Umpqua National Forest: This place rocks. I’m going to say a lot about this place. Easily my favorite National Forest so far with respect to accommodations. It has tons of REALLY nice campsites that have 10-15$ fees, a few nice ones that are straight up FREE, a lot of day use picnic areas, and plenty of places to utilize dispersed camping. All of the camp sites I saw are along HWY 138 which shadows the Umpqua river (and they all had superb swimming holes close by). Umpqua also has a ton of waterfalls, the most impressive of which is Toketee Falls, which is a massive 100+ foot double waterfall. Even with all that being said, my favorite part of the park was the Umpqua hot springs. They are simply amazing, however when you go to hot springs you have to be prepared for 3 things.
- There will be nudity. The overwhelming majority of which is not the good kind.
- The hippy factor. These places are magnets for people ‘connecting with mother earth’ and shit. At least they’re bathing. Sort of.
- The pools are outdoors. They will be a little dirty.
If you can deal with these things then mountain hot springs are pretty badass. I have gone to 3 so far on this trip, but this was the first I stripped to my bare-ass for, mainly because I had the place to myself (save the old hippies who apparently lived on the other side of the river. I couldn’t give a shit about them). I was there for about 45 minutes in the nude until a young college couple showed up and I couldn’t have put my shorts on fast enough. They really didn't need to see my goods. The couple turned out to be college soccer players from Oregon who were on summer break and up for the day, Mitch and Nikki. They were some of the nicest people I’ve met thus far. We hiked to the Toketee Falls after the hot springs and then said our good byes. I hope I see them again someday.
Crate Lake: Stunning. Simply stunning. The colors of the water and rock formations are amazing. The sheer magnitude of the crater is incredible in itself, the first time I walked up to the top of the crater rim my jaw dropped; I’d never seen anything like it. The rangers in the park were very nice, they gave me my back country camping permit and politely told me I had to check back in when I left or they would send out a search party that I would be fiscally responsible for. I left the station and head round the other side of the lake to hike up to the top of Mount Scott, the highest point in the park. It was a short hike and well worth the view. You could see the high desert, the crater, and the entire lake. After Mount Scott I hiked up to the crater rim and made camp (I later discovered this was a big no-no). I didn’t sleep well, and I broke camp before dawn, and promptly got the heck out of there. About an hour down the road I realized I didn’t check out with the rangers. Shit. Fortunately when I called them I was able to check out over the phone. Phew, just what I would have needed, to pay for a rescue team to come looking for me, when I wasn’t there.
Redwood National Park: Wow, just wow. I was skeptical on how impressive trees could be, but the Redwoods of California are IMPRESSIVE. I had seen the redwood driftwood in just last week but those were twigs by comparison, the full on old growth redwood trees are majestic. Towering over everything else around them, they honestly make you feel about as big as a bug. I was fortunate to get the last back-country site in the park Elam Hose Camp. It was an easy 3 mile hike into the camp along Redwood Creek through an old growth redwood grove. One of my favorite hikes of all time, I must have said ‘unbelievable’ and ‘are you fucking kidding me!’ 30 times a piece in that 3 miles. I arrived at the camp just after 7 to find an extremely nice family already set-up at the site. Noah, Mary, Jasper, and Liam had apparently just seen a black bear on the trail right by camp. Wonderful news! At least the site had bear lockers for the food (which are bear proof but not mouse proof, only a lone packet of oatmeal make it through the night. Little bastards). I slept pretty soundly only awaking only a few times to what I thought was my neighbors rustling in their tent. In the morning I was talking to Noah, and it turns out we had a black bear in our camp and the ‘neighbors rustling in their tent’ was actually a black bear checking out the neighbors packs. My first black bear experience and I didn’t even know it. Probably better it was that way, because I can’t say I wouldn’t have screamed like a child. I bid the family farewell and hiked back to my car jingling my keys the whole way. They say you should make noise so the animals know you’re coming and move along, and after last night I was taking no chances. I jingled those damn things the entire 3 miles back to my car.