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Road Trip - Klamath Falls


Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2005 - 2017
Written October, 2005


A friend had recently moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon and invited us to visit. There were no direct flights between Los Angels and Klamath Falls and the only connecting flight was lengthy. We decided to fly to Medford, Oregon since we would rent a car anyway. I would have preferred the Burbank Airport, but there were no direct flights from Burbank to Medford, so we were forced to fly out of Los Angeles International. As luck (bad luck) would have it, the Freeway Flyer bus was remodeling their parking lot so we had little choice but to braved the dreaded Los Angeles freeways to begin our trip. The only flight from LAX to Medford was in early evening and we arrived in Medford too late to risk the one hour drive to Klamath Falls, so we had arranged a motel in Medford.


We awoke early and hit the road (Highway 140) to Klamath Falls. It's not far, only about 60 miles, but through very pretty mountain scenery over a mountain road that we hadn't wanted to take in the middle of the night. It was sill early and fresh snow covered the summit in Rogue River National Forest. My wife hadn't seen snow since she moved to Southern California from the Midwest about twenty years earlier, so we stopped to play in the snow for a few minutes beside an old snow covered lava flow. Once over the mountain, the road runs along side Lake Klamath for a few miles before entering the city.


As luck (still bad) would continue, my friend had a commitment that day and couldn't join us for our first side trip. We dropped off our things and drove back south. My wife, not a geographic expert, was confused when I told her we were going back to California. Klamath Falls is only about an hour north of the California-Oregon border and it wasn't long before we were driving through a part of California I had never seen before.


We had only one planned stop back in Siskiyou County, California, and that was Lava Beds National Monument. Lava Beds National Monument has more than just lava beds. The Captain Jack Trail remembers the struggles between the earlier native Modoc people and the Anglo settlers. This is a rugged trail, but worth the effort through some beautiful scenery. The best reason to visit Lave Beds National Monument are the dozens of lava tubes of varying difficulty. The Visitor Center provides a map which lists the difficulty level. I bought my wife an orange hard hat complete with a bat picture on it. As (bad) luck continued, the first cave I attempted, Golden Dome Cave, a medium difficulty level tube, scarred my wife who remained in the car for the rest of the trip.


Access to Golden Dome Cave is though a small opening down a ships ladder. This is when my wife returned to the car. The floor was not cleared or polished as in some tourist caves. It was as rough and ragged as the day it was formed and walking was difficult, especially holding flashlights and camera equipment. If you plan a visit, do bring at least two flashlights for each person and extra batteries as most of the caves are not illuminated. In one direction, the cave runs only a few hundred feet before the ceiling closes in on he floor, the result of a collapse long ago. The other direction extends many hundred feet to the centerpiece, the gold dome. Because by now I was the only one in the cave and it really isn't safe exploring a cave alone, I never made it all the way. Maybe next time my friend will be able to come along.


The other two or three caves I entered were easier, but I still couldn't coax my wife out of the car. It was mid May and still quite cold, but warmer in the caves than in the car. Most caves are a constant temperature, usually about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Skull Cave traps cold winter air and there is perpetual ice at the end. From Lava Beds, we returned to Klamath Falls where my friend was home and waiting for us.


That evening, my friend, Jack, drove us around town and pointed out some sites to consider seeing tomorrow.


The next day, Jack took us to various museums and historic sites. I enjoyed the informative Klamath County Museum at 1451 Main Street, Klamath Falls and The Favell Museum with its collection of Western and Indian Artifacts, contemporary western art, and collections. The Baldwin Hotel Museum was not open when we tried to visit, so maybe next time.


Later in the afternoon, my wife from the Midwest wanted to see some farms, so we drove about an hour east of town to the flat fertile farmland of eastern Oregon. I photographed some wonderful old barns that day along with the museums, but the film case detached from the camera strap and was lost the next day, so I need to go back some day.


The third day (not counting the travel days) we ventured north into the high country and forests. This was a beautiful drive, first along Lake Klamath, then into the mountains. Our fist stop was Collier Logging Museum (Collier Memorial State Park). This is a wonderful large collection of old logging equipment arranged along a trail. The displays included everything from chain saws to huge pieces of equipment for moving logs. Small historic buildings had been moved or recreated along the trail.


The next stop was famed Crater Lake. I'm sure the lake was beautiful, but visibility was about half way to the lake and all we saw was snow. There are only about three months in mid summer when you can see the lake the way it appears in the post cards. It was still enjoyable driving through the snow and I hope to return some summer. This is probably where I lost my film, so if you find it, let me know. From here, we drove back to Klamath Falls.


At this point, we had to pack up and say goodby. Our flight, again the only one we could get, was in the early morning and my friend informed me this was the worst time to be driving that icy road. So we drove back to Medford along that same road we came on, only this time, the snow was gone. We had arranged for a second night in the motel near the airport and found dinner and settled off to sleep. So this is my short story of zero days and two nights in Medford. The next morning, we headed for the airport early and were home by about 10:00 AM.


There are four reasons that I want to revisit Klamath Falls, my friend, the scenery, Crater Lake, and to reshoot everything of those three rolls of lost film.



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