Day 1 April 23rd, 2011
This was a long awaited trip to Klamath Falls, OR and a 3 night stay at the Running Y Ranch. Last year I won an online photo contest called 'Oregon Naturally' put on by Intel and Jeld Wen. I had cancelled our reservations twice before due to extremely cold temperatures and way too much snow. We had hoped to see the many eagles that gather to hunt the weaken water fowl as the lake's ice begins to break up in late winter.
We left early on Saturday morning after taking a quick drive up to the Ridgefield Nature Reserve to see if we could catch a peek at the Great Horned Owlets.
They must have been asleep as we did not find them. It was however a beautiful morning. And we did see these really cool yellow-headed black birds. This was the king of the cat-tails as he flew from one to the other squawking and letting everyone know he is boss.
It was a great day driving down to Klamath Falls with blue sky but gathering clouds as afternoon approached. We drove over the mountains and by the time we made it to the southern entrance to Crater Lake we found some snow. This is the only entrance open to Crater Lake in the winter as they average about 40 feet of snow yearly. But they keep the road plowed and the road was only wet.
Here we are at the southern entrance to Crater Lake. I especially like the sign on the right of the ticket booth warning of the 'snow zone'. Do you think!! But we are feeling very optimistic as the road is clear. And we are to find that the snow here isn't too deep. It will get deeper the more we climb to the rim.
So we've made it to the top of the rim. And the snow is DEEP. The road dead ends at the lodge which is boarded up for the winter and can barely be seen for the snow covering it. As you can see from this photo the snow has covered nearly everything and the few things open to the visitors who brave the drive here has do be dug out. I thought the outhouses were kinda cute.
And here is the visitor's center with only the one entrance in. We had no sooner gotten up here than it began to snow rather lightly at first. So we hustled up the one snow bank that has a pathway in the snow to get up high enough to see the lake. It was slick as can be but we managed to get up there just in time to catch a glimpse of the lake. It is roped off to not fall through the snow cornices. And within a few minutes the lake was invisible.
We were later told that it had been a beautiful day with blue skies and the lake still & beautiful. That will teach us to now dally around when heading out on a trip.
Day 2 April 24rd, 2011
The suite that we have in the lodge at Running Y Ranch is glorious. We have a full balcony which over looks the golf course. We have a full kitchen, a large plasma screen television over the gas fireplace in the living room, a large bedroom with a king size bed, a vanity area and a large bathroom. It is amazing, when we checked in last night the double French doors into the lobby automatically swing open as you walk up. I'm going to have to keep entering these photo contests!
Our first full day in Klamath Falls started out rainy but then the sun came out and pretty much stayed out most of the day. With occasional spring showers and hail. But it was pretty nice most of the day.
We headed south out of Klamath Falls driving down Hwy 97 until we get to Stateline Rd which takes us to the Nature Reserves. We saw few pelicans as we are heading down the road but I was not prepared for what I saw as we drove down the road. It was a 'Holy Shit, do you see that?' moment. There ahead of us was a sea of white birds flying up in the air and then back down again. As we got closer we saw a tremendous amount of a type of snow goose in a flock that had to number in the tens of thousands fly up in the air to our left. The flock split into two groups with one group landing in the lake to our right and the other group landing in a field to our left. We pulled off the road alongside the flock in the field. Every 10 minutes or so they would all fly into the air and land again just down the field. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen.
Again along Stateline Rd I spotted these birds roosting in some trees beyond a canal. I believe they are some type of Night Heron but I am not sure. There was about 10 of them that I could see from the road. When we drove by again on the way back to the lodge late in the afternoon they were still there.
As we drove by the Night Herons we pulled into a side road to see if we could get a bit closer to see them. As we were looking to the left we caught a glimpse of something white in the canal to our right. It was our first close up look at a White Pelican. I am not sure if they all have that weird bulb thing on their beak but every picture we've seen of them they are always there.
We didn't see very many pheasants that were quite as easy to shoot as this one was. Most of them we would see would then disappear into the grass. This guy was pretty calm. I love all the wild colors on these birds.
|The Three Amigos|
We did see one Golden Eagle but before we could get into range to get a shot of it flew away. At least we got to see one if not being able to get a shot of it.
There are so many different kinds of birds down here that I've not seen before but I have no idea what they are.
Another thing that we are seeing a lot of are Great Egrets. They are all over and every road that we turn down causes some big bird to fly up and startle us. We are slowly learning to approach the canals slowly and with cameras ready. The roads down here at Lower Klamath Lake and Tule Lake National Wildlife Reserves are plentiful. It is incredible and I can see why everyone loves this place.
There was a couple of Jack Rabbits at the base of a large cliff that had a lot of nests. They were running around while a couple of hawks were circling overhead. The hawks were calling to each other and looked like they were looking to catch a bunny for lunch. But it didn't happen, at least while we were there.
|THE END OF A BEAUTIFUL DAY|
Day 3 April 25TH, 2011
Today again started out rainy but also was very windy. We headed back down to the Nature Reserves again but did not have the huge amounts of birds again. And wow, the wind was fierce. The fields that have been plowed are creating huge dust clouds and there is some pretty wild hail storms. But in between the hail it's pretty amazing. We were able to see the Great Horned Owl and it's 2 owlets. When we first got there the adult and one baby was facing into the cave and appeared to be eating. Then she finished, came out into the sun and took a nap. It makes up for not having seen the two baby owls in Ridgefield on Saturday.
Most of the day we drove about the same areas seeing the same types of birds again.
At the south end of Tule Lake the road skirts right along the lake. The wind is blowing so strongly that the lake water is being blown up onto the road. And the birds have to stay pointed into the wind when they are on the lake. If they don't the wind is blowing their butts up into the air and almost flipping them over.
One of the things besides the eagles, which we did see at least one Golden & several Bald was to see the Grebes dance.
When we first arrived we saw on the front page of the local paper a photo of two grebes running across a lake side by side with their necks stretched out and their wings thrown back. Wes did see these two begin to dance as they stretched up high out of the water but that was the end of it. I would have loved to see that but it just wasn't to happen on this trip.
Day 4 April 26th, 2011
|Snow, but not too deep.|
We left for home today with totally blue skies after having some very light snow fall last night. I asked at the front desk how the road to Crater look was and they thought it should be pretty good today.
Well that was not to be the case. We drove over a small mountain range and had to put the SUV into 4 wheel drive. The road was pretty slick with snow.
|Snow is getting deeper but the road still passable.|
As were getting closer to the road up to Crater Lake the snow was getting very deep. Wes was about to turn around and give it up when we got to the area where they plow. We got pretty confident that we could make it now as long as the plows were running.
So we continue heading on up. There are some areas of the road that the snow has made it nearly a one lane road but luckily we've not ran into many people coming out.
And then we came to a snow plow which are pretty cool to see. These are the type that churn through the snow and blow it way up and over the bank.
We were so close when we came to a gate across the road saying 'Road Closed' 3 miles from the rim. We turned into an area for buses where kids where putting on snow shoes. A ranger told us they had received over a foot and a half of snow over the past two days. They expected the road to be open late that afternoon. It was not meant to be.
|An old barn on the road out of Crater Lake|
We drove the rest of the way up Hwy 97 and visited the Painted Hills late in the afternoon. The sun was excellent and we had wonderful clouds. It was awesome. The only thing that was greater was the sunset as we headed out of Madras. It was so incredible but nowhere to really turn out.
It was an incredible trip which ended with a hair raising ride over Mt Hood. It was not snowing much but the dirty spray from other vehicles, the lack of lines on the highway from people driving with chains etc. and the fog made it very hard to see. But we made it home around 10:30 that night and had work the next morning. But what a grand time we had. Thank you Intel & Jeld Wen.