Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Road Trip; Crater Lake and Beyond

Trip date: September 2020


Day 7. Healdsburg, CA to Klamath Falls, OR: ~7 hours

After a great few days with my friend Aaron in Mendocino and Sonoma counties, he drove me back to San Sebastopol where we'd left my car. Aaron was heading back towards LA and I was starting my return drive to Seattle. 

It was very smoky most of my way up I5, it was also very hot- 106-109F for almost my entire drive. Thank god for A/C! Most of the drive was past dry fields, but there were still some big swaths of sunflowers which were quite cheery! It was so smoky that I couldn't see any of Mt. Shasta even as I drove right next to it. 

Arriving in Klamath Falls, I stopped at a pretty park with water jets spraying up from a lake. It felt good to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. As I passed a man sitting on a bench, he asked me "Are you my connection?". Ok then, drug park!

It was one quick night at the Holiday Inn and the next morning a stop into The Grocery Pub for a to-go sandwich and some hiking snacks. What should have then taken me 1 ½ hours to drive to Crater Lake took me almost 2 ½ because of a 45 minute queue to enter the park. Luckily I have a National Park Pass which I was able to flash once I was near the ticket booth and I was directed to a lane which then finally passed the queue. 

I was very excited to be staying at the Crater Lake Lodge, I had a small room with a queen sized bed that looked directly out onto the lake. I had never been to Crater Lake and I was immediately struck by how incredibly beautiful it was!  

The lodge is the only non-campground sleeping in the park and is only open from May to October. It's a gorgeous stone structure, originally opened in 1915 after President Roosevelt declared Crater Lake a National Park in 1902. 

Besides the big stone fireplaces in the lobby and great room, the lodge has a huge outside deck lined with rocking chairs facing the lake. It's the perfect place to sit with a book, a glass of wine, and enjoy the view. Which is exactly how I spent the afternoon.

It was a Sunday and the park was very busy, and as this was during Covid and before vaccinations, it made me a little nervous, but the lodge had all registered guests wearing wrist bands and without one you could not enter the premises at all. 


Dining options were slim, only the lodge's dining room and a take out pizza truck at nearby Rim Village were open. Since the lodge menu was the same each night, and expensive, I had the rest of my sandwich from earlier in my room and watched a movie I had downloaded. Pro tip: there is no phone service at Crater Lake and the wifi was basically non existent, download some entertainment before you arrive.

Day 8. Rim Road Crater Lake, OR ~ 6 hours

The next morning I was up early and in my car by 8am. I had a full day planned and the weather looked absolutely perfect! I'd be driving the Rim Road, 33 miles around the lake, as well as doing a few hikes along the way.
My first stop was at the trailhead to Watchman Peak. There was no one, except for the chipmunks, on the steep but short trail up. And when I got to the top there were just a couple of people sitting on the rocks enjoying the morning. I had packed some fruit and granola bars for breakfast and hung out for a while taking in the amazing views of the entire lake.

The Rim Road has around 25 turnouts, everyone single one with stunning views. The lake is the most deep colored blue, and parts of it are so clear that you could see straight down.

When I was about 2/3rds around I took a 10-minute detour off the Rim Road and drove to the Pinnacles Trail. This super easy ½ mile hike skirts a deep ravine where a large group of volcanic pumice spires eerily stand. 

These are the remains of volcanic activity formed by compressed pumice and ash. I've never seen anything like them! So cool.

Back out to the Rim Road, my final hike of the day was the short Sun Notch Trail. By climbing up the hill you get fantastic views of the "Phantom Ship", a small rock island in the lake. 

It was such a fun day spent exploring an area that I had wanted to go to for so long! Back at the lodge I headed out to the deck with some wine and my book, but the weather was changing pretty quickly. Smoke from the CA forest fires was filling into the crater and the wind had come up quite a bit.
The lodge finally had to close the doors and windows because of the windstorm. Normally that wouldn't be such a big deal but this was pre-vaccine pandemic. I moved inside, chose a seat away from most people, and waited for my dinner reservation in the dining room. This was the first time I was eating and drinking inside in 5 months and it felt a little nerve wracking!
I ate my dinner pretty quickly, ordered another glass of wine and took it and my chocolate cake dessert back to my room. The wind was howling outside! 

Day 9. Crater Lake to The Dalles, OR: ~5 hours

It had been 78F during the day but that night it plummeted to 35F with 20-30 mile per hour wind gusts! That is a huge drop in temperature! I woke up in the middle of the night because my room had gotten really cold; turns out the lodge had lost power. When I got up the next morning there was still no power and it was only 49F outside. I hauled my gear down the stairs (no power, no elevator!), was not able to get breakfast or even coffee (they only had a generator to keep the fridge/freezers running), and scrapped my plans to hike that morning on the way out. Brrrr!

But it had been such a great time at Crater Lake! If you haven't been, put it on your list and book into the lodge well in advance! 

I was driving north now on OR Hwy 97/197 to The Dalles, stopping along the way at Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint for a stretch. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge spans the deep canyon and there are also views of volcanic peaks in the distance.  This was a really nice unexpected stop.

As I continued north I could see quite clearly the various forest fires happening throughout Oregon. The smoke wasn't near me yet but you could see it traveling.

I had booked one night at the Fairfield Inn in The Dalles, using points. The hotel is a bit out of the main part of town but my room was quite nice and since there was still a pandemic on it wasn't like I was heading out for a bar crawl!

I took the BMW for a wash, picked up a salad from Cousins which was recommended by the front desk, and turned in early.

Day 10. The Dalles, Or to Seattle, WA: ~4 hours

Last day on the road! I slept in a bit and then went downstairs and grabbed the included-with-my-rate breakfast and had it in my room. 

I had purchased a timed ticket to see Multnomah Falls, I'd never been! The ticket was only $1 but on the day I was there it was very empty so I hadn't really needed it. The falls are absolutely beautiful!
Then on to my last hike of the trip, just a few miles down the highway, Latourell Falls was recommended by a friend and it was a perfect last outing!
It is just a beautiful forested trail, slightly steep up to the falls, and with some downed trees to scramble over. It wasn't very crowded and it was really enjoyable. And I saw my first pygmy owl land on a branch right in front of me! Very cool!


I had just over a 3-hour drive home from here. As soon as I passed into Washington it was so smoky that it was hard to see past the side of the road at some places.

This was such a great road trip, especially after being cooped up at home for so long because of COVID. I really needed to get out and explore!

~1,900 miles driven; this was my newest BMW's first road trip!

All photos of Crater Lake and Columbia River here.


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