Friday, September 4, 2015
Umpqua Scenic Byway, Crater Lake National Park, Bend



It was 50 degrees when we got up, not too bad for first thing in the morning, but it will be colder at Crater Lake due to its elevation. The surface of the lake is 6,178 feet, and the crater rim is much higher. So we'll keep our jackets handy, but we're not prepared for weather much colder than 50. Also, there's a possibility of thunderstorms this afternoon, and it might even snow!

We left the motel at 8:45. There's a lot to see today, and Roseburg isn't particularly close to Crater Lake, though it's about as close as you're going to be able to spend the night. We headed east on the delightful Umpqua Scenic Byway, also known as the “Highway of Waterfalls.”

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Colliding Rivers Viewpoint, North Umpqua and Little River

The highlight of the morning was Toketee Falls, reached via a .8-mile out-and-back hike through old-growth forest to a two-stage, 120-foot waterfall pouring through basalt cliffs, one of the prettiest waterfalls I've ever seen. The hike was wonderful. In spite of being the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, we had the falls all to ourselves.

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Jana pauses on a hike to Toketee Waterfall

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Toketee Waterfall

Just past Diamond Lake, we turned from 138 into Crater Lake National Park via the North Entrance. The temperature at this point had fallen to 41 degrees. Brrr...

Just a few days earlier, the north entrance had been temporarily closed due to forest fires, and we weren't sure as we left Tennessee if we'd have to take a long alternate route to enter the park or if the park would be open at all, but the fire crews had been hard at work, and the north entrance was reopened. There were still fire personnel working alongside the road as we went by and evidence of recent burn, but we didn't witness any flames.

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North Entrance to Crater Lake

On the crater rim, we circled the lake in a clockwise direction, as the majority of the pullouts are on the right, toward the lake. We stopped at almost every opportunity, so I can't tell the exact location where each photo was taken. The Rim Road is 33 miles long. Stopping at the many viewpoints, it takes several hours. We were pleasantly surprised that the park wasn't very busy today, at the beginning of a holiday weekend, but Crater Lake is pretty remote, and we're at the tail end of the tourist season, so that worked in our favor.

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Cloudcap Overlook, with literal cloudcap, Crater Lake

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Mt. Scott in background

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Mt. Bailey and Mt. Thielsen in background

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, 1,943 feet. The lake is intensely blue due to its depth and clarity. There are two islands in Crater Lake, Wizard Island and the much smaller Phantom Ship. Phantom Ship is not as small as it looks, though. It rises 163 feet above the surface of the lake.

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Phantom Ship Island

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Phantom Ship

About a third of the way around the Rim Drive, we detoured down a six-mile side road to The Pinnacles, an area where 100-foot spires jut out from the Sand Creek Canyon. These are old fumeroles hardened by volcanic activity. As the surrounding ground has eroded, The Pinnacles have remained. Well worth the short detour.

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The Pinnacles

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The Pinnacles

At Sun Notch we hiked a ½-mile loop through mountain hemlock around an open meadow to incredible views of Phantom Ship and the lake itself. Snow flurries began as we started our hike. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas! For size comparison, check out the real ship at the bottom left of the island in the photo below.

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Phantom ship and comparatively small boat

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Tom and Jana at Sun Notch

With the snow flurries and the temperature now in the mid 30s, we were totally underdressed, so I almost skipped the last hike I had planned today, to Watchman Overlook, a historic fire lookout. At the last moment, I decided to go for it and practically ran up the trail, it was so cold. The trail is 1.6 miles round trip, steep, and totally worth the effort for the great view down upon Wizard Island and the panoramic views of the surrounding area.

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Wizard Island

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Trail to Watchman Overlook

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From Watchman Overlook

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Watchman Overlook

I quickly warmed up on the hike uphill to Watchman Overlook, but on the way down, it started snowing hard. I didn't think I was going to be hiking through a blizzard in September! By the time I returned to the car, the temperature had dropped to 30. It's a good thing this was our last stop on the Rim Drive, because visibility at Crater Lake quickly dropped to almost zero. It was a great day at the national park!

We exited back through the Crater Lake North Entrance, turned east on 138 and then north on 97 to the small but interesting little town of Crescent, Oregon, where we stopped at the extraordinary Mohawk Restaurant & Lounge, established in 1938. Their dining room is filled with an unbelievable variety of taxidermy mounts, many so rare that they would be illegal to replace today. A lot of the carcasses came from donations, roadkill brought to the Mohawk by local folks for the owners to preserve so that others could enjoy.

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The Mohawk, Crescent, Oregon

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Inside the Mohawk

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Buffalo, wolverine & associates

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Giant anteater

The Mohawk also has on display a collection of over 1,500 Jim Beam, Ezra Brooks, Lionstone, and Avon bottles. Oh, and they serve food too. We had clam chowder, chili, and a couple of beers, Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA and Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale, both nice summer ales, since it's still technically summer in spite of the weather. The food was good, but it's hardly the reason for the stop. As of this writing, the restaurant and all its contents are for sale. I wish I knew the asking price. Some of those mounts have to be worth a lot.

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Also seen in Crescent, Oregon - You need it, they got it

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Pretty squatchy around here

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Crescent woodsman

From Crescent we took 61 west a few miles to 46 north and then east, also known as the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. We'd driven out of the fog and snow immediately upon leaving Crater Lake, and now we had only light rain and low-hanging clouds. The elevation here was lower too, so now the temperature was closer to 50 again. Because of the clouds, we didn't get the views of the glacier-covered mountains of the Cascade Range we were hoping for, but it was a nice drive anyway, even though deer were everywhere, which made it kind of treacherous. Near the end of the drive, we passed by Mt. Bachelor, a volcano/ski resort just outside of Bend.

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Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway - a bit cloudy today

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Mt. Bachelor ski resort

Finally, nearing 8:00 p.m., we arrived at the Rodeway Inn in Bend, Oregon, where we'll be staying three nights. Here we met up with my brother Brian, who is midway into an adventure of his own. Brian, recently retired at the ripe old age of 50, is 60-some days into a 100-day motorcycle trip around this great country. It was just by happenstance that he and we were in the Pacific Northwest at the same time, but it was by design that he met us in Bend, Oregon, for this Labor Day Weekend. We thought tonight we'd walk to a brewpub for dinner, but shortly after we met at the hotel, it started pouring down rain, so we stayed in and had sandwiches and whiskey. Glad we came prepared!


Continue to September 5, 2015

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