Day 3 – January 13 – Madras, OR to Susanville, CA
We were quite excited to see some sunshine this morning. However it didn’t last and before long we were driving under cloudy skies and rain.
Our first stop of the day was at Crooked River Bridge and Gorge. The first bridge across this chasm wasn’t built until 1911 even though the area was explored in 1825. It is a 300′ sheer drop on both sides. There are three bridges across the chasm; one railroad bridge, the original bridge and a new bridge that opened in 2001 to accomodate the greater amount of traffic.
You can just see tiny workers on the top gantry as the bridge is approaching the center.
We planned to see several ice caves and craters in Newberry National Volcanic Monument south of Bend but everything was closed for the season. We took several exits off the highway to check out the different things and even drove several miles up a snow-covered narrow road in the woods before giving up and heading down Highway 97. Our plan was to branch off onto Highway 31 at La Pine but we had taken so much time going in and out of Newberry that John decided to stay on the more direct Highway 97 as far as Klamath Falls to make up some time.
We stopped for lunch at Chemalt;where there is LOTS of snow. This is normal for the area. As a matter of fact they have sled dog races there this weekend.
At Klamath Falls we stopped to fill the gas tank and asked the young fellow if he knew the conditions along Highway 139 to Susanville, CA. We were uncertain whether to stick to 97 or branch off onto the shorter but more untraveled 139. He said he hadn’t been on the road for a month or so but at this time of year we would encounter rain rather than snow, the elevation would drop, there would be very few big trucks and we would reach Susanville in about 3 hours.
The fellow was WRONG on all counts! Three times we reached elevations of over 5000′, we drove through blowing snow on and off almost the entire way, and semi-trucks were almost the only vehicles we saw. He was closest on the arrival time – we arrived in Susanville in just over 3 1/2 hours.
The snow had dusted all the pines making them look like a fairy-land.Our last couple of hours driving to Susanville were in the dark. We drove around the huge Goose Lake, a very popular holiday and fishing spot. I suspect the views would have been gorgeous in daylight. The descent into Susanville would also have been great in daytime. There appeared to be some pretty sheer drops off the road side; first on one side then on the other. The twists and turns near the bottom had mileage speeds of 25 and 30 mph. I think we will have to come back another time and drive that road during the day.
Even though we didn’t get to see any of the things I had planned to see and we drove through a lot of snow, it never accumlated significantly, the roads were well plowed or bare and the sun did peak through the clouds every hour or so. All in all, I think it was a pretty good day.