Day 55 (September 22)
Crater Lake National Park
When we awake at our campsite north of Bend, we are still trying to make the decision whether or not to include Lassen Volcanic National Park in our journey. Having spent more time in the PNW than originally intended, I am tempted to cut it, but know that I’ll likely never be this close to Lassen again, and I’ve heard that it’s a refreshingly quiet park, so we decide to keep it on the itinerary.
The drive from Bend to Crater Lake National Park via U.S. Highway 97 is interesting, as the topography changes dramatically. Although I cannot put my finger on it, from the time we awake there’s just something off about the day, and we don’t feel like stopping en route to take any pictures.
We arrive at Crater Lake under gray, cloudy, cold and windy skies. Upon reaching the lake, of course we find it beautiful, but the gloomy nature of the day combined with that fact that we’ve spent the past week hiking and viewing ice-capped peaks, vertical rock walls, and perfect mountain meadows, Crater Lake just doesn’t wow us as much as we expected it to. Also, it’s surprisingly crowded for this time of year. We later find out today is a free day at the National Parks, which explains why the ranger at the entrance acted weirdly annoyed when we presented our National Parks Pass.
The mountain vistas are almost as impressive as the lake, yet given the aforementioned less-than-perfect conditions, we have no desire to hike here today. We do, however, walk around all of the historic buildings in Rim Village historic district and the Munson Valley historic district.
We are impressed with the park service’s meticulous preservation of these structures, most of which were built by the CCC and WPA in the 1930’s. The designs are “NPS Rustic” Parkitecture (park+architecture). I’d love to stay in one of those stone cabins!
For months I had planned for us to camp at Crater Lake, however nighttime temps hovering around freezing and our general blah moods have us anxious to push on to California, so we hit the road again.
Southern Oregon is lovely for road tripping this time of year. Some deciduous trees, bushes, meadows of golden grasses, and blooming sages provide a wealth of autumn color. Klamath Lake is massive, and Robert spots a bald eagle. Again, sorry for the teaser – we didn’t stop for pictures. The beautiful drive is a bit wasted on us today.
Entering California via the Crater Lake to Lassen route (Oregon State Route 39 / California State Route 139), we find brown hills and dying tiny towns. It is definitely not the prettiest border crossing, though I still get a warm feeling entering my native state. Route 139 gets pretty again as we head south through farmland and mountains and trees. Notably, we drive through areas devastated by recent and less recent forest fires.
The only other stop we make en route is for a photo of this giant cowboy, who greets us from the side of the road shortly before we start climbing into the mountains toward Lassen Volcanic National Park.
We arrive at Lassen Volcanic National Park around 5pm on this Saturday, and snag what appears to be the last available campsite at Manzanita Lake. We are both a mood, so we set up camp but do not do any exploring tonight. For the first time in days I slow down long enough to sit and write, melting into the words and looking forward to a fresh start tomorrow morning.