Day 4, we packed up at Cove Palisade (Deschute campsite at Lake Billy Chinook) and headed to Crate Lake. We were in no particular rush and took our time. Along the way we restocked at Trader Joe’s in Bend – always a treat with their yummy high quality foods.
As we headed out of camp, we stopped along the lake and took photos of the amazing basalt structures right next to the road. I’ve seen many examples of the characteristic hexagonal columns formed in basalt, but these were unusual in that they were curved. The sheer scale of the temperatures and pressures involved stagger the mind.
Trader Joe’s is always fun. I could spend hours perusing the shelves.
As we approached Crater Lake National Park Mrs E questioned the directions Doris was offering. I prudently chose to “validate my assumptions” and saw that the default GPS setting was to “avoid toll roads”. This being a national park, Doris was trying to avoid the entrance fee at the northern entry point and detour us way off to the west to enter the park by the southern gate. Though this too had a fee, I guess the logic figured that delay of the fee was better somehow?! Cancelling this option Doris now agreed with the sign in front of us saying that Crater Lake was that-a-way. Crater Lake National Park is about 5 miles square, but it sits in the middle of the Winema National Forest which is huge.
As we caught our first glimpse of the lake and Wizard Island within it, we were sorely disappointed. The air was very misty with what we assumed to be smoke from the fires raging in California. We’d booked to stay in the park for 3 nights to make sure we had chance to see all it offered, and if the air quality was going to be so poor, we would be very frustrated.
We headed to the campsite at Mazama village and were told that though we had a site reserved, it was not a specific site. We had to cruise the vast campground and pick one. By sheer fluke we picked a site within easy walking distance of the only 3 showers in the entire ground! There had been a bad Pine Beetle infestation, and many trees had been felled and logged. Unlike other sites where you have to pay for firewood, at Crater Lake campers were encouraged to burn as much as they liked for free. In “extreme” forest fire conditions. Bizarre! There were however several cautionary signs demanding that campers “buy it where you burn it”. Carrying potentially infected firewood from site to site is a way that the beetles can spread.
As we settled in, we became aware of several Steller’s Jays sharing the site with us. Chipmunks too. The chipmunks were entertaining, but the Jays were incredibly noisy and confident. They would come to within a couple of feet of you if they thought they might find food. Each site had a very robust bear bin with double doors. This implied that bears could be a bit of an issue, but there was no sign of any bears in the area while we were there.
We’d stopped off at the park’s Steel Visitor Center (sic) and loaded up with maps. One came with a useful list of the parks official hiking trails – a very convenient “to-do” list for our short stay!
As is often the case when camping, we turned in relatively early, but not before witnessing a stunning sunset – emphasised no doubt by the smoke lingering in the air. On subsequent nights we saw an incredible number of stars – something only possible when many many miles away from the usual light pollution of our so-called civilisation.