Finally…a visit to Crater Lake…

For several decades, I’ve lived near to Crater Lake but never visited. There was always something else to do, or it would cost too much, etc. Than when I retired and started traveling full time I figured, hell, now I’ll be able to visit! So no hurry! And as it turned out, the best time of the year to visit Crater Lake is in the summer, but I’d usually head over to the coast to take advantage of the mild temperatures by the coast during summers. Over where you’d hang out before a visit to the lake it would be desert hot.

Well, the years flew by and before I knew it, 9 years had passed after my retirement and all my traveling and I’d not visited yet. So I shifted my northbound travel over to the east side of Oregon where the lake is best approached in order to increase the chance that I’ll be able to stop there one year. And for 3 years it seemed I either just missed the spring opening, or just missed the period before the winter closing. The weather there is unpredictable to say the least, they’ve even had snow in July!

This year (2017) I decided to actually plan a trip there so beginning in February while I was still in Mexico, that’s what I did. I wanted to combine several activities as I headed north. One was to volunteer at Lake Tahoe, another was to revisit the Ice Caves and visit Capt’n Jack’s Stronghold near Tulelake, California, another was to visit the Burns area in eastern Oregon and make a final decision about whether or not to make Burns my home base as far as VA health was concerned. See the Portland area has just become way too crowded in the RV parks during the best time of year to visit. Expensive too. They do have a really nice VA clinic in Fairview near Portland that I used, and the hospital in Portland is well known and well favored by patients, but the Portland area was just becoming to much of a hassle. No more zipping into town, visiting the clinic, leaving town within a few days. Now I have to make reservations, stay a month at a RV park to minimize expenses.

Well, as I drifted north starting back in February, I tried to take new to me travel routes in order to experience new scenery. I did most of what I planned on doing along the way, and eventually, it was an auspicious time to visit Crater Lake. To do that I head north from Merrill, Oregon…just a days drive from the road that takes you to Crater Lake. It was early August by that time and yes, I planned it that way. Had great fun along the route staying at out of the way places and visiting new RV parks for longer periods.

On August 8th it was time to head up to the Crater Lake RV Resort. It’s only a 2 hour drive from Merrill so I didn’t leave Merrill until 11 am and dawdled along the way.

Lots of farms along this route.

And a short road trip later, I’m all set up at Crater Lake RV Resort.
The park has a stream running through it, Fort Creek, and it was fun to explore using the trail that runs along side. This is the creek that supplied the nearby fort during the Indian wars in this area. Which I plan on visiting after I visit Crater Lake NP.

Got to the park fairly early in the day and spent quite a bit of time wandering around. Even had time to mess with the satellite dish and replace a cable up on the roof. And that fixed the error message I was getting in the Winegard, but didn’t help get a picture from the DirecTv receiver. I’ll worry about that a few days from now.

The park is 10 miles from Crater Lake NP entrance and a thousand feet lower so the weather was balmy. Next day, I headed up the highway for a visit to the NP. There’s this neat period type trolley that passed right by the RV park. I suspect you could flag them down for a ride because the bus later stopped for three backpackers up the road a piece. It tours the NP.

There are several overlooks after you enter the park. I didn’t check what it costs as I have a senior badge I can flash the badge and drive right by the kiosk. A few miles past that was the park headquarters if I’d turned west. There was an orange sign in the road that said it was closed. Didn’t know what that was about so took the East Rim Drive heading to the right. And after gaining hundreds of feet of elevation, stopped at this first overlook of a creek and billions of tons of ash creating massive hills. A few miles beyond that, stopped at Vidae Falls. Right alongside the road so not much of a hike really. 40 years ago I would have taken this trail. Not any more. It heads over there and goes up to the top. You hike it if you want. And here’s the Phantom Ship overlook trail. More to my liking. It’s only a couple miles long and old guys like me have no problem hiking it. The trail leaves the parking lot with only a trail name marker. You get to a fork in the trail, and no sign saying, “Take it”. So I asked some other hikers, they didn’t know either. So they went left, and I went right. Almost looks like a tended park doesn’t it? Off in the distance is Dutton Cliff at 8100 feet. Still snow on it in August. Eventually the trail gets to an overlook…and here we have a telephoto of the Phantom Ship. From this distance, it does look a bit like a ship. And then way off in the distance I could see Wizard Island. Telephoto was taken. Notice the smoky haze.  And a shot zoomed out. Tried to get a shot of how blue the water was.

Around here ran into that couple again. Turns out the trail is a loop. Around 2 miles long. I’d sort of figured that but it’s nice to have confirmation. On the trail back found that the winds are strong enough through here that trees just fall over sometimes.Back on the road a few miles beyond that trail is this one. It’s only 1 mile long and is a very easy hike. But lots of interesting things to look at along the way.

Another mountain peak off in the distance. Lots of ash here. Some pinnacles on the other side of the ravine too. And then came across this next trail. A bit longer then the others I’d been on today but there was still plenty of day left so…why not?Well tended trail along a forest floor. Slight rise in elevation but not much.And then we end up hiking alongside the stream. It was too far away for most of the hike to even see it, let alone take pictures.And here’s the payoff…these tiny falls. Huh. Well. OK than. 

Bunches of wildflowers everywhere.

Well, that was interesting anyway, even if the falls weren’t all that spectacular. On the way back to the road, fascinating lava rocks.Nice easy trail in good weather. There were ‘wheelchair accessible’ signs around. It’s only 2 miles round trip. I’d taken a shortcut after I’d parked and missed this sign on the way to the trail originally.And a few more driving miles on is this alternate view of Phantom Ship. First some shots of the general area.


There’s Phantom Ship rock off in the distance. And note the haze. Back in the car and a few more miles is another built up overlook. They’re everywhere along this road. As you’d expect.
First good look at a snow field.

There on the side of the hill is an outcrop of a particular type of rock whose name escapes me at the moment. There were signs about it at this viewpoint but I didn’t get a picture. It’s probably solid gold. Yeah. Gold. Oh, wait. Maybe this is it? This plaque was about the prevailing winds. And how they blow the trees so often that they grow sideways.

Those white marks off on the distance are also more snow! In August. Still hadn’t melted. It was temperate the day I visited though.

The windward side of the trees are bare because of the winds. Lots of good views from the trails and overlooks. I stopped at nearly every overlook, and it was about 2 pm when I got here. It’s here at the North Junction that there was another road block. Turned out that I could not take the road the rest of the way around the crater. That road, Rim Drive, encircles the entire lake. I was going to end up missing the short section that goes right close to Wizard Island – one of the more interesting features of Crater Lake. The closure was caused by a wild fire over on the crater wall facing Wizard Island in the Watchman Overlook area. Big enough and close enough to the roadway that they blocked it. So, I spent a hour or so wandering around the facilities here at the North Junction.  Might as well have a small snack.But boy did the weather change quickly. When I got there, it was nice and sunny, an hour later, rain clouds and scattered showers.
Hey, there’s one of those trolley buses. It was soon after I took this picture that a thunder cloud rolled in and started pelting us with big rain drops. I wasn’t really dressed well as my jacket was thin, but functional. Eventually saw about 6 of these trolleys here in the parking lot so pretty sure these are the tour buses.

Very nice view of Wizard Island from here. The smoke is from the wildfires in the area. Not just here at Crater Lake, but many other places nearby as well. So I’m here enjoying myself and this Japanese tourist group climbs the fence, ignorning the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign and takes a bunch of pictures and selfies. Nobody fell off the cliff, but could have.

Walked into my frame just as I took a shot of Wizard Island. Doh! Another one backed into the frame.  Weather getting worse.
Down towards the beach. This was along a short section of unfenced path and steep slope down to the lake. If you fall here, it’s a long way down before you stop rolling. Heh. And here was some of the snow I saw from waaaaaayyyyy over on the other side of the caldera. It wasn’t that cool temp wise, except when a rain storm rolled through. I was inside a viewing area with windows when that happened. Took this shot through the window. Note that I’m higher than the snow.

After all that sight seeing, and what with the road block, I had to backtrack all the way back to the park entrance using the east rim drive. Went ahead and stopped at the Rim Village and had dinner around 5 pm. After that it was time to head home. The news was saying they might block the entire rim drive because of the wildfires. And so I nixed the idea I’d had of driving the RV over to the north access road and heading north that way. The short cut road of West Rim Drive going to the North Entrance Road was closed anyway. So, that was the end of the Crater Lake visit. Headed home from the Rim Village cafe. But first took a car tour of the huge RV park at Rim Village, Mazama Lake Campground. It’s a first come first serve park and has just a few electrical spots – just 14. And those are 30 amp. It is huge though, over 150 sites, so if you’re OK with dry camping, there will always be a spot to park.


And here I’m passing through the little, and really old, town just a couple miles from the fort museum. It’s fallen on hard times. I’ll come back to that museum tomorrow since I’ve paid for 3 nights at the RV park.Next day, I head back to the museum. It’s only a mile from the RV park and I kind of regretted not just riding my bike over here. But the road wasn’t really bike friendly, very narrow margins and high speed traffic. That’s the museum building in the next pic. Some old wagon rusting away. Here’s a view of how the fort originally looked. Well, after the army builders arrived with the plans and they worked on it for a couple years.

After an hours visit in the museum, (I was the only visitor), stepped outside with an informed view of how it might have looked back then. These are shots of the parade grounds.

And that was the end of my 3 day visit to the Crater Lake and Fort Klamath area. Hope you enjoyed looking at my pictures as much as I liked taking them. What a great visit. And the weather the 2nd week of August was excellent. Not to hot up at this higher elevation either.

Thanks for reading!

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3 Responses to Finally…a visit to Crater Lake…

  1. Dawn says:

    Beautiful photos, Jim. And it sounds like a wonderful excursion you had! Glad you finally got to see it. I’d like to get there some day as well.

    Thanks! And it was great. So much so that I’d have no problem going again. There’s a RV park right inside the park, that would work fine for a few days.

    Electric co. said they’d get the meter in this week (today is Thurs.) and I hope so. Then if the temps drop again by Wed. I can use the engine heater to start up. Also, I can get the fridge going (it’s been off all this time, of course) and see how that goes while loading up the last things.

    Yea on getting electric. I’ve used my engine heater several times this year as I’ve headed south. Sure makes for quick starts on cold mornings. BTW, they are thermostat controlled so you can leave it on overnight if you want. The refer you’ll want to turn on 24 hours prior to filling it.

    I did have a little mouse issue. Then I bought a bunch of Iris Spring soap and sliced it up and laid it all around the perimeter and inside the basements. I caught 4 mice, total (in traps) and none since I put the soap around. Took everything out of the compartments and found the start of one little nest, but I think I nipped it in the bud. But not before they did chew a bit of the car shield I had in there.
    So I’m waiting to put clothes and linens in until the day before leaving …just in case.
    I hate those little buggers…so destructive…!

    I think you mean Irish Spring. Yeah, I put slices of that on top of the tires. Inside, I put packets of Fresh Cab around the house. Available from Amazon. Works great. Didn’t see any sign at all of mice during or after my stay at Lake Tahoe.

  2. Van says:

    Very interesting and informative travelogue. Your post is the first one I open in the inbox on my email. Have enjoyed your commentary and pictures. Also, thanks to you and your section on repairs, etc., I have been able to do some of the “intricate” repairs on my coach. Wife and I will settle in for the coming Ohio winter; but, come spring we’ll hit the road. If you are ever in Ohio, check out some of the state park RV campgrounds. Five or six now have full hookup sites at rates well below private campgrounds.
    Keep up the great running commentary! Very enjoyable!

    Thank you Van. Happy to have contributed to your repairs in some small way. I’ll be heading over that direction next spring and I’ll check out Ohio’s parks as you suggest. Thanks for the advice.

  3. SamG says:

    Don’t know if another company makes them now. But the Boyertown body co.. (Pennsylvania) made trollies for many years. I was hired to fabricate body parts a few months before they closed. The buildings are gone except for 2 used as an Antique car and truck museum which is very interesting. And a local tourist passenger train stops on the old lot.
    A lot of pics here. Seeing the snow makes one expect temperatures were colder. You didn’t think of fishing when you visited the lake?
    Happy travels, Jim.

    I’ve seen many of those retro trolleys all over the country in the last few years. We have an original one at the Lake Tahoe site where I volunteer.

    The temps were very mild while I was there. Short sleeves and long pants. But I carried a jacket in the car. Well, it was mild until that storm rolled in. There was thunder, lightening, and a sudden downpour. I just happened to reach a enclosed viewpoint when it started and had my jacket so it worked out. Up on the edge there were some massive lightening bolts and crashing thunder. Got really close too.

    Yes, I did consider fishing.
    This is what the Crater Lake Trust says about it, “Fishing. You don’t need a license to fish in Crater Lake, but you will need to be agile. The only access is at the foot of the Cleetwood Trail, or on Wizard Island when boat tours are running. The rainbow trout and kokanee salmon in Crater Lake were originally planted in 1888 by William G. Steel.”

    There are also boat tours and I was considering one when I came on the traffic jamb and massive crowds of people getting down to the docks. You have to take a staircase down a couple hundred feet I believe. Must have been 1,000 parked vehicles or more. And likely 2,000 people. So…no thanks. Too crowded.

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