Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Crater Lake

Yesterday, we drove from Florence to Crater Lake. On the way, we stopped to look at the old Lowell Covered Bridge (no longer in service). In addition to the telling the bridge's story through informational displays, its other main function appeared to be providing a nesting habitat for birds.

We entered Crater Lake Park at the north entrance, and drove around the east side of the lake, stopping at a few of the lookout points. Crater Lake is made for panorama photography.

A couple of notes about driving through the park: the maximum speed limit is 45 mph (though why anyone would want to go faster is beyond me), and they don't believe in guard rails along the roads.

We arrived at the Crater Lake Lodge around 3:00. Official check-in time is 4:00, but fortunately our room was ready.

Even though the rooms at the lodge tend to be a little on the expensive side, it is a popular place to stay. We made our reservations in late July, and there were only a couple of rooms still available for the night we planned to be there.

Other accommodations within the park are the cabins and campground at Mazama Village. The next closest lodging is several miles away.

At the Crater Lake Lodge, there are no televisions in the rooms, which encourages people to gather in the large lobby and on the verandah to socialize. We spent a couple of hours downstairs, chatting with other guests.

Besides reserving a room well in advance, I also recommend not waiting to make dinner reservations (if you want to eat in the dining room). I waited until just a couple weeks before our stay, and the only time slots still available were for 5:00 and 9:30 p.m. As it turned out, though, service is available in the lobby and on the verandah; we could have ordered and eaten there.

Our dinner was excellent, and reasonably priced. I ordered one of the specials — the Idaho trout — and Tim ordered the bison meatloaf.

Later that evening, we went outside to see the stars. We walked some distance away from the lodge, to get away from the light shining from the windows. Besides some guy in the parking lot who, for some unknown reason, had his headlights on, there was no other light. I think I saw, for the first time, the Milky Way.

The next day, we had reservations for a boat tour out to Wizard Island. This was an excursion Tim had always wanted to make. Be warned however: It is strenuous. Even if you don't get off at the island, you still have to make the hike down to the boat dock, and then back up — about an hour each way, and an elevation change of 700 feet.

Once on the island, we elected to hike to the summit. It was comparable in time, distance and elevation change to the hike to the boat dock, with the additional challenge of a narrow trail and uncertain footing. I highly recommend a walking pole — I wish I had had one — as well as shoes with a really good tread.

Once we made it to the top, Tim was surprised to see how deep the crater (known as the Witches' Cauldron) there is.

I think the trek back down to the boat dock was a little tricky. As I said before, between the loose rocks and sandy soil, footing was uncertain. A slip or fall could have dire consequences. But we took it slow, and made it back down in one piece.

The boat ride to and from the island also allowed us to get a good look at some of the lake's geological features, such as the Devil's Backbone,

the Phantom Ship,

and the Castle.

After disembarking back at Cleetwood Cove, we faced the hike back up to the parking lot. We took advantage of several of the benches placed strategically along the way.

One more thing: the most commonly seen wildlife in the park by far is the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. They were everywhere.

Even in the lodge.

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