Oregon 2015, Part 1: Crater Lake Sunrise

Seattle. Medford, Crater Lake, Chemult, Oregon (Map)

Summer 2015


It was time to finally go get my last state – state #50 – Oregon. While I didn't have much vacation time left, I had a friend who wanted to meet in Oregon & of course I wanted to go see the last state that'll ever be new.

Soon enough, I was flying out of Deer Lake as the setting sun shined on the rocky slabs that make up the Bay of Islands. In the above picture you can see Pearl & Tweed Island, which are just to the north of Weeball (Guernsey Island).

I actually can't remember if it was vacation time or money that was limited, but I booked the flight out west on Aeroplan & got one of those enviable Toronto overnight layovers. With an early morning flight, the costly train downtown & worrying about inconveniencing friends, I rolled out my sleeping bag on the long, armless chair banks I found.

(This was before I realized they reduced the price of the UP Express that runs from Pearson Airport to downtown Toronto. Nowadays it's only $24 round trip.)

Being on the mainland, I was feeling alive and excited, so I stayed awake, read and got comfy. Eventually I would lay down and sleep decently, but not too heavily with every seatback hip bump and belongings check.

This was until 3 in the morning. You can see the number of chair banks in the above picture and of all these empty seats, one seat would be the empty, end one where I only take up about 3.5 seats laying down.

I awoke confused, as some weirdo came and sat in that one empty seat to play on his phone and look out the window in the middle of the night. Of course I wanted him to feel awkward and get lost, but I also worried about every other seat being taken. I uncomfortably pulled my feet in and slept in a fetal position, thinking about how if I needed to stretch, would the bottom of my toes touch his thigh or side ass?

The weirdo would inexplicably sit there for about an hour or two. Almost immediately after he left, I shot up and looked around at the other seats, noticing plenty of other places he could sit and play on his phone. Shaking my head, I savoured stretching out my legs as I went back to sleep for another 45 minutes.

My Aeroplan ticket would bring me to Seattle, where a separate ticket would then bring me to Medford, Oregon. Arriving on time, I now had 4 hours to see Seattle for the second time besides a different 4 hour visit back in 2007.

I went right downtown to some of the things I didn't see on my other trip. One of those things was the famous Pike Place Market, but after discovering just how busy it was today & shuffling for 10 minutes while trying to get through one single corridor, I had just about enough of Pike Place Market. It was also a holiday, so my plan to eat something down here was met with either closed or jam-packed restaurants.

I was just about to go back and settle for airport food, when I decided to get off the subway at some random stop.

Within a hundred feet, I found a decent, non-chain pub with an outdoor seating area, located at the base of Smith Tower (a skyscraper built in 1914). In addition, this area around Pioneer Square Station was quieter and the cleared central area was surrounded with other handsome buildings. Seattle had again endeared itself, even after Pike Place left me in a sour mood.

In a weird coincidence, the other time I was in Seattle I got off the highway when I saw 'Safeco Field' signs and then got lost for 20 minutes trying to find the ballpark. Along the way, I leaned out of the Intrepid and snapped a photo of a gorgeous redbrick building. Fast forward to 2015 and I was sitting here eating my lunch, appreciating a gorgeous redbrick building across the way. It's only when getting home & looking in my photo folder from 2007, that I realized it was the same building! The one from random streets while trying to find Safeco Field was the same one I encountered after getting off the subway at some random spot.

The flight to Medford was on Alaska Airlines and just as enjoyable as the last time I flew with them to Anchorage (i.e. far removed from lowly Air Canada Rouge back east).

It was about 7pm when I landed and there was only about an hour of daylight left, so after filling up on Del Taco, we soon raced through a few small towns, but also lots of empty land and forest.

(In a hilarious later discovery, we were in such a hurry to Del Taco and into the night, that one of us put a new vinyl of Pearl Jam's 10 on top of the car & forgot it there. Hopefully a Medford Pearl Jam fan found it!)

We passed a few cheap motels and I loved the look of their old signs and woody settings, but sadly they weren't close enough to tomorrow's national park. And once you started to look at the motels and lodges near Crater Lake, the prices went through the roof. With thoughts of getting up for sunrise, I wasn't comfortable with spending $150USD to sleep for 8 hours and leave 5 hours before checkout. Then again, it wasn't all that comfortable sleeping in the compact rental car with another person either, haha.

Forgetting that discomfort, sleeping in the car at the campground brought about a great first nightfall in Oregon. The campsite was dark, quiet and the stars shined through breaks in the soaring forest ceiling. Standing around the picnic table and craning my neck upwards, I couldn't remember if I ever camped in a place with such tall trees.

It was about a half-hour drive the next morning from Union Creek to Crater Lake National Park.

I wondered how many people would be here for a sunrise in the summer, but thought that coming in September might help with the crowds. And while there were a dozen or so cars at the store along the way, once we approached the lake and the path beside it, there were only 2 or 3 other groups in total (plus a few people out for a morning jog, the showoffs).

Between the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean you will find the Cascade Mountains. One of the Cascade Mountains is Mount Mazama, which stood at approximately 11,000 ft (3400m) about 400,000 years ago.

Mount Mazama would collapse in an eruption that sent ash all the way to southern British Columbia and central Nevada. (In addition to scientific dating methods, this event is remembered in Klamath Native American legends.) This eruption happened around 5700 BC, when magma pushed upward and then the mass above collapsed inward into the magma chamber, causing Mount Mazama to lose 2500 to 3500 ft (760 - 1070m) of its height. This would form a caldera, the area which would then fill with water to create Crater Lake.

(One thing I didn't know at the time is that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1949ft (594m). It is second to only Great Slave Lake for all of North America.)

Crater Lake's Wizard Island is not a piece of Mount Mazama left over from the eruption, but rather a cinder cone formed from a vent at the bottom of Crater Lake.

There are boat rides out to Wizard Island with a hiking trail to the summit, but it's a steep hike down to the shore, then a 5 hour trip around the lake with time allotted to relaxing or hiking on the island. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to spend almost a whole day to visit Wizard Island (even hiking down to Cleetwood Cove would've taken too long).

There's a rim road that circles Crater Lake, so after briefly checking out the lodge buildings and a few more scenic overlooks, we started in on the eastern rim drive.

From the lodge building, it's about 40 miles (65km) in distance and one of those drives that ends up taking about twice as long as Google says, because you want to stop and check out scene after gorgeous scene.

In addition to Wizard Island there's also the descriptive Phantom Ship island, which is actually a piece of 400,000-year old Mount Mazama, not another cinder cone.

After enjoying the Phantom Ship overlook all alone, there were actually 5 other people at this small summit further along the road. Oh the crowds here, ugh!

Also, the water isn't that blue in the picture because I pumped up the saturation or slid the hue bar in Lightroom. It's that blue in person, on account of Crater Lake's depth and being almost entirely fed by precipitation. Next to no algae, pesticides or sediments make it into Crater Lake to affect the colour.

Stopping at some of the overlooks, I thought about how I thought I knew sharp cliffs dropping into water from Newfoundland.

At least back east it wouldn't be such a long fall!

Just a spectacular morning at Crater Lake. I couldn't ask for much more than this.

Wrapping up the eastern rim drive & approaching the road that would take us north, there was a brief thought of driving some or all of the shorter western rim section. In the end, we concluded that we'd taken our time and seen a good amount of Crater Lake this morning.

There are isolated peaks and sparse trees along the road north, but it didn't take long for the road to drop off into forest.

The rest of today would be spent driving off into the arid rain shadow of the Cascades in Central Oregon. Coming to the small map dot of Chemult, it was time for coffee. And instead of going into the Pilot service station like usual, I was happy with the decision to get a coffee from the Wheel Cafe.

We were already stopping at old institutions with great signs and weathered siding. Places that felt like Oregon & the American West. I know this isn't the Oregon that many come to see, but it was a part of Oregon that I was looking forward to.

Continue to Part 2...


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Bonavista Peninsula 2015


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Oregon 2015, Part 2:
Hardman, Central Oregon

1 - Crater Lake - Encyclopedia Brittanica
2 - Frequently Asked Questions - Crater Lake National Park Oregon

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