Epic Car Odyssey 2011

It almost didn’t happen. It wasn’t planned. It evolved organically without a definite plan over all 605 miles.

And it started with a missed connection. We were in Oregon for a week with GrandMama & GrandPapa, minding our own business, when the opportunity dropped in our laps. Karen was supposed to join us for the weekend to end the trip, and then we were going to get her home for work by Monday morning. But she missed her flight connection to Eugene (other options were unworkable), and we didn’t have to be back home at all. The next obligation was an event in Reno on Tuesday, and the obvious option became clear: Criss-cross Southern Oregon and Northern California on a rambling car trip between Roseburg and Tahoe. Voila!

Sunday: A Tale of Two Waterfalls: We started Sunday in Oregon


You’ll notice the waterfall above and the one below are not the same place. Clearwater Creek along Highway 138 and the North Umpqua River in Oregon gave us a short full waterfall that the girls got to see upclose (notice the picture on the right is actually a playable video) on our way to Crater Lake (recapped in the Oregon post). From there, we drove to Klamath Falls, crossing into California on US 97 through Dorris.

We took a slingshot ride around Mt. Shasta, catching Highway 89 south from I-5, toward Lassen Volcanic National Park.

DSCF2062 DSCF2064

Our day ended at the incredible waterfall over Burney Creek, just a few yards off of Highway 89 at the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. We drove in to the park on a lark, hoping it might be easy to see the Falls. And was it: The base of these incredible falls was less than five minutes walk from the parking lot! It was such a pleasant scene, that we had our picnic lunch near the campground and then visited the Britton Lake boat docks inside the park.

Thirty minutes after that, we were at Hat Creek, where we spent the night before the Lassen part of our adventure began. Overall, the first day took almost 8 hours to drive the 350 miles to the outskirts of Lassen:

View Larger Map

Confession: The day might have included a third waterfall, as I got sucked-in by the touristy-sounding city named “Klamath Falls” … but, alas there were no falls evident as we drove through.

Monday: Volcanoes, Lava Tubes, Canyons, Rivers, Railroads

Monday was another whirlwind of fun, with some extraordinary outdoor scenes. It began with a morning drive into Lassen Volcanic National Park. Although the park is still closed for the “winter,” the Visitor center was open, and we were able to get some great pictures of the tallest plug-dome volcano in the world.

DSCF2075 DSCF2078

After the outdoor discoveries, it was time for a little indoor exploration … underground! The Subway Lava Tube had been one of our destination ideas from the beginning of the trip, and it did not disappoint. The tube was formed thousands of years ago from volcanic lava flowing from Mt. Lassen and its predecessor. The entrance fed us into a completely dark (pitch black) cavern with cool temps and cool reflector-marked interpretive trail. Spaces inside included Lucifer’s Cul de Sac, The Sanctum, and some low spaces where headroom was at a premium.

DSCF2083 DSCF2106

The volcanic geology was especially cool for Jocelyn, because her sixth grade science curriculum included a lot about volcanoes. We talked a lot about plug-dome volcanoes, mudpots, and pyroclastic flows.

From Lassen, we had to drive around the closed stretch of road, through high alpine meadows and lots of cattle ranches. We got our last glimpse of Mt. Lassen form the shores of Lake Almanor, where we also crossed a PG&E hydroelectric dam before rejoining SR89. Our trip included a stretch through the scenic Feather River Canyon, with high canyon walls, crisscrossing railroad lines, and steep whitewater runs. We stopped in Quincy for lunch, and the girls were really struck by this huge Native American mural.

DSCF2109 DSCF2115

We continued following Highway 89 through Plumas and Sierra Counties, and eventually found our way back to the familiar in Truckee and at our cabin in Serene Lakes. But not before we all agreed the fun had been well worth the long drive.

View Larger Map

And … BUGS! … not surprisingly, many bugs died to bring you this adventure. And, yes, we gave the Volvo a thorough cleaning after its 1300-mile odyssey.

You can also enjoy the trip by reliving my Twitter Feed for the month of June, beginning on June 12