[Note- This post is the second of four describing my 2012 Road Trip]
A nice evening and overnight in Bend was definitely a treat after a few days of camping and dodging fires in Idaho. Running water and showers meant we were now presentable to join in the fun at a few of the popular brew pubs—eating delicious food and tipping back a couple of cold craft beers.
Later that evening, we strolled along the waterfront and discovered an art fair, farmer’s market and music fest. Fun but we were still on Mother Nature’s time clock and soon, it was time to hit the sack for a well-deserved night’s rest.
We got an early start the next morning and headed for Crater Lake NP. What started out as a cloudy day soon turned into a rainy day. Our campground in the Cascades was just north of Crater Lake, where we put up our tents in a light rain. There was a smell of smoke in the air from the omnipresent forest fires. Undaunted, we continued to Crater Lake, still shrouded under dark clouds. Then, the rain stopped.
Smoke and clouds hung over the 21 square mile lake while the eerie, jagged volcanic cliffs rose up nearly 2,000 feet above the water. Mount Mazama erupted around 7,700 years ago, creating a cauldron 4,000 feet deep and five miles across. Today, Crater Lake is over 1,900 feet deep; the deepest lake in the United States.
In our walk around the rim, the vistas were beautiful, even in the cloudy and smoky surroundings. The dark rock and changing sky tones, enveloped by smoke and floating clouds were haunting. After a few hours, we returned to camp to finish setting up and make dinner while the rains held off.
The rainy weather did return during the night, with light rain off and on. But with the coming of morning, the clouds were gone and the sky was clear. After a breakfast of energy bars, we excitedly returned to Crater Lake… this time, on a bright, gloriously sunny day.
What a welcome change! The beauty of the lake was clear and visible. No threatening weather and smiles on all who crossed our path. On our repeat walk along the perimeter, we greeted a group of college students hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from southern California. They had stopped for a break at Crater Lake, en route to their final destination. The entire PCT is about 2,650 miles long.
Several of the students were debating on whether to hike all the way to the Canadian border (about 500 more miles to the official north end of the PCT) or call it quits at the Bridge of the Gods (about 200 more miles to where the bridge crosses the Columbia River Gorge near the Bonneville Lock and Dam 50 miles east of Portland). Regardless, they had hiked a long way from Campo, CA, near the border, across from Tecate, Mexico. As we headed back to camp, we realized how lucky we were to experience two different faces of Crater Lake.
Morning’s light meant a return to the road. We headed out on Hwy 97 south through Klamath Falls and into northern California. As we passed Mt. Shasta (14,162 feet) and drove southeast toward Lassen Volcanic National Park, more detours due to forest fires made it clear we had to leave the Cascades area altogether. There were not many travel routes to choose from so we tracked back to Interstate Hwy 5 and headed south to Sacramento. Everywhere we had ventured, major forest fires forced a change of travel plans– starting in the Bob Marshall Wilderness two weeks earlier, then Idaho, Oregon and now in California.
The next day marked the end of vacation for my wife so we dropped her at the airport early in the morning. Jon and I had a long drive to reach our next destination, heading west on Hwy 50 to connect with Hwy 395 south of Carson City, then continuing south to Lee Vining, CA. We had made reservations at Lake View Lodge and were meeting two other friends for the next phase —a week of backpacking and a return to wilderness adventure.
The plan was to hike a day in Yosemite, somewhere north of the Valley and south of Tioga Road, down to North Dome and a look across the Valley at Half Dome and down the Merced River Valley to the southeast. A nice one day hike is what we envisioned. Then we were heading north of Yosemite to backpack in the Hoover Wilderness and northern portions of Yosemite. More about that adventure in the next post.