Lakeside Classic: 1986 VW Golf – 360,000 Miles And Still Pulling The Boat To Waldo Lake

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On Sunday we took advantage of Oregon’s typical crisp, clear September weather to get up into the high Cascades for a hike. After looking down at majestic Waldo Lake from summit of the The Twins, we headed to its pristine shore to gaze into the second clearest body of water in the world and have our customary afternoon tea. Waldo lies in a wilderness area, so there’s no development and motor boats are banned. But there are a few sail boaters that come to take advantage of its reliable afternoon breeze. As it sits a mile high (5,420 ft; 1,650 m), the drive up Hwy 58 and Forest Road 5897 is a quite a pull up from the valley floor. So seeing this elderly Golf MkII hooked up to this sailboat on its trailer was well worth an amble over to say hi. 

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The views from The Twins were unlimited in every direction, and the Cascades volcanoes lined up from the California border to the Washington border were all on display. The snowy peak in this shot is South Sister, our closest big volcano, and not nearly as far away as the lens on an iphone makes it seem. It would have been a perfect day for climbing it, but for the fresh snow and having slept in. It’s good to have realistic ambitions. Maybe another day…

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Photographing Waldo Lake is challenging, since its so big (10 square miles), that it’s hard to get anything but a chunk of it and some woods on the shore. One has to see it to appreciate it; even better, to get out on it. The water is so pure that it looks like someone poured indigo dye into it in the deeper parts (its purity reflects only the deepest part of the blue spectrum), and one can clearly see the rocks on the bottom over 100 feet down. Boating on it (or even better, swimming in it) and looking down creates the strange sensation similar to flying, as it’s almost like looking down from an airplane. Waldo is the jewel of the Central Cascades, along with almost equally-clear Crater Lake.

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But as splendid as the scenery is, I couldn’t help but notice this brilliantly-green Golf hooked up to this sailboat trailer. Looks right at home up here in the emerald woods, but I didn’t remember this as a stock VW color. A brief chat with its owner, who bought it new in 1986, explained its hue.

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He had the originally-silver Golf Wolfsburg Edition re-painted the same shade of green as his former beloved 1948 Studebaker Commander. It took him a few years to decide to do that, as who wants to repaint a new car? But then if one is keeping it for the long haul, like this one, why not have it be the shade that you really love? And now it’s a Golf Waldo Edition.

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This owner and his Golf has racked up some impressive mileage in its 30 years of ownership: over 360,000 miles (580,000 km). And the only significant repair to the drive train was to replace the valve seals. Yes, the 1.8 L four in these was a tough little mill. He was busy getting his sailboat ready to tow back home, but he did mention that he also has a 2000 Jetta. Yet the old Golf is still doing the heavy hauling.

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Presumably this is what it looked like in its original state. Now I’m not going to do a full on history of the Mk2 Golf, as Perry Shoar did that here not all that long ago. The A2 Golf is a somewhat controversial car, as some see it as a pudgy adulteration of the brilliant A1 Golf. As much as I love the original, it couldn’t be built forever, and the A2 certainly was a worthy successor, bringing some welcome improvements in comfort, room, and luggage space without too much of a loss of its predecessor’s dynamic qualities. But everyone has their own opinions.

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What’s as clear as the waters of Waldo lake is that this owner has found his car of a lifetime. His green Golf is a beloved member of the family, and will keep pulling the boat up the mountains for the foreseeable future.

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Not that it’s being asked to pull a big powerboat, but nevertheless, it’s more than most 30 year-old VWs are asked to do.

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And why wouldn’t the elderly Golf keep making the trek? Once someone has been to Waldo, the pull to go back is irresistible, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of miles are on the odometer or candles on the birthday cake. It’s Oregon’s fountain of youth. And now when someone asks you: “Where’s Waldo?”, you can give them an answer.


Related reading:

CC: Volkswagen A2 Golf – Ready, Steady,Golf  by Perry Shoar