Pacific Northwest: Crater Lake

Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot volcano, violently erupted approximately 7,700 year ago. No longer able to support its own weight once the magma chamber was emptied, Mount Mazama collapsed and a caldera was formed. This caldera then filled with rain and snowfall. Since no streams run into the lake, there is very little sediment to cloud the water.

The lake has thick mats of bacteria at depths where there is no light. There are also thick rings of moss, reaching depths of 400 feet, along the caldera walls. Hydrothermal pools have also been discovered, indicating a volcanic heat source. Mount Mazama may be dormant, but it is not extinct.

Our visit to Crater Lake was a drive through due to time constraints. There were also some closures in the park due to trail repair. The only campground for RVs is Mazama Village. The park is beautiful an is on our list to return to.

Gallery: Click on a picture to open the gallery.

Pacific Northwest: Lava Beds

The Lava Beds are the result of the gentle eruptions from the Medicine Lake volcano, which has over 500 surface vents. The result of this gentle activity is a shield volcano with a low, gently-sloping profile. Eruptions dating back to 30-40,000 years ago formed over 700 lava tubes. Lava tubes are formed when the outside of a lava flow cools and the center remains hot. The hot lava center drains out, resulting in a pipe like cave. Caves can be stacked on top of one another due to multiple eruptions.

This region was home to the Modoc people and their ancestors for over 10,000 years. Moved from their homeland to the Klamath reservation in Oregon, some of the tribe returned home and fled to the natural defenses provided by the lava beds. It took the United States Army 6 months and 1,000 troops to capture less than 60 Modoc warriors and families. These families were then exiled to the Quapaw Agency in Oklahoma.

Lava Beds National Monument was established in 1925 to protect the land and the history of the Modoc people. In addition to the lava beds and caves, there is Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Petroglyph Section. The Petroglyphs were covered by water as late as 1875. At this point water for Tule Lake was diverted for farm irrigation and the newly exposed land was converted to farm land. No longer protected by water, the petroglyphs are being damaged by vandals and the scouring action of wind blown soil.

While at Lava Beds, we hiked the Mushpot Cave (motion sensor lights, paved path) and the Skull Cave; the Skull Cave ends with an ice cave that served as an important source of water in this arid environment. In addition to the caves, there are hiking trails throughout the park.

September was an excellent time to visit Lava Beds, temperatures were cooler and the sun was less intense.

Gallery: Click on a picture to open the gallery.

Pacific Northwest: Camping

More detail about the campgrounds our Pacific Northwest trip. We stayed at a couple municipal campgrounds (Campground by the Lake, Saratoga Lake Campground), a commercial campground, NFS and BLM campgrounds, national park campgrounds and dispersed camped.

Picture galleries are interspersed through out this post. Click on a picture to view in a new window.


  1. Kalaloch Campground: Camping on the a bluff over the Pacific Ocean? Only way it would have been better was some sunnier weather. We had to play the walk-up game and camped the first night in B-17 (spur within the A loop). This site was spacious and relatively level. It was farther away from the bluff in the trees. On the second night we scored the bluff site A-25, a large rather private site with trees and bushes separating us from neighbors on both sides. A-27 is a very similar site. Some minor leveling was required in A-25. D loop prime sites are D-24 to D-30; D-24 is on the bluff while the other sites are across the road from bluff. All have clear views of the ocean.
  2. Lone Fir Campground: Just off of WA-20 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, this campground is tucked in amongst the trees with a creek running along the back campsites. These sites (~14 to ~20) are the prime sites and were occupied when we came through. We camped in site 23, which was level and a pull through. This was one of the larger sites at the campground. Sites 23 – 26 are large and would be top on our list for camping in despite the proximity to the (little traveled) road.
  3. Water Canyon Recreation Area: This is a campground on BLM land near Winnamucca, NV. This canyon has a creek running through it. Along that creek are apsens; creating a stark contrast with the surrounding desert. After crossing onto BLM land, there is a campsite up the road approximately 1 mile. This site has  along the creek and is lower than the road. It is a little hard to see because there is a site adjacent to the road, don’t be fooled, this a separate site in a prime location. Continuing another mile up the road, there is another site right along the creek in a large clearing. We didn’t level up on this site as well as we would have liked, but it nice. Alex was able to play in the creek and we hiked up the upper access road (closed in the winter). There are additional campsites accessible if you have a high clearance vehicle.

Least Favorites:

None really. If anything we found South Beach State Park to be a little crowded, but it was close to town and had beach access. We weren’t on the beach, but close enough.

Also note that the bike path in South Lake Tahoe is a joke. It is narrow and unpaved at places. Where it is unpaved the transition is from bumpy black top to sand. If riding at night, a bright light is a must.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise:

Lava Beds National Monument: We did not know what to expect heading to this campground. The campground is at the south end of the park, and fortunately for us, we came in the south entrance. We arrived to find a nice mix RV and walk-in tent spots. We stayed in B23, one of the larger sites that could accommodate a RV in the mid-30 foot range. Most sites were relatively flat. Be sure to check the site stubs closely, we found that were several days expired; it doesn’t seem that the rangers come through that often to remove the expired stubs.

The campground was within a quarter mile of two caves (Indian Wells and Mushpot) and the visitors’ center. The visitors’ center had a great brochure outlining the difficulty of the caves. There were several trail heads within the campground or at the visitors’ center that provided access to a variety of caves.

Commercial Campground:

Camp Coeur d’Alene got our business because we needed to dump and our RV dump station app had already failed us twice. Combined with Alex waking up early from a nap, our goal to push further east was thwarted. Technically camped along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene and took Alex out on a paddle boat. There was plenty of space for Alex to run around. We dumped our black and grey tanks, filled up with fresh water, and did laundry to ensure clean underwear all the way home.

Dispersed Camping:

After a successful dispersed camping experience in Bighorn National Forest during our Northern Rockies trip, Dave was looking forward to another positive experience. This experience did not start out as well as it was difficult to determine where the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest began and private property ended. It also didn’t help that we were on the fringes of the national forest and the road passed in and out of the forest.

We found a decent spot to pull off the road and set up camp. Slightly pitched to the left and front, we decided to walk further up the road. The view did not disappoint.

The night was a little creepy – Jess heard a four wheeler come down the hill and was positive it stopped near the RV. She then thought she heard someone(s) walking around the RV. The dogs did not bark, but she woke up Dave anyway. It was not a restful night, although everyone came out of the experience unharmed. If we had continued on MT-43E for about 10 more miles, we would have come upon a campground just shy of I-15. This campground was along the Big Hole River in a stand of trees. If you are in the area, check this campground out before going off into the wilderness.


Pacific Northwest: Breweries

Brewery at Lake Tahoe

Simply, sigh. We chose this brewery because it was easy cycling distance from our campground. We tried all the beers available and were underwhelmed. The lone bright spot was the California Cream Ale – not overly sweet, nice aroma and flavor. The Alpine Amber was a good example of a specific style, but slightly heavier on the hops than we would have expected for an amber. The Wit had very little spice character and was rather bland. The food was decent, nothing to rave about.

Jack Russell Farm Brewery

Located in Camino, CA, this brewery is located in the Apple Hill region, which refers to the 55 ranches located around Camino. Originally known for pear orchards, blight forced ranchers to diversify in the mid 1960s and is become the largest concentration of apple growers in California. The area is home to Christmas tree growers, wineries, vineyards, and a spa. We weren’t prepared for this area to have so many activities and only planned enough time to visit the brewery. Despite its name Apple Hill has year round activities, so if you are going to be in the area check out this site to plan your trip!

Teri, Jess, and Alex and Jack Russell.

Back to Jack Russell! One of Jess’ master brewer classmates, Teri, works for Jack Russell, so we decided to stop in and visit. Since we didn’t do any research into the area, we were surprised to see all the people and activity surrounding the brewery (see previous paragraph). Since it was lunch time, we were especially happy to see the Hotdogger from Davis, CA! This was part of our Saturday farmer’s market routine – buy some fresh California veggies and fruit and chow down on a hot dog or Polish sausage for lunch before riding home. The Hotdogger was as good as we remembered.

The beers on tap at Jack Russell.
Where’s Alex?!

So beer! There were fifteen beers on the board and lockers for Alex to play in, so we ordered tasters of them all! (Note – the intent of the lockers was not for a toddler to play in them, but they were Alex sized and he found them greatly entertaining.) We enjoyed all fifteen beers. There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, not even a meh beer by our tastes. The only beer where there was a minor difference of opinion was the Vanilla Stout. Jess wanted a smidge more roasted character to the beer, Dave enjoyed it as it was brewed. We left with a growlerette (32 oz) of the Vanilla Stout and enjoyed it with s’mores by a campfire. This was a truly minor quibble on Jess’ part over a well executed beer line up. Some other beers we found to be striking was the Pumpkin Spice Ale – it smelled like pumpkin pie fresh out of the oven, but the spice flavor was not overwhelming, just enough there to satisfy. We enjoyed the Tangerine (light and refreshing) and the Captain Boomer’s IPA (well balance malt and hop character, bitterness was not overwhelming). We left with growlerettes of the Tangerine and Captain Boomer’s IPA in addition to the Vanilla Stout. The only reason we did not leave with more was limited storage space in our fridge.

We were glad we took Abby down the hill from Lake Tahoe to visit Jack Russell. It was great to see Teri, even though the steady stream of customers made it hard to catch up. It is a fantastic brewery producing excellent beers. Located in a family friendly area, there are many activities to occupy one’s time. We wish we had planned properly, but look forward to a return trip.

Rogue Ales and Spirits

Have what it takes to be a rogue?

When we selected Newport, Oregon as a destination, it was not because of Rogue. It was a larger town that had a laundromat, an aquarium (which we did not take Alex to due to poor time management), and a state park with easy beach access (South Beach State Park). So we were excited that Google search results returned Brewer’s on the Bay – the restaurant within the Rouge brewery. It was just a 8 minute bike ride from the campground! The situation had the feel of a well executed plan!

Has Dave been making beard beer and not telling Jess?

We had to walk through part of the brewery to reach the restaurant; just a glimpse of the facility, but great to see. Upon reaching the restaurant (above the gift shop) we snagged a seat by the window that also had easy access to a power outlet so we could plug in Alex’s portable DVD player. Our taster consisted of Marionberry BraggotHazeluel ChoctaulousMocha PorterRogue Farms 4 Hop IPAChocolate StoutDead Guy Ale, and the Cherry Habenero Golden Imperial Ale. We discovered the marionberry is to Oregon as the huckleberry is to Montana. It is in everything and it is tasty (also as a sauce for their deconstructed cheese cake). We enjoyed every beer on the taster. The Cherry Habanero was intriguing with the sweet from the cherry being the first taste, followed by a heat of the habanero. Jess is a fan of heat more so than Dave, but the heat was too much for her to enjoy more than what was in the taster. We were pleasantly surprised by the 4 Hop IPA; we were more familiar with Rogue’s double chocolate stout, but found that the IPA was well balanced and very drinkable.

Inside Rogue
Inside Rogue

Pacific Northwest: Yellowstone and Grand Teton

We last visited Yellowstone in July of 2015, and were frustrated by the shear number of people also there. We thought that coming later in the season would improve our experience, as less people would be there. While the crowds were reduced at the end of September compared to July, there were many more people than we expected.

Also unexpected was the fog, which made it hard to see some of the features, especially later in the day as the air was cooling (at Grand Prismatic Spring the fog was very thick and swirling with the wind). The fog also made it challenging to see wildlife and pedestrians along the side of the road. We definitely slowed down leaving the park due to poor visibility; as our elevation decreased, the fog began to dissipate.

We were did walk the Fountain Paint Pots and Grand Prismatic Spring Nature trails. Both were board walks that went past multiple thermal features. These walks were smooth and easy for Alex to navigate, but people added a challenge. There was not a railing at all points to ensure a little boy stayed the course. It required some herding of Alex to make sure he didn’t run into people or fall off the walkway. There were stairs to Grand Prismatic Spring; Fountain Paint Pots did not have stairs, but there was one steeper grade.

Pay attention to park bulletins if you are camping late in the season. We wanted to camp at the Tower Falls campground, but it had closed three days prior. Additionally, there was road construction just south of the North entrance, requiring a significant re-route through the park. After reviewing the campgrounds that were still open (Mammoth Hot Springs, Madison, Slough Creek, and Lewis Lake) , we re-routed to the West entrance because Lewis Lake still had availability and we did not have to take the detour. We drove along the Gallatin River on US-191S; the fall colors were absolutely beautiful along this route.

We exited Yellowstone via the South entrance and drove through John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and Grand Teton National Park to Coulter Bay Village. This route allowed us an up close view of the damage caused by the fire earlier in the park from earlier this summer. The fire damage, along with the low level of Jackson Lake, emphasized the drought that western states have been suffering.

When is the best time to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton? We wish we knew. Rangers said that social media (people being warned about the crowded conditions during the summer) has extended the peak season closer and closer to season’s end.


Click on a picture to launch the gallery in a new window


Pacific Northwest: Big Hole National Battlefield

Big Hole National Battlefield

The battlefield is located along Highway 34, west of Wisdom, MT, on the eastern edge of the Bitterroot National Forest.


The Nez Perce aboriginal lands originally consisted of 13 million acres in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. A US government treaty in 1855 reduced this land by half, with the promise of the right to hunt, fish and gather on the land given up for white settlement. This treaty was adhered to until 1860 when gold was discovered on Nez Perce land; a new treaty in 1863 further reduced their lands by 90%. Five bands of Nez Perce and their allies the Palouse and Cayuse refused this second treaty, and became known as the non-treaty Nez Perce.

In 1877 the US government gave the non-treaty Nez Perce 30 days to move onto the reservation. Many of their belongings, including livestock, were lost on the journey. Fighting broke out before the reservation was reached and led to a four-month flight over 1,000 miles with numerous battles.

In early August, over 800 Nez Perce, mainly family groups, and 2000 horse were passing through the Bitterroot Valley in Montana on their way to buffalo country. Colonel John Gibbon and his troops were close behind, and in the early morning hours of August 9, 1877, attacked, burning tipis, killing women, children, and elders. Estimates of the Nez Perce causalities number from 60 to 90, while the military and civilian volunteers lost 31 individuals.


The descendants of Chief Young Joseph stated, upon reflection:

“Treaties divided and scattered us, both physically and spiritually. They threatened to sever our spiritual connection with the land and fostered the division of our people into Christian and non-Christian, treaty and non-treaty, and finally, tribe and non-tribe.”

Some members escaped to Canada during the battle at Bear Paw. White Bird, who led over 250 members of the Nez Perce to Canada, said,

“With women’s hearts breaking, children weeping and men silent we moved over the divide and closed our eyes upon our once happy homes. We were wanderers on the prairie . . . The white man wanted the wealth our people possessed; he got it by the destruction of our people. We who yesterday were rich are beggars today. We have no country, no people, no home.”

Others who were captured were considered prisoners of war and sent to Kansas and on to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Here, over 200 people, many babies and children died.

It was easy to see why the Nez Perce stopped here and were hopeful that they had evaded the US Military. The valley is beautiful with the Big Hole River, trees, and plentiful grass. To read the accounts of the horror that occurred to the Nez Perce was heart-wrenching. The Nez Perce warriors were heroic in driving back the US soldiers to provide families with the opportunity to flee.

Alex is too young to remember this visit, but we feel it is important to educate Alex on all aspects of American history, as ugly and painful as they may be. We look forward having the honor of visiting this site again.

National Parks Passport Book

Cover of the National Parks Passport book.

Jess purchased a National Parks Passport book and may have the beginnings of a slight obsession in obtaining cancellations at a variety of parks, monuments, historic sites, and recreation areas. Since she also does a majority of the trip routing, Dave has been subjected to her various whims to obtain the next cancellation; he is starting to question the trip routes.

While the route planning has become slightly circuitous, we have been seeing national monuments, recreation areas, historic sites and parks that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered. These places, such as Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Site, have increased our understanding of our country’s history. We have also enjoyed some beautiful scenery as we have traveled a bit off the beaten path.

Since we purchased the book after the great westward move, cancellations from that trip and all previous trips are absent. This just means we will have to revisit some amazing parks, like Big Bend National Park.

The Collector’s Edition is nice, but for the rigors of travel, the Explorer version would have been the more robust choice. The Explorer is a binder style, so additional pages can be added; the Collector’s Edition cannot be added to.

Cancellations and stamps for the Western region.
Cancellations and stamps for the Western region.