Crater Lake It was time for our annual summer vacation. Like last year we decided to drive towards Portland, but unlike last year we decided we were going to make it. The reason to go to Portland is that we’re thinking of moving there some day, but neither of us have actually been there. So on Saturday August 7, 2004, we got up kind of early and headed north on the 101, to meet up with Ron and Andrea in Oakland. In San Jose we stopped at a Dutch food store where I purchased lots of licorice and cookies. The shop is small, but packed with all kinds of goodies. It was fun just to browse. We had lunch at a local fast food joint where you get to put your own condiments and toppings on your burgers.

With full bellies, we went on to Oakland. Ron wasn’t home yet, so we went for a walk with Andrea. We visited the rose garden which is close to their apartment. It’s nice, and was surrounded by tall trees. Oakland has some pretty nice parts, although I’m sure there are also parts that deserve the city’s reputation. For dinner we at chicken with couscous, while watching Spellbound, which is a very entertaining documentary about the spelling bee. Afterwards we watched Underworld which was quite amusing, including a fairly creative final battle.

Sunday we slept late. After Andrea cooked us a delicious breakfast, we left around noon. The REI chosen for this trip was the one in Berkeley. We bought an inverter, so I could charge my camera battery in the car, and a car-camping gas stove with 2 burners, along with a few small things. After that, we were finally on the road, making our way to the 505. I-505 was actually quite pretty, as we drove past huge fields of sun flowers. Lunch was at a Black Bear Cafe, which fooled is into thinking it was a local restaurant. It was certainly better than the general chains, but not as local as we’d thought. We drove further north. Shasta lake looked really low, though that didn’t take away from the view of the mountain in the distance. We got into Oregon pretty late, and started following directions over small country roads to Daley Creek campground.

We settled on a spot, and then on a different spot. We went for a short walk on the trail, where a sign said that beavers might be seen. We walked about 1.5 miles one way (and then back), but saw no sign of them. For dinner we tried out a freeze dried backpacking meal we picked up at REI, just to get a feel for what they’re like. They seem OK for backpacking, but pretty bland otherwise. While cooking/eating, we were continually chasing 2 raccoons away: a momma and a baby. Throwing rocks, and chasing them to the other side of the campground road helped a little, but they kept coming back. It was pretty neat to actually see them climb trees, and if they hadn’t been so annoying the raccoons would have been very cute. The campsite itself was pretty nice, with a fancy pit toilet, fire pits and tables.

The next day we got up a little after 8. After breakfast we started driving towards Crater Lake National Park. Somewhere early on we missed a turn, though, which added a little bit of distance. It also led us through White Creek where we found a grocery store. We bought buffalo meat since neither of us had everhad that before, together with some other more normal food. On the road to CLNP we passed through all kinds of livestock farms: cows, horses, emus, and goats. We didn’t see any buffalo, though. As the road went up, we entered forest. Somewhere in there we stopped at a famous gorge which had water flowing through it very quickly, and was pretty impressive. A little after lunch-time we arrived at Crater Lake itself. It is quite an amazing sight, but we entered the food court-type restaurant they had there for some mediocre food. Afterwards we attended what was probably the best ranger talk I’ve ever been at. The ranger was engaging, funny, and his gimmick (a top ten list) wasn’t annoying. The most interesting thing he talked about was an insect with an impressive life-cycle. It’s a fly which lays its eggs in the lake. The eggs sink to the bottom (well over 1000 feet deep), where larva live for a year. Then they swim to the surface, mate, and die soon thereafter.

After the ranger talk, we drove clockwise around the lake to the other side, where a trail leads down to the lake itself. The trail was busy, with OK scenery. At the bottom there really was nothing to do except turn around. Boat tours leave but it’s hard to get tickets. Some people were swimming in the lake, which was quite cold. I got my shirt wet for the way up, and then we hiked back up. We continued driving clockwise until the turnoff for our campground for the night: Lost Creek Campground. From descriptions I’d thought this was a primitive campground, but that wasn’t the case. It was quite dense, had flush toilets and running water. We were lucky to get the last spot that night. Having secured a campsite, we drove further east to the Pinnacles: a place where rising gas in a lava stream has left some other-worldly columns of rock. For dinner we had buffalo fajitas, which came out great. The buffalo we bought was tasty and tender.

Tuesday morning we got up at 7, which was a little later than we’d hoped for. We were going to hike up Mt. Scott, and wanted the weather to be cool at least during our ascent. We were all packed up and done with breakfast by 8:10am. 15 minutes later we were going up the tallest peak in the park. It was a well-maintained trail with a nice, steady incline. The views kept improving as we climbed, and there were a number of wildflowers to enjoy as well. At the top we had a great view of the lake, as well as a view of Mt. Shasta far to the south. The fire tower on the top is closed to the public. A friendly hiker took our picture, and after a short break we headed back down.

After our hike it was time to drive on to Portland, but we took one last look at the lake from Cloudcap Overlook. We drove on smaller roads for a while, until we finally hit I-5. We’d stopped at a fruitstand earlier to check out there “bodacious” peaches. They were indeed good. After joining with I-5 we ate at a grill place, which was OK. Several hours later we finally approached Portland, an event marked by the drastically slowing down of traffic. We crawled around for a while, stopping at a Fred Meyer for groceries. A Fred Meyer is a lot like a Walmart, only bigger. It was hot in Portland. While driving around looking for a grocery store, we passed 3 big thermometers: 92, 93, and 98 degrees. On our way again, we crawled to the east side of Portland, and from there traffic picked up as we entered the Columbia River Gorge area. We found our campground at Ainsworth State Park. For the most part it was an RV campsite, but they had some walk-in tent camping. This meant a parking lot, with a handful of tent sites in walking distance. We got the first pick, and ended up with a campsite right by the parking lot. Next we discovered the campsite had showers, which we gladly made use of. Finally we made dinner of pork, mushrooms, onions with too much seasonings, and bad corn.

We slept in the next day, and used some of the many blackberries that grew around the campsite in our oatmeal. On our way to Portland we stopped by Horsetail and Multnomah Falls. In Portland we started walking along the Columbia River, which has a nice park running along it. Pretty soon, we decided it was too hot and were getting hungry. It feels we walked all over down-town Portland before finding a place to eat: Long Island Cafe, which advertises pizza, pasta, and Lebanese food. We both had Lebanese food and it was excellent. In the afternoon we visited the Oregon Historical Society, which AAA recommended, where we saw the “Oregon My Oregon” exhibit. They had a lot of artifacts on display, but did not weave them all into a single narrative. Instead there were a bunch of disjoint stories, and the years weren’t enough for me to get a good mental picture of the history. On the way back to the car we took a detour through Chinatown, which has a nice-looking gate but looks to be a bad neighborhood otherwise. We picked up salmon and ice cream (still hot) on the way to our campground, where we ate and went to bed.

8/12 Got up sort of early. Because of the heat we’d decided to head to the coast. On the way to Portland we’d check out some houses that are for sale because we’re thinking of moving here some day. We drove by 4 houses. 2 that were about \$150k, and 2 that were about \$250k. The ones that were \$150k are reasonable enough, but not what we’d call nice. Both \$250k ones were in decent neighborhoods. One we really liked, partly because of the blackberries that growed on the street around the corner. All these houses have at least 3 bedrooms. You’d be lucky to get a 3-br in SB for \<\$700k. We drove west towards Tillamook, stopping at a Newport Bay to eat. While driving we passed a sign telling us to turn to 1410 am or something for info the air show. I tried, but didn’t find the station. A few minutes later, we did see the Blue Angels flying around, spitting smoke and doing barrel rolls. In Tillamook we first stopped by the cheese factory, mostly to say we’ve been there. It’s a big tourist trap, where you can watch the workers through big glass windows. Makes me appreciate my job. Then we stopped by a Fred Meyer. Signs said the county fair was going on today, so we went over there. The county fair was quite an experience. We watched one round of the Pig-N-Ford races. The gist of it is that every racer runs to a box, and grabs a small pig out of it. He then runs to his Model T, cranks the starter, jumps in, and races a lap. At the end of the lap they stop, kill the engine, and put the pig back in the box. They then do the whole thing over again. They did 3 laps in the race we watched. The best visual was somebody cranking the engine while holding a squealing pig under the other arm, but it was definitely an experience not to be missed. The second highlight was the beef show, where kids (4-H and FFA) were showing steers they’d raised. We learned that the main thing you want in a steer is for it to “hang a good carcass.” We also checked out the livestock in display, including a goat that was eating the ribbon it had won. Once we’d seen most of the stuff at the fair, we drove south to a campground along the beach. We were lucky that, just before we arrived somebody had cancelled their reservation, giving us a spot. This campground was very crowded, has showers, tables, and fire pits. It’s also right next to the water (but small dunes prevent you from seeing the beach from the campsite)

8/13 Up fairly early. We took a shower and headed south. In Newport we stopped at the aquarium there. I really enjoyed it. Danielle says the Monterey Bay Aquarium is better. There was an OK exhibit about bats, but their normal stuff was much nicer. We got to see sea dragons, big jellies, and a variety of fish that live in the area. Outside they had a very nice seal/sea lion setup, and they had 4 active otters. There’s also an octopus there, which had stuck itself to the glass nicely. Finally in the bird exhibit there were a lot of tufted puffins and murrels, and a pair of oyster catchers. After the aquarium we decided to get some driving in so we wouldn’t have it all left at the end of the day. We cut over to I-5, and went south. Close to Ashland we went into the forest, and camped at a BLM site. It looked to be full, since a few other cars were driving around aimlessly, but they had walk-in sites which nobody was using. We camped maybe 40 yards away from where the car was parked, and enjoyed our privacy.

8/14 Up and out early, but we didn’t leave before the caretaker found us and asked us how our stay was. The BLM site is in great condition, with all the amenities. We drove down to Lassen National Volcanic Park, which was the furthest south cool thing that would allow us to arrive kind of early, since we didn’t have any reservations. It ended up taking until 2:30pm before we finally rolled into the South Summit Lake campground, where we must have gotten one of the last spots. For the afternoon, we hiked up Lassen Peak. We made it to the top pretty easily. There we took over 45 minutes to explore the strange volcanic formations, watching the pretty obsidian, and sulfur-tainted white rocks. The first part down was quite cold, because it was windy and that part of the trail was now in the shade. Just before we got back to the campground, we noticed 3 deer grazing below us. I had to answer a different nature call, though, otherwise I’d have taken some pictures. Back at camp, we ate and went to bed.

8/15 In preparation for a lot of driving we got up just after 6 and were on the road just before 7. We stopped at Bumpass Hell trail though, because everybody who goes to Lassen should see that. Steam coming out of the ground, and boiling water are all over the place. There are very pretty color deposits. The boardwalk extends a lot farther now than it did when Tone and I were there two years ago. I was tempted to see if we could find the purple ninja homey, but its mountain was just too far out of the way. So at 9:20 we were in the car, heading home for real. We stopped for lunch between Sacramento and Stockton, and it was Danielle’s turn to drive. At Kettletown we stopped for gas, and to change drivers. We were parked, waiting for the guy in front of us to finish filling up his car, and I asked Danielle to start the car again because it would make the AC run better. The car wouldn’t start. I fiddled with the car some, but no luck. By the time the guy in front of us was done, the car did in fact start. I had to turn off the car to fill up (so says the sign), and it wouldn’t start again. We rolled the car out of the way, and went to the garage across the road to see what they could do. They had a battery tester (I suspected the problem was with the batter), but would charge \$35 to test a battery, so we went back to the car, planning to ask somebody for a jump. Before looking for a jump in earnest, I gave starting the car one last try. It started, though hesitantly. We drove all the way home from there without any problems. The traffic southbound from Santa Barbara was horrendous, but luckily we’re locals so we took surface streets.

Lessons learned: Too much driving on this trip. Yoghurt and cereal makes a good breakfast. Buffalo meat is good.

About the author

Living the good life in Seattle, occasionally sharing something interesting with the Internet.