Crater Lake National Park: The Lake Revealed

Tuesday, September 17 we woke and felt rested, although I’d slept fitfully. We were due to check out of Crater Lake Lodge that morning and eventually make our way out of the park to Chiloquin and a Sleep Inn where we’d spend the next two nights. But before then, Sean had to be on a three-hour work call (that he was partially running) about urgent firm business. We also hoped against hope to catch a glimpse of the Lake, although now we’d at least be in the environs of the Park until Thursday morning, so we felt our chances were decent.

As we got up and readied for the day, however, the view from our room, while better than the previous evening, was still very misty and foggy. It did not appear to be actually precipitating, though, so that was a positive.

Sean’s call began at 8:45am. I didn’t want to be a distraction in the room, so we packed up, and I ran our bags down and stowed them in the car. I grabbed us some coffees from the cafe on the way back up. Sean was dressed and set for his meeting when I got back so we went to the front desk and confirmed a late check-out of 12 noon. This would give him fifteen minutes of wiggle room after his meeting.

It was almost time for his call, so he headed back to the room. I dropped a few final things off in the car, shouldered my camera, and went off to explore Rim Village, the environs around the lodge, this chill morning.

I hadn’t gone far along the rim trail, when suddenly a southwesterly wind blew away some clouds to reveal the lake hundreds of feet below.

Wizard Island

I immediately texted Sean. It’s visible! Come down!

He had minutes to spare before his call, but he suddenly appeared, sans jacket, running along the trail.

We hugged and cheered, and then he immediately turned and ran back to the lodge for his call.

After Sean disappeared, I continued strolling west along the Rim Trail as vistas of the lake came and went with the clouds.

I passed the Mather memorial, and said thank you to old Steven for the glimpse of the lake.

Western Hemlock

Western Hemlock

As I walked, I ran into a very excited family from Santa Clara (originally from Florida). They were scheduled to head home from the Park in their big camper that morning, and because of the visibility they had not yet seen the lake.

A whole group of excited people gathered on the rim once word began to spread that the lake was visible. It was a special moment, being able to celebrate a National Park with such excited fellow visitors.

Wizard Island

We shared suggestions for vantage points to take photos. I took some photos of folks on their phones. It was just a joyous morning.

Grouse Hill

I walked on to the cafe at the other end of Rim Village, but it wasn’t yet open. So I retraced my steps to the lodge.

Green’s Goldenbush

Western Mountain Ash

Back at the lodge, there was general commotion about the lake being visible (although you still couldn’t see it from the lodge proper). A young photographer couple came in and said that they’d managed to get a few sunrise photos from the north side of the rim drive.

I got a table at in the dining room for breakfast service and settled in catching up on notes.

For myself, I got Dungeness Crab Benedict. And I got a takeout order of french toast with bacon and eggs to take up to Sean in our room.

When I slipped into our room, Sean was deep into his call/meeting, but he was delighted at the breakfast spread I put out on the desk next to him.

Then I went down to the Great Room off the lodge lobby to kill some time while I waited for Sean. The other visitors somewhat irate about the poor cell service and wifi, but I managed to send a few emails that I needed to attend to, mostly concerning board service with the Institute for Conservation Leadership and Chicago Artists for Action.

Image: Sean M. Santos

I spent the majority of my time, though, making my banana slug. I cut my bright yellow material, sewed it together, stuffed it with batting. I ended up getting yellow fuzz all over the floor. Oops.

While I sat there working on my project, more and more people came into the Great Room as we approached lunch service. Some people sort of eyed me suspiciously. A family from northern California sat near me. Finally, a woman in their group asked, “Are you making a banana?” When I told her I was making a banana slug we got into a long conversation about the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs and how odd it was that plush ones weren’t available even because of that. A few other people asked what I was making, and we conversations took a similar tack. “So creative!” exclaimed another woman.

Finished with his call, Sean came down to the Great Room to find me just finishing attaching the Banana Slug’s hood. He was delighted.

With both his call and my craft project completed, it was time to say goodbye to Crater Lake Lodge. We gathered our things, braced ourselves against a driving wind, and ran to the car.

We had hours to go before we could check in at the Sleep Inn down in the foothills, so we decided to explore the Park, weather be damned.

First stop was the visitor center at park headquarters down at the base of Munson Ridge.

Here we stamped our passports and bought our souvenirs.

The roads were open, and the Ranger and some visitors reported that there were some spotty views of the lake at points around the Rim Drive, so we decided to go and see what we could see.

Vidae Falls

We drove counterclockwise around the lake, beginning with East Rim Drive.

It was insanely atmospheric

At the pullout for the Phantom Ship, we could see the lake through the rain.

Phantom Ship

As we were returning to the car, a couple from Atlanta asked from their car if we could see anything. We said yes. They hadn’t seen the lake yet, so they excitedly hurried to have a look.

Wolf Lichen

We continued on the the eastern side of the lake. Here the rain came in hard pelts and the wind whipped across the full width of the lake.

One pullout had its own little lake of standing water.

At Skell Head, the wind was so strong that my fear of heights flooded my entire body when it felt like I was going to be blown clear off the overlook. Sean, who had stayed in the car while I was taking a photo, said that the whole car swayed and shook in the wind.

Mule Deer

A little farther along we saw a little herd of Mule Deer that were just soaked.

We didn’t stop again, since there were no views to see along the north rim. And then along the west rim there was actually snow on the ground.

As we wound back into Rim Village, we stopped at the lodge because Sean had realized his room key (an actually key, not a keycard) was still in his pocket. We also ducked into the small visitor center in Rim Village because Sean hadn’t gotten a black band brochure yet. There we heard some visitors from Washington State talking about visibility (the lake was now again hidden from view at Rim Village). We said that we’d seen Phantom Ship about an hour earlier. The ranger said she obviously couldn’t guarantee anything, but it was worth a try.

We headed down toward the park entrance, stopping at the cafe and visitor center at Mazama Village (near the campground) on our way. It was…meh. So we decided to get food outside of the Park.

There hadn’t been a trash and recycle bin available at Mazama Village, so we used the one at the picnic area above Annie Creek Falls on our way out to get rid our garbage and recyclables now that we were definitely done camping.

Annie Falls

We also had a distant peek at the falls far below us.

We drove about half an hour from the Park back toward Klamath Falls to the hamlet of Chiloquin, where we’d reserved a room for two nights at the new Sleep Inn adjacent to the Kla-Mo-Ya Casino, run by the Klamath Tribes.

While we were checking in, the fellow at the front desk warned us that the water might have a touch of a sulphuric smell, but that it was perfectly safe. Well. We were definitely in volcano country. We also noticed other guests checking in who were likely in a similar boat as us, campers who were fleeing the cold and snow and rain.

As we took the elevator up to our room, we shared it with a young man wearing an Indianapolis Colts cap. Sean made a comment about us being neighbors, Indianapolis and Chicago, but it turned out the kid was from Florida, but had grown up a Peyton Manning fan.

Our room was quite nice. We dropped our things and then crossed the parking lot to the casino to get dinner. We had intended to just take a pizza back to the room, but the bartender warned us that the pizzas took forty-five minutes, so we decided to have fish and chips and salad at the restaurant. The food was good, but it had been a long time since we’d dined in a space that allowed smoking. Oof.

Back in the room, we tended to the wet tent. We rinsed it in the shower and then hung it to dry so it would be ready to continue on with us to Portland and then home to Chicago.

It turned out that the Indiana Jones tetralogy was on cable. Sean was absolutely delighted.

While I backed up photos from the trip, Sean spread out all his new National Park flowy scarves from our trip thus far.

We fell asleep watching Indiana Jones 4, safe and warm.

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