Looking back, the highlight of the trip was the surprise meeting with Susanna and Karen in Ashland. I wish Beth could have been there too, but she had to work that day.
My last day on the road started out cloudy, but ended up clear, warm, and sunny.
As I was leaving Miller Lake, a hunter told me that some fishermen had been catching good-sized brown and rainbow trout using a “rapella” – a lure about 5” long. I guess the fish are always biting something I don’t have in my little tackle box.
On the 13 miles of gravel FS road back down to Rt 97, I saw two different bunches of deer.
Crescent and Gilchrist
Rt 97 follows an ancient indian trading route. For example, dried salmon from the Columbia River were traded for obsidian from near Paulina Lake. Rt 97 is also paralleled by a railroad, with an Amtrak station at Chemult.
Crescent and Gilchrist are about 18 miles north of Chemult. Another 15 miles would take you to LaPine, but I cut west on a shortcut over to Rt 58, aka Cascade Lakes Hwy, wanting to try canoeing on Odell Lake.
Gilchrist was a company town built by the Gilchrist Lumber Company, founded in 1938.
Almost lost a trailer tire
I got gas and ice in Chemult, and discovered one of my trailer tires was really low on air. (10 PSI !) I pumped it up to 19 PSI to match the other tire, but was glad I had a spare for the trailer if needed.
I drove to Odell Lake. It’s 6 miles long and up to 280’ deep. A resort called Shelter Cove is on the west side of the lake. It’s close to Willamette Pass ski lodge and where the PCT crosses Rt 58.
I put the canoe in at a campground on the east side. I had picked up two of those expensive ‘rapella’ lures at a store on the hwy approaching the lake.
Canoeing through whitecaps
The wind on this large lake was whipping up whitecaps that sometimes splashed right over the canoe. This wind must not be unusual, because the boat landing has a jetty to protect it. I paddled into the wind, barely making progress. I kneeled in the center to lower my profile, and to level the boat enough so the bow wouldn’t easily get caught and turned by the wind. After I got out far enough, I threw the anchor in so I could do some casting with my spinning rod and newfangled lure. They say the kokanee in Odell Lake are plentiful and they get big, so my mouth was watering. The limit is 30, so I expected them to be practically jumping in the boat
But my anchor rope suddenly felt too light. I pulled it back up – the anchor was gone! Guess I should have checked the knot. Meanwhile, I was drifting back toward shore, so had to start paddling again. I was beginning to appreciate why I was seeing big powerful motorboats used by the other fishermen on the lake. It seems mine was the only canoe.
One lure down
Well, if you break some eggs, make an omelet. I saw a point to the south and angled toward it, hoping the wind would be less on the lee side. Once around the point, the wind followed me. So I threw my line in and rested from paddling. My drift was just about right for trolling speed, and I could make up the difference by reeling in very slowly, mouth still watering. As I started getting close to shore, and not knowing the lake, my expensive lure snagged on something on the bottom. I sure didn’t want to lose that lure, so I paddled hard to get back over it so I could pull it loose from the opposite direction. This was quite a battle, because I had about 100 yards of line out. I fought this battle from several angles, and for a long time, but eventually lost. The line snapped.
Not one to give up easily, I went to shore and found a jagged rock and carefully tied my anchor line to it. I tied the other expensive lure on and got back in the canoe.
Two lures and $39 down...
By this time, I was coming back to the point, thinking I better not get too far away from home base, because those whitecaps seemed to be getting bigger. Coming into the wind around that point took forever. There was no time to take a breather from paddling with all my might, or I’d instantly go backwards. As soon as I got far enough out and beyond the point, I dropped my new non-storebought anchor. It held pretty well, even in that wind. So I started fishing with the other expensive lure. I got about 10 casts in before snagging the bottom, with the same disastrous result as before. It was time to accept defeat and head back in to the campground.
There, to add insult to injury, a man and wife had just come in with a beautiful boat the size of a cabin cruiser and were carrying a large, heavy looking plastic bag over to a place for cleaning fish. They pulled some huge kokanee salmon out of the bag and started cleaning them.
Onward to Cascade Lakes Scenic Hwy
I backed the trailer up to the water and hefted the canoe back onto my homemade rack and cinched it down and fixed a tuna sandwich lunch before heading back eastward on hwy 58. Turning left on that cutoff road back toward Crescent, after a few miles there’s another left to go north on Cascade Lakes hwy, a scenic route.
The area surrounding Davis Lake had been wiped out by a forest fire in 2003, so it looks almost bare all around the lake, although there are young pines about 4-5’ high making a slow comeback.
A couple years ago I camped and canoed and fished along this scenic Cascade Lakes route for several days and had a great time and did catch some nice trout on a fly rod.
But after the exhausting wrestling match with Odell Lake, I was about ready to go home. I didn’t feel like fishing or pitching the tent again, even though there are lots of beautiful lakes and good campgrounds along this route. It would be a very long day if I drove all the way home, but I didn’t feel like renting a motel room either.
So I went through the big city of Bend and stopped in Redmond for gas and supper.
Driving after dark on Rt 97 and then on Rt 26, the traffic was very light. Home by 10:35. Bev was asleep.
Later, I added up my receipts - $232 for gas in 9 days. I’d like to do this trip again, but do it better next time, and catch some fish, and see Steens Mt in clear weather and find that 3 mile canoe ‘trail’ in the Upper Klamath Basin, and lots of other things too.
This trip was to see things in Oregon that I hadn’t seen before, and in that sense, it was very successful. For those who are new to Oregon, of course you’ll want to see the coast, Columbia Gorge, Mt. Hood, Paulina Lake, Smith Rock, Crater Lake (a must), the Wallowas, and many more of the places I love.
Now it’s just about time for snow and skishoeing season. Visit outdoortracks.com/store if you want to order some Altai Skis. I've got them in stock.