California Oregon Motor Home tour part 7
Left Brooking's Oregon on U.S. Highway 101 to temporarily drive East through Northern California. The California checkpoint is finicky about fruit from unknown farms. Peel the un-labeled oranges or eat the restricted fruit first. Our bagged 'Tangelos' were judged to be ok. Absolutely No firewood is allowed. This is to protect the trees in California from parasites. Vehicles are randomly inspected so don't try to hide the 'Buggy' fruit or firewood.
My Navigator and Co-Pilot wife, discovered long ago, no easy freeway out of coastal Southern Oregon. The California Pacific Coast highway 101 is also a beautiful drive down along the Pacific ocean. We did it the first trip and found that the further south you drive, the California traffic becomes much more intense and un-forgiving than Oregon's. We now enter the northern part of California and loop eastward north of Crescent City at a hard to spot 'partial Interchange' onto the 80 miles (129km) of Hwy 199, a return back into Medford Oregon to work our way onto I-5 south through California.
The California, Jedidiah Smith Redwood Forest Highway is almost mystic. The huge trees and their silence is another touring cyclists dream. The Old Redwood Highway 199 is tricky for the large coach. No room for error or poor judgement on this narrow and winding pavement. Prayers work to delay meeting a big logging truck on a narrow blind curve with drop off's at the pavement edge. The storm left a soft bed of Redwood needles on the pavement. Soft rain was still falling intermittently, and added to the quieting effect of this really fascinating drive.
Well known Pennington Farms on the Williams Highway, is our slight detour destination. After coming to one 'Y' in the road that our little GPS 'Gypsy' did not acknowledge, we were fortunate to ask another utilities driver. We had finally used up Pennington Farms little jars of homemade preserves and breads from our last trip. Time to restock our pantry with their excellent home farm-made products which are advertised in the Country Living magazine
Medford Oregon is a nice little city in an agricultural valley. Mild weather, somewhat like Albuquerque's, attracts us to this area. North on the Crater Lake highway is Eagle Point and the newer Walmart we overnight at. Provisions are replenished, this night's walking is wet and rainy.
Crater Lake is definitely a 'not to be missed' point of interest.
We described our visit last year in October. A Jeep drive around Medford, found our little bargains like a really old 'Salty', fringed leather motorcycle jacket, at thrift stores, our frequent pastime during trips.
Leaving Oregon for the trip south into California again, toward photogenic Mount Shasta was emotional. You never know for sure if you will ever return again, and the great memories are still fresh. This section of California Interstate highway 5 is one scenic view after another. Snow covered, Majestic Mount Shasta plays 'hide and seek' as the miles drift by. Residences on the higher slopes are experiencing winter already. Yreka California is a touristy little town, warm in the summer, wet in the winter. Gold mining brought in the population for 'the Diggins'.
Before dusk, we come to our random destination of a campground for the night. The first pick of my Navigator, Castle Crags State Park (hiking), with many sites, was not easily accessed by the 34 ft (10.3m) coach. A turn around was in the entrance, so using our Corps of Engineers map, a little further south she found The little hidden away U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Lake Shasta National Park campground Our Golden age Passport gives us a great 50% discounted rate of 7.50 to 9 dollars for each night. Built by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1948, this little park is another well kept secret. Flood Control, Irrigation, Recreational Boating and fishing are Lake Shasta's main duties. Summer temperatures here, can often climb into the 115+ degree range, so plan accordingly. Rainfall was 15 to 18 inches (381/457 mm) on the previous DAY, yes one Day. Average rainfall is seasonally in excess of a hundred inches per year. Other campgrounds with facilities for boat storage, are nearby.
No hook-up service, a few sites (short), but nice quiet forest near a really low Lake Shasta (on this day). A train passed by in the night, but not too loudly. No night animals on my nightly hike. The smell of Skunk, drifted on the night air but no encounter with the little critter. Local man, camping and boating here from nearby Weed said that this shallower portion of the lake, fluctuates drastically with irrigation, always increasing domestic demands, and mountain precipitation. It only took two years to fill Lake Shasta. With rapidly increasing human demands, it empties almost as fast.
The next days drive continued south on I-5 through Redding California which holds the record for high temperatures north of the 40th parallel, then began our trip down through the always amazing 400 mile length of the California Central Valley through farmland and irrigated orchards. We then took exit 619 onto California hwy 32, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Black Butte Reservoir, which has another great camping facility. The 12 mile (19.3k) drive was misleading. The road winds through rolling farmland with Goats, Cows and hay fields. Irrigation from the reservoir dam, built around 1963, provides the water, cows and hay do the rest with the help of the farmers. Flood control and Recreation are the reservoir's main functions.
This was a different type of easily accessible campground. Many large and small trees were present on the dry rolling hills with lots of grasslands. Deer were everywhere. The boating friendly reservoir was somewhat low because the runoff does not start until spring snow melt from the mountains, along with seasonal rainfall. My evening was spent talking to a group of local campground hosts from several of the last years.
Ceifus Johnson told his stories along with the other ex-hosts in camp. He and his wife also caught a 'Bluegill' about 3 inches long, threaded it on his stringer and brought it as a trophy, back to camp. We all laughed. I did my evening walk, seeing no little animals down near the shoreline. Numerous large white Pelicans out on the lake, and lots of other smaller birds were around the campsites during the day.
The next morning, as I was dumping the holding tanks, I watched as a large 'Critter' walked toward some big rocks. I called out to my wife. She was walking in that general area. It was a large Mountain Lion She got her camera and the next half hour was spent playing 'hide and seek' with this beautiful cat. It was young, about 5 to 6 feet from nose to tail, and would hide in the tall grass and dis-appear, only to re-appear again, watching us from the base of another big tree.
The view at times, was only a pair of pointed ears, peering at us through the tall grass. Other times, the big cat walked cautiously across a distant trail, pausing to look at my wife as she tried to get a good tele-photo picture. We told the ranger in the next 'Corps' Campground about our 'fun cat' sighting. He said it is rare to see Mountain Lion during the day. Obviously the great quantity of Deer, attracted this top carnivore to this park. The dozens of Deer, always aware and on the alert, kept their distance but seemed to not mind this big cat's presence...as long as they could see him.
The next morning we headed south across more heavily high tech irrigated, and carefully farmed California landscape of the Central Valley endlessly growing produce for a hungry world. Across many large irrigation channels toward the busy produce hub of Stockton California, we proceeded. East of pretty little 'Lodi' on highway 12, is The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Hogan Lake Campground.
Acorn Camping area is to be our nights stay in this large park. Our Golden Age card worked to discount the cost of the night 1/2. Deer as well as wild Turkey are easily seen during the day. The lake is noted for it's 'Smallmouth Bass' among many other fish.
A nice stainless steel fish cleaning table is next to one of the many great restroom facilities. This campground is very popular with people like Mat and Kate from Modesto California Within only an hour drive, this young couple camped under the stars in the bed of their Mazda pickup. Their young Pomeranian, woke up before they did and nervously contemplated jumping down from the truck bed to take it's morning 'whiz' on a nearby tree.
Kate worked in the world famous, Modesto wine growing industry. Vineyards are extremely prevalent in California. She mentioned selling over-stocks of wine through various outlets at times. I found one such amazing over-stock at a 'dollar store' on the last trip. Kate said to stop in at any Vineyard for a 'wine tasting', You are always welcome.
On my nightly walk with the little red LED's. I saw beady little glowing red eyes, hiding and watching from the brushy grassland ditches near the paths. At one point, I studied the interesting animal for characteristics. Cat like, with a long ringed tail. Not only one cat, but two in different areas of the park. I had just finished reading an illustrated book about our Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.
In it, the Ring Tailed Cat was pictured. Dating from the fascinating 'Pleistocene' period Now 'that' is Climate Change. But this little cat like, Racoon is really durable and obviously 'time tested'. It's fast, can climb trees, up and down easily with hind feet that can twist 180 degrees. Nocturnal and good at remaining motionless, it is rarely observed. Get your combination LED headlamp at Walmart sporting goods. With them, you will find all sorts of night creatures watching you from the darkness as you walk along silently.
The next morning we saw a Red-tailed Hawk as we drove over to nearby San Andreas in Mark Twain's famous 'Calaveras County' of California. The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is one of Twain's tales. This little historic mining town, burned itself out several times in the 1850's. Finally they rebuilt with bricks so that it stands as a pleasant little tourist stop today.
More of this trip south through California, will be posted within a day or so.