As many of you know, Southern Oregon is on fire. For nearly the entire month of August, the Rogue Valley has been filled with smoke from multiple forest fires in the surrounding areas. Even the coast has been smoky because of the fire in Brookings. And like many of my fellow Oregonians, I don’t have air conditioning which requires me to open windows at night to cool the house down. That means I’m breathing that crud all night long. Gah! We’ve also been having triple digit temps. Hella hot, and we can hardly breathe. Many people out and about are wearing various masks and filters to protect their lungs. It pretty much sucks.
I wanted to go to Crescent City but thinking it was probably smoky I decided to go up to the Mountain Lakes to see if I could get out of the heat and smoke and get a little lake time in the X-O. It turned into another one of my sagas. Here’s the story.
The Mountain Lakes are Lake of the Woods, Fish Lake, and Fourmile Lake. To the east is the Mountain Lakes Wilderness and to the north is the Sky Lakes Wilderness. The Sky Lakes are a lot of lovely little lakes accessible to backpackers and horse packers. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through it from north to south. Each of the Mountain Lakes has its own flavor. Lake of the Woods is developed, with some really nice campgrounds right on the lake, vacation homes, and the Lake of the Woods resort, where there is a boat ramp, lodge, cabins, and a small store. A nice family place. There’s a $5 day use fee which covers all the campgrounds.
I put in at Sunset campground boat ramp because it’s small and comparatively unused. As soon as I was on the water I was treated to great views of Brown Mountain and Mt. McLoughlin, two of our local volcanos. Brown Mountain is a small cinder cone on top of a shield volcano. It is 7,311 feet (2,228 m) above sea level, but is overshadowed by nearby 9,495-foot (2,894 m) Mt. McLoughlin. There are trails up both mountains. Even though Mt. McLoughlin is the more impressive volcano, I’ve heard that Brown Mountain is the one we need to worry about as far as eruptions (it’s the newer one), but both are inactive as far as I know.
It was really nice to be out of the smoke. It was still kind of hazy, as you can see in the photos, but nothing like down in the valley. And the water was delightful, cool and refreshing, the perfect temperature! Very clear as well. I paddled along the shore and took some pictures and then practiced falling out of my boat and getting back in again. Since I still haven’t learned to roll, that’s what I do, and I can do it pretty fast in all conditions.
After messing around a bit I put the boat back on the rack and drove to Fourmile Lake. I’d never been there before. It was up a 6 mile gravel washboard road and when I got there I wasn’t very impressed. It’s actually a reservoir, and it looks like it. I decided not to put in, but parked near a trail head to read the information sign. When I got back in the truck, it wouldn’t start. When I turned the key in the ignition, all I got was a bunch of flashing idiot lights and a clicking sound.
I looked at the manual to see if there was anything I could do in the way of troubleshooting. It was obviously something electrical, but the symptoms didn’t correspond to any of the dead battery scenarios listed, so I called my insurance company for a tow. Then I called Toyota to see if they could tell me what might be the problem. The service guy confirmed that it was probably a dead battery, so I went looking for someone to give me a jump.
Luckily I found some campers who helped me out. First we tried jumping the battery but it didn’t work. The battery was 9 years old and apparently had come to the end of its life. But one of the campers had a trick up his sleeve. He took the battery out of their car, put it into my truck, had me start the truck, and then swapped out the batteries after telling me not to turn the engine off or it probably wouldn’t start again. After thanking my helpers and cancelling the tow I hightailed it down to Medford to the Toyota dealership where I got a new battery installed just before closing time. Whew!
Several good things came out of this trip. One, even though I broke down out in the middle of nowhere and had to get a new battery, it was better than having it happen on the retreat which is coming up next week or at Burning Man, where I would have been had I not bagged out this year. Either of those scenarios would have been worse. Two, I got to experience once again the kindness and competence of the local gentry. This is not the first time little elves have come out of the woods so to speak to help me out of a jam. Remind me to tell you the saga of how I ran into my Volvo with my truck on an icy mountain road some time. It’s quite a story. And finally, I got to get out of the smoke, check out some of the Mountain Lakes, and learn more about the beauty and the splendor and the wonder of my Southern Oregon back yard. All’s well that ends well. Now if it would just rain and clear away all this smoke!
Have you ever depended on the kindness of strangers? Share your story below!