Sunday, September 28, 2008
In the morning, the smoke obscured what had the day before been 270-degree views of the surrounding mountains. As we drove down the mountain, the smoke got thicker and thicker. We wondered, had the fire changed directions in the night? Were we driving into the fire? We reached the highway safely, but saw that many more of the turn-off roads were now closed due to the fire. A sign warned “Falling Debris Next Five Miles”, but we only saw a few bits of ash.
When we emerged from the smoke, we were a few miles from the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park. Tyson and I debated whether to pay the $10 entrance fee or spring for the $80 National Parks Pass, good for entrance to all the national parks for the next year. I left the decision up to Tyson, and he decided to just pay to enter Crater Lake. We got out our money, but when we reached the window at the entrance booth, the attendant said, “Today is free day. Go right ahead!”
Free day?!?! Such blessed words! As yet, we had spent money only on gas, food, laundry, and showers. No admission fees, no souvenirs, no lodging. It was nice to save another $10 and see beautiful Crater Lake for free. Another debate had centered on whether or not we would take the boat tour of the lake. It cost $30 per adult, and I had already done it with my family back in 1991, so I left that decision up to Tyson as well. When I visited Crater Lake before, I loved the boat tour and really thought it added to the experience of the lake. The water is just as astoundingly blue close up, I assure you! However, the cost seemed a little steep, and hiking down to the boat launch with Sawyer would be steep as well.
Turns out the boat tour season is already done for the year, so there was another decision made for us. We drove toward the lake loop and got out of the car for Tyson’s first glimpse of Crater Lake. When we were first deciding whether to go to Crater Lake, I said things like, “It’s crazy! The geography of the place is like nothing you’ve ever seen! The water is so blue! The rocks float! It’s a huge volcano filled with water!” Then, worrying I had talked it up too much, and that if we drove all the way out there and paid to see it, Tyson would be disappointed, I’d say things like, “On the other hand, it’s just a lake in a volcano. I mean, it’s beautiful, but it’s just a lake. A lake that it costs money to look at.”
Luckily, I could tell when Tyson saw it, that he thought Crater Lake was pretty incredible. Maybe the fact that it was Free Day helped a little, though. His favorite feature was the blue water. He said he couldn’t tell whether he was looking at the surface or into the depths.
Sawyer’s favorite feature was the big rocks that weren’t too heavy for him to hold (pumice). I let him hold them until he started trying to use them to file away his teeth.
We drove about 2/3 of the way around the lake, stopping at viewpoints, then backtracked 1/3 to the south entrance. After exiting the park, we drove through a forest that featured a bigger, taller type of evergreen tree than we had seen thus far. One of the best parts of this trip is seeing the diversity of scenery that a change of only a few degrees of latitude (and a few feet of elevation) provides.
When we reached civilization again, we made some phone calls to friends and family, then retired for the night in Grant’s Pass, Oregon.