GWL – Into Oregon … Crater Lake NP and Bend

Day 41 – Rain, sleet, hail and snow

It was chilly when we arose, packed up and headed out of Lava Beds. The sky was gray and ominous-looking. Once we had cell phone coverage again, we checked the weather. Rain was forecast, along with plummeting temperatures. Snow was predicted for the high country. The promise of rain was fulfilled quickly … in torrents and with a side serving of hail. We headed across the Oregon border to Medford. It seemed a good day to do laundry again, hit a local WalMart for yet more supplies, a Trader Joe’s for wine and then bask in the warmth of a hotel room and immerse ourselves in writing, reading and internet for a day.

Day 42 – Summer blizzard at Crater Lake NP - 3,452 total miles traveled

It rained all night and the skies were still a flannel gray in the morning. We had originally planned to camp at Crater Lake National Park, but none of the campgrounds were yet open for the season. We decided to visit anyway. It’s summer … how bad could it be? We traveled along scenic, wildflower-lined US-62 with the intention of heading north along the park’s West Rim Drive. The trees became dense … so dense at times, it seemed as if we were driving through a tunnel.

As we gained altitude, here and there we saw patches of snow. It had evidently snowed the night before because some of the tree boughs showed snow cover as well. Then, there was more snow … and more … and more. We watched the temperature dip to the low 40s, then the 30s. It was going to be cold visit.

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It was not a good sign when we stopped at the visitor center and saw the usually inviting rockers covered in snow. Worse yet, they were sold out of hot chocolate! It was more like a ski lodge than a park visitor center (except for the lack of hot chocolate!). At the park check-in, we learned the North Rim entrance (our planned exit) was closed due to snow. We might have to retrace our route, but we’d worry about that later.

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A few Crater Lake facts we learned …

  • Crater Lake is 1,943’ (593m) deep which makes it the deepest lake in the USA and the deepest volcanic lake in the world according to NPS data.

  • No rivers or streams feed into the lake. All the water comes from snow melt and rain. The average snowfall at the lake is 43’/year. Wow!

  • The volcano is dormant, but not extinct. The last eruption occurred underwater about 4,800 years ago.

  • Wizard Island (see the pic below) is not the top of an old volcano, but rather a newer volcano which emerged from the lake about 7,300 years ago.

 Wizard Island emerged from the lake about 7,300 years ago.

Wizard Island emerged from the lake about 7,300 years ago.

Despite the snowy weather, Crater Lake’s Rim Village parking lot was full to capacity and there were people milling about everywhere … and it was spitting snow. Icicles hung from the roof eaves of the visitor’s center. Folks were all bundled up to fend off the cold. We could see our breath as we walked. The lake itself was incredibly beautiful with the snowfall.

 A Clark’s nutcracker had found a treasure in the snow and was wrestling it back to its nest.

A Clark’s nutcracker had found a treasure in the snow and was wrestling it back to its nest.

An illustrious individual had taken the time to build a tiny snowman that seemed to be enjoying the view. He definitely caught the attention of the lake viewing crowd.

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By the time we were ready to leave Rim Village, the park service announced that the North Entrance was open, so we continued on our way. There are several overlooks and pull-offs and we enjoyed each one in turn, affording us different views of the lake below.

 A winter wonderland ... in summer! The cold and snow had created a winter wonderland. We marveled at the crystalline frosting of snow and sleet on the trees.

A winter wonderland ... in summer! The cold and snow had created a winter wonderland. We marveled at the crystalline frosting of snow and sleet on the trees.

 The roads were open and wet but there was certainly lots of snow.

The roads were open and wet but there was certainly lots of snow.

 There was barely a dusting when we exited at lower altitude

There was barely a dusting when we exited at lower altitude

The roads were wet, but not slippery when we exited the park and descended to more tolerable temperatures. Since Crater Lake was not a camping option, we followed the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway to Newberry Volcanic National Monument (yup, another unfamiliar park) thinking perhaps it would be more amenable to camping. By the time we arrived at the Paulina Lake Campground, it was spitting snow again. We stopped at the visitor’s center, picked up the park map and trail guides and pondered our situation.

We have no heater in Blue because we do not plan to stay in cold places (any ambient temperature below 40F is cold). We opted for another hotel night in Bend, Oregon, hoping that the forecast for tomorrow’s warmer weather would prove correct.

Check in with us on Monday and explore Newberry Volcanic National Monument with us. This park ended up being quite a fine place to camp on the shores of Paulina Lake and once again, one of America’s national parks’ fine surprises.