Crater Lake, Oregon: We spent the next two days making our way up through northern California and into Oregon, with a one-night stop in Eagle Lake, CA. One striking part about this drive was the number of dried up lakes in the area. Even Eagle Lake, normally a popular and alternative destination to Lake Tahoe, was low enough to see lines along the rim of where the water used to be. Locals said that the lake was getting lower each day, and that it much of the wildlife typically found in the area had moved on – including many of the Bald Eagles (the etymology of the lake).  Despite the somewhat depressing news, it was a very tranquil and calm place to spend the night.

Well done, never thought he’d get that started

The next day we arrived at Crater Lake, which was anything but empty. In fact, at 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and seventh deepest in the world. The lake was formed over 7,700 years ago when a volcanic eruption caused Mount Mazama to collapse into itself. The eruption formed a large caldera (a cauldron-like feature) that was filled with water over the course of hundreds of years. Today, it holds the bluest and clearest water we have ever seen. There are no streams that feed into Crater Lake and so the only water present comes from rain and snowfall, which also adds to the clarity of the lake.

“Phantom Ship” in the middle of Crater Lake

Oregon is known for its expansive and organized state parks, and Crater Lake National Park is no exception. We had a huge campsite, our biggest one yet, surrounded by tall pine trees and open sky. It was about 5 miles from the rim of the lake, which we promptly drove to after arriving. That afternoon, we did a beautiful hike up Mt. Scott, the highest peak in the park. The hike led us 2.5 miles up to a watchtower at 9,000 ft that used to be a lookout for forest fires in the area. Today, it serves a more casual purpose, boasting incredible views of Crater Lake and the surrounding area.

View from the top of Mt. Scott, overlooking Crater Lake

That night was our last night of camping on the trip, as the next three days were spent in Portland, Bellingham and Seattle. We had great weather, made our last dinner our two-burner stove (by far the best purchase for the trip) and sat by the campfire to watch the stars come out. The simplicity of cooking, hanging out and sleeping outside in a beautiful park should not be overlooked, and I think its safe to say that our nights camping have been better than any other accommodation we’ve had throughout the country!

View from the rim of Crater Lake… doesn’t get any bluer than that!

Before heading to Portland the next day, we did one last hike around the rim of Crater Lake, which allowed us to get much closer to the water than our previous hike. Due to its freezing temperatures and lack of access, there is not much traffic on the lake aside from a single boat that shuttles visitors from the rim to an island in the middle of the lake. While we didn’t go for the boat ride, our hike still had beautiful views of the lake’s clear blue waters, as well as a surprising amount of snow left on the trail (we couldn’t actually reach the summit due to the remaining snow… even at the end of July!).

Wizard Island in the middle of Crater Lake

Portland, OR: After 5 long hours on a VERY winding and slow road from Crater Lake, we arrived in Portland. The city is known as the most bike-friendly in the country and sure enough as soon as we pulled off the highway, we were met by droves of bicyclists. They were everywhere! Almost all of the streets have separate lanes and it seemed like everyone was using bikes to get places.

Portland at sunset

For some reason, unknown to us at the time, there was not one single available hotel/motel/inn/B&B/patch of grass available to stay at that night. After calling at least seventeen places, we finally found the Painted Lady Inn, a small Victorian B & B in a nice residential area in the middle of a cool NE Portland. After getting settled, we hopped on our bikes and went out to explore the city…. we were only in town for the night so we had to make the most of our time there. Like anyone new to Portland would do, we made our first stop at a brewery to sample the local beer. The northwest has as many kinds of beers as it does people, so there was plenty for us to try.After, we warily jumped back on our bikes and went across the bridge into downtown NW Portland. The riverfront reminded me a little of Chattanooga, TN with its pedestrian and bike friendly bridges, revitalized architecture and open spaces along the river.

biking acros one of the many bridges in Portland

Thanks to the many suggestions from Kate and Mike Wallace and Dylan Page, we had a lot of places to check out! Since Dicken had yet to have sushi on the west coast (and brought this up point at least 10 times that day) we stopped at a Japanese restaurant on Pearl Street for dinner and had some great sushi. Now that we were true locals, we biked back across the bridge and headed to the Beech Street Parlor at the suggestion of Kate and Mike. This was an awesome, vintage bar in a cozy two-floor house. It also had some of the most amazing cocktails we ever tried… with various infused vodkas and different herbs such as fresh thyme and rosemary. If you ever find yourself in Portland, you should definitely go for a drink!

The Beech Street Parlor in NE Portland

The next morning we had planned on going to the International Rose Test Garden, as Portland is also known as the city of roses and has a HUGE garden in the middle of the city. It actually has a pretty cool history…   in WWI, gardeners in Europe sent roses from around the world to Portland’s garden to keep the new hybrids safe from being destroyed by the bombing in Europe. Today, you can find the latest roses being tested and created… who knew it was a science? Alas, just as we were heading down to check it out, we heard from a policeman that Obama was in town and the whole area was shut down by security. He also told us that the highways were going to be closed within the hour, so instead we hit the road not wanting to get stuck in all of the commotion. Even Torrey agreed to leave, knowing her chances of running up to him and introducing herself were pretty slim.



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