Crater Lake National Park: North Rim and Points North from There

It was approaching 1pm on Thursday, September 19 as Sean and I continued along East Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park, heading toward the Park’s north entrance and then on to Portland. Because of the early wintry weather that had greeted us at the Park on Monday, we were packing our most spectacular views of the Park into this drive. Our sixteen-day “Shasta” adventure was quickly reaching its end. On Sunday afternoon, we’d be on a plane home to Chicago.

Native Americans had been in the area around Mount Mazama for thousands of years before the mountain erupted and imploded. Native peoples of the Cascades witnessed the explosion, which is proven by artifacts, including sandals, found beneath the pumice layer deposited by the cloud of ash and dust from the eruption 7,700 years ago.

Pumice Point

Wizard Island with Watchman Peak and Hillman Peak

The explosion of Mount Mazama comes down to us in the oral tradition of multiple peoples of the area. A typical version goes as follows:

The spirit of the mountain was called Chief of the Below World (Llao). The spirit of the sky was called Chief of the Above World (Skell). Sometimes Llao came up from his home inside the earth and stood on top of Mount Mazama, one of the highest mountains in the region. During one of these visits, he saw the Makalak chief’s beautiful daughter and fell in love with her. He promised her eternal life if she would return with him to his lodge below the mountain. When she refused, he became angry and declared that he would destroy her people with fire. In his rage, he rushed up through the opening of his mountain and stood on top of it and began to hurl fire down upon them. The mighty Skell took pity on the people and stood atop Mount Shasta to defend them. From their mountaintops, the two chiefs waged a furious battle. They hurled red hot rocks as large as hills. They made the earth tremble and caused great landslides of fire. The people fled in terror to the waters of Klamath Lake.

Two holy men offered to sacrifice themselves by jumping into the pit of fire on top of Llao’s mountain. Skell was moved by their bravery and drove Llao back into Mount Mazama. When the sun rose next, the great mountain was gone. It had fallen in on Llao. All that remained was a large hole. Rain fell in torrents, filling the hole with water. This is now called Crater Lake.

National Park Service Brochure
Pumice Point

Cleetwood Cove

Cleetwood Cove

We stopped at the overlook above Cleetwood Cove at the lake’s northeast point. It was here that the cataclysmic event that destroyed the mountain began. An earlier, ongoing eruption was interrupted by the main explosion.

It was past the time of year for boat tours on the lake, but there was a small vessel out near Wizard Island. Likely it was a Park Service boat.


Applegate Peak

The deepest point of this deepest U.S. lake, 1,949 feet below the surface, is near Cleetwood Cove.

Palisade Point

Rubber Rabbitbrush


Cleetwood Cove

The Cleetwood Cove area is also the only place to access the lake. The caldera walls are so steep that there is only one path down to a dock at Cleetwood Cove. We noticed another vessel near the shore beneath us. It appeared to be unmanned.

Palisade Point

Common Raven

We continued on.

We made our final stop in Crater Lake National Park at the large parking area at the junction of the Rim Drive and the road to the Park’s northern entrance. Here, while we took our last look, we encountered visitors who’d just arrived getting their first look at the lake.

Grouse Hill

Merriam Point

We watched some visitors taking a dangerous photo and defying the signs to stay on the trail.

Wizard Island

In the distance beyond Wizard Island we could see Rim Village.

Garfield Peak

I overheard a woman remark that she was disappointed that the lake wasn’t as blue as she’d remembered. Give it a few minutes, I thought. When the sun comes back out it will dazzle again.

Hillman Peak

Red Cone

Greene’s Goldenbush

Whitebark Pine

And with that we climbed back into the car and said farewell to Crater Lake National Park.

Fire break much?

From the north entrance, it was a brief (for us on this trip) four-hour drive to our hotel in downtown Portland.

Counterintuitively, we started by heading east, dropping out of the western foothills of the Cascades and then heading north on Highway 97

We crossed the Cascades in their Pacific Northwest glory via Willamette Pass and descended into the Willamette Valley at Eugene.

Somewhere in the agricultural land north of Eugene, we pulled off I-5 at a rest stop so that I could ping an email to my friend Gayle to confirm that we were still on for coffee in the morning. I didn’t want to wait until we got all the way to Portland and checked in before touching base.

Although we hit a little traffic as we arrived, soon we were parked out in front of the Society Hotel in Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown district. We had so much luggage because of our gear (and literal boxes of food and such). The guy at the front desk grabbed our boxes and carried them up to our room for us, which was so nice. It was a great first impression for the hotel that was only confirmed throughout our stay. The hotel and its staff were just first rate!

We both loved the hotel’s aesthetic, and Sean was absolutely delighted with everything about it. I was so pleased!

After ditching the car at a pay lot a block from the hotel (we’d return it in the morning), we headed over to Pine Street Market for some BiBimBop that Sean had read about in Eater Portland.

We got a choco-taco for dessert.

Afterward, we went back to the hotel, got a couple drinks from the lobby bar, and headed up to the rooftop terrace to sip them. Soon, however, it started to drizzle, so we hung out in our room until we were sleepy.

Next morning, Friday, September 20, I was up early to shower and shave before returning the Cadillac to Enterprise. In eleven days since San Francisco, we’d put just under 1,800 miles on it.

I met Gayle nearby and we went to Floyd’s for coffee. I texted Sean where we were, and he came and met us. We three gabbed before Sean excused himself to make a work call and to let us catch. I know Gayle from the Training, Facilitation, and Consulting Certificate program we both attended in New England, which concluded the previous April. I had just weeks earlier left Openlands to strike out on my own, and Gayle was in the early preparation stages to leave her conservation NPO in January 2020 to start her own consulting business. We caught up and talked conservation, consulting, business, and the state of the world. Since then, she and I and two others of our cohort (from Albany and Washington DC) have started regular Zoom conversations to share about starting our business and find points for collaboration. I value them immensely.

Gayle had to get going in order to take her son to the student climate march (this was the Friday of Greta Thunberg’s global climate student strike). After we’d hugged goodbye and Gayle had departed, Sean remarked how wonderful she is.

Image: Sean M. Santos

We went to Powell’s. Because how could we not?

I had been good at City Lights in San Francisco. But I did not have the same self restraint at Powell’s and ended up taking home eight hardcovers. Oops.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Sean and I met making out over the Decameron.

After spending hours at Powell’s, we got a food cart lunch. I got a Cubano from Steaks Fifth Avenue and gabbed with the proprietor about Chicago.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Later on we ended up at the Portland Outdoor Store. While we were inside inspecting all the buffalo plaid, from Chicago Patrick texted Aimee, John, and me on our perpetual thread. He shared some disappointing news about the unprofessional behavior of a conservation acquaintance. It was emblematic of the worst of the shenanigans in the Chicago conservation world. I shared the incident with Sean and he was appalled just even on a professional behavior level.

We wandered around some more before heading back to the hotel to meet up with my cousin, Amy.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Amy, a fabulous and accomplished photographer who has figured into multiple Park trips captured on this site, lives outside Portland with her husband, Trevor. It was so wonderful to see her!

We had coffee in the hotel lobby before heading out to Tilt Burgers for dinner.

Image: Amy Winship

After dinner, we wandered around before heading to the hotel rooftop.

We three continued catching up over wine, beer, and tea.

When it was time to say goodbye, we walked her to her car nearby. After a few more farewell hugs, Amy headed home.

Back in our room, Sean and I hung out reading and internet-ing until after midnight before going to sleep.

Next morning, Saturday, September 21, we slept in and lounged our way into the final full day of our trip.

Once we got going, we decided to check out the nearby Portland Saturday Market, essentially creating a bookend to the Farmers Market at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal, which began the first full day of our trip.

Image: Sean M. Santos

We passed a convenience store, which apparently carried many of Sean’s favorite things.

Our brunch was amazing Chinese street. We sat near the fountain in the riverfront park adjacent to the market to eat and watch a fat, friendly dog happily greet everyone near him.

Image: Sean M. Santos

We wandered around the market some more and bought Elsa a handmade pickle filled with catnip as a present.

We checked out Floating World Comics before heading back to the hotel to rest.

At Amy’s recommendation, we took a nice walk to New Renaissance Bookshop, a New Age place on Burnside.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Then we walked down Burnside and remarked that it was similar to our neighborhood in Chicago, Andersonville.

Image: Sean M. Santos

As we passed another sign that encouraged us to eat pizza, I snapped a photo and dashed a text off to our buddy, Nick, a great lover of pizza. I said that I felt Portland was pressuring us to eat lots of pizza. He said the he loved it there.

We just kept walking and ducking into shops and eventually ended up downtown near city hall.

Sean spotted a Muji store and got very excited, so we went in. He got so excited that he got overwhelmed and didn’t buy anything, ironically. I bought a sweater.

We sent this to our buddy, Josh, who was scaroused.

After hitting a few more PDX or PNW-themed shops, we decided to head back to the hotel.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Back on the Society Hotel rooftop, we sipped some wine and watched the afternoon wane.

We went to dinner at Mother’s Bistro on Amy’s recommendation, where we dined on comfort food (pierogi, meatloaf, chicken and dumplings) while being amused by the cast of characters at the restaurant, from the adorable gay guys who could have been twins to a cowboy and his companions to emo guys and a goth couple to the “ladies who dine” sitting at the table next to us, whom Sean encouraged to go ahead and get the big piece of cheesecake.

Later on, we checked out Stag PDX, a gay strip club whose claim to fame is that they give change in two-dollar bills.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Sean loves a two-dollar bill and always has one in his wallet. He was pleased with his haul from the bar.

Even though the neighborhood around our hotel was hopping, we ended our night watching The Golden Girls in bed before going to sleep around 1am.

Next morning, Sunday, September 22, we woke up way too early at 7:30am, but cuddled for a while before eventually getting up and finishing packing. Sean asked the hotel for late checkout, and we headed out for a quick brunch of smoked salmon benedict and brisket at Kingsland.

(Because I am often a twelve-year-old, I was way too amused that my line of sight of the restaurant across the street made it look like the sign said “Coffee, Beer, Cock.”)

Back at the hotel we called a Lyft. It was drizzling, and I felt the beginnings of a sore throat (which later that week would develop into a full-blown early autumn cold). It was time to head home.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Things were easy getting to the airport. They were likewise easy at the airport. There was a very nice guitarist playing Spanish music in the terminal as part of a Portland program for live entertainment at the airport. I Venmoed him a tip.

Sean regularly suffers through a middle seat on our flights to and from the National Parks so that I can gaze out the window and snap photos. This flight was the worst for him. A huge dude had the aisle seat. As he wedged himself in, he turned to Sean and said, “I hoped you’d be a hot chick.”

“Well, as long as I’m hot,” Sean shot back, which shut the dude up. Fucking gross.

Columbia River

Rocky Mountains

Great Plains

Missouri River

Image: Sean M. Santos

By the time we landed, I knew that I was definitely getting sick. I’m glad that it waited until the very bitter end of the trip. The week ahead would be the first for Bold Bison Communications and Consulting, my new livelihood. The fog of a cold made the new sensation of working from home all the more dreamlike.

At O’Hare, we grabbed margaritas to go at Frontera before collecting our bags. Sean put in our Thai delivery order from the cab home from the airport.

At sixteen days, “Shasta” had been our longest trip since our honeymoon and the second-longest trip we’d made together. It was a remarkable trip, justifiably dubbed “epic,” filled with volcanoes, giant forests, mountains and coastlines, food and shenanigans, and lots and lots of exploration.

And when we reached our apartment, Elsa was very pleased to see us.

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