Travel Thoughts in the Northwest United States

I grew up in Pennsylvania and lived in Maryland until two years ago and often wonder why I’m so enamored with the West Coast. Driving for hours and hours across this great land gives a lot of time for thinking or not depending on what book I’m listening to or what is on Sirius radio. 😉 Speaking of Sirius radio, I had the most trouble getting reception in Oregon. The mountains and extremely tall evergreens come right down to the shoulder of the road, effectively blocking the satellite signal. Since I was traveling back roads and Route 101 along the coast, I barely heard any radio. I did ‘read’ three books though!

Flying across country on a clear day is a delight. Remember, the title of the post is: “Travel . . .” I always grab a window seat if possible. Sometimes I’m not lucky and some crank gets there before me and pulls down the shade and proceeds to ignore the limitless possibilities outside the window for the next six hours (why sit by the window if you’re not going to look out?) Being in the air also brings the differences of East and West to light. The East is soft and rounded, like a reclining voluptuous woman – no hard edges, smooth and cultivated; tightly packed with quilts of farms, towns and cities. The West is jagged, expansive, wide-open. In between the two coasts are the farms on the prairie with their pie shaped wedges of green or gold or brown crop circles and endless 1,000 acre square farms.

I passed many cattle through California and Southern Oregon, it was  close to 100,000 head, ranch after ranch of huge herds: Black Angus, Red Angus, Charolais, Herefords and a herd of Belted Galloways (you don’t see too many of them). Thousands and thousands of acres of irrigated and unirrigated green or brown meadows of grass as far as the eye can see (until your eye hits the mountains in the far distance – 20 miles or more away).

Oregon cattle country.
Oregon cattle country. The cattle are so far in the distance they don’t show up in the photo.

Wonderfully clear creeks (called rivers in the west) are rushing down boulder-strewn mountainsides, or flowing blue underneath the mostly cloudless skies. In the East, there are so many trees and houses and hills and curvy roads that you can usually only see for maybe a half mile, mostly less. The rivers are wide in the East, a half-mile to a mile, huge amounts of water, flowing muddy and murky slowly toward the Chesapeake Bay which is only a few feet lower in elevation than where you’re standing at any given moment on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, then on to the Atlantic Ocean. In the West, there are flatlands (most at elevations of 3,000′ and higher) with hardly any trees, sometimes making me pine for shade ;-), but you can see for miles – the weather always lists “visibility 10 miles” and they are right.

JuneLakeLoop (13 of 24)

Recently, I’ve been on a crater and hot spring quest in the West. Living near the Eastern Sierras is like living on the edge of a boiling cauldron. One never knows exactly when something might boil over, crack apart (which has happened recently in the Napa wine region) or explode. Surprisingly to me, it gives me pause while I’m sitting in a hot spring, and when I see craters and faults, but it just causes wonder to my eyes and not worry. Recently I found this quote from Helen Keller that I totally agree with: “Security is a superstition, it does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

California cattle country.
The view where Mt. Mazama used to be. The surface of Crater Lake now is a few hundred feet above where I’m standing. (Cattle were in this field too.)

I’ve written this post in the middle of a moonlit night parked on the edge of Crater Lake in Oregon. The most recent volcano eruption, 7,700 years ago was the last straw that made Crater Lake. Because the latest volcano blew out so much rock and lava (ash blew over 656,000 square miles), only a shell of the mountain was left and it collapsed upon itself into the crater within a couple of days of the eruption, leaving pieces of lava rock created about 400,000 years ago sticking up through the lake (Ship Rock).  Jagged edges of the mountain are slowly crumbling down; I drove past recent rock slides where boulders the size of my car had rolled down to the road’s edge. I could not take photos, the shoulder on one side consisted of two feet of gravel before you plunge into the abyss hundreds of feet below; orange cones guarded the recently dislodged boulders on the other shoulder. I just read that the forest service was closing that part of the road for a month and a half to fix the most recent avalanche.

Ship Rock sits out in the lake, exposed rock from 400,000 years ago!
Ship Rock sits out in the lake, exposed rock from 400,000 years ago!
Oops, are they ill?
Oops, are they ill?

There are always surprises when you’re traveling and snapping photos. The people in the photo above are Russians. I asked one of their party who was still standing “are they OK”. He said “Yes, they were fine, just feeding the chipmunks!” All this lake beauty and they see the beauty in the chipmunks.

The wildflowers were few and very short. These lupines were only a few inches high.
The wildflowers were few and very short. These lupines were only a few inches high.
The coppery color on this slope is ash from previous eruptions, now becoming eroded.
The coppery color on this slope is ash from earlier eruptions, uncovered by the most recent eruption now becoming eroded.
Smoke from wildfires clouded the sunset.
Smoke from wildfires clouded the sunset.

I was asked to take a couple of shots of four friends who were viewing the sunset along with me. One girl had sobbed and cried for a while, but was smiling now. I wonder what the story was behind all that emotion?

This is near where I was writing. The slope is crumbling downward constantly, becoming smoother all the time.
This is near where I was writing. The slope is crumbling down constantly, becoming smoother all the time.

The next morning, I meant leave early to get to the ocean, but found that the ‘Crater Lake Rim Runs’ maraton was being run in just a little while. Breakfast at dawn:

Still smokey. It has gotten worse since I was there.
Still smokey in the morning. It has gotten worse in recent weeks as the fires near Klamath Lake, Oregon have converged into one huge wildfire.
'Jim' was part of a ham radio club that volunteers to keep communications going in what I thought was cell free area. He's on his Verizon phone, my AT&T has no signal.
‘Jim’ was part of a ham radio club that volunteers to keep communications going for the marathon in what I thought was cell free area. He’s on his Verizon phone though, and my AT&T has no signal. I had just helped him get all the cups of water poured, as the volunteers hadn’t arrived yet to do that and the race had started.
Marathoners - it was an up and down route.
marathoner – it was an up and down route.

Oregon (17 of 33)

Barefootin' it.
Barefootin’ it.
More barefooters!
More barefooters!

Oregon (19 of 33)

Under Armour gal.
UnderArmour gal.
Another UnderArmour gal.
Another UnderArmour gal.
This lady was having a blast.
This woman was having a blast.
Taking in the scenery.
Taking in the scenery.
Chipmunks enjoying the almonds I gave them.
Chipmunks enjoying the almonds I gave them.
Clark's Nutcrackers chased the chipmunks away to get the nuts.
Clark’s Nutcrackers chased the chipmunks away to get the nuts.
Mossy pine country.
Mossy pine country.


Next post: the Oregon Coast.



The skies were smoky off an on since leaving Owens Valley and driving through parts of Nevada and Northern California. The smoke hovered over Crater Lake, a brownish smoke cloud, obscuring part of the sunset. You couldn’t smell the smoke, but it hazed the normally clear skies.

13 Replies to “Travel Thoughts in the Northwest United States”

  1. What gorgeous photos you have here. I really enjoyed your post because I live on the other coast as in East. I don’t know how people can run barefoot. That would hurt and man, they are putting just way too much stress on their knees and back. Great post! Love, Amy


    1. Thanks so much, I’ve enjoyed your photos too. I agree about barefoot, it would hurt my feet. A couple of them had barefoot shoes, not really any sole, but at least something between your foot and the road. Stay tuned for the rest of the trip!


      1. I hope I don’t miss it! I get SO busy on here there are days my head swirls. Keeping all fingers crossed I see it. The best way for me to see your next post, is for you to comment here. That way I am “alerted” and I will follow you back to your blog. It gets quite hectic when I do my best to get to everyone’s blogs that come to Petals. (((HUGS))) Amy


  2. Love reading about your photographic adventures…you are truly “livin the dream”. Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful places on Earth…breathtaking for sure. Your words/pics capture not only what your are seeing but also the emotions evoked. 😉


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