Posted by: bkivey | 6 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 4

I awoke at a reasonable vacation hour, and had breakfast at the diner across the street. I was excited about the day, because I was going to see Crater Lake, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The day was partly cloudy with bright sun; a nice change from the last couple of days. I’d debated whether to go to Crater Lake today or photograph some covered bridges, but I figured that because the Park is on the east side of the Cascades, I’d have a better chance of sun, and seeing the bridges Friday would give the remnants of the storm another day to clear out.

The Park is about 65 miles from Medford up state highway 62. The road generally follows the Rogue River valley before veering southeast at Union Creek in the Rogue River National Forest. This was a different part of the river than I’d seen Monday, and it is quite beautiful.

I found out how much the car weighed:

Ford Focus weight

Along the way, I’d noticed clouds blowing in from the  west, and I was concerned about the effect on sightseeing: concerns that would turn out to be well-founded.

Park headquarters on the south side of the crater:

Crater Lake south entrance

The visitor center is here, where you can find information on the Park, as well as pick up a visitor’s guide. The guide has a nice map of the park, where you can follow your drive around the rim.

The headquarters sits nearly a mile above Medford at 6500 feet, and the temperature was 46F. This would be the high temperature for the expedition; at times the temperature would dip into the upper thirties. There was also a fresh breeze, something I would find is a constant condition in the area. My attire of shorts, shirt, and hoodie was starting to look inadequate for the conditions.

Directly across from the visitor’s center is the crater rim, topped by Garfield Peak at 8000 feet. On exiting the parking lot, you can turn left or right, depending on your touring preference. I turned left, as I expect most people do. The road gains nearly 700 feet over 3 miles as it climbs to Rim Village. You can park in the lot, walk over to the view point, and see this:

Crater Lake view 1

That’s Wizard Island on the left, with Llao Rock just to the right of it.

There’s a cafe at the Village, and a selection of drinks for sale. I’d packed a lunch, but had neglected to provide something to drink. I refrained from paying $3.50 for bottled water, figuring something would turn up.

The Park Service advises 2 – 3 hours to circumnavigate the lake, and depending on stops, that’s about right. On the day, viewing opportunities were limited by the increasing cloud cover. The rim drive averages 7500 feet in elevation, and on occasion I found myself in the clouds. On the western side, there are spectacular views of the  National Forest below.

Crater Lake chain of fire placard

As this was not a clear day, the only peak visible was the one on the left, and that only intermittently. I was disappointed in not seeing Mt. Shasta, but you take what you get.

View from the north side:

Crater Lake view 2

The lake exhibits a variety of shades of blue, and during the season boat tours are offered. There are also tours to Wizard Island, where visitors can climb a trail to the top. Garfield Peak, the highest point on the rim, is just to the left of the island. Out of frame on the left is Mt. Scott, the highest point in the Park at 8900 feet. There is a short, and I imagine steep, trail to the top to the mountain. There is also a trail to the lake surface on the north side, but it’s 1400 feet of elevation change. My desire to touch the lake wasn’t that strong.

Overlooks on the 33 mile rim drive abound, and I stopped at many of them, including all the named ones. The designated overlooks usually have placards describing what you’re seeing, which is helpful when taking pictures. At Cloudcap Overlook, there are examples of ‘flag’ trees, so named because the constant wind causes the tree branches to all grow on the downwind side. It was in this area that I picked up a piece of pumice for a souvenir.

I was interested in seeing the island called Phantom Ship, and there are a couple of places to view it. Whomever named the rock had a better imagination than I do; I had a hard time seeing it as a sailing vessel.

Immediately south of Phantom Ship Overlook is a road to a formation called The Pinnacles. It’s a fifteen mile round-trip to the formation, and as rain had started to move in, I debated whether it was worth the trip. I decided that I was already there, so I may as well see as see what the Park had to offer.

The Pinnacles are well worth the drive, probably more so if you’re not viewing them in a light, steady rain with a burst of hail(!). The Pinnacles were formed when a pyroclastic flow from Mt. Mazama (The volcano that collapsed and formed Crater Lake) covered a river valley. Escaping steam hardened the material around the vents. As the flow material eroded, the hardened vents were left standing, forming steep cones rising hundreds of feet from the valley below.

At the halfway point to the viewpoint there’s a campground, where I stopped to eat lunch on the way back. There are water spigots there, so I had something to drink. There are also facilities here.

I stopped at Sun Notch overlook (not living up to it’s name that day) where there’s a short trial to the crater rim. I also stopped at Vidae Falls, which tumble down the mountain side next to the road.

By this time the weather was improving, and as I had to drive around the West Rim to pick up the road to my next destination, I stopped at a few places I’d visited earlier to see if the views had improved. I did see a deer at one place.

My destination for the night was Roseburg, nearly 100 miles away. State highway 138 travels through the Umpqua National Forest generally following the Umpqua River for about 60 of those miles, which means two things: amazing scenery, and precious little habitation. There’s some 6000 of elevation change between the Crater Lake rim drive and Roseburg, and every 500 feet of change is marked by a sign. There is also ample evidence of ancient lava and pyroclastic flows from the volcanoes in the area. Along the way I saw a fawn, and hoped that it wouldn’t jump in front of the car

The river is popular with boaters and anglers, and I saw several pickups with fly rods in the gun rack, probably folks getting in some fishing after work. I stopped at Mott Bridge along the way, a wooden arch bridge built as a CCC project in 1935. There’s an interpretive kiosk on the other side of the bridge, as well as several trail heads.

While looking at an unusual rock formation next to the river, I was surprised by an intense cloudburst. I saw a flash, heard thunder, and fifteen seconds I was under a waterfall. Visibility was so poor that even with the wipers on ‘high’, I couldn’t drive more than 30 mph. As is usually the case in those types of storms, the rain ceased after a few minutes. A little later I pulled into a store parking lot, the first building I’d seen in over an hour. As soon as I got out of the car, a man poked his head out the door and exclaimed “I bet that surprised you!”

After I’d photographed the nice double rainbow over the valley, we talked about the storm for a bit. He said that he’d seen the rain curtain moving up the valley, and that water was splashing up onto the porch two feet off the ground.

The road exits the hills shortly East of Glide, then on to Roseburg. By the time I pulled into Roseburg, it was late and I was tired. I checked hotel reviews, but the highest-rated one in my price range was full. At the next hotel the clerk asked me what I was looking to spend, and I told her. She gave me a room at the price. A decent enough place.

Because it was Thursday, I looked for a sports bar so I could watch some football. I ended up at a local dive, where I ordered a beer and a hamburger. When I asked the bartender if I could get the burger cooked ‘medium’, he replied that “I’m not really into temperature”. Well, it was good enough burger, and I didn’t get sick.

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