The Crater Lake Blues
Written by Jamie
The day we dropped my parents back off at the airport was one of the first days where we really weren’t sure what direction we were heading next. We had to be in northern coastal California by the end of the weekend and knew we wanted to hit up Crater Lake National Park before then, but we really weren’t sure whether we wanted to head back to the Oregon coast for a few days or stay inland and go through Bend, OR. I had travelled coastal Oregon previously, and it is, without a doubt, a gorgeous drive with adorable seaside towns and lots of outdoor activities (including some amazing sand dunes to explore near Florence, OR), but we had heard some pretty awesome things about Bend and all it had to offer. We even heard it likened to Asheville, NC, one of our favorite cities back east. So as we were pulling away from the Portland airport, we made the split second decision to continue SE to Bend and see what the fuss was all about.
Let’s just say we’re very glad we did, as Bend did not disappoint. When we first rolled into town, we thought we may have had to continue on our merry way as none of the RV parks and campgrounds in the immediate area had any availability. We got extremely lucky when we pulled up to the Crown Villa Resort (who had told us over the phone they had no availability) that offered an “overflow camping” gravel lot complete with electric and water hookups – perfect for our 2 night stay. The even better part about this “overflow camping” lot is that we still had access to all the wonderful amenities of this high-end RV resort (I’m telling you, this place is like the Ritz Carlton of campgrounds). One of the resort receptionists offered some delicious-sounding meal suggestions and also gave us a brewery tour map of Bend. While there was no way we were going to be able to hit all 29 in the area, we chose to head first to the nearby Silver Moon Brewing followed by Bend Brewing Company in downtown Bend. After our little “hoppy hour,” we walked around the downtown shops, grabbed some local veggies at the farmers market and headed back to the trailer for some dinner.
The next two days were mostly filled with office work we needed to catch up on, but we made sure to switch up our workspaces throughout the city so we could get a feel for this cool town. Bend has a great local feel to it and offers so many fun outdoor activities. There are endless biking and hiking trails, the Deschutes River runs right through the center of the town, creating some great opportunities for paddleboarding, canoeing, and even whitewater kayaking, and then just 30 minutes east sits Mt. Bachelor, offering world-class skiing in the winter. Bend appears to be perfectly located in proximity to anything you want (except a larger airport – it’s only downfall, in our opinion). Our visit was short, but Bend definitely made the list of places to return to at some point.
By Friday evening, we reached our campsite at Diamond Lake RV Park, located just north of the Crater Lake entrance, and sitting right along the shore of beautiful Diamond Lake in the Umpqua National Forest. We chose to hit the sack early in an effort to maximize the next day at Crater Lake National Park.
We awoke to a crisp clear morning the next day, and set out on our drive through the park. I was particularly excited about this park because I had seen such beautiful photos and could not wait to get my own. It surely didn’t disappoint from the minute we entered the park!
Crater Lake was formed almost 8,000 years ago when the volcanic Mount Mazama collapsed. The caldera lake is 1,949 feet deep, making it the deepest in the US and 3rd average deepest in the world!. It has no inlets or tributaries, so the only way evaporated water gets replenished is through rain and snowfall. This also makes the waters of Crater Lake some of the purest in the world because of the absence of pollutants.
We could not get over the color of the lake and how it seemed to perfectly reflect the sky. Apparently the park had quite a lot of snowfall the previous winter, so some drifts still lined the sides of the Rim Drive that circumnavigates the caldera. We decided to take a slow drive along the entire Rim Drive in a counterclockwise direction from the north entrance.
There are lots of hiking opportunities within the park, not just near the caldera. One unique opportunity is to hike on Wizard Island, the cinder cone that erupted after Crater Lake formed, which is reached by a tour boat. Unfortunately for us, all the boat departures were completely booked for the day, so Wizard Island was out.
Instead, we opted to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail at the end of our drive along the rim. This trail is the only trail that provides access down into the caldera and to the shore of the lake. From the rocky shore, swimming in the frigid water is allowed at your own risk. Because of this, the trail is rather busy but absolutely worth it for the end result.
When we reached the shoreline, I immediately noticed a group of people in one area and a lot of cheering – out on a rock outcropping was a perfect place to make a 20-foot plunge into the frigid 53-degree water. While Trae opted for a slow immersion from the rocky shoreline into the chilly water, I knew jumping was likely the only way I would get myself in that cold water, so I took the jump. It was beautiful and freezing and took my breath away quite literally.
We laid out on the rocks, drying out and warming back up for another 30 minutes before starting the steep 700-foot, half-mile climb back out to the rim. Once we reached the car, we were totally wiped and called it a night, feeling very fulfilled with our visit to (and freezing swim in) Crater Lake. Just like so many other places we visited on this trip, a picture cannot do Crater Lake National Park any justice – you just have to go see it for yourself!
Trae and Jamie