Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Great California Adventure - Part 1 - The Oregon Caves (09-15-2007 to 09-22-2007)

Well, after offloading the gigabyte worth of video and photos from my new camera, I decided that I was going to need to really break this tale up into several threads.

Together, it'd make one very long single post with far too many pictures, making it load very poorly for those on dial-up. So, I'm breaking the trip up into Destinations, allowing me to give more pictures per destination than I would have if I had made this all one post.

It'll also give me more time to compile pictures and make adjustments for lighting (new camera, still getting used to it) and allow you to enjoy each destination as you wish.

NOTE: All pictures are clickable for a full-size view, I made mini-thumbnails to make the page load easier on dial-up users.

DESTINATION #1 - The Oregon Caves

The tale of the Great California Adventure begins with us leaving several hours behind on Saturday, September 15th. My original plan was to leave around 2-3pm in the afternoon. This plan went to pot after I was up all night doing the last of the cleaning and prep on the camper, I managed to snag 4 hrs sleep inbetween doing the get-ready work before we set off.

In hindsight, this kind of worked out to our advantage in that I didn't really have to deal with alot of other drivers, I-5 heading towards Grants Pass is really empty that time of the night.

Sometime, I believe around 4-5am, we managed to finally reach the Cave Creek Campground. This campground is the one closet to the Oregon Caves Monument, but is also on a section of road posted as "Not Recommend with Trailer". Compared to other roads we traveled later on in our adventure, this road was tame by far.

If you don't want to try the drive up, there is another campground at the bottom of the windy section of road, I believe it goes by the name of Little Greyback.

Site #1 - Cave Creek Campground

As you can also see in the above pictures, I finally finished the paint job on the KIT. The original perpetually dirty look of antique white, Copper and Butterscotch is now well covered over with Bright White, Hunter Green, and Dark Hunter Green. At some point I will need to go back and add an accent stripe of silver or gold between the two shades of green as they are not highly discernable right up next to one another.

The Cave Creek Campground is very nice, its nestled in a little valley area surrounding the Cave Creek, which is the creek which flows out of the Oregon Caves itself. When we pulled in, I think there was only a total of 2-3 other people in the entire campground.

We wound up choosing site #1, as the parking pads all had steep slopes along the sides of them and #1 was the only one with a shallow slope of land along the passenger side of the truck, giving us a safe walking route. The campground was very quiet this time of the year, with really the only sounds being that of the creek and us chatting deliberately (We saw bear warning signs, and one thing I was taught was to make noise to keep from accidentally suprising a bear, so we chatted and sang a bit to keep our nerves at bay, no bears were ever sighted).

A good seven hour nap later, we were refreshed, and after a delightful breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs smothered in melted pepper jack cheese and corn beef hash, we were pumped and ready for cave exploring.

Oregon Caves National Monument Lodge

The first thing that caught my eye after parking the camper in the parking lot and making the hike back to the Lodge (Not visible from said parking lot) was how the buildings had all been sided using Cedar bark! I'd never seen a building done as such before, and further exploration of the property only sent me into a tizzy of exciment of a structure built well in our past (1920s or 1930s I believe).

For example, the little water fall picture is of the Cave Creek which flows out of the Oregon Caves and makes it way THROUGH the lodge directly across from it. I managed to take one picture of the little stream, it goes right through the dining room and I was trying my best not to annoy the patrons anymore than I already was.

As it was, when we got up the road the rest of the way to the Oregon Caves, it was already 3pm going on 4, so we lucked out and caught the last tour of the day (5pm tour).

I've been on cave tours before, my last notable one being the Tuckaleechee caverns just west of the Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

The Oregon Caves was absolutely nothing like them at all.

For one, the hike is a great deal more strenuous. Two, its very narrow and short in a great number of places. I walked away with 6 good size memories beaten into the top of my head from where I either stood up a little too soon, or failed to notice a rock outcropping.

My friend, Mason, who was my sole company on this trip, (and a past resident of northern california), loved the challenge of the hike. He's a good man, but is afflicted with Cerebral Palsy, which makes alot of things we normally take for granted, more challenging for him. However, he managed to stay ahead of me most of the hike and I'd also guess a great deal less beaten up than I was by the end of it!

The Oregon Caves Tour

The walk through the Oregon Caves takes roughly 90 minutes, and the interior temperature is a constant 44 degrees. This, combined with the fact that I was putting off steam from the hike in quantities that would rival a few steam locomotives, made it a triffle challenging to take photos underground.

Couple this with a new camera, and a novice who didn't understand that clicking the exposure button with an external flash on, disabled said flash, I was happy I managed to come away with any pictures at all of the inside of the caves. I look forward to my eventual return trip to Northern California with the misses to be to repeat the Oregon Caves adventure and finally procure some better quality photos with the more sophisticated flash which I wasn't able to use this time around.

Earlier explorers of the cave had found more and more of the cave as they had went and had also dug alot of it out, (At one time, a great deal was filled with mud), a few explores signed their names with a grease pencil on the smooth rock surfaces back in the 1800s. Believe it or not, the parks department wanted to remove these traces of the earlier explorers from the monument, but were unable to as they had been covered over in the rock equivalent of laquer. As I remember, the tour guide went on at length about "Not touching anything" and about volunteers having to remove lint with tweezers. Those volunteers probably would hate me as I had squeeze myself through a great many spots in the cave which meant my green cotton sweat coat drug on a number of surfaces.

Well, this concludes the first part of my tale of California Adventure.

From here we set out west on our way to the 101 and the Elk Prarie Redwoods Park.

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