writing for Marin, Kevin)
This summer we didn't have any extended vacation trips, but we did have a few outdoor adventures. Since Marin works every other weekend, she was only able to join Molly, Keenan and I on one of them.

Christmas Valley
Our first trip was over Memorial Day weekend. While Marin has written about the events on Memorial Day, I will describe the events that Molly, Keenan and I had over the weekend. Saturday morning saw the kids an I heading over the Cascade Mts., with a packed car for a weekend of camping and exploring. Our first stop was the bouldering rocks outside of Sisters. Keenan and I discovered these rocks last summer and had a great time on them. Molly, Keenan and I had a fun time again scrambling over these rocks. There are a few spots where you can do top roping, but most are suitable for bouldering. There are quite a few rocks scattered in a beautiful Ponderosa pine forest.

Molly and Keenan on top of a rock after a successful climb

Molly working herself up between two rocks

A family portrait

After our time on the rocks, we headed into Bend to fill up on supplies for our camping trip. Both Molly and Keenan made sure we bought marshmallows so we could roast them over a fire. We bought the biggest marshmallows I have ever seen. They were billed as the perfect marshmallows for roasting. We'll see about that.

After stocking up, we headed into the wilderness southeast of La Pine. We stopped at the South Ice Cave to explore this lava cave. There is good reason for calling it an ice cave, as there are patches of ice all through out it. It can be quite dangerous since it is pitch dark in there. Even with a flashlight, it is hard to see what you are stepping on. We did get a few surprise as our feet landed on ice after stepping over a rock. I brought jackets for the kids to wear in the cave. Molly used hers, but Keenan being Keenan didn't want to wear his, even though it was probably 50 degrees inside the cave.

You can get an idea of how dark it is in the cave and the types of rock we had to climb over to make are way down into the cave. Going about a half mile into the cave, my protective, fatherly instincts kicked in. Since we were now in pitch black, with only one flashlight, I could see one of my kids getting seriously hurt down there. So it was time to turn around and head out. Both kids did fine and really enjoyed being in the cave. But what they really wanted to do was get to campground so we could set up the tent.

We stayed at Cabin Lake campground, which was an abandoned forest service campground. No running water or toilets. It did have picnic tables and fire pits. That is all we really needed. We were roughing it.

Molly and Keenan in the tent

The biggest marshmallows we have ever seen. We had canned stew for dinner, then we roasted marshmallows. The problem with these marshmallows being so big is that the outside gets burnt before the inside gets melted.

The next morning we headed down to Fort Rock State Park. Our first stop at the park was the bathrooms, since our campsite had none. Fort Rock is a tuff ring that rise out of the desert floor. It rises 200' from the ground and has a circumference of 4000 feet around. It is volcanic rock that has been eroded away by the ancient lake that surrounded it and today's elements. The sides of the tuff makes it look like a fort, thus the name.

Molly and Keenan sitting on the rocks at Fort Rock

Walking from one side to the other

It was a long walk, so the kids had to rest.

Looking down from the top of the rock walls.

We ate lunch in the town of Christmas Valley, then head to the Crack in the Ground. This was my favorite part of our trip. It is a volcanic fissure that is over 2 miles long. At some points it is over 70 feet high. It reminds me a little of slot canyons of southern Utah.

The start of the crack.

Deep in side the crack.

At one point the crack opened up to where sunlight could get down to the bottom, and up sprouted grass.

A tight fit.

They did a great climbing trough the crack and scrambling over rocks. After hiking the whole length, the kids were tired. We walked back to the trail head on top of the crack. Just looking out over the land, you would never know that just a few feet over was a large drop to the bottom of a 50 foot cliff. When we got back to the trail head, we meet a women who was catching scorpions. She showed us her can where she had captured about five of them. I kept my eyes on the ground walking back to the car.

To reward them for a hike well done, we stopped at the sand dunes before heading back to the camp site. This sand is from the eruption of Mt. Mazama, that created Crater Lake. After a busy day of exploring, the kids slept well. The next day we headed back to Marin's parents house to celebrate Memorial Day by roasting marshmallows.

Lava Canyon & Ape Cave
Our second trip came at the end of July. This summer our department had an intern from New Hampshire. She was always asking me about where to go hiking. I would give her suggestions on hikes to do over the weekend. On Monday I would ask her how was the hike, only to hear that she didn't go for what ever reason. So I decided that I would have to take her hiking. New Hampshire is a beautiful state with plenty of mountains, forest, rivers and some coastline. I wanted to show her something that she couldn't see back east; volcanoes! I choose Lava Canyon and the Ape Cave just south of Mt. St Helens. On this trip we had Laurel, the intern; Nicki, her roommate for the summer; Sarah, a women who works in my office; the kids and I.

We meet in Portland and carpooled up to the trail head. It was overcast all the way up there. I kept telling them that Mt. St. Helens was just behind those clouds, but I don't think they believed me. As we got close to our first hike, the clouds burned off and we were meet with this view of Mt. St Helens.

Our first stop was Lava Canyon. This is a hike down the canyon of the Muddy River, which was scoured out by all of the debris from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. As we rambled down the paved first section of the hike, we were meet by this sign below:
We continued on. I showed no fear on the outside as I watched Molly and Keenan race all over the place. Inside I was thinking how an I going to explain this to Marin if one or both fall into the river and are swept away. The scenery was too beautiful to keep my worries up. Molly kind of fell in place hiking with the other three women. I kept a close eye on Keenan, making sure he never got to close to the edge. Down the canyon we went, viewing a raging river that had carved out a channel through the volcanic rock.

This section of the river looked like a person could use it as a rock slide, gliding with the water through the twist and turns. But if you look at the picture above, where the water disappears over the edge is a very long drop. I'm guessing that is the reason for the sign.

This is the view we had half way down the trail.

A group photo on the "Indiana Jones" bridge.

Looking down from the middle of the bridge.

At this point the trail clung to the side of the cliff. It was too narrow for my own comfort knowing how Molly and Keenan hike. They bounce around the trail rather then walking down it. I told the three others that Molly, Keenan and I were going to turn around here. They could keep going and we would meet them at the trail head. Laurel, Nicki and Sarah decide that they were ready to turn around also.

Two thumbs-up for another hike well done.

After returning to the car and having lunch, we drove to the Ape Cave. A two mile long lava tube, it is divide into two section; upper and lower cave. We decide to take the lower section, which is 3/4 of a mile hike and easier then the upper. Climbing down the ladder into the cave, you are meet with 42 degree temperature and pitch darkness. You are advised to take three sources of light and warm clothes. We started down the lower section with everyone having a flashlight and gliding easily over the trail. Within 10 minutes, the ranger stopped and informed us that the lower section was closed due to an injured hiker. We turned around and decided to hike the upper section of the cave. We knew it was more difficult, but we didn't realize what we were getting ourselves into. According to the Ape Cave web page, it is a 1.5 mile hike which "Cavers must climb over approximately 27 boulder piles and scale an 8-foot (2.5m) high lava fall."

We completed the hike and Molly and Keenan did a good job. I have to tip my hat to Laurel, Nicki and Sarah with being patient with the kids and helping them out as we climbed over those 27 boulder piles. At the 8 foot lava fall, we teamed-up with another party to get over the obstacle. It was a great demonstration of team work. Along the way, we were passed by numerous other groups, but we kept on making are way through the cave. When we finally saw daylight at the exit if the cave, I believe there was a collective sigh of relief from everyone. Climbing out of the 42 degrees into the 75 degrees was welcomed by all. A slow walk back to the car in the forest was a good way to end a fantastic day of exploring the lava country of Mt. St. Helens

Inside the cave.

Merrill Lake

Our last adventure was to Merrill Lake with the whole family. It was great to have Marin along for the adventure this time.

With my time off at the end of the summer, I was hoping for a family camping and canoeing trip. I had heard about this lake from a co-worker who was going to camp there. What turned my co-worker onto this lake was the free camping. I liked the size of the lake and the fact that no motorized boats are allowed on it.

I was planning for a Tuesday/Wednesday trip. As the dates grew closer, the weather took a turn for the worse. Rain and cold temperatures. Camping in the rain is fine with me, but with two kids and a wife this is not a good combination. The camping part got cancelled, but we were able to have a day of canoeing. Driving to the lake, the rain was falling and the mood in the car was not great. When we got to the lake the rain had let up; but by the time I got the canoe off the car, it had started raining again. Marin was ready to wait in the car for it to stop. As she approached the car, the rain stopped! It was still cloudy, but it was not raining, let's paddle.

It is the right size lake for canoeing. Surrounded by forested mountains, you feel like you are in the middle of the wilderness. We started out paddling toward the other side of the lake for a picnic lunch. As we got further out, we saw an island and we decided to have our lunch there instead.

Our canoe beached on the island.

Family portrait

Molly trying to be a fisherwomen

The sun finally comes out.

After lunch, we loaded back in the canoe. The crew began paddling again and we headed toward the other side of the lake. In a dead tree on the bank of shore of the lake, we saw a bald eagle. It was perched high up in the tree. As we paddled closer, you could tell how large those birds are. We basicely got right underneth it and looked straight up at the eagle. I don't know if we have ever been that close to an eagle in the wild. Marin and I made some good time paddling down wind. When we got to the end of the lake, we turned around and headed back to the boat ramp. We didn't make that great of time heading into the wind. When we got back to boat ramp, the sun was shining. As we landed the boat, the kids headed for the shore to throw rocks into the water; Marin headed to a large rock to sun herself and I loaded up the canoe onto the car. We spent the rest of the afternoon just lounging next to this beautiful lake.

Back on shore after the paddle.

Molly still trying to catch a fish.

Marin's favorite part of the day.

Like mother, like daughter.

As we drove back into Portland, I think everyone had a grand time. I hope next time we will be able to camp at Merrill Lake as well as paddle on it.

Three very fun and exciting adventures that the Mattias' experinced this summer. Now that winter is upon us (even thought it doesn't start till mid December) hopefully we will be able to get out and have some more adventures.

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