Great Oregon Road Trip: Crater Lake, Day 2

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

We decided to spend just one night at Crater Lake and it turned out to be the right decision for us at the time. By our second day, Kei was downing the cold medicine and my Dad was starting to fade quickly.

So what you do when people start getting sick? Take a strenuous 1 mile walk down the side of a cliff of course.

We’d decided the previous day to take a boat trip around the lake. Tickets for the boat rides are only available 24 hours in advance from special kiosks inside the park. By the time I located the kiosk to purchase our tickets, our options were 9:30am and 1:30pm. I opted for the earlier time and, despite having to get up at the crack of dawn (you need to arrive at least an hour before the boat leaves), it turned out to be a great decision. The tour takes two hours and there is no shade on the boat so we were well and truly sun kissed in 80 degree sunshine by the time we got back to the dock at 11:30.

That’s not to say that everything was warm. While we were waiting to board our boat, a few insane people decided that jumping off a small cliff into the frigid waters. I was happy to stand by and take pictures.

We boarded the boat and were told to prepare ourselves for some bumpy waters (it wasn’t too bad).

Then the Ranger started the tour. Despite the investment of time and, of course, money, this really is the best way to see the lake. I don’t think you can fully appreciate the geology and beauty without getting up close and personal. You find out that the water really is that blue and clear and that the cliffs are far higher than you imagined. I even learned a thing or two (or 10).

The rocks in this photo lie about 50 feet below the surface. The water was incredibly clear and I added no filters to the color. Stunning.

The boys loved the boat ride at first…

But two hours is a long time to ask them to sit in one place and keep themselves entertained without the aid of an iphone.

The complaining really kicked in about 30 minutes before the end of the tour and then abated when they worked out how to build a fort between the seats using a collection of sweater and jackets.

After two hours, we arrived back at the dock and, while we took some time to mentally prepare ourselves for the steep uphill climb, we dipped our toes in the water.

But only because the line to jump in off the cliff had grown too long. I would have totally jumped in otherwise (ummm, no).

It was then time to make the steep climb back up the hill. Mum and Dad had a head start so we caught up with them on the way. Then Thomas decided that, since he is never first at ANYTHING, he wanted to reach the top first. I decided to walk with him while the rest of our group took it a little more easy.

We passed a lot of people on their way down to their own boat tour and were sweet enough to let them know that the walk down is a lot easier than the walk back up so they should enjoy it while they can. And then an 87 year old woman passed us coming down the hill and I saw a 70-something year old man pass us for the 4th time (he was training for something and had walked the trail both ways over and over again). Suddenly I felt like I shouldn’t be complaining at all even though my face was red and my lungs ready to burst. I mean if an 87 year old woman can do it… I just wonder how long it took her to get back up.

Still, the steep climb didn’t stop us from enjoying the view.

And Thomas’ wish to be first was granted.

After a big drink of water, we headed back to the lodge for a well-deserved (and delicious) lunch. It’s a little spendy for dinner, but I highly recommend lunch at the Crater Lake Lodge.

Finally, with our bellies full, we hit the road for our next destination.

Coming soon: We explore the Oregon Caves


Wordless Wednesday: Bittersweet

Sun shining on Crater Lake.

It’s beautiful but you’ll have have to take my word for it. The park is closed today thanks to a few grown men who are throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. If they were my kids then they’d all be sent to their rooms until they can learn to get along.


Great Oregon Road Trip: Crater Lake, Day 1

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

We spent three nights in Sunriver before embarking on the next part of our adventure.

For years, Kei dreamed about a visit to Crater Lake but I didn’t share his enthusiasm. Here’s what I knew about Crater Lake before we went: It’s a long way away and fairly remote, closed for 6 months out of the year due to snow (snow equals cold) and has limited (and expensive) accommodation options.

And here’s what I learned: It’s really not that far from Portland and even closer if you’re coming from Bend, if you’re lucky then you’ll enjoy the lake on a sunny 80 degree day in the middle of Summer and the accommodation is not fancy but worth the convenience of staying close to the lake.

It’s also an incredible place and quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

We headed out from Sunriver early in the morning, stopping along the way to pick up some sandwiches from the grocery store and stop for a photogenic train.

Google (or maybe I) miscalculated the distance so, what we thought was going to be a 4 hour trip, turned out to be just a 2 and a half drive to the north park entrance.

Then we drove just a few more miles to our first view of the lake and it was, well, underwhelming. It turned out that fires burning in the western part of Oregon had filled the lake with smoke so, instead of the deep blue waters that we had expected, our view looked something like this…

Beautiful, sure, but as impressive as I’d hoped. Still, we made the most of our first stop by walking alongside some poorly constructed fences. I mean,  would they really stop, say, a five year old from plummeting over the edge? I spent a lot of time saying “stay back from the edge” and “don’t run!” (Between photographs, of course)

The kids soon found some tree stumps to climb (I was happy as long they weren’t climbing fences).

And then we jumped back in the car to drive 20 minutes to Rim Village… where the smoke parted and I began to understand why people make such a big deal about this lake.

That teeny tiny white thing in the middle is a tour boat.

After lunch, we went for a walk to check out the Crater Lake Lodge, a beautiful old building that perches on the edge of the cliff. And I found myself wishing that I had booked our trip earlier so we could have stayed in this wonderful place.

Alas, it was not meant to be so we made do with taking in the view from the rocking chairs that sit out front.

After using the facilities we walked back to the Ranger Station and gift shop (*there’s always a gift shop). It was here that we made easily the very best purchase of the entire trip – a Junior Ranger vest for Samuel. I mean, this thing has pockets and loops and zippers galore. It was the uniform of choice for the remainder of the trip and was, literally, filled with rocks by the time we got home.

Thomas bought himself a book about birds of North America which he used as a guide to complete one of the Junior Ranger activities.

Let me just pause and say that the Junior Ranger program is fantastic. Kei and I had been to National Parks before but, without kids, you really don’t appreciate how much these rangers do to share their knowledge with the next generation. And they take their jobs as educators very seriously. My boys loved the chance to earn badges and were generally interested to hear about how the crater was formed and the wildlife that surrounded them. I’m now motivated to take them to as many National Parks as I can before they become surly teenagers.

After we finished the Junior Ranger activities (it took a while), we spent some more time taking in the view.

At this point a couple of the adult members of our group began to fade. It turns out that Kei had come down with a flu-type illness so we headed to our cabins at Mazama Village where he could take a nap and I could try and keep the kids entertained. I booked the cabins back in January which was lucky as it turned out because they fill up fairly quickly. The rooms were simple, but clean and comfortable and even came with complimentary wireless internet. Dinner at Annie Creek Restaurant wasn’t the best meal in the world but our choices were limited.

After dinner, Dad and I took the kids for a walk through the adjoining campsite to listen to the Ranger talk. Unfortunately a combination of my poor map-reading skills and the pitch black darkness meant that we weren’t able to find the amphitheater and spent a good 45 minutes wandering aimlessly through the campground until we gave up and headed back to the cabin for an early night. The boys were disappointed but I secretly thankful for an excuse to get them to bed knowing we had an early start the next day.

Coming soon – you haven’t really seen the lake until you walk more than a mile down a 700 foot descent…