July 7, 2012

Is there any such thing as "the perfect vacation?" (final part)

Lucky Lake with South Sister and Broken Top in background
Driven away from beautiful Waldo Lake by deep snow, I woke up near Lucky Lake the next morning. Not having eaten much the day prior, I pulled some oatmeal out of my backpack, gathered some water from the lake and cooked breakfast. A beer can stove, made after watching a few instructional YouTube videos, was used, along with a few ounces of denatured alcohol as a fuel source. Lightweight, the beer or pop can stove is not bad for backpacking, although overall, it did use more fuel than I had hoped. There are several different beer can stove designs. Here is one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2p9bnOGmSk&feature=related

After breakfast, I put together my fishing pole and strolled down to the lake in search of a trout or two. No signs of fish had yet appeared. The prior evening I had watched the surface of the lake for rising trout, but none showed. That morning, they were still staying below the motionless surface.

In high lakes, I generally have better luck catching trout on lures and flies. A good spinner for these lakes is a small rooster tail or some variation of the lure, which is what I fished this lake with. After a half hour or so, with no bites or trout even trailing a lure, I headed back to camp.

The day and setting was gorgeous, but I wanted to move on, so I packed up and headed back to the truck.

Not yet knowing where I would land next, I drove like a tourist along Century Lakes Drive, gazing at a variety of mountain and lake views. It seemed like a perfect day on one of the most spectacular drives in the state. Heading north and then east, the string of mountain lakes seen from the highway included Lava Lake, Elk Lake, Devils Lake and Sparks Lake. Other waters, such as Hosmer Lake, Little Lava Lake and Todd Lake lie a short distance off the highway.

Vacation time in the Cascades had not been so perfect in the past. While at Crescent Lake one year, I was unpacking the back of the truck after arriving a few minutes earlier. Lifting a bag out of the bed of the truck, I hit the back of my hand on the edge of the cabin's low hanging metal roof, filleting it wide open. As I made a fist, I could see the whitish tendons moving back and forth. Back into the truck my wife and I climbed and drove to the hospital in Bend, where they stitched me up.

Another time, while camped along a lovely beach on Lemolo Lake, my bride caught her toe on an exposed tree root, broke her big toe and tore off the toe nail. That was a bloody mess.

Another time we returned a day early from vacation and discovered that night that my father had been taken to the hospital with an aortic aneurysm. He passed away in the hospital 12 days later.

So, as you might suspect, vacations are always looked at with a bit of trepidation on my part.

After driving through Bend, I decided to head over the Santiam Pass and south on Hiway 126 to some trails along the McKenzie River. This is where the suit I brought on the trip comes into play. My nephew was getting married on the upcoming Saturday in Eugene. I wanted to hang out in that area of the Cascades and then go to his wedding on my way home. Where I would bathe or shower would be a challenge, but I knew I could get it done somehow.
McKenzie River's Koosah Falls
From the McKenzie River, I drove up the winding road to McKenzie Pass and planned to spend the night at an old haunt from the past  - Lava Camp Lake. We had spent several weekends years earlier at the lake while exploring the area's trails. A howling wind and ominous clouds persuaded me to spend the night in my truck instead of setting up the tent. For a little history regarding the McKenzie Pass, go to: http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/entry/view/mckenzie_pass/

Misty rain fell throughout most of the night, while the wind continued. Even with my sleeping bag draped over me, it was a bit chilly as it began to get light out, so I decided to start up the pickup and turn on the heater. After a few sequences of turning the key in the ignition, the truck failed to start. It was turning over, but not firing up. I waited a few minutes and tried it again - it still wouldn't start. It was then I remembered that it had struggled to start when I left home. I didn't think too much about it at the time, because I work from home.

I tried to start the pickup again. It still would not start. Now I started to worry about running down the batteries. I let it sit for awhile longer and tried again. Still nothing. Now I was beginning to wonder how I was going to get out of this pickle. I was the only one in the campground, there was no cell phone service, and it was several miles to the town of Sisters. Hoofing it along the McKenzie Pass Highway in search of a ride into Sisters to find a tow truck was the most likely option. I tried to start the truck again - it still would not fire.

I did not want to walk into Sisters. It was so early in the morning and the weather was nasty. It was likely that few cars, if any, would be driving over the pass, and, even if a couple of cars did appear, who knows if they would have picked me up. I sat there for another fifteen minutes and gave the pickup one more shot.

It finally started.

By then it was obvious something was wrong with the truck. So, there would be no more vacation in the Oregon Cascades. I knew I would now have to drive directly home and seek out a mechanic to fix my problem.

A few hours after returning home my wife and daughter came home after being on a week long cruise to Alaska. My daughter and her dance and singing team were the entertainment on the ship. They were surprised to see me.

I found a mechanic who had to replace all the glow plugs in my diesel pickup. Next I called a locksmith to get my office open. Then I drove back down to Eugene to attend my nephews wedding.

Quite a week. Much was done, but little was accomplished. I swear, there is no such thing as the perfect vacation.

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