Al and Dale’s Grand Volcanic Adventure
July 7 – 11, 2014
2014-7-7 Monday, Day 1, To Klamath Falls, OR via I-5, US97: 353 miles
I had to talk my ol’ buddy Al into meeting me at Paulina Lake, near La Pine, Oregon, for some kokanee fishing. Really, it wasn’t so hard to do. Nowadays he has the only boat between us, and I have the only motor home. Together we’d have all we needed to fish Paulina Lake in comfort. We’d stay in its primitive campground with community faucets and pit toilets, but no electricity or water at the sites. Even so, with his comfy little pontoon boat and my coach, we could fish the lake on his patio boat and also “camp” in a well furnished cabin with all the conveniences we’re accustomed to.
I began Day 1 by loading the coach for the five day trip. The loading seems to be hard work nowadays, and I was pooped when I began the trip north. The day was hot, and was predicted to hit 111° in Red Bluff and Redding, valley cities I’d be driving through on I-5.
Crossing the mighty Sacramento River near Red Bluff, CA
I stayed cool with the dash air conditioner running nearly all day. I drove through the valley and into the Mt. Shasta area. Lake Shasta was very low, even scary low. But I’ve seen it nearly as low before and we’ve always seemed to have enough water even in the dry years such as we’ve had recently.
Crossing the very low Lake Shasta – about as low as I’ve seen. Droughts are not unusual in Kalifornistan and rain will come sooner or later.
The drive along US97 was my favorite part of the trip, as usual. The traffic was light, and the busy I-5 was behind me. I saw a lot of CHP units along the Kalifornistan section of US97 for some reason, and three or four passed me. Something must have been happening.
The obligatory photos of Mt. Shasta and Castle Crags I shoot every time I drive north along I-5. They are impressive and beautiful wonders.
Above two photos along US97 in Kalifornistan showing the grasslands near I-5 and farming farther up the highway.
This huge flag and very tall pole are the Icons of the small town of Dorris, CA along US97 near the Oregon line. The flag is nearly the size of the town, and as I’ve suggested in earlier travelogues, it must be a major town asset and expense.
Scenes along US97 in Oregon which is rich in water and agriculture. It seems a peaceful and serene area, but battles have raged for years over water use in the Klamath Basin. Apparently they have been settled just recently. Read more here.
More of the beautiful landscape along US97 in Oregon.
Approaching Klamath Falls and crossing the Klamath River. Note the lumber mill and floating logs in the river.
“Camped” for the night in the Klamath Falls Walmart lot. I love my traveling home and “camping” at Walmart lots. I am inconspicuous, comfortable, and safe. Yep, a parked motorhome at Walmart is a common sight.
I arrived at the Walmart lot in Klamath Falls at 1600. It was hot as I pulled onto the asphalt parking lot to spend the night. I ran the generator and house air conditioner for over five hours during the evening and even got up sometime during the night to turn them on again for awhile. Eventually I slept well by having the little fan blowing on me in the bedroom all night long. It was a long day, and a comfortable night.
Tuesday, Day 2: Klamath Falls to Paulina Lake via US97: 129 miles
By 0530 I was up and began the usual morning chores. I had a big day ahead and four days at Paulina Lake to fish, live aboard the coach, and enjoy good times with ol’ buddy Al.
I strolled over to Walmart for a few items and also walked the lot during the cool of the morning to get in enough time to call it my exercise for the day.
I fired up the computer and recorded this travelogue during the morning of Day 2. I had time to dawdle as I wanted to arrive at the campground on Paulina Lake around noon. Al told me that the choice of campgrounds would be best at that time, and I hoped he was right.
US97 along Klamath Lake was a gorgeous drive. On the right was open land for miles…
…on the left was beautiful Klamath Lake which is 20 miles long and eight miles wide but averages only eight feet deep.
Above Klamath Lake the drive was along forests for many miles. A few small settlements are to be found, but they are few and far between.
The drive up US97 was the usual scenic stroll it has always been. The speed limit was 55 MPH most of the way and the light traffic did not seem to be in any hurry. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. I arrived at La Pine to find gas selling for $4.08 per. Dang! The first place I tried didn’t have card readers at the pump, but my 5% discount credit card requires “pay at the pump” for the discount. I drove to Gordy’s, the local truck stop and found they had pump readers, even though the hired hands had to do the pumping by Oregon law. Only two states have this dumb gas law, and Oregon is one of them. Read about it here.
The drive to Little Crater campground from La Pine seemed to go straight up. I went from about 4200’ to over 6300’ in about 20 miles. The lake sits in the caldera of a volcano, known as Newberry Caldera, as do the campgrounds and the entire area. There is another lake that shares the caldera with Paulina Lake, named East Lake. Newberry Caldera is a mighty big hole!
Our lovely campsite at Little Crater campground on Paulina Lake. The comfort and protection of the coach would be appreciated more than we knew.The window view from our “cabin”. It was a lovely and comfortable setting.
It was first come – first served at the campground. No reservations were possible. I hoped to find a site right on the shore, but they were all taken or too small for Al’s rig and the coach. I settled for a nice one just across the small road from the lake shore, but as soon as I settled in, a gang of teenagers pulled into a neighboring site and made it very clear they would be a noisy and inconsiderate bunch. I moved farther down the road.
I found two sites, side by side, that worked just fine. Both were across the road from the lake shore, and were not cheek-by-jowl to other sites. I pulled in, dropped the jacks, set the slide out and made myself at home.
Al’s comfy little pontoon boat parked in the neighboring site and ready for some great fishing – after a couple of skunky tries.
I expected mild weather at over 6300’, but it was not to be. It was over 90° in the afternoon, and it was humid. I ran the generator and air conditioner as I waited for Al to arrive.
Al arrived about 1320. He parked in the site next to the coach and we retreated to the coolness of the coach to visit awhile. Later he prepared the boat to fish, I loaded my fishing gear onto the boat and we drove the short distance to the ramp. There wasn’t a single rig in the parking lot, and we saw no boats out on the lake. We also noticed that the sky was darkening and figured the other boaters were playing it safe. We decided they were right and headed back to the coach and parked the boat. We could fish later or even the next day.
Dale and Al: Two old Geezers back together for some more fishing. We had high hopes and looked forward to a grand three days on Paulina Lake.
The threat of a thunder storm was real and later in the afternoon and even into the evening we were treated to one glorious and awesome, in the true sense of the words, thunder storm. Al and I watched from inside the coach as the storm unloaded its fury on our volcano. The rain pounded down, and the lightning and thunder literally shook the coach at times. At one point a bolt landed entirely too close, followed immediately by a clap of thunder louder than any either of us could remember. In the campsite next to ours, a couple of gals endured the storm in a small tent. We were thankful for the comfort and safety of the coach.
The two photos above cannot depict the thunder storm, only some of the huge amount of rain that came down. It was a storm we’ll never forget.
After the storm I microwaved a couple of “steamer” frozen meals, and we enjoyed a good, hot dinner. We spent the evening watching a Merle Haggard DVD and part of a movie. It was a pleasant evening in the caldera of an old volcano. At 2200 I headed to bed, and Al retired to a sleeping bag on the fold out couch soon after.
Wednesday, Day 3: Jacks down at Little Crater Campground.
I slept even better than usual for some reason. Al was up before me, and that was mighty unusual. I rolled out of the sack a few minutes after 0600 to a rather cool coach.
I was disappointed to find that the house batteries were so low that the propane heater fan would not run. That meant unusually low house batteries. And by campground rules, we couldn’t run the generator ‘til after 0800. Rats. What a fix.
There wasn’t much to do in the coach without electrical power, so we decided to head out onto the lake for a try at kokanee. We launched the boat at the nearby ramp, and Al motored across the lake to an area he prefers to fish.
View of the launch ramp at Little Crater campground. In the six times we used it, three launches and three retrievals, we never had to wait on another boat – and what a beautiful setting!
We fished from about 0700 to 1000, jigging for kokanee. Al managed one very nice 12”-14”, and we put him into the underwater fish basket. That first fish was a long time coming, and we were both hopeful that we’d catch more. Alas, that was the only one for our first try. When we gave up the fishing to head to the coach and breakfast, Al released it.
Views from Paulina Lake:
The azure color of this water is an accurate, untouched color photo. This was the area we fished, and somehow this area took on that beautiful hue.
Al at the helm of his comfy patio boat as we trolled. It was a nice boat ride, but apparently the fish were not impressed.
First thing back at the coach, I tried to start the generator. It would turn over weakly, but wouldn’t start. I had to have Al press the “auxiliary” button on the dashboard which joins the chassis battery with the house batteries for a “jump” start. I then pressed the start button back at the control panel and the generator started. Whew – what a relief!
Once we had power again, we whipped up breakfast. Al had cereal. I zapped two frozen Belgian waffles and cut up some fresh fruit. I brewed up some “real” coffee that Al brought. My offerings of instant regular, decaf or brewed decaf just weren’t good enough for a certain coffee snob who, requiring better stuff, then added several ounces of some strange glop that completely masked the taste of real coffee. I was reminded of my dear Wifey. But I digress…
With breakfast done, Al settled back with his Louie L’Amour book, and I updated this travelogue. I took a break at one point to dig out the little Honda 2000 generator and chained it to the picnic table by the coach. I wasn’t sure it would fire up at 6350’, but it sure did! I then plugged the coach into it and turned off the big generator. The little Honda ran on a fraction of the gas that the coach generator would require, and was also very, very quiet. The little Honda could handle any appliance except the air conditioner.
Sleepy Al, book literally taken to heart, caught a few winks between paragraphs. Al is surely a bookworm, and I kinda envy him for that. Kinda.
As the afternoon began, Al alternated between snoozes and reading. I took a walk around the campground and up to the boat launch and back. Around 1400 Al began talking about another try at fishing. I told him I’d be ready when I cooled off from my walk. I hoped the breeze would keep us cooler than the day before.
We were back on the lake around 1430. It was breezy alright, and I was pleased. But the breeze made for difficult navigating aboard the small pontoon boat; the wind easily had its way with the high sided, light boat. Al fought the wind nearly the entire time we fished. We didn’t even try jigging in the wind, but we did troll. Other than catching each other’s lines as we trolled, we caught nothing. We really didn’t give ourselves much time to fish because thunder clouds began to form again. After the storm of the prior night, we weren’t about to take any chances of being caught in one out on the lake. At 1600 we reeled in and headed to the ramp. Our score was pretty lousy at one kokanee for two fishing trips. But we would try again.
Back at the coach we decided to drive into town for dinner. We wanted a good restaurant meal, but more than that we wanted to get back to civilization again so we could call our honeys. Down in the caldera our cell phones were useless and we were completely out of touch.
I called dear Wifey and it was good to hear her voice even though we had talked just the morning before. Nowadays we are so spoiled with our cell phones that being out of touch for just a few hours seems difficult. Really, that’s pretty sad.
I checked the ‘net on my smart phone for a Chinese restaurant in La Pine, and found Lucky Fortune listed, and it was well rated. We found it to be very clean, small, and they served good food with a smile. We were happy. We were also full very quickly. I actually brought home some leftovers, something I never seem to do since there usually aren’t any leftovers!
View from the roadside near Paulina Lake on the road from La Pine. I believe this is a portion of the “Three Sisters”, a group of volcanic mountains. Check more here.
We drove back up the hill to the lake, and enjoyed the beautiful drive. The La Pine area and especially the Newberry Caldera were beautiful.
Back at the coach we enjoyed the peach cobbler that Al’s wife, Betty, made for us at my request. Al returned to his book. To make sure we had battery power in the morning, I ran the little Honda generator ‘til we went to bed. That normally wouldn’t be necessary, but the no-generator before 0800 rule meant we had to have full batteries for morning.
We spent most of the evening watching the end of the movie we started the night before, Oh Brother Where art Thou? It was great entertainment – for probably the 10th time in my case. Then I pulled out a favorite WWII documentary I recorded years ago from Public TV by a fighter pilot, Quentin Aanenson, titled A Fighter Pilot’s Story. It takes the viewer from his early training through the entire war. It paints a true and moving account of the misery, death and uncertainty that was WWII. Generally, we Americans no longer remember what that Greatest Generation went through, but we should. We watched a portion of the documentary, and looked forward to the rest of the story the following evening.
Watching TV in the evening. If this is camping in the great outdoors, I’m a camper. Anything less wouldn’t tempt me.
Around 2200 we called it a day. I hit the sack and Al folded down the couch and rolled out the sleeping bag again.
Thursday, Day 4: Another day in paradise.
I rolled out of my cozy bed around 0530, and Al was up right after me. After the usual morning chores we sat at the table and chatted away an hour or so. We had lots to talk about since we’ve known each other almost a lifetime. At our ages, I’m sure we tell the same old stories over and over, but also, at our ages, who would remember?!
Morning of Day 4 was much more comfortable aboard the coach than the prior morning. The batteries were charged up, the heater worked fine, the music played and the lights were bright. Life is good with electricity! I made coffee, the instant kind that can be made on the propane stove, and even Al said his coffee wasn’t bad, thanks mostly to his beloved glop, I suppose. We enjoyed a good visit ‘til around 0730 when it was time to hook up the boat and head to the ramp.
Morning coffee as we endured the hardships of camping in a volcano. Dang! I need to cut out those Chinese pig-outs, McFlurries and peach cobblers!
We were on a perfectly calm and gorgeous Paulina Lake around 0815. Al’s in-laws would be fishing the lake with us, but wouldn’t be around ‘til later. We began our usual jigging at the far end of the lake, and got the same skunky results as before.
When the in-laws arrived and we began fishing near each other, they told us to fish near the bottom, which we had not been doing. We were more than a bit dismayed to discover they had caught five or so fish in their first hour and we had one for two days of trying!
Al’s in-laws aboard their lovely pontoon boat. Thanks to their advice, we learned how to fish for those elusive kokanee and we would catch our share!
Al and I are a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, but we figured out that problem in a hurry. We began jigging at the bottom, and soon after Al had a very nice kokanee to the boat! And then another. I, too, was jigging as he was but with a different colored lure. I finally switched from pink and silver to blue and silver, as he and his in-laws suggested, and which I doubted would make much difference. Could I have been wrong?! Me? Yep. Very soon thereafter I had a nice koke to the boat, too. And then Al again, and then me again and…
…and it turned out to be a grand day of fishing for all of us! The in-laws had a dozen or so between the three of them when they idled over to our boat to say good-bye. Al and I had eight between us, and needed two more for a boat limit. We told them we’d keep trying for our limit of 10 fish.
We caught the ninth fish three times, losing each one near the boat. Kokanee are notoriously soft mouthed little critters, they fight like little tarpons, and many are released by their own efforts. Finally, Al got the ninth fish to the boat, and was ahead of me by six fish to three. I very much wanted that 10th fish because I did not want to end the day behind Al 7-3.
It was with mixed emotions that I watched Al hook into our final fish. Sure, I wanted us to catch the boat limit, but I wanted that limit fish myself. Even so, I grabbed the net as Al reeled in #10. Suddenly the fish bolted toward the surface, and Al thought he was off the hook. But no, the little guy was suddenly at the surface, jumping clear and still hooked. When he slapped back onto the surface, he was suddenly free. Al hollered at me to try to net him anyway. The poor little fish was so confused that instead of streaking to the depths he swam directly toward me and the net. I lunged toward him with the net and, somehow, miraculously caught him.
I made the save of the day and I claimed the Grand Finale! Sure, Al beat me in fish count 7-3. But wait! Who caught that slippery #10? Al almost did, but lost him at the boat. I caught him in the net, and proudly declared to Al that I did in fact catch #10 after Al brought him to the surface and lost him! The day’s score: A boat limit! Al 6, Dale 4. Somehow that was much easier to live with than the trouncing that 7-3 would have seemed.
A fine kettle o’ fish, indeed! This is our boat limit – 10 land-locked sockeye salmon known as kokanee – bright as new silver dollars and highly regarded table fare. We were a couple of happy anglers!
I tried to be humble about my starring role in the day’s Grand Finale, but that’s never been my strong suit. My winning scoop will be one of those fishing stories that Al would prefer to forget but I will never let him.
It was an absolutely wonderful day of fishing.
One of only two or three lakeside cabins we saw on Paulina Lake. It was a beautiful setting for some lucky owner.
Day 4 was the last day of our fishing adventure. We would pack up and head for our homes on the morning of Friday, Day 5. When we returned to the coach, we sorted out the tackle and stowed it. Al prepared the boat for the drive back home.
We whiled away the afternoon and evening hours around the coach, Al with a new book, and me at the computer writing this travelogue and editing waaaay too many photos. I sure did get carried away with the camera.
Paulina Lake Resort where we tied up the boat so Al could clean the fish and we could buy some cold drinks. This resort was on the opposite end of the lake from our campsite. It seemed a primitive place, but well run and everyone seemed to be having a grand time. How could one not have a grand time in such a gorgeous setting?A photo from the lake during our cruise back to the ramp on our last day of fishing. We enjoyed our Paulina Lake trip more than any other Paulina adventure we’ve made together over the years.
We had leftover Chinese food for dinner, or lunch, or whatever one would call the single meal of the day. We spent breakfast and lunch time on the lake without food, and with all the excitement, we really didn’t miss it.
We whiled away the evening watching more WWII A Fighter Pilot’s Story which Al greatly enjoyed. He said he was very moved by fighter pilot Quentin Aanenson’s experiences during the war in Europe.
The documentary kept us up later than usual and we didn’t call it a day ‘til almost midnight. It had been a very memorable day on the lake, and we were ready for some sleep.
Day 5, Friday: Little Crater campground at Newberry Caldera, OR to home via US97, I-5, SR99: 475 miles
We were up a bit before 0600. Al said he had a restless night, and also had a long drive home. I planned to head to the RV dump station a couple miles away, and then begin my long trip home.
“Breaking camp” if staying in a modern Class A can be called camp, consisted of Al moving his stuff back to his car, tying down everything on his pontoon boat, and me pushing a button to move the slide in, pressing another to raise the jacks, and putting things back into their places. We pulled out of our campsite at 0730. Al had about four hours to drive back to his home near Salem, Oregon. I had a drive of about 10 hours. I thought I might spend the night along the way, but that idea made no sense because I’d end up in a hot Walmart parking lot somewhere in the valley.
I found another “Dale’s Diner” along the way home.
On two occasions during my drive home I stopped at a Dale’s Diner to eat. I find these fair-to-middlin’ diners quite often as I travel the country, but they’re not very popular and few people have ever seen one. I enjoyed a frozen egg, sausage, and cheese breakfast sandwich I bought for the trip that, when microwaved less than two minutes, was nearly as good as Mickey D’s McMuffins. There were four of them in the carton which we never opened while at the lake, but once opened I ate three of them for the day’s three meals. I reckon that I need to give those up, too.
I drove through intermittent rain from above Klamath Falls to Weed. The skies cleared once I reached I-5 and headed south. I felt the usual twinge of sorrow as I returned to the clamor that is Kalifornistan. Every time I return from one of my out of state trips, I have to resign myself to life in a crowd after enjoying the slower pace of more civilized and less populated places. Sigh.
It was a rainy drive along US97. Here Mt. Shasta appears in the distance shrouded in a mist. I enjoyed the overcast and rain, knowing that the valley heat awaited me.
I pulled into a Mickey D’s in Williams, CA and ordered a large coffee and a Reese’s McFlurry. When I get road weary during a long drive, that combination jolts me wide awake for hours. And sure enough, it kept me alert for the remaining 120 miles of the drive.
I pulled up to our home at 1820. It had been a long trip, but all went well and it was certainly worth the effort. I unloaded a few items that I would need that evening, and left the unloading and dumping of the coach for the next day.
Ol’ buddy Al talked about selling his boat, something I had already done, and that would likely spell the end of our fishing trips together, something we’ve been doing for years. Perhaps we’ll just hire a guide and do our fishing the easy way. Or maybe we won’t. Or maybe Al will keep his boat. Whatever the case, Al and I have had some wonderful times together on the water, and one way or another I hope we keep up the tradition!