A Grueling Journey To Remote Vulcan Lake
Tuesday 7 August 2012 — Category: Outings
four-day, 800-mile photo outing to the southern coast of Oregon (south of Bandon) in May 2012, I took about 2,000 pictures. It still amazes me how many places I was able to visit and photograph in such a short amount of time! During my third day out, I spent the morning exploring the 28-mile stretch of coast between Gold Beach and Brookings.
To prepare for this trip, I spent a good amount of time studying William Sullivan’s excellent book, 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range. The hike to Vulcan Lake seemed quite interesting, but it was somewhat off the beaten path. Little did I realize HOW FAR off the beaten path it really was! If I had, there is a good chance I would not have undertaken such a journey!
On this third day of my trip in mid-May, I was still in my ignorance! So when a thick fog rolled in around 10:30 in the morning, I figured it was the perfect excuse to head inland towards Vulcan Lake. Once I got to Brookings, I began the 32-mile, intense, exhausting, two hour drive, the last half of which was over a VERY rough, unpaved “road.” It didn’t matter that those last 16 miles were on a narrow, twisting, rocky, one-lane “road,” because there was NO traffic in this remote area of the Siskiyou National Forest. If my truck were to break down, I would truly be on my own!
After that draining drive, there was still a grueling, 75-minute, mile-and-a-half hike in 85 to 90°F heat on a shadeless, rocky path that was NOT flat! Add to that the fact that I was carrying a LOT of heavy photographic equipment on my fifty-year-old, out-of-shape body. It wasn’t as heavy as on the hike that plunged me into my Great Camera Quandary at the end of June, but it wasn’t tremendously lighter either.
The trail starts at an elevation of about 3,730 feet at the parking area, and then ascends steeply to the top of a ridge, gaining about 450 feet to 4,180. That may not seem like such a huge increase in elevation, but the mile of trail you have to walk to get to the top covers only half a mile as the crow flies, which calculates to a 17% grade. Not the steepest path in the world, but on the other hand, it’s a far cry from flat! After reaching the summit of the ridge, it was still another half a mile — losing 280 feet in elevation in the process — down to the water’s edge. It took me 75 minutes to walk that 1.5 miles, and I was wiped out! And HOT!
But just to behold the incredible beauty of the breathtaking, dark-turquoise Vulcan Lake shimmering like a jewel, hidden in its mountain setting, with the snow-dusted Vulcan Peak looming in the background, was SO worth all the time and trouble to get there! How many people in the world have actually made it to this lake? Wasn’t I among a small and elite group of adventurers? And as far as I could tell, I was an untold number of miles from any other human being. Talk about silence and solitude!
But time waits for no man — I was supposed to be sleeping in Crescent City, California, that night, and it was already mid-afternoon. I rested while taking photos for 15 minutes, then I slung the pack onto my back, and retraced my journey to get back to my truck! This time it took only 65 minutes! Then the same 32 miles back to Brookings. I finally made it to a restaurant in Crescent City for dinner around 6:30.
During this afternoon adventure, I took a total of 227 pictures, which I have distilled down to the best 30 — including three wide-angle panoramas and one 360-degree panorama — which you can enjoy in Vulcan Lake 2012, the ninth and final photo album from my trip.
I was very proud of myself for having made it to this lovely yet remote jewel of a lake. In honor of my accomplishment, and as a memorial of this great feat, I filled one of my empty water bottles with water from the lake, and put a few of the abundant orange-red peridotite rocks in my pack. When I arrived back home, I put all that into a glass jar, which I proudly display on a shelf. The contents of this jar proclaim unequivocally to the whole world: I WAS THERE!
For a complete list of all the blog entries and photo albums resulting from my trip to the Southern Oregon Coast, be sure to check out the May 2012 Southern Oregon Coast Photo Outing Recap
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