Hot Mud, Cold Rain, and Warm Friends

It’s been an epic journey to Portland! After spending some quality time in Sutter, I paid a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park, where bubbling sulfur mud pits and ancient volcanoes dominate. I was told (by a very nice motorcycle-riding park ranger) that I should hike up into the park’s resident cinder cone volcano; to reach it, I had to leave the park, ride around the north side, and come back in on a gravel road to a lakeside parking lot. Hooray for awesome I-can-take-you-in-the-dirt motorcycles! The hike up onto, and subsequently into, the volcano proved more difficult than I thought: the volcanic debris that the soil was composed of was soft and sandy. Imagine hiking a mountain of fine gravel – one step forward, two steps back – and lots of huffing and puffing. But wait! – was that bubbling lava I heard? – I must be getting closer! No, that’s just my imagination. the inside of the volcano was solid rock, and in fact had a trail going down into it for the adventurous to investigate. I highly suggest hiking to the tops of volcanoes, for the views they offer are astounding, PLUS you can say… well, that you hiked up a volcano.

Yummy bubbling sulfur mud

Lassen Peak. You can see a small eyeball-looking spot on the rocks up there –
it’s called the Eye of Vulcan

Atop the cinder cone. Yes, I did descend into the pit of doom!


The cinder cone volcano

When I got back to the parking lot, I saw a familiar sight: A family of eight was eating lunch. One of the kids (four boys, two girls, the youngest two years old and the oldest around eleven or so) was asking Daddy about the motorcycle parked there, and as I walked by Daddy himself started talking to me. Turns out I had the privilege of running into the Cooke family from Kansas. They were on a three-week family vacation, CAMPING, travelling cross-country in a van! I must say I was impressed and stashed away the idea for the fateful day when my unfortunate children are at the mercy of my whimsical travel plans. Anyway, this family was incredibly friendly, and after some much-needed human contact/conversation Mr. Daddy (I wish I remembered his first name…) mentioned Subway Cave, a lava tube in Lassen National Forest, just outside the “town” called Old Station. The whole fam damily was going that way so I decided to tag along. It was incredibly fun walking through the pitch-black tunnel (with flashlights, of course) with that flock of excited children. After making it out of the tunnel alive (the Native Americans believed it was the home of a demon, and would not enter the tunnel) and back to the nearby parking lot, we said our goodbyes and six pairs of young eyes watched me ride off into the wild on my two-wheeled steed.

I had planned on camping in the woods that night, before moving west to Arcata and the cozy comfort of my friends’ home – Drew and Jessie O’Kane. Upon reflection and mediation through which I enetered a parallel universe and expeirenced a revelation, I decided that it would indeed be physically possible on this plane of existence to make it to Arcata before nightfall, and spend the evening in the company of good friends. I did in fact make it to Arcata, but not after riding through the gauntlet of Redding and the Central Valley heat-wave (I swear it was like standing in front of an open oven door) and the subsequent chill of encroaching coastal air in the Trinity Alps while riding west on US 299. A beautiful, windy road, along the Trinity River, a motorcyclist’s dream. By the time I arrived at the O’Kane’s home, I was cold, sore, tired, and hungry; I had just put in a four-hundred mile day (literally, 400.6 miles) and decided that’s just too many miles. Drew and Jessie took good care of me, though! After some hot tea they took me out to dinner at the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, where I had a calamari sandwich and a pint of stout.
The weekend was quite wonderful, as Drew and Jessie were my own personal tour guides around Humboldt County. We attended the annual Arcata Oyster Fest, tourded Humboldt State University, checked out Old Town Eureka, hiked in the redwoods, visited a local brewery (where, in fact, I ran into an old friend from high school), kicked back in several cafes, and otherwise had a wonderful time talking and cooking and relaxing. But alas, all good things must  come to and end, and after they had put up with me for over three days I bid farewell to the generous O’Kanes and rode north through Redwood Natinoal Park. Yes, it was beautiful – very beautiful. I made a stop at the famoush Fern Canyon site, a canyon whose walls are completely covered by ferns. It’s like walking into a different world; you forget where you are, and wish that the canyon would go on forever. Coming out of the park, I went north to Crescent City and Smith River. Dad had sent me on a holy grail quest for smoked salmon in Smith River. Just like the Grail, this smoked salmon proved ever-elusive, for I travelled the length of Smith River (something around half a mile) three times before I decided that the decrepid, run-down remnant of a nearby restaurant was in fact the former site of this legendary fish. So, with no smoky fish, I trekked into the wild unknown to the east, riding a gravel road that degraded into a dirt road that further degraded into a dirt-and-large-rock road hellbent on keeping me from whatever destination I might deem worthy of my trvaels. Without incident, I arrived at the North Fork of the Smith River, where I pitched camp, thinking I was miles away from any camping development. Much to my chagrin, the next day, as I crossed the bridge I saw a sign for Smith River Campgrounds, with facilities and, likely, some nice level campsites. Oh well, I had pitched camp in my OWN spot. So there. By the way, never boil curry in a JetBoil. It’ll bubble over if you’re not paying attention and stain everything curry-yellow.

Fern Canyon. If only the photo could do it justice…

Near Fern Canyon
I got to visit with Paul Bunyan!
Crossing the California/Oregon border

The next day I continued on this hellishly fun road up and out of the canyon, with my sights set on Jacksonville, OR, where famiy friends of ours live. Alas, the road took its toll, and I succeeded in falling over whilst going uphill and putting a nice dent in my saddlebag (which, only days later, would leak and dampen many items within). Only with great ingenuity (I took one bag off to make the bike lighter) and Herculean strength (I haven’t worked out in years) did I manage to coax the bike into an upright position. The natural order of the universe was once again in balance.
I did finally get back to civilization (read: PAVEMENT) and quickly decided that I needed some hiking to stretch my legs. What’s this? Oh? Oregon Caves National Monument… looks cool (Yes, I did make it into Oregon on that evil – I mean fun – canyon road). Little did I know that I was approaching some of the most beautiful forested land I’ve ever seen. I ended up spending several hours in the park, where I hiked among ferns, vines, moss, and of course, many trees. No, I didn’t go into the caves, but that’s okay; my forest hiking was therapeutic enough. And I did see Big Tree, the largest Douglas Fir known in the state of Oregon. I eventually did have to leave that Eden, but I simply rode from forested paradise to pastured paradise. The Oregon countryside is some of the most beautiful land I have seen. Old barns, green pastures, forested hillsides, and nice people abound in this country.
I arrived at Jim and Marion’s home late in the afternoon. The following ensued:
-Beer and snacks, talking outside, wildlife/birds abound
-More of the same, second beer
-BBQ chicken/much good food, wine, sitting outside, more birds
-More wine, sitting  outside, talking, more birds
-Short hike, more birds, some botany lessons
-Sitting outside, talking, more birds, mosquitos arrive
-Sitting inside, ice cream, talking
What a wonderful couple, and so interesting. All the talking was in fact good, engaging conversation. And I ate and drank so much I had a terrible stomach ache that night…
After a large breakfast the next morning, I hit the road, travelling north to Crater Lake. Remember that whole thing about volcanoes and great views? Yup. There was still a lot of snow up there, and a short way up the trail to Garfield Peak I encountered a steep snow field. Indeed, nobody had crossed that field, nor would they. But ‘impassable’ is merely a word; it means nothing to those who choose their own path. I cut a narrow footpath in the snow with my boots, and trekked on, eventually summiting Garfield Peak after hiking cross-country in snow and mud. And I was the only one out there! An epic adventure, indeed.

Atop Garfield Peak, in all my glory (Crater Lake in the background, of course)

Garfield Peak, as seen from the parking lot

 I eventually made it back to the parking lot without incident and rode out of the park’s north gate. I took Highway 138 west along the Umpqua River and pitched camp in the National Forest. I had my own secluded space, surrounded by fir trees, moss, and ferns. It was a beautiful place, very, very beautiful. After an eleven-hour nap I packed up and rode to the coast. I got to US 101 at Reedsport and had been riding in the rain all morning. Guess what? The closer one gets to the coast, the harder one gets pelted by rain. At Florence I pulled over to warm up with some hot tea and pie in a cafe. As luck would have it, a wonderful, friendly couple sitting nearby asked me about my trip. Our serendipitous conversation resulted in my being invited to stay at their home in Yachats for a night. Ian and Jessa Smith are to be married this year on July 7. Seldom does one find a couple that gets along so well. The soon-to-be Smiths are not only generous and sensitive, but funny as well; I was immediately comfortable chatting with them and relaxing in their beautiful, antique, quaint home, only a block from the coastline on US 101. Once again I ate and drank my fill by the generosity of others. I see a trend developing here.


Ian and Jessa

Devil’s Punchbowl

First cousin once removed! Willammette falls in the background.

The next day, a walk through Yachats, a big brunch, and more great conversation precluded my departure of Yachats. The weather was fine, the crisp ocean air cool, and I had a wonderful ride up scenic Route 101. I pulled off a few times to see the sights, including Devil’s Punch Bowl. I turned off onto Highway 18 and rode inland toward Tigard (a suburb of Portland) where my first cousin once removed (that is, Dad’s cousin, Brian) and his family live. I hit a downpour for about ten minutes while riding throug the scenic valley of inland Oregon and arrived in Tigard with wet socks and damp equipment (remember the dent in my saddlebag?). It’s been great catching up with my cousins here. Brain and Lorraine’s kids, Doug and Julie, are much bigger than the last time I saw them. The family took me out to explore Portland, and we had lunch with Brian’s sister (another first cousin once removed; I just learned what that meant and I AM going to us it) Diana. I’ve been “recuperating” here and will soon leave for Washington, to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park.


3 responses to “Hot Mud, Cold Rain, and Warm Friends

  1. oh my goodness! Bryson, you're having so much fun! It sounds like a great mix of alone-time and social-time. You are a true wilderness explorer! We're missing you a lot, praying for your safety, and hoping that you'll return soon!

    Ann & Austin

  2. Yeah!

    Thanks for the kind words about us, it was so great having you.

    We will both be keeping up with your adventure…you are going to meet lots of kind souls!

    Jessa and Ian

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