Great Alpine Lakes of the West: Crater Lake

There’s no swimming here.  And only boat at a time is allowed on the lake.  But man, the view is something.  At a little under 2000′ deep, Crater Lake is the ninth deepest lake in the world.  Really it is a completely flooded dormant (we hope) volcano.  It blew its top off and rain filled in the spaces.  That is probably an overly simple way to put it but we never claimed to be geologists.  In late July 2011 we visited this marvel and half the crater was closed to traffic due to snow.  The last of the icebergs had melted in the lake and the first boat tour of the season was the next day (usually they begin in mid-June).  The three of us threw snowballs at each other at each overlook and made a half-hearted ascent up a mountain to get a better view of the lake.  Corey and I had been to this spot before and we had taken the boat tour.  This time though, with half the park closed and more of the trip behind us than ahead, it felt pretty good sharing it with Henna.  Even if we only stayed for a few hours.


Some Great Playgrounds Out There

Sure, nature makes a great playground, but so does man (and woman).  Here are some of our favorite mechanical attractions.

The Missoula County Fair

Corey and I have been there twice, but only once with Henna (the first was as newlyweds on our return trip from Alaska).  In the ten or so years between visits we changed much, the fair not so much (although we did miss the horse racing present on our first trip).  That is a good thing.  Both times there we wandered through prize cows and llamas as well as other questionable western livestock and dined on funnel cakes and other tasty fried treats.  Corey does not like things that spin her, but Henna does and the two of us enjoyed watching rainbows from the Ferris wheel.

St. Jospeph, Michigan

Where there was once a religious retreat there is now an awesome beach, playground, and carousel.  All of it sits below the down town area where ornamental cannons stand guard.  Upstairs (at grade level) is an OK children’s museum as well as several ice cream shops.  Parking is cheap or free, no beach fees at all, and the carousel will not cost you more than a few dollars.  What is there not to like?

The Carousels of Oregon

Salem and Albany Oregon both have sister cities near the east coast and love things that go round and round.  In Albany volunteer workers have been spending the last several years carving and painting works to complement a restored 1909 Dentzel machine that will ultimately power their creation.  Donations and visitors are always welcomed and our short time there felt like being in a dream factory.

Salem residents and tourists have been enjoying their carousel for some time.  The carousel is housed in a small building within a larger green park a short distance (but a busy street crossing) from the downtown area.  Incidentally, the Salem visitor center is the only center I know that sells bottles of wine from a nearby winery. 

Millennium Park, Chicago

We have not made the final selections yet, but I think we are going to omit this park from our Great City Park list (the Lakefront though is still in the running).  As consolation prize, we will mention our hometown park on our great man made attraction list.  The reason for this lofty honor, the cool off factor.  Not much in Chicago is free, but standing under a giant waterfall and dodging underground sprinklers is.  And we love it.

Do you have a favorite playground?  Please, Hennacornoeli minds want to know.

Great City Park: Washington Park, Portland (OR)

Portland’s parks as a whole deserve an entry in our Hennacornoeli listing of the Great City Parks.  Like everything out west, Portland’s park system is larger than their eastern counterparts.  A real challenge to us then is picking which park to profile.  Forest Park, per Wikipedia, is the largest “wilderness” urban park, (it may be a little wild, but when I think wilderness I imagine a place miles from people and a road system), Mills Park is the smallest park in the U.S. (at 2 square feet it makes for lousy tag), and Mount Tabor with its very dramatic views would all be good picks.  We, however, chose Washington Park as being most worthy of the Hennacornoeli Great City Park award.  Maybe we will send the park a statue.

Things to do in Washington Park:  visit the Children’s Museum (a truly great playhouse for children of all ages to explore), go to the zoo (we did not but I am sure it is a fun time), smell the roses at the International Rose Test Garden, sit for a concert on the terraced steps immediately below the rose garden, contemplate the destructive nature of war at the Oregon Vietnam’s War Memorial (we found the layout, an extended and windy walking path leading past a time line of the war, powerful and engaging) or take in the trees at the Hoyt Arboretum.  Although the park itself is away from the urban center, there is great public transportation available to whisk you both to and away from the park.  The park even has a large and affordable parking lot making it a great base camp for further city explorations.  And like all great parks, the boundaries are a bit muddled and seem to spill into the bordering neighborhood. 

As for the city itself, many people think of Portland as a smaller San Francisco.  We see the city more like San Francisco’s somewhat scruffier but more endearing younger cousin.  Like San Francisco, Portland has a lot of rain, a green feel, and a sophisticated urban feel.  But both the wealth and poverty in Portland is less pervasive than in the bigger city.  Whereas eating out in San Francisco can be quite pricey, we ate well and relatively cheap at smaller sushi places, coffee shops, and one food truck that served up mighty tasty crepes.  The homeless in Portland also have a quaint, just doing this for a lark feel in contrast to the more professional San Francisco pan handlers.  Corey and I were amused by all the youths with smart phones, a hip dog (usually with a bandana), and an extended hand asking for money (probably to help pay for their data plan). 

Although we really loved being in Portland, I just felt that Portlanders did not always get me.  For example, while picking up a bottle of wine I said something like “Man, you guys have it good here.  I just miss pumping my own gas” which was met with a dirty look and a sarcastic “yeah, that must really suck.”  Other residents told deeply personal stories such as the young man on the MAX who told of his recent struggles with a heroine addiction.  He also told us about his plans to fight forest fires in Montana (good money) and how he dreaded the resulting separation from his young daughter.  Still other residents, with little encouragement needed, talked about the need to further legalize pot, how much they disliked Chicago, and the virtues of Portland.  Hopefully some time soon we will be able to get back to Portland.  I will refrain from talking about the joys of pumping your own gas and will be ready to counsel all who need counseling.

Random Oregon Pics

It is still Fall here in Chicago, but my thoughts have turned to Oregon.  These are some oldish pictures of some of our favorite places on the wet side of the mountains.  Enjoy.

The picture above and below were taken at Sunset Bay State Park.  The Oregon coast rocks.

Silver Falls State Park, about 45 miles south east of Portland is pretty cool too.  We especially enjoyed hiking behind the falls.