After days of feasting and wine tasting, our souls needed replenishing. On our second day in Eugene, or Hippie City as I like to call it, we decided to head into the majestic Cascade Mountains east of Eugene to pristine Waldo Lake. I had read that this is one of the cleanest lakes in the world and when we arrived after the hour and a half road trip, the lake’s beauty was awe inspiring. The water, glistening in the sun, ranged in color from deep blue to sapphire and a light turquoise. Pine trees came to the edge of the lake and snow capped mountains could be seen far off in the horizon.
But as we approached the shore with our picnic, we soon realized that not all was well at Waldo Lake. Bloodsuckers. I slapped a mosquito off my neck when I first stepped out of our rental car, but as we came nearer to the water the one or two skeeters quickly turned into a swarm. Every second we could feel them probing at any exposed skin. We retreated from the shore back into the forest, but were followed by the mosquitoes. As we trudged along back to the car, I was thinking to myself, “I am not going to be sent home by a bunch of parasites.” Then in the distance, I spotted an RV and possible salvation. The camp was that of the park’s friendly camp host who had an extra can of bug spray for us. He said in the spring the mosquitoes can be so bad that he doesn’t even leave his RV. After what we had just been through, I couldn’t imagine much worse. I was just happy to have some relief from the bugs.
Treated with DEET, Christine and I returned to our picnic spot and enjoyed some sandwiches and a bottle of Cooper Mountain Pinot that we had picked up earlier in the trip. The bug spray made our food taste a little different and it gave the Pinot a bit of a chemical finish, but I was just glad I wasn’t been stung by skeeters any more. (Although it was a first for me when a dead mosquito landed in my wine after it tried to prick my chemical-laden skin.)
According to the informational signs at the park, Waldo Lake was carved out by glaciers and is the second largest lake in Oregon. Its incomparable clarity (at some spots you can see more than 100 feet below the surface) comes from the fact it is fed by snow melt and underwater springs. Little erosion on the shore means the lake doesn’t contain much sediment or nutrients that promote algae growth.
Once we were done with lunch, we decided to take a swim. Although it was a little cold, swimming was just wonderful. The lake’s water felt clean and fresher than any other lake or river I have ever known. A friendly guy out with his kids let us borrow a couple of face masks and we spent some time paddling around and checking out the view under water. It was amazing, reminding me of when we went snorkeling in Hawaii. We swam out to a raft and just lay in the sun, feeling total relaxation.
Later that day, we had dinner at a great restaurant in downtown Eugene at which we enjoyed a bottle of Lange Pinot. After dinner, we stopped at a new bar in Eugene called The Beer Stein. The place is a “bottle shop” and it was a new experience for me. Instead of selecting a beer from a menu, patrons instead pick bottles from the hundreds that in the store’s refrigerator cases. Then you take your bottles up to the bar where they will pour your beer into an appropriate class. I was astounded by the selection. Rauchbiers from Germany, Belgian Krieks and a great selection of domestic microbrews. Summer in Eugene is pretty quiet, and I was a little disappointed that all my old haunts from my days at the University of Oregon were pretty much deserted. The Beer Stein, however, was hopping. And not just with brew snobs, but with young college kids as well. It was just another example that Oregon is wine and beer country.
The next morning we left in the morning for our return flight back to Sacramento.
Oregon Trip: The highlights
1. Waldo Lake, pristine and wonderful.
2. Wine tasting in the Oregon countryside, not a snob in sight.
3. Pizza, really good pizza.
4. Luxurious lodgings.
5. Excellent beer.