Friday, September 29, 2017

Snow at Crater Lake National Park!

It's the deepest lake in the United States and the 9th deepest in the world. No rivers or bodies of water flow into or out of it - because it was caused by a collapsed volcano about 7000 years ago - and it's water clarity is unmatched. If you've seen photos of Crater Lake in south-central Oregon, you've seen the incredible blue color - and the incredible setting it's in. When we were planning our RV trip around Oregon, I knew that I was going to include Crater Lake National Park on the itinerary if I could. And we made it - with just a little hiccup in the plans.

Our original plan was to drive our RV from the Oregon coast over to the North entrance to Crater Lake and camp at the Mazama Campground - which is a first come, first serve campground in the National Park. Easy peasy. But Oregon and the entire West Coast of the US saw a record amount of snowfall this past winter. Including Crater Lake. 

A few days before our trip my son gave me the heads up that maybe we should check to see if the National Park was indeed open - and the campground also. Well, the park was but not the campground. So we were one for one. But the park only had one entrance open as opposed to the regular four. We scrambled to change our itinerary, find a campground ( By the way, if you need a nice campground outside of Eugene, Oregon the folks at Deerwood RV Park were incredibly nice and accommodating including loaning us an electric hook-up cable for the night) and re-route ourselves to the southern entrance to the park. 

Upon arrival and seeing the massive amounts of snow still piled high in June, we considered ourselves lucky to be able to visit the park!

These three were finally digging out this building so they could access it since the snow started falling - and it was June

We started at the Steel Visitor Center - entering through the snow tunnel entrance as the melting snow blocked the regular entrance - and watched the movie about Crater Lake. We headed on down the road to the Rim Visitor Center but with a stop first to see our first view of the lake. Lots of people and a few photos later we went into the Visitor Center. There was a historical exhibit about the history of the National Park, a gift shop and a snack bar. After climbing over the snow we drove the RV down the one mile of the East Rim Drive that was open.  It took us to another view of the lake including a view of Wizard Island. Obviously there was no access to the lake - which is usually only at the boat landing - and no boat running at this time. So I'm sure it's quite different to visit in July or August. 

Our last stop of the day was at the Crater Lake Lodge - a beautiful old lodge with a big fireplace and craftsman style furniture overlooking the lake.( There are two places to stay in the park - this lodge and the Mazama cabins. Both need to be booked at least a year in advance. The lodge was totally sold out the day we visited)  It was still a bit chilly out but we thought a visit to the lodge called for a glass of wine in the rocking chairs overlooking the lake with our feet up. As one does. We finished up with a walk around the inside of the lodge and a few minutes by the roaring fire - which felt incredibly toasty.

We hit up the Brewers Union Local 180 Public House for dinner. A pub with good beer and good food -  "Oregon's only Real Ale Public House and Brewery" - located in Oakridge, Oregon which is completely surrounded by National Forest land. We even sprung for dessert.
You can't tell but there was ash falling from the sky in this picture. It was a controlled burn at this time - not the massive fires they had recently.

It was a really good day. I finally was able to visit - and see in person - Crater Lake. Snow and all. Would I recommend going even if all entrances aren't open? Definitely! Just know that it's not easy to get to. But then, places worth going to rarely are.

Things to know before you go:
- Crater Lake National Park is open year round but many of the park's features are closed in the winter. If you visit in May or June there may be snow and road closures. Most people visit in July, August and September when most facilities are open.
-There are two campgrounds located in the forests of Crater Lake National Park - Mazama takes a limited number of reservations and can accomodate RV's and tents. Lost Creek takes only tents and is first come, first served. Both are open only in the summer.
- Crater Lake Lodge is open seasonally usually from late May to late September.
-Standard Lake Cruises and tours of Wizard Island also operate seasonally. Check the website for more info.

Have you been to Crater Lake National Park? 

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Crushin on Long Island's North Fork

Long Island's North Fork - the northern coast and portion where Long Island splits - is rural wine country with small towns and farm stands aplenty. If you love wine tasting, plant shopping or eating seafood in a bucolic setting, then this is the place for you. A little bit of Napa just outside of New York City! Man, I love this place!

We visited in the spring making the 3 hour-ish drive from the city by rental car. My goal was to spend the day wine tasting and enjoying the scenery with the possibility of getting some farm fresh produce or maybe even homemade pie. I only accomplished the former but it was still a fantastic day.

Mr. UR made up our highly efficient wine tasting route map - he's always in charge of logistics and there's no backtracking allowed - after me and my daughter picked some of the ones we wanted to visit. I was hoping for the pie-in-the-sky number of eight wineries while my daughter said we'd be lucky to make five and quite possibly only three. We ended up at five - all different and all with good wine.

Our first stop was at Kontokosta Winery in Greenport. Kontokosta has water views of the Long Island sound (but not water or beach access) and a modern, barnlike tasting room. You can taste and tour in the tasting room or take your wine out to the picnic tables overlooking the water . We chose to do the latter and thoroughly enjoyed sitting with a glass of wine at a picnic table staring out at the sound. The winery was hosting a wedding that day and they would be closing at 3pm so I was glad we chose Kontokosta to visit first.

It was time for lunch so we drove towards the town of Greenport and saw a sign for Billy's by the Bay Seafood Restaurant. A "fresh seafood and lobster" restaurant located in the Brewers Yacht yard, Billy's has a tiki bar and screened porch with brightly colored tables and chairs for a festive atmosphere. Mr. UR enjoyed lobster while my daughter and I went for a landlubber special. Feeling satisfied, we took a quick drive through Greenport and headed to the next winery.

Next on our route was One Woman Wines and Vineyard which was started by - as you can tell by the title - one woman. Claudia Purita grew up on her family's farm in Italy and after moving to Long Island she decided to start her own vineyard hand planting much of the vines. One Woman has a small tasting shed with a walk-up window and views of her vineyard. If you enjoy a smaller, intimate setting for a vineyard then this is the winery for you.  We each enjoyed a glass of wine here rather than a tasting. And we were off to our next stop.

Our next stop was the winner of the day and quite possibly a lifetime. Croteaux Vineyards makes rose and only rose. They are the only vineyard in the United States to do so.  Located in the town of Southold, Croteaux has a tasting barn and outdoor seating where they bring the tastings to you. We arrived to a long line standing outside what we thought was the tasting room. After asking we found out that was the line to the restroom, so we made our way through the building and entered into the most magical courtyard with various types of seating. We ordered our flights of rose and sparkling rose and took gajillions of photos while we waited. It's just that special. I enjoyed my flight - and so did my daughter. (Mr. UR sat this one out - rose isn't his thing )Then we walked around the grounds before deciding we should leave - even though we didn't want to. I'm definitely going back someday and I might visit Croteaux only - though that will be difficult as there are so many others to visit!

We  headed down the road to Bedell Cellars - another beautiful winery on Long Island. A delightful place for a wedding, Bedell has a tasting barn with outdoor seating overlooking the vineyard. Beautiful view and beautiful sunset. Known for it's musee, we decided not to do a tasting here as time was running short so we enjoyed a glass of wine. 

Last but not least was Lieb Cellars. Lieb has more of a hip, urban vibe than the other farmhouse style vineyards that are family run. Sustainably farmed and run by a creative group of young people, Lieb specializes in small production, reserve wines. By now, I was getting a bit "wined" out so I ordered a glass of their dessert wine -created in the ice wine style( ice wine is especially sweet as the grapes are left on the vine for two or three frosts) - to sip on. It was just right. 

We had visited five North Fork wineries - and my stomach was thinking that it was time for dinner. We decided to head towards our hotel and grab dinner on the way instead of backtracking to Greenport. What a fun day! 

What are your favorite wineries to visit? Have you had wine on the North Fork?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog PartyThe Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!


Hurricane updates: Thanks to everyone for your kind words and thoughts about my family. My mom and brother are a few of the lucky ones. They are safe, with no damage to their residence and were without power for a week. The schools in Naples reopened two days ago with some businesses still not open but power was supposed to be totally restored to the area by today. The Keys will be a much longer recovery and rebuilding process and you can still donate to help those affected from Hurricane Irma.

Please pray for all the good people of Puerto Rico and consider donating if you can. Their island has been catastrophically wiped out from Hurricane Maria and is 100% without power with most streets turned into rivers. If you would like to donate, you can google Hurricane Maria and be taken to websites for donating.

Also please pray for those in Mexico City and consider donating if you can. At least 275 people have died and the recovery effort is ongoing. If you would like to donate, you can google Mexico earthquake and google will take you to websites for donating.