East Lake in the Newberry Caldera

I was really excited about finally getting to Waldo Lake this year but it wasn’t to be. Mo and I were there in 2004 and the lake has called to me since then. Oregon was catching up with California this weekend and lightning strikes caused fires in the Cascades that closed almost every highway crossing the mountains last weekend, including our route to Waldo Lake.

When Mo and I left Rocky Point on Thursday morning, we already knew that HWY 58 was closed so we decided to go up to the Newberry Caldera just east of LaPine.
The area is a fascinating view into recent geologic events on the east side of the Cascades with two lovely lakes and some nice campgrounds. Here is the link to the Cascades Volcano Observatory USGS website for the Newberry Caldera.

This change in plans worked just fine for Mo’s brother Roger and his wife Nancy, who planned to visit us for some kayaking and campfire time, since they live on the east side of the mountains anyway. Didn’t work so well for my daughter Deb from Portland who had planned to meet us Saturday night at Waldo. Ah well, maybe next time.

When we first left Rocky Point, the smoke was visible over the mountains, covering what we knew to be the Crater Lake caldera rim and billowing high and white like big cumulus clouds very much too close to home for comfort. By the time we reached East Lake, however, the skies were clear and lovely. The campground is first come first serve, and there are about 7 sites right on the water. Lucky for us, number 14 at the end of the front row had been recently vacated so we managed to get on the water even though the other sites were full. Site 14 is what they call a “premium” site and with our Golden Age Pass was only $7 per night, (half the regular 14. fee).

This particular site was actually used as a full hookup site for the camp host during the season, and we still had fresh water piped right to the site, although the power connections were locked up. We also actually had a solid asphalt pad. Not bad for a forest service campground in the mountains! Once camp was ready, I took off for a twilight glide across the lake. The water was reflective, glassy, and totally still except for the jumping trout. I have never experienced this kind of jumping fish all around me. I actually thought that I would eventually get some fish in my boat, and had more than a few jump into the air within arm’s distance. Amazing. Later we learned that the fishermen were having good luck that night with 16 inch trout jumping onto hooks using super bait. The next day wasn’t quite so good for the fishermen, but we still watched nice sized eating trout being caught both from boats and from chairs along the shore.

Friday morning I went for another paddle while Mo waited for her brother to show up and when they arrived, we sent them off with the kayaks while we watched the dogs. It was Nancy’s first time in a kayak, and like most people, she discovered that it wasn’t the least bit intimidating. Our boats are really stable and have a nice wide cockpit, which still doesn’t let anyone look particularly graceful trying to get in and out, but once you are in, it’s a piece of cake!

The weather cooperated, and after a nice ride, we all settled in for some hiking along the beach collecting pumice cobbles, and then a campfire and a planked salmon supper cooked on the grill. yum! It was nice spending some camping time with family, and nice that they only had less than an hour to get back home. It was also encouraging to hear that they had driven through thick smoke almost the entire trip up the hill and we were just out of it. I had an entire weekend with no smoke and no heat. A good thing!!

Saturday was cool, foggy and rainy most of the day, so after a good bacon and potato breakfast we spent most of the day relaxing and reading in the MoHo. I say “bacon and potato” because neither of us remembered to bring the eggs! I also created some entertainment for the two of us by trying to wind a large skein of ribbon yarn that kept us occupied for more than an hour at least. Good thing Mo is more patient than I am at that kind of thing. Finally, later in the afternoon, the weather cooperated a bit and we had time to hike the trail to the hot springs. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know the springs were there, and kept wondering where the strange poopy smell was coming from! When we did finally find them, they were a bit of a anti-climax, since the actual spring was only a few feet across and less than a foot deep of somewhat murky, barely lukewarm water. I was cold from the windy hike, and had been having visions of dropping my feet into a hot pool. Not this one. We even skipped our fancy supper, opting instead for some warm chicken soup and a half tuna sandwich by the damp fire. I had planned to relax on this trip, but maybe not quite this much.

Sunday morning opened to a cold foggy morning, but we decided to go out on the lake anyway since it looked so still and lovely, and the previous day the winds had come up before noon. It was a good plan, since by Saturday afternoon the rains started. We circled the entire lake, checking out the springs from the water side, and enjoying the views during the few moments when the clouds cleared a bit and we could see Paulina Peak above the caldera. I made potato salad and Mo grilled burgers for us for a great evening supper watching the rain come on the lake and being very grateful for our warm MoHo.

Sunday night was cold, with the temperature dropping to just a hair above the freezing level. We were also grateful for propane and a furnace that night, and slept all warm and cozy. Our optimism regarding the dawning of a sunny day wasn’t rewarded, though, and after a quick breakfast, and a look at the very low propane levels, we though we might as well head home. Four days without hookups is easy, except the propane hadn’t been completely filled for a few trips, and with the temperatures in the high 30’s we really didn’t want to hang around. Geez, you couldn’t even warm a cup of tea if the propane ran out!

By the time we got back down the hill to LaPine, the clouds were clearing and by the time we reached the HWY 138 intersection with HWY 97 the skies were completely clear and off came the heavy sweatshirts. Heavy smoke from the Lonesome Complex fire filled the upper ends of the Wood River Valley, and was especially thick along HWY 97 north of Chiloquin. Even though the fire is very close to the Wood River Valley on the crest of the Cascades, the smoke stayed north and wasn’t too bad right around Rocky Point, even though you could see it all across the valley down to Klamath. A very smoky summer indeed, first California and then Oregon. As I drove back home, through more leftover smoke from the months long fires in the Klamath Forest of northern California, I sighed and wished for winter rains to come here as well. By the time I got back to Jamestown, the car temperature reading was in the low 90’s. Still. But I had a break, a cool, damp, fresh, clear break from it all and am ready now to “dig in” (yeah, it’s soils stuff) for another couple of weeks before the next camping trip into some clear cold mountains on the east side of the Sierras.
Here is a link to the rest of the photos.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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