This is what greeted us at what we hoped would be a high point on this trip, Crater Lake National Park, Ore-eh-gone. What we got instead was a monsoon-like downpour with a little bit of sleet and early season snow. And everyone, including the three of us, weren't dressed for it. Damn.
Crater Lake is in south-central Oregon off Highway 97.
It's easy to get to so don't pass it by. The lake was formed after a cataclysmic explosion of a volcano called Mount Mazama many moons ago. The mountain collapsed into itself forming a crater that filled with snowmelt and rainwater. With a depth of close to 2000 feet, this is America's deepest lake. (The world's deepest is Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia, sanctuary for that sniveling traitor Edward-what's-his-name. Anyway, Lake Baikal is more than 5000 feet deep.)
Like the Grand Canyon and other places of natural beauty, there is naturally-occurring danger here as well.
On this day the heavy rains brought boulders onto the road that circles the lake--a two-lane road with absolutely no shoulder and few guardrails so occasionally a car or an RV will go over the side. So it's hidey-hidey ho all the way to the bottom. But it's not likely you'll remember because you're a goner: it's thousands of feet straight down. Aloha.
Quite frankly it's living on the edge, this real danger, that makes you feel like you've accomplished something. Much more fulfilling than watching Fox News, MSNBC, "Real Housewives", "The Bachelorette" and all the other junk that passes for good television these days. However, we do recommend Pat Robertson's "700 Club" or the series "Cathouse" on HBO along with "Pornucopia: Goin' Down in the Valley".
Since we can't show you the lake because of the damn rain, here it is on a map. Note its almost perfectly round shape.
Frankly, if I had to do it all over again with the choice of being a television producer or anything else, I would be this: not a man, but a National Park Service forest ranger/historian. That was my original career path and it would have been a smarter one. I'd probably still be working OR even better, would have retired with a rest-of-my-life-long federal pension. All Paul wanted to be was a Marine fighter pilot. Instead he went from jet mechanic to Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps in four short years. What a guy. Just ask him. Now he's my assistant. In fact, as I write this he's Marine-cleaning the trailer.
The Prius at the park's northern entrance.
A Crater Lake visitor sunbathing. Where's that sun now?
The Crater Lake Lodge opened in 1915 as a way to lure tourists to this remote natural wonder and give them an elegant place to stay.
When the sun does shine, you can sit out on the lodge veranda and take in views of what's considered the bluest body of water on earth. Words like "astonishing", "breathtaking" and "holy mackerel" come to mind.
All we saw was gray.
During a typical winter, Crater Lake receives a mind-boggling 500 inches or more of snow (that's 41.6 feet or 12 meters for those of you on the metric system). Snow so deep it buries the lodge. Really.
On a rainy day like today, boat tours on the lake were cancelled so visitors flocked to the bar.
I kid you not: everyone in the lodge had either an Ore-eh-gone microbrew or glass of vino in hand and it was only 1PM. (I know, I know--"it's 5 o'clock somewhere".) The bartender/waiter was running from person to person, serving drinks and raking in some well-deserved tips.
In true Ore-eh-gone rustic fashion, the lodge walls are paneled with cedar logs, bark and all.
Outside the park and on our way to a campground we came across this, something hard to miss: Mount Thielsen, 9100 feet high. That strange and unique spire at the top is a natural lightning rod. Hence the nicknames "Lightning Rod of the Cascades" and "Thunder Mountain". (We also have a Thunder Mountain in Sedona which locals claim was Walt Disney's inspiration for the thrill ride of the same name.)
We found a nice RV park close to Thunder Mountain and Crater Lake. Our next door neighbors put this sign up but I like the more adult-themed versions such as "Wine a little, you'll feel better."
It was so damn cold for an August day that Paul and Daisy stayed bundled up in bed for far too long.
The RV park was across the street from Diamond Lake, a large body of water popular with fishermen and recreational boaters. When the sun shines we imagine it must be a beautiful spot. But we could only imagine because the rain kept up.
Pontoon boats at rest. Where's the party? There isn't one.
The campers next door were nice folks from some town near Portland. Friendly people with well-behaved kids and an RV filled with all manner of extended family members. They were Ron Paul supporters when he ran for President (and lost, of course) in 2008.
Despite their misguided political leanings -- according to the Paul in the Lance -- their hearts are in the right place. They adopted this lab/retriever with a smattering of Pit Bull-mix puppy and were socializing her during her first trip to the great outdoors. Daisy just ignored her.
On down the road we go, looking for sun. May not see it 'til Death Valley.
For now bye bye. Buy Starbucks. In bulk, please. Boost that stock price. Hey, Howard Schultz, how 'bout sending us some free stuff? Somebody has to pay for this road trip.