Saturday, September 11, 2010

Crater Lake National Park, Diamond Lake Camping, and Random Oregon Road Stops

One of the big items on my list of 30 Things to Do Before I Turn 30 was a visit to Crater Lake National Park. I'd say that three years ago I had never even heard of Crater Lake before. But in my constant hunt of Pacific Northwest activities I stumbled across a description of Crater Lake, Oregon. I discovered that this was the deepest lake in the United States. It was formed in a crater of a volcano and had some of the purest and bluest water in the world. So I decided Crater Lake should go on my 30 Before 30 list. And this summer Robb and I finally decided to create a long weekend for ourselves to drive the 7+ hours down there to camp and visit the park.

When we moved to Washington Robb and I both were interested in spending more time outdoors and going camping together often. His work schedule doesn't allow us to have as many weekends off galavanting in nature as we would like, so it has taken us a long time to get prepared and organized enough to plan this camping trip. While eventually we plan on trying backpacking, this time we decided to camp in a designated campground that had toilets and showers. As a kid my family used to do a lot of this type of camping, but I was a little nervous about it because I hadn't been to a campground in at least 10 years and this was going to be Robb's and my first camping trip together. But we spent a lot of time preparing and making the necessary packing lists. And after a stressful couple of weeks (due to work, life, etc.) we left town Friday morning with our Honda loaded to the brim with supplies.

Close to 8 hours later we arrived at Diamond Lake. I waited too late to make reservations at the Crater Lake campground, so we were forced to find accomodations at Diamond Lake which was only a few minutes from the Crater Lake North Entrance. The Diamond Lake campground was huge and quite lovely. We actually ended up appreciating that we weren't at the Crater Lake Campgrounds because we were able to experience a couple of lakes in one weekend. We had a campsite right on the lake and our tent was somewhat isolated from other campers and the fire pit. As soon as we got to Diamond Lake the mosquitos started biting, so we applied bug spray and really didn't go without it for the next three days (even spraying ourselves directly after taking showers.) Other than the mosquitos and the spiders (stupid nature), the camping was absolutely perfect. The weather was not too hot or cold, the skies were clear, and seeing the Milky Way and shooting stars every night was so peaceful! During the entire weekend we ate hot dogs and brats grilled on a stick over the fire, we tried freeze-dried meals (which were actually very good), had oatmeal, ate sandwiches with tuna, and of course devoured s'mores and lots of wine.
Saturday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed straight for Crater Lake. We drove through the Pumice Desert (made by the exploding Mt. Mazama thousands of years ago) and to the rim of Crater Lake. The first views of the Lake were absolutely breathtaking. I have never in my life seen water so blue and pretty. The rim of the collapsed Mt. Mazama is the border of Crater Lake. There is no water source other than snow (40+ feet a year) and rain, which means that there is no outside polluting to change the water color. We fell in love with Crater Lake from the moment we saw it.
Our next stop was the Visitor's Center to listen to a mini-history lecture and talk to the rangers to help us plan the rest of our trip. We decided to hike the Cleetwood Cove trail that afternoon. This trail is the ONLY access point to get to the water. It's a mile hike down, with a 700 foot elevation drop. There were a ton of people at the water's edge. The park does provide a guided boat tour of Crater Lake, but the $30 price tag per person was a little steep for Robb and me. So we just decided to wade into the lake and hang out for a bit by the water. Robb was brave enough to take a real swim in that cold water and then we started the hike up the hill. Now a 700 foot elevation drop isn't bad. But a 700 foot elevation gain in a mile is terrible! It was a tough hike, but we were pretty impressed with our finishing time.
On Sunday we headed straight for the Mt. Scott trailhead. We were told that Mt. Scott was the highest point in the park and the hike was worth the view of Crater Lake. At the parking lot we were a little apprehensive looking up to where our final destination would be. But we decided if we didn't try the hike we would always regret it. So we did it. We hiked up 1500 feet in 2.5 miles. Wow, were those views incredible from 8,929 feet!
We spent the rest of the day driving around the rim of Crater Lake and stopping at viewpoints and scenic overlooks to take pictures and marvel at nature. We also stopped to look at the Crater Lake Lodge and learn a little history about the opening and renovations of the Lodge. Leaving Crater Lake National Park that evening, close to sunset, was really difficult because I fell in love with it so quickly. I had heard from other people about how beautiful and amazing it was, but I was scared my expectations were not going to be met. I was so wrong. It truly was as phenomenal as everyone said it is. Pictures cannot do this place justice and I cannot overemphasize enough how important it is that I think everyone try to visit Crater Lake and experience it themselves.
Monday morning we woke up, broke down our camp, and loaded the car. We decided to randomly stop at any roadside attractions that looked interesting and take our time going home. Our first important stop was the Lowell Covered Bridge. While this bridge is no longer in use, it was recently refurbished and several informative history panels were posted inside the bridge to read. We were both fascinated by the history of covered bridges and that area in Oregon. Brownsville, Oregon was our next random stop because Robb saw a sign for  Pioneer Museum. After driving four miles away from the interstate we finally found the itsy-bitsy cutie-pie town of Brownsville. The muesum turned out to be huge and had tons of local town artifacts and inforamtion about the Oregon Trail. We also discovered that the movie "Stand By Me" was filmed in Brownsville and we took a little walking tour of the town to see areas that were shot in the movie. Our final stop of the day was in Wilsonville, Oregon. We stopped for a Coke from McDonald's and saw a sign for a Korean War Memorial. We found a simple, but lovely tribute to the Korean War veterans, whether they be American soldiers, NATO forces, Korean soldiers, or civilians.
Our long weekend was really great. The drive was a little long for a 3 night trip, but I think it was totally worth it. And because our camping trip was so succsesful, we hope to plan 2 or 3 trips for next summer!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer End Review - The Tidbits

So there are a few summer events that don't necessarily deserve their own blog post or are kind of boring. But I think it's important to write down what else we did this summer. I actually feel pretty satisfied with everything we have fit in. Summer goes by so quickly that it's easy to run out of time; but we were busy and productive all season long.

Robb moved to a new Metropolitan Market; he now works in the brand new Kirkland store. He's happier in this store than he was in the Seattle store and has more regular hours. He's finally managed to get a semi-regular schedule that allows for Sundays and Mondays off just about every week. It is really nice for us to have at least one day every week were neither of us are working and we can spend time together. While he is working mostly nights now, we do have that Sunday together every week.

Robb had knee surgery this summer in an attempt to fix knee pain he's had for a few years now. Scans and x-rays showed a torn meniscus and a possible cyst on his knee. However, once opened up neither concerns were actually there. So Robb has spent the summer trying to recover from a knee surgery he didn't really need to have and he's still experiencing knee pain. We're trying to figure out the next steps. Hopefully physical therapy will do the trick. Even though he had to deal with the pain of knee surgery, he enjoyed his week off for the surgery and recovery immensely.
Fairs, Festivals, Farmer Markets
The U-District Street Fair in Seattle was in early May and is kind of the kick-off to summer and the street fair season. We hadn't been to this fair before and were excited to attend. It was a nice festival with blocks upon blocks of good booths and large crowds. I don't want to say that I'm over festivals, but they're all starting to look the same to me. And I really don't like large crowds.

We made it to the cheese festival in Pike Place Market again this year. However, we probably won't be attending another cheese fest in the near future. Because of Robb's job, we've actually ended up buying and eating most of the cheese that is sampled at the cheese fest - and I hate fighting the crowds for free cheese that I already know about.

We visited the Green Festival last year and had a really nice time exploring the booths and listening to the speakers. This year the Festival was a little disappointing. There were a lot less booths and the topics of discussion were not as interesting to us this year. But I did enjoy listening to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speak; and I also learned a lot about why corporate banks are bad, and why I should move to a local bank or credit union.

We visited the Bellevue Art Festival on the hottest day of the year. This festival, like the city of Bellevue, was actually both classy and pretentious. There were hundreds upon hundreds of artists displaying and selling their art. We were impressed with quite a few of the artists, although we could never afford to buy their work. The best part of the day was our strawberry-lemonade we bought from a vendor that mixed up the strawberries and lemons right in front of us. It was a delicious cold refreshment to help with the 90+ degree heat.

Robb had been wanting to visit the Des Moines waterfront farmer's market for quite some time. So on a dreary summer morning we went on over and checked out the very tiny market. We bought some sub par cheese bread, and a decent head of lettuce and that was about it. We looked at a famous Des Moines statue (a man kissing a fish and grabbing the fish's breasts), ate at a hot dog restaurant, and browsed a used book store. I actually read an article recently about the saturation of farmer's markets in the Puget Sound area. Almost every community and neighborhood feels the need for a farmer's market now and farmer's are getting strained. It's difficult for them to bear the costs necessary to be at all these different markets, and some markets have less participation because of this.

We recently visited our absolutely favorite farmer's market which is in Ballard (and I believe it was just voted the best farmer's market in Washington). While we didn't buy any produce that day, it was nice to walk around. This market is about a couple of blocks long and has a huge variety of vendors selling everything from potatoes, to tomato plants, to organic beef, and fresh fish. It is always bustling and has a great vibe to it. Afterwords we strolled around Ballard and then took in a movie at the Majestic Bay Theater. The Majestic Bay is one of those old revitalized theaters that make you feel very artsy and independent for attending. It was a very nice theater and if we lived in Ballard I am sure we would go there all the time.

In addition to my other running adventures this summer, I also participated in two local races. The first was the Tacoma Sound to Narrows 12K. This challenging course requires a run through Point Defiance Park, and up some challenging city hills. This race is supposed to be very difficult, and with the heat the day, it was a bit rough, for sure. But I felt very prepared because I had run, at some point or another, all parts of this race before during my regular training runs. For example, I've run around the Point Defiance Five Mile Drive several times (sometimes two times in a row)! And every single Tuesday for the past few months I've been running about 4 miles with a friend who lives in Tacoma. Our route takes us down and back up the killer Vassault Hill that is a death trap for most people finishing the Sound to Narrows race. While the hill looks daunting for your last mile of the race, it was somewhat of a breeze for me because I knew what to expect and I run up it every week!
The second race I completed was a 5K that my running club hosts. Our races series is small and intimate (and super-cheap because we don't provide prizes, t-shirts, etc.) So I ran the 5K and won my age division! I got a first place ribbon. Now the fact that I was the only person in my age division might bother some people, but I'm still happy with my ribbon and my finishing time!

The third race I did was the Seafair 5K. Robb and I had signed up a long time ago to do this race together. If you recall, I did the 8K about 2 years ago and Robb did the 5K last year. This year Robb wanted to run the 5K again to beat his time from last year and I wanted to run it with him so we could run our first race together. Now, for some reason I'll never know, Robb ended up scheduling his surgery only 1.5 months before race day. He recovered enough to run/walk the 5K and we did it together. Even though we walked a few times, Robb still beat his time from last year! I'm actually pretty sure that we won't be running Seafair again next year. They changed the course this year, which led to a much more crowded area for the finishing chute. Also, even though I registered months in advance, when I picked up my packet on race day they didn't have my shirt in the size I ordered; instead of a small I could choose between a large or extra-large.

A Fall Preview
So I've got one more summer post to complete about our visit to Crater Lake, Oregon. Then it's time to move into the fall posts. We've got a lot going on in the next couple of months. On Labor Day Weekend I visited my family in Florida. I hadn't been to Florida in well over a year, since my sister's wedding in March 2009 (post is coming soon about that trip). At the end of September Robb and I will be hosting our first large party. Members of my running club are going to come over for a membership meeting, chili cook-off, and underwear run (not sure what my neighbors will think.) Then in October we'll be heading to Victoria, British Columbia for my first visit to Canada and my first marathon. We're also hoping to have a lot of vegetables in the next couple of months from our garden. We've had a pretty cool summer, so our garden is only now starting to take off. The cucumbers, summer squash, and spaghetti squash are finally starting to come in. We've got tons of green tomatoes on massive tomato plants; I hope they turn red before it gets cold again. We had a dark, chilly, rainy day recently that really made it feel like summer was over. I'm looking forward to pumpkin spiced lattes, sweaters, and boots - but I'm also mourning our all too short summer this year.