Monday, July 11, 2011

Rising to the occasion

There was a light fog in the air as the Halls pulled out of Coos Bay. They continued on eastward, the sun broke out and by the time they had arrived in Winston (!) OR, everything was fresh and clean. Of course, they felt a natural affinity for the place because of its name, but apparently Winston, OR's only claim to fame was a discount wild animal safari. Everywhere they looked, there were references to their favorite big cats.
Moving inland towards the mountains again, they pressed onward. The narrow mountain roads wound ever upwards. Stopping to stretch their legs, the view over Diamond Lake and its imposing attendants, Mt. Thielson and Mt. Bailey, dazzled them. Since there were no storms in sight, it was a cinch they weren't going to experience Mt. Thielson' major attraction- its uncanny ability to draw lightning strikes. There was, however, a brisk breeze kicking up and Mrs. Hall began to realize that despite the warm temps they had enjoyed earlier, it was getting chillier as they went along. Entering the state park, she made note that it was down to 75 degrees already. The high pines gave way to a pumice desert and then to a rock strewn landscape. "Is that snow still piled up there?" said Mrs. Hall, incredulously. "You'll see a lot more than that," warned Mr. Hall. The dashboard thermometer agreed- as the temps fell the snow drifts rose. Suddenly the eight foot snow banks gave way to blue sky and they were at the summit; before them lay Crater Lake in all its pristine glory. The water was still and the reflection of the surrounding walls and the volcanic cone in the center was almost surreal.
"Absolutely breathtaking!" said Mr. Hall, nearly in a whisper. The overlooks were dizzyingly close to the precipice, but Mrs. Hall could not resist edging as close as possible to look down. They headed on up to the lodge at the top of the mountain and ordered lunch. It was clear the site drew visitors from all over the world; the shop and the lodge had a sort of alpine-style architecture and the Halls overheard several different languages being spoken around them. The air was thin; Mr. H. strode over the snow banks in his shirt sleeves, and it was easy to see he was becoming winded easily. Not so, it seemed however, for a group of youngsters, who were amusing themselves by flinging snowballs madly at each other and other unwary tourists.
While it would have been tempting to stay and watch the sun set over the lake, the Halls had miles to go. Bidding goodbye to the mesmerizing beauty of Crater Lake, they slid back into the little rental and careening down the mountain switchbacks, headed on.

The Queen of them all

The road south leveled out and the temperatures started to rise again, and soon, in the distance, a beautiful perfect cone rose out of the horizon. All roads seemed to lead to it, and it seemed as if all previous travelers, ancient and recent, had no choice but to be drawn to it. Second only to Mt. Rainier in height, Mt. Shasta beckoned them on.
Stopping at the scenic overlook, the Halls were able to view Mt. Shasta, as well as three other lesser volcanos visible around the horizon. "While the US Geological Survey considers this a dormant volcano, there is every reason to believe it will erupt again, in oh, say the next few hundred years," informed Mr. Hall handily. Mrs. H. glanced at the thermometer on the dashboard and wiped her brow. "Well, while it would be fun to stick around and watch for that, I'm afraid I have to admit I'm hungry and not a little bit thirsty, too. Looks like we'll have to toddle on." sighed Mrs. Hall. Mr. Hall agreed entirely.
Their heads may have been full of glorious visions, but their tummies (and the gas tank, too) were running on "E", so they coasted into Red Bluff, CA and dropped their bags at the hotel.
"I know just what I feel like for dinner tonight," said Mr. Hall, but Mrs. H. was way ahead of him and had already ordered the drinks.
Next episode: Leave it to family to know the best spots to eat. Stay tuned!

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