From the Blog

Tank Full Of Gas (Multiple), Chapter Nineteen, Part 4: Crater Lake

As our vacation progressed, I appreciated that each of our days’ drives became shorter and shorter. In the beginning of the trip, it was good to feel the miles slip under the wheels. It felt like we were actually traveling. Driving in the desert, or anywhere, is different than getting on a plane and just arriving somewhere. You can’t comprehend the magnitude of the distance getting on and off a plane. We actually went somewhere when we left Portland in the dark, pouring rain, and arrived 12 hours and 660 miles later in a sunny, arid land. We really traveled, you know? I think I just totally blew your mind right now.

As the trip progressed, driving became less philosophical and more of a pain in the ass. It was a quick little 107 mile hop to get from Goose Lake to Crater Lake.


I now realize that I forgot to mention the other two Really Dumb Things I Did on this trip. The first dumb thing, as you might recall, was deleting a half days’ worth of photos during a rodeo. That was awesome.

The second Dumb Thing I Did began with getting out of the car and locking it with the remote. But instead of hearing one beep as usual, I heard three. I wasn’t really sure why I heard three beeps instead of one. I hoped that the car was locked, but didn’t think much of it.

Dave’s brother mentioned that their neighborhood was really safe. I saw a new young family walking in the neighborhood, with the dad carrying a baby in a sling. Dad with sling = sensitive male = safe neighborhood. And further, everyone in Elko is armed, so I can’t imagine many people would risk a breaking into a car when every family member, including the baby, could pull a gun on you.

A couple hours later, we were getting ready for bed, and I casually mentioned the odd three beeps instead of the one. And I was pretty sure the car was locked, but maybe it wasn’t. Dave went out to investigate.

Now, remember I said we rented a hybrid Toyota Camry? It’s a hybrid. That means the gas engine shuts off, but the car is still, you know, on. And you don’t actually need to put the key in any ignition switch to turn the car on or off. The car knows if the remote is in the car automagically. You just push a button to turn the car on. Or off.

Dave came back in the house, saying that the car was out there idling. The gas engine was on, humming away, out in the driveway. Huh! But I pushed the button! I think! The engine is silent! How was I supposed to be sure the car was off? I didn’t read the manual before I started driving it.

Only a couple hours, out there in the driveway of this safe neighborhood, with the car idling. But the bad thing? The other time I got that strange three beep thing was at a grocery store in Elko. Oh, just left the car running, unattended, at the grocery store and a thief wouldn’t need a goddamned key. Awesome.

So the final Dumb Thing I Did on this trip was also car related. When camping, we usually get out of bed not long after the sun is up. On this trip, that meant sometime before 7 am. I was groggy and bleary eyed, waking up at Goose Lake, and Dave asked me to unlock the car so he could get our coffee started. I fished the remote out of my pocketbook (purse) and pushed the button to unlock the door.

Except I didn’t push the button to unlock the door, I pushed the panic button. It’s the red one. You know what you do when you accidentally push the panic button? In a silent, remote campground? First thing in the morning? When everyone else is still sleeping because you woke up at the crack of ass? You panic. Car alarm! Going off! Loud, annoying noise! First thing in the morning! Gah! Shut off! Shut off! Shut off! For the love of all that is holy, please don’t ever push the goddamned red button.

We got to Crater Lake and following this book’s advice, immediately went to set up camp at Lost Creek Campground. Lost Creek was one of two campgrounds within the borders of the park. This was the smaller, more rustic campground where they don’t allow RVs.


After setting up camp, we continued down to the end of Pinnacles Drive and went for a walk.


Here is where you bring your enemies to throw them off a cliff. These spines were formed by fumaroles during the blast that created Crater Lake 7700 years ago. Basically, steam vents seared through a new blanket of ash and fused these mostly hollow chimneys. In the years after, stream cut through softer, non-fused ash in this valley and exposed the harden spines.


Volcanoes are fricken cool.

Below, our first sight of the lake brings out our natural dorkish inclinations.


I get this from my family. Go someplace obvious. Point at the obvious thing. Take a picture. I’ve been doing this since I was three.


Dave goes for the Olympic Dive. Maybe a running start would be better.

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It’s really as blue as they say it is. It was hard to understand the immensity even standing on the rim. Looking closely down at the water, you could see tiny ripples on the surface. But it was like looking down at the ocean while flying over in a plane. It was vast. And when there were no cars or voices, it was silent. Like, the kind of silence you never hear. Sorry I keep blowing your mind like that.


It was later in the day and we decided we would drive the rim the next day. We poked our heads into the gift shop, because there is nothing I like more than gift shops at national parks. You might think I’m kidding, but I really do love them. I can’t leave without getting one or two books, and in this case, I got a book about volcanoes. Because volcanoes are awesome. Sometimes I get turquoise earrings too. (No I don’t.)

It pains me a little to say it, but the newly remodeled (1990s) lodge and the whole “rim village” was kinda meh. Some buildings were shut down, the grass was overgrown, dry and burned to a crisp. It seemed disheveled. I know the whole place is only open for half a year, and perhaps it doesn’t get the funding other western parks get. It felt a little neglected. And that made me sad. But we were surprised at how packed it was, in the middle of the week, after the kids had gone to school. We were happy to be there on a Wednesday and not on the weekend.

We returned to the campground and made dinner. It was our intention to make only easy camp meals, since this trip was more “on the road” and we didn’t know if we would be able to light a camp fire. But there were no campfire restrictions and we made ourselves little mini bagel pizzas with roasted tomatoes, yellow squash and kielbasa. And they were good.

They had bear warnings in the park and bear lockers for our food. Huh. We put all food items (and soap, I guess the oils in soap smell edible) in the car or in the locker, but, huh. Bears. This was a night when I had to decide to wear earplugs or not. Do I want to hear bears out there? Or do they just want to rattle the locker (or car) and go on their way? And if something like that were to happen, do I want to be awake for it? Wouldn’t it be better just to sleep through it? And if I wake up missing a foot, I’d know what happened?

Despite our book calling this campground a “jewel,” weren’t in love with our camp site. It was a rather sparse forest, and a great many of the trees were dead and crispy looking. There wasn’t a lot of space or privacy between the sites. The forest floor was mostly dust and there were a lot of swarmy, in-your-face bugs before the sun went down.

But we did catch a lovely sunset.


We could only imagine how the lake must have looked in this light. We were miles away from the rim, otherwise we may have tried to run and catch it.

We let the fire burn out and hunkered down for another sub-40 degree night.

We did not get eaten by bears.

The next morning, we decided we probably weren’t going to just do the the rim drive and camp for another night. Without ready access to showers, we weren’t really up for a strenuous hike. And at over 6000 ft, any hike would be strenuous. We decided we would pack up and spend the night in Bend. We made ourselves breakfast, struck camp and got in the car.

We drove the rim drive counter-clockwise, which meant Dave was on the outside, meaning, the scary side. While driving the cliff-hugging road, I got frequent admonishments from the passenger seat, “Gah! Why didn’t you tell me not to look down there?”

We reached the rim of the lake before the sun was too high, and I don’t mean to sound giddy, but it was breathtaking.

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This is the Phantom Ship, the innards of a much more ancient volcano that had been buried by Mt Mazama as it grew. It looks tiny, doesn’t it? It’s 14 stories tall.


Wizard Island, from the same overlook. I could have stayed at this overlook all day. But we had more crater to look at.


As the day progressed, and we stopped at all the various overlooks, the sun got higher, and the colors, (except for the blue, blue water) became more washed out.


Looking sort of northwest. That’s pointy Mt Thielsen in the distance. It gets hit by lightning a lot.


We drove all the way around and had a pretty good lunch at the lodge. We arrived around 11:30 and were thankful to miss the rush. The place was filled, with people waiting, by the time we left.

We said goodbye to the beautiful lake. We were there for less than 24 hours. I’m sure we could have found ways to fill many days at Crater Lake. I would have loved to do a boat tour, or a couple of the hikes mentioned here. Next time,when we aren’t feeling rushed to get home, and stinky from not having showered.

We made arrangements to stay at St Francis in Bend, which made Dave very happy. We slept in a “bed.” We bathed in a “shower.” We had something called “air conditioning” during the day, and “heat” at night. Lodging in Bend was 14 times more expensive than the previous night at Crater Lake, but so, so, so worth it.

This was our last camping trip of the year. We saw a crapload of Oregon on this trip. And we both saw a lot of the state that we had never seen. But now I realize how little we have seen so far. There’s a whole quadrant (north east) that we haven’t really seen at all. And we breezed by Steens Mountain and other places that we really want to visit. Next summer, next summer.

We also drove right by Mt Jefferson on the way home. But who visits Mt Jefferson? No one, that’s who. Nobody cares about Mt Jefferson. Nobody.


Poor Mt Jefferson. Nobody loves you.

Other trips:

Chapter 19 Elko, NV: Part 1, Part 2, Goose Lake Part 3, Crater Lake Part 4
Chapter Eighteen, Camp Creek, OR (Again)
Quick Trip to The Coast
Chapter Seventeen: Camping in Moss Creek, WA
Chapter Sixteen: Astoria Midsummer Scandinavian Fest Part 1, Part 2
Chapter Fifteen: Camp Creek, OR
Chapter Fourteen: Camping On The Coast, Part 1, Part 1.5, Part 2
Chapter Thirteen: The Gorge, Stonehenge, Hood River, Mt Hood
Five Hours That Kicked My Ass
Chapter Twelve: The Oregon Coast
Chapter Eleven: Oregon Wine Country (hic)
Chapter Ten: Astoria, Oregon
Chapter Nine: Panther Creek Campground, WA
Chapter Eight, Green Canyon Campground, Mt Hood, Oregon
Chapter Seven, Spruce Run Campground, Coast Range, Oregon
Chapter Six, Bend, Oregon
Chapter Five, Seattle, Washington
Chapter Four, Mt Saint Helens, Washington
Chapter Three, The Gorge and Hood River, Oregon
Chapter Two, The North Coast and Astoria, Oregon
Chapter One, Waipi’o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii


  1. The conclusion! Yay! Now you got me thinking about stopping at Crater Lake on our next trip to Portland. Looks like fun.

  2. Wow!! What a post!!! Beautiful pictures!!! I like the new variation, “olympic dive.” Very clever! I forget that there is a whole world out there. I’m so glad you get to see it like this!!!

  3. I’m in love with that photo of Phantom Ship. I need to go camping (or lodge-staying) there soonly. Also, send me luck in finding my camera, as I searched and searched to no avail, and I really want to take photos of the swifts. :(

  4. Thanks, Devlyn, that was my favorite too! I might blow it up poster sized and like, hang in on a wall or something.

    It’s too bad you can’t call your camera they way you could with a phone. Stoopid camera.

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