Day 2 of Our Oregon Experience!
We decided that on the second full day of our vacation in southern Oregon to visit Crater Lake National Park. This amazing place has been on both Mishele’s and my must see list since we were children. It is page 696 of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Probably most people have seen pictures of Crater Lake somewhere. It is one of the most photographed national parks in the world. However, despite being iconic and very recognizable most people we know have never visited it. Why?
Well, the answer has to do with Crater Lake’s location. The park is not on the way to anywhere. You have to make it a destination. It is isolated in the south east corner of the state of Oregon. There are no major cities near it. From Portland to the north, the drive is about six hours and from Sacramento in the south, the drive is about six hours also. So, you need to plan a specific trip there, not just a quick detour on your way to somewhere else.
Tip: Make sure you have a full tank of gas, extra food and water, and warm clothing before you head out. There is no cell phone coverage once you enter the park. Weather changes quickly and drastically.
Aside from being off the beaten path, the location poses another obstacle to visiting the park, snow. Crater Lake gets more snow than anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, almost 1,000 inches a year (23 meters)! Winter typically starts in September and goes all the way to June. Year round snow is common. Therefore, the roads into the park remain closed for much of the year. Route 62 is the only access in winter. Even during the summer, there is only a 60% chance that you will see the lake due to cloud cover and fog. But when it is a clear sunny day, wow! Crater Lake will take your breath away with its surreal beauty and majesty.
Fun Fact: The “Old Man” of Crater Lake is a mountain hemlock log that has been floating upright in the lake for more than 100 years! Wind currents enable the Old Man to travel to different locations around the lake.
The lake is 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep, making it the deepest lake in America and 7th in the world. The surface of the lake sits at 6,178 feet above sea level and is six miles in diameter. The surrounding caldera ranges from 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. The caldera is the tattered remains of a long ago collapsed mountain, Mount Mazama. Approximately 7,700 years ago this large 11,000 foot tall volcanic mountain toppled inward leaving a giant ring and exposing the deep magma chamber. Over the centuries, the enormous hole filled with water creating Crater Lake.
Today, the lake is a natural wonder. Its deep blue waters are almost hypnotic. The aptly named Wizard Island mysteriously protrudes from the lake. We really wanted to go out onto the island and explore. Unfortunately, the season was not on our side. There was still 10 feet or more of snow at the park headquarters and most of the park was still closed. From June to September, you can take a boat tour of the lake. I think that would be both really cool and really eerie at the same time!
We had lunch at the only open restaurant at the park, the lodge. We enjoyed gazing at the lake from the warm comfort of the lodge. The snow was still so deep that the park had tunnels under the snow to the doors of the lodge. Only the upper half of the building peaked out of the thick white blanket. They boys had a lot of fun trying to walk on top of it. Albie had a blast!
Tip: The food is very over priced and mediocre. Bring a pick-nick lunch instead.
We finally had to leave and start the 1. 5 hour drive back to our campsite. Along the way, we decided to see how many waterfalls we could visit. That was enormously fun! Read next week about that adventure.