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!