Crater Lake National Park – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 10

A big day today – visiting Crater Lake National Park. The park was about an hour drive north of Klamath Falls, virtually car free, so we were there in no time. Upon reaching the entrance booth the ranger informed us that the East Rim and part of the West Rim near the north entrance was still closed because of snow.

We found this comment a bit unusual because we were fairly high up in the mountains and it was snow free. This however changed quickly; as we moved further into the West Rim and climbed in elevation toward the lake, we saw snow piled near the side of the road at least fifteen feet high. The park received 38 feet of snow this winter and even more incredible is that it is five feet less than average for an annual snowfall.

Crater Lake was once a mountain created by repeated eruptions of lava that oozed from vents during 400,000 years. The mountain was called Mount Mazama and reached 12,000 feet, a violent eruption of magma and gas occurred from a chamber in the mountain. As the magma emptied the mountain collapsed forming a deep caldera where the snow-capped mountain one stood. The basin filled with rainwater and snow over centuries.

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The lake is one of the deepest lakes in the world of more than 1900 feet. There are two islands in the lake formed from a cinder cone that erupted after Crater Lake began to fill with water, and a smaller isle which has trees living on it. By arriving early in the morning we were able to see a mirror image of the mountains reflected in the pure water.

Our drive took us along the west rim, with frequent stops at vistas. When we reached the road to the north entrance traffic was stopped, as a medevac helicopter was taking off, while the police blocked the road and the EMT’s loaded the victims onto the copter. Later on, we learned from the news that two men from Seattle tried to climb into the caldera and fell 250 feet. The men were charged with illegal trespassing and were seriously injured.

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We returned to the park’s Rim Village for lunch but first took a trail along the lake behind the cafe. Set high above the lake with a stone wall to keep people from tumbling down the cliffs, this path provided even more pretty views of the lake. The lake water is so pristine that clouds and jet contrails from above reflected in the water.

From here you can observe a room and balcony that jutted out of the cliff. Called the Sinnott Memorial Observation Station; it is a sheltered viewpoint built into the caldera cliff 900 feet above Crater Lake.  It is located near the Rim Village Visitor Center and the structure includes a small natural history museum with exhibits that highlight the geologic history of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake. The building is constructed of heavy, native stone and concrete with log beams supporting the roof. A ranger told us that that room was snowed in and was not possible to get to; so that the best view in the park was closed.

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We grabbed sandwiches at the cafe for lunch but before leaving the village, we carved our names in the wall of snow near the parking lot, having a passer by take our photo standing in front of it. The wall of snow was at least twice our height and the sun shone on us so that the words were clear in the photo.

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Leaving the park for our drive to Medford we followed the ravine containing the Rogue River. This route had a number of scenic spot of a gorge, providing numerous short hikes to overlooks and waterfalls. The first hike took us back to the river raging through the gorge and a very narrow passage of rocks. Giant fir trees fell together from the rush of water wearing away their soil.

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Soon after our stop at the gorge, we stopped again to see a natural bridge at Rogue River. This natural bridge was not what we expected to see. Our image of a natural bridge was a stone suspended over an open area as we remember from Arches National Park. The trail that led us into the woods and across a man made bridge spanning a river led us farther along the river to see the river sweep into a lava tube and out another outlet. The surge of water covered a portion of the natural bridge.

The natural bridge splits the river forcing all the water of the river to go through the lava tube under normal conditions; but this year, the abundance of water created a second river. The water passed over and through the lava tube so violently that it flowed into a collapsed cave at the lower bank of the river and back out again. The back flow of water coming out of the cave crashed into the river flow roaring from the lava tube to create thunderous whitewater. Normally all of the water of the river flows into the lava tube disappearing from sight and the natural bridge is easily seen.

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At mid-afternoon we strolled into Jacksonville, Oregon to find the shop with a floor made of copper pennies. The Mustard Seed Cafe was the shop with the floor made of pennies but was closed for business that day, although, we could see the penny floor through the door’s window.

We rested a bit at an ice cream shop and while we savored our favorite ice cream flavors, we saw a number of antique and classic cars roll by. Nearby a historic building offered a tour so we wondered inside where we met a woman dressed in 19th century clothing who spoke about the history of the building as the Beekman Bank. I was impressed with a map from the late 1800’s prominently display in the front room, so much so the docent took us into the office area of the building that was not part of the tour to show us an 1859 map of Oregon. The 1859 map marked Jacksonville as the county capital. The docent mentioned that she was a student of Ohio State University when she learned we were from Ohio.

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Afterwards we drove to a public rose garden located at the Harry & David Corporate Headquarters, a food and gift basket business in Medford, Oregon. Most of the rose bushes were in bloom which made some colorful photos.

Finally we arrived at our quirky, but nice remodeled to look 1970s chic hotel, the Ashland Hills Suites in Ashland, Oregon.  Soon we went downtown to find a sports bar to watch the first game of the Stanley Cup finals. We ate and watched the game at the Red Zone Cafe & Bar. Pittsburgh scored the winning goal against the San Jose Sharks in the last three minutes of the game to break a 2-2 tie.