Among our extended family, Hannah and I have one relative who says they spend money like drunken sailors. On the other hand, we can be frugal. In fact, too frugal and edging toward becoming fool-gul. There is a price for being too frugal when trying to save money on accommodations when visiting Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Crater Lake is in the middle of the county of Sofaraway, OR (Carole King sings about it.) Medford is the nearest city, nearly two hours away to the south; there are some roadside motels that make up the high plateau town of Chemult nearly an hour away to the northeast.
Despite parsimonious tendencies, we do not blow it this time. Of course, we don’t go Crater Lake Lodge crazy either. A lakeside room at the Crater Lake Lodge goes for around $225 per night, and that is only if you reserve the room at least twelve months in advance.
We opt for the Mazama Village Cabins for $140 per night thanks to reservations made six months ahead of time. After hiking Garfield Peak at Crater Lake, we have a simple eight miles to our cabin at Mazama Village in the Park and some quiet time (read: napping for me, writing postcards in the sun for Hannah) this first Sunday of August.
With two queen size beds and a private shower, our cabin is luxurious, though there is no refrigerator or television. We sleep with the windows open as night time temperatures plummet to near 40F. Thankfully there are bear screens on the window!
Another advantage of these cabins is that they lie adjacent to the campground that sits just above Annie Creek. This is the same campground where Hannah and I camped in tents with our three kids back in 1993. One of my strongest memories of that time is gray volcanic dust everywhere: in our tents, in our sleeping bags, and in our hiking boots. I don’t remember bears being an issue then, but they are now.
But the park is well prepared for the ursine visitors.
With sunset after 825P in early August in this far western part of the Pacific Time Zone, we easily have an hour to hike the 1.7 mile Annie Creek loop trail in the evening.
Accessing the trail through the park amphitheater, we skirt the campground for a third of a mile as we see families cooking dinner on Coleman stoves and kids biking along the dirt roads of the campground.
Similar to the Garfield Peak Trail, the Annie Creek Trail is straight forward and easy to follow; it begins with a switchback descent from 6000′ to the river bottom. Lodge pole pines dominate the mountain side and the afternoon smoke from the wildfires 50 miles to our south has begun to lift. The switchbacks make the climb down easy as we descend 200 feet to the canyon floor, which is probably why it is rated a moderate hike.
In no time, we find we are next to the gurgling, happy stream of Annie Creek. The creek was named in honor of Annie Gaines, the first European woman to descend into Crater Lake in 1865.
Hiking this pristine, National Geographic trail in the early evening is a Crater Lake gift to Dan and Hannah. For suburban kids of the East, Hannah and I find nature’s quiet, time together, and exercise the ideal trifecta.
As with much of Crater Lake, the trail is often covered in snow from October to early July.
It’s a joyous pre-dinner mint of a hike.
It turns out for Dan and Hannah that Sofaraway is just the place to be.