Crater Lake National Park for a few days and on to Oregon Caves
by rufusni on November 17, 2012
I stopped at the Steel Visitors Centre which is before you get to the rim coming in from the south. There are limited exhibits here but I watched two films - one on snowploughing and the second on the history of the park. The snowploughing one is still quite relevant even at the beginning of July, as it takes four months to snowplough and clear all the roads in the park, so even now part of the rim drive is still closed, and there is plenty of snow in places. The other film told the history, Crater Lake was formed by the eruption of a volcano, Mount Mazama which is part of the Cascade range including Mt Saint Helens, Mount Shasta, Mt Rainier. But the eruption here caused a collapse of the mountain to form a caldera, or crater. This crater filled up with snow melt and precipation to form a lake- but there are no streams that run in and because of the high rim nothing can flow out, so that the lake maintains its level by precipation and evaporation. Its the deepest lake in the USA. There are stories from the local Indian tribes about the eruption, and it was a place of spiritual importance. Several groups of miners rediscoverd it in the 19th century. It became a national park through the persistance of William Gladstone Steeel in 1902.I drove up to rim village and my first view of the lake - the first view was a little disappointing - but it did get better. I walked around as far as the Lodge.There is also a Visitors Centre here, and an exhibition that is down steps below the rim. I went to the Rim Village cafe - it wasn't exciting so I decided just some coffee as I had supplies in the car, but it must have been one of the worst cups of coffee I've ever had. I drove back down to Mazama Village and check-in. I headed back up, and drove around the rim drive, well as far as Cloudcap, as the road was still closed here due to snow. There are lots of plenty of stopping points to lookout over the lake and enjoy the amazing views. There was still snow so it made it look really stunning and slightly magical. I drove back to Rim Village and found a quiet spot to watch the sunset - two deer got within 3 feet which was nice. The lake was lovely to watch in the changing evening light - but the cold and insects were bothering me, so I gave up on the sunset and retreated back to the car.I did however enjoy sunrise the next morning from Rim Village which was actully better given the direction. I had an early morning hike down the Cleetwood Trail before anyone else.Though I enjoyed my time at Crater Lake, I think I would spend a few days later in the summer and to be able to enjoy a few more hikes without all the snow, and to do the whole rim drive. I glad I only allowed for a short visit at this time of year as the snow reduced the options of what to do. But I would go back. The vies were incredible. While there were plenty of people at Rim Village, it was easy to get away from the crowds here, and enjoy the peace and silence that is reflected in the still blue waters of the lake.
by rufusni on November 15, 2012
I turned off in Cave Junction and at first the road is deceiving straight but that is before you get to the climbing up the mountain which is a narrow road and very twisty, which takes a bit of concentration - I wish I had stopped for coffee in Cave Junction before I drove up as I had been driving for a while already.Got up to the car park - here there are rangers to explain that there are regulations for going into the caves - no bags, making sure you take warm clothes and suitable footwear and that you haven't been in any caves recently so you don't spread a bat disease, or bring any food.Its a short walk to the main visitors centre. You have to go and book on a tour. If you are a large group it could be quite a wait, but as I was on my own I was able to get onto the next tour. The path through the caves is 1 mile long and the guide will talk through the caves describing it as a house, with different rooms, from basement to attic, kitchen to den. Like a white substance on some of the rock which was harvested as medicine to speed the healing of wounds - modern science revealed it as a bacteria that had antibacterial properties. She explained the discovery of bear bones and jaguar bones in the caves and the various explanations of their location.Lots of the features of the staglamites and staglatites have been named. I loved the 'attic' which is also known as the aquarium and Paradise Lost. You have to go up steep steps, more like a ladder to get to this part of the caves, it consists of multiple small curtain falls, which look a little like jellyfish, it was quite spectular. These caves as a national monument were first under the control of the forest service and then the National Park Service. But they show some significant alteration in allowing tourists in. First, they blasted tunnels to connect two separate cave systems into one, and an exit tunnel so as to make it a better experience. But this caused a change in airflow through the caves which damaged some features. To rectify they have added doors on these tunnels to reduce airflow. Other graffiti has been added by tourists - one dated to 1885. The Forest service tried to remove the graffiti so to discourage an further additions. But it proved impossible as a thin layer of rock had formed over the graffitti - while it may take 1000 years for an inch of rock to grow, the cave is always developing. The other interesting thing our guide said was that we are now part of the ecosystem, as we provide a foodsource, or rather the dead skin we shed as we walk through the cave does, which several insects have adapted to feed on. There are several species that live in the caves including insects, spiders and bats.The path has quite a few steps and is rough in places, and some low roof sections. There is lighting through out the caves - though the guide will turn out the lights at one point to show how dark the caves are. There is one chance to exit the tour early. I made it the whole way through and you end up exiting higher up the mountain and walk down a path to the visitors centre.At the visitors centre, there is also the chateau which is a hotel. In the basement is a cafe/restaurant and a shop. I didn't buy anything or eat anything as I had food in the car, and wanted to head down that twisty road again.I enjoyed the caves. But being in a group touring round is luck of the draw as I had three annoying kids on mine - two wee lads who mucked about the whole time and their parents said nothing. It was a nice afternoon, the tour takes 90 minutes. You need to be fairly fit and able to bend and climb lots of steps. They aren't my favourite caves, but they were fairly interesting.
by rufusni on November 14, 2012
I had hoped to get a reservation in the Lodge overlooking Crater Lake but it was booked long in advance, so I had to go with a room at the motor lodge which is Mazama Village which is 7 miles away from the lake, rather than stay outside the park. I arrived at Mazama Village which consists of a restaurant/gift shop, a shop and cabins and camp ground. I pulled up in the parking lot and went to check in which was reasonable straight forward and followed the directions to the cabin.The motor lodge consists of I think 8 four-united cabins - but there are arranged in two rows, so don't be expecting isolation. I moved the car and parked in front the unit and brought in my case. The room had two beds a small table and chairs and a hanging rail - that was about it. This is definitely intended to be a little rustic - not TV, phone, fridge etc. There was a coffee maker and coffee (better than the coffee I had earlier at the rim!) But you are in a National Park with incredible scenery and hikes, so I spent little time in my room. The colour was dominated by brown, the lighting was miserable and there were a few stains on the carpets. There were nice pictures of the park above the bed which was a nice touch. The bathroom was fine - but just a shower, but there was hot water and reasonable pressure. It was fairlt clean. A few basic toiletries provided.If you were staying in the cabins you were able to get a free bag of ice from the shop which I did which kept a few food items I had cold. The shop itself had a reasonable selection of items if you needed something, but more expensive than your local supermarket.I got a good night's sleep - there was no outside noise - the only time I heard my neighbours even was them chatting as they unlocked their doors - but more to do with the entrance hall space amplifying noise - little noise came through the walls (helped I supposed by the lack of TVs). The only problem was someone had set the alarm on the clock in the room - I thought I had checked the night before but not closely enough when it went off super early.I decided to head up to rim to see the sunrise and had an early hike down the Cleetwood trail. I was only staying one night - but I waited to after the hike to come back and get showered before check out .I was up in the Lodge at the rim and it was much much nicer. I would try and stay in the hotel before the cabins. The cabins were overpriced for a basic motel room which was battered but I saw it as paying for the luxury of staying within the park - which I was glad to do to enjoy sunset and sunrise. THe motel was adequate for the night, but it is not exactly luxury. First preference would be the hotel was you are right at the rim, but the motel is grand as an alternative, basic and at a distance, but adequate.
by rufusni on November 13, 2012
I left Crater Lake National Park in the morning. I had originally intended to have breakfast in the hotel but I was up so early they weren't serving and so I went for an early morning hike with some muesli bars instead. I had heard of Beckies from someone who recommended it, and by the time I hit Union Creek on Highway 62 I was really hungry.So I parked the car. Beckies is on the side of the road and there is room to park in two small car parks either side of the building. There was a queue of people waiting - the place was really busy. So I took a seat on one of the benches on the covered porch. This place is rustic. Wood cabin style. Sitting waiting I got talking to two guys sitting next to me. And we waited and waited. Finally they offered to seat these 2 guys at a table for four, and very kindly they invited me to join them - so I did - I thought it could be a long time before I get to eat otherwise and I was famished.So it was the breakfast menu. All of us ordered different things. I ordered the cinnamon roll french toast. one of the guys an omelette and the other some kind of hash thing I think. We ordered coffee and were onto our third refills when the food arrived at the table. The quantity of food all three of us got was vast - and the guys food looked pretty good. The french toast was incredibly sweet - between cinnamon and sugar and syrup - good thing I already had done a hike today with the calories on that plate. But it was really filling, and I failed to finish it. Nor did I have room for a piece of pie off their menu for pies they had quite a selection, which I was a little disappointed about.It was a good brunch meal - filling, I had no need for another big meal that day! The service was a bit slow- even trying to pay took a long time. But at the same time it was nice not to have to rush either and relax a bit.But lets be honest, the charm of the place is that it is in the middle of nowhere, there are few other options to eat nearby. The whole rustic cabin and simple food is a good marketing thing, and so the prices can be a little higher than you'd pay closer to a bigger town. If I was out this way again I would stop here again, and make sure I had room for some pie it looked really good.
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