Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Scott and Down to Crater Lake Itself

crater lake map 4

Forty-one degrees this first Tuesday in August morning as we wake at first light.  For the last two days, we’ve tasted the best our country has to offer, one of America’s national parks.  Our two hikes today in Crater Lake National Park will complete our septfecta (seven hikes) 0ver three days.

  1. Mount Scott Trail

SCOTT 1 SIGN

Heading northeast on the Rim Road from our overnight cabin at Mazama Village, we are only the second car to parallel park at the Mount Scott trailhead.  Nearly 9A at 8000’, the smoky sun warms our journey to the highest peak within the park.  Mount Scott is named for Levi Scott, a 19th century Oregon pioneer.

Mount Scott from the parking area

Mount Scott from the parking area

From the road Mt. Scott is visible as we cross the alpine pumice meadow.  Though we are at an altitude that we neither live nor work out at, our breathing is normal and easy and allows for conversation throughout our hike to the summit.  Though the Crater Lake visitor guide rates it a strenuous hike, many of the online reviews call it easy.  We say easy, breezy, and enjoyable, and very simply negotiated by one and all.

Climbing towards the summit of Mount Scott

Climbing towards the summit of Mount Scott

Soon we are skirting the side of the mountain through a forest of hemlock.  On their way down, an athletic post-college age couple passes in the other direction.  They had come to be a part of the sunrise experience atop Mount Scott.  Ah, youth.

Fire Outlook on the top of Mount Scott

Fire Outlook on the top of Mount Scott

Arriving at the mile mountain ridge within sight of the top, the fire lookout cabin awaits.

Mount Scott Fire Lookout

Mount Scott Fire Lookout

After 70 minutes of hiking the 2.6 miles to the top, we have a smoky view of Crater Lake due to the forest fire 50 miles to our south.  We can barely make out Wizard Island in the middle of the lake.

Hannah, the Hiking Woman

Hannah, the Hiking Woman

As with all park trails, this one is well-marked and easy-to-follow.   On our descent we pass singles, couples, and families.  Crater Lake is a popular national park so there are many on the trails; I love to interact along the way.

Crater Lake on a clear day

Crater Lake on a clear day from Mount Scott

  1. Cleetwood Cove Trail

crater lake map 3

Having bagged Mt. Scott, we drive on the Rim Road towards the north entrance; by afternoon we will heading back to McMinnville, OR in the Willamette Valley some five hours away.  But before we leave, we will hike the one mile Cleetwood Cove trail down to Crater Lake itself with its 700 foot drop in elevation.

At 1130A on an early August Tuesday, the parking lot is wall-to-wall cars, vans, and RVs while other vehicles line the Rim Road.  No surprise it is busy, for Cleetwood Cove is where visitors embark for the $45 boat rides to Wizard Island in the center of the lake.

Hannah on the shaded switchback to the shore at Crater Lake

Hannah on the shaded switchback to the shore at Crater Lake

The trail is a series of switchbacks which makes the descent quite manageable.  As with other trails in the park, the trail is dusty from the volcanic soil.  It’s by far the most crowded trail in the park, but that just adds to the festive nature of this short hike.

Dan on the Cleetwood Trail with Crater Lake in the background

Dan on the Cleetwood Trail with Crater Lake in the background

As we descend, we wonder how they get the boats down to the lake.

crater lake boat

To a hiking-up-and-out ranger we pose this question.  Being a Socratic teacher, he doesn’t answer our question, but asks what do you think?

Stumped myself, Hannah nails it.   What do you think?   See Addendum for his response.

Since the trail is so steep many hikers coming up have little to say (or breath with which to say it).  We will soon learn what they are experiencing, but for now we cruise to the craterside.

COVE 7

Once at the lake 25 minutes later, some 100 of us descenders are all tucked on a two to three tenth mile stretch of trail along the crater’s edge.

Jumping into Crater Lake

Jumping into Crater Lake

At the far end, kids and adults are jumping off a 20 feet cliff.  Feeling none of the peer pressure that I felt as a ten year old jumping from the roof at the Radburn Playground (which I ended up putting my front top teeth through my lower lip and did the blood ever flow!), I don’t even consider jumping.  Hannah is another story.

Let me have her tell her story.

To jump or not to jump?

 At first, there is no question in my mind, even if it the water might be frigid.  There he is, an 8 – maybe 9 – year old, being encouraged to “Jump!”  – rocking back and forth, clearly not wanting to disappoint his father (waiting in the water below) and mother.  It seems just a matter of “rocks,” before he will jump. And then….he does! Cheers and yahoos galore – everyone joining in the celebration, making it their own.

Watching from a distance, I get the idea of jumping myself – especially as a young girl (also probably 8 going on 9) steps up to the edge. After not all that many “rocks,” she is in the air.  “You go girl!” I think.  And, “You go girl, too!” I think to my very own self.

Yet, almost in a nanosecond, I change my mind. Remembering (vividly) breaking my leg a year ago, and the year of serious rehab to follow, I realize that nope, I will not be taking this leap.  I can also picture the helicopter coming down into Crater Lake to haul me out and air-vacking me to the nearest hospital.  And, I can only IMAGINE thoughts in people’s mind (who saw me through my year of rehab and recovery)….”You did WHAT?  Tell me you’re not serious.  Dan, tell us she was pushed.”    

Thankfully, no one pushes me.

 

Told by a ranger that water temperature is 62 degrees, we dunk our feet in to cool our jets.

Dan's feet in the clearest water!

Dan’s feet in the clearest water!

My submerged feet are as clear to the naked eye as if they were above water.

The cliff we will climb back to the trailhead

The cliff we will climb back to the trailhead

It’s a steady 25 minute climb from the shoreline to the Rim Road midday at 70 degrees.  It’s comparable to walking up 65 flights of stairs.

Before we head out of Crater Lake, we find a picnic table by the side of the road.  Two miles previous, we had stopped at a rest area with a sign with a picnic table symbol.   Turns out there is one single picnic table and it is occupado.   Really?  You call it a picnic area with one picnic table!

We travel on and find another rest area with a whopping two picnic tables and settle in at the one vacant one for lunch.  As we begin, we see an older couple creep by in their car.  Waving to them, we call out Do you want to share the picnic table with us?  They do and we lunch with Barbara and John from Missouri.

COVE 16 PICNIC TABLE

Though the park never closes down because of the smoke this early August and the threat of a government shutdown closing the national parks on October 1 seems remote, we are fortunate that our vacation has not been disrupted.

We recommend you add Crater Lake National Park to your bucket list.

MG 6B CRATER LAKE SIGN H

Addendum:  How do boats get to the shore of Crater Lake?  Helicopters.  The ranger adds that in the 1920s, the boats were built at the water’s edge.

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Dan and Hannah Hike a 3-Pack in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Annie Creek at Mazama Village

  1. Crater Peak:

Just past Vidae Falls on the Crater Lake Rim Road on an early August Monday,

CP SIGN

we turn right on a winding gravel driveway down to the trailhead for the Crater Peak Trail.

A lonely car is in the lot at 9A, but no one is in sight at the height of the tourist season.  In one trail guide description of the Crater Peak trail, it says a highlight of the trail is the solitude.  Labeled a strenuous hike of 6.8 miles round trip, it is the first of today’s three hikes and the most demanding.

On this 57 degree morning, we start at 6700 feet on a trail that steadily meanders up through a Douglas fir forest.  Despite its name, Crater Peak has no view of Crater Lake itself.

Fact is, this is not an amazing hike.  It’s pedestrian.  It fills the bill as a satisfactory morning of exercise as we breathe noticeably, heading to the summit.  Maybe the smoky conditions from the wildfire have colored our impression.

Hannah hiking at 6800'

Hannah hiking at 6800′

Heading for 7200 feet this morning, we hike relentlessly on a dry, packed dirt trail. Though easy on our feet, the trail means Hannah and I kick up clouds of volcanic dust.

Hannah lingers at a pine that brings back memories of her father's Christmas Tree farm of her youth

Hannah lingers at a pine that brings back memories of her father’s Christmas Tree farm of her youth

Over the last mile to the summit, the rocky trail steepens as we navigate around a mountain meadow.

Mountain meadow near the summit of Crater Peak

Mountain meadow near the summit of Crater Peak

After 70 minutes of hiking to the top, we see the smoke which hovers over the park from the Douglas Complex fire, which is 17% contained, 50 miles to our south.  Covered with a lava/pumice rocky mix, the summit, though unsuitable for lounging, offers expansive and yet murky views of the Klamath Basin to the southeast.

Returning for the trailhead, for the first time on any trail in the national parks that we’ve hiked in the West, we spot trash ten to twelve feet off the trail.  Two nasty Red Bull cans litter God’s good green earth.  It’s truly a sacrilege.

Crater Peak is a “check off the to do list” kind of hike, nothing earth shaking.  If you have the choice between Crater Peak and Garfield Peak (see my blog for September 20, 2013) , in a hiker’s minute choose the latter for its heart-stopping views of Crater Lake.

  1. Plaikni Falls

Open to the public in 2011, the brand, spanking new Plaikni Falls Trail is off the Crater Lake Rim Road near the turn off to the Phantom Ship.

Notice the snow pole to the left of the sign.  When winter snows come the snow pole guides the snowplows to stay on the road.

Notice the snow pole to the left of the sign. When winter snows come the snow pole guides the snowplows to stay on the road.

Though “serious hikers” may scoff at a one mile hike, Plaikni Falls delivers with a “whoa” just around the bend view of a waterfall.

pf trail explanation

Described as an easy hike, we walk on a level graded trail for a mile to the falls themselves at 70 degrees on this midday Monday. Named by the Klamath Tribes, Plaikni mean from the high country.  The falls tumble over a glacier-carved cliff from a spring at 7000 feet.

Hiking through an old growth forest, we wind and really just stroll along.  You can call this a hike, but it’s really a walk through the woods as the first three quarters of the trail are wheel chair accessible.

Plaikni Falls Trail

Plaikni Falls Trail

Being a mellow hike, the Plaikni Falls trail has many walkers and none of the solitude of the Crater Peak, which is not a bad thing at all.

Plaikni Falls

Plaikni Falls

Plaikni Falls

At noon today twenty to thirty people celebrate at the falls; mission accomplished for we “family” of out-of-staters.

Enjoy this 49 second video of D and H at Plaikni Falls

Above us the sky is bright blue, but in the distance, smoke from the wildfire whitens the sky.

It’s a delightful 45 minute hike in Nature’s Sofaraway From Home.

 

  1. Sun Notch

SUN 1 SIGN

The Sun Notch Trail is another simple one mile loop with some 150’ of elevation gain to 7050′ at the rim of Crater Lake.

As a short trail, it draws many visitors to see the Phantom Ship, a volcanic cone arising from Crater Lake.  This short uphill walk begins in a forest of Mountain Hemlock, then passes uphill through an open meadow of pumice to the very rim of Crater Lake.

Phantom Ship of Crater Lake

Phantom Ship of Crater Lake

The Phantom Ship is a natural rock pillar which derives its name from its resemblance to a ghost ship, especially in foggy and low-light conditions.

Heading for the trailhead on the Sun Notch Loop

Heading back for the trailhead on the Sun Notch Loop

It’s a gentle walk down from the lake that completes a most pleasing three pack of hikes.

At 2P, with our cabin at Mazama Village just twenty-five minutes away, we have time to relax before an evening hike to Annie Creek (see my blog of October 19. 2013).

Dan and Hannah Take an Evening Hike to Annie Creek in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

crater lake map

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.

Crater Lake Lodge viewed from Garfield Peak Trail

Crater Lake Lodge viewed from Garfield Peak Trail

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.

Annie Creek at Mazama Village

Annie Creek at Mazama Village

 

Our Mazama Village Cabin

Our Mazama Village Cabin

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.

Bear Warning

Bear Warning

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.

Out for an evening hike

Out for an evening hike

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.

Another gentle switchback to Annie Creek

Another gentle switchback to Annie Creek

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.

Hannah crossing Annie Creek

Hannah crossing Annie Creek

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.

AC 12 H BY CREEK

It turns out for Dan and Hannah that Sofaraway is just the place to be.

Dan and Hannah Hike Garfield Peak in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

After a couple of days at Mount St. Helens, we head to McMinnville, OR, home to friends Patty and Kent.  Patty and Hannah became fast friends at the College of Nursing at Arizona State University in the 1970s.  Friday night is out for Mexican food and a Saturday a visit to two Willamette Valley vineyards; we end with a boisterous game of Mormon Bridge with two of their three kids.  (n.b., Mormon Bridge has turned out to the best family card game the Rothermels know for laughter and good family times.)

Yes, you aerophiles (lovers of all things aeronautic) may have perked up when I mentioned McMinnville.  Yes it is here at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, we see Howard Hughes’ infamous “Spruce Goose.   Built almost entirely of birch because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum, the Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history!

The "Spruce Goose" of Howard Hughes

The “Spruce Goose” of Howard Hughes

Sunday is Hannah and Dan travel day and we are up and out heading south/southeast for Crater Lake National Park five hours away.  Once on I-5 south, we seek a locals breakfast place.

We have seven guidelines for finding such a diner or café for breakfast.

  1. Get up and out early.  We are off by 620A today.
  2. Drive two plus hours or 100+ miles first.  That way you have done significant pre-breakfast miles and have fewer post-breakfast miles to go.
  3. Avoid big cities.  We drive right by Eugene, OR (pop. 160, 000).
  4. Check your Rand McNally Atlas for small towns.  Sutherlin, some ten miles north of Roseburg, OR, is our small town of choice today.
  5. Avoid restaurants at Interstate interchanges (e.g., Denny’s and Friendly’s).
  6. Drive down the entire main street of town to catch those hidden greasy spoon jewels.
  7. Check out the side streets as you drive back slowly, which is what we do to find Pat’s Kozy Kitchen.
Pat's Kozy Kitchen, Sutherlin, OR

Pat’s Kozy Kitchen, Sutherlin, OR

With only two of the 20 tables occupied, Pat’s is not rocking this Sunday morning, when you think it might be.   Whenever possible when we are out for breakfast, we opt for biscuits.  Today with a hike ahead at 7000 feet, we make the safe choice with eggs, home fries and biscuits with our coffee for $6.50.  Not a burning deal, but we like the feel of the place and just want to support Pat and Bud; they could be your grandparents and still working, you know!

MG 2 PAT'S BFAST WITH H

Pat and her husband Bud are in their mid-70s and dearly want to sell Pat’s Kozy Kitchen.  Bud says its “turn the key” ready for less than $200K.  Online we learn it can be had for $199K and you can learn more by clicking on this link.

What once would have sounded to us like a romantic dream job stirs no interest at all.  One, it’s work.  Two, Sutherlin abuts the small village of Nowhere.  Three, it’s up at 4A and out at 9P that night.  Four, it’s not New England.

crater lake map

Soon we are following the meandering Umpqua River east on route 138 through pine forests.

Umpqua River Valley

Umpqua River Valley

Crossing very dry, high plains of southern Oregon, we stay south on route 138 to Crater Lake Highway.

Now six hours since we left this morning, we are just so ready to get up and out to hike.  Entering Crater Lake NP from the north we are soon on the Rim Road that circles the caldera that is Crater Lake for 33 miles.

MG 6C CRATER LAKE WITH D

As Hannah drives I am literally inches from certain death on this rim road.  The drop offs on the passenger side of the car are similar to those of the Going to the Sun drive at Glacier National Park in Montana.  The shoulder is pencil thin, which kind of spoils the view.  Hannah’s steady hand at the wheel gets us to the Rim Village Visitor’s Center.

Arriving at 1P at 73F, when much of Oregon is going to 90F today, we find what happens to any vacation destination within hailing distance of California.  Cars from the Golden State dominate and overrun the parking lot.   Eventually finding a parking place, we can’t get our hiking boots on quick enough and make a bee line for the lake.

mg crater map drawn

In the distance we see Garfield Peak looking from the east end of Rim Village.  We never find a sign to start the trail.  But the trail is obviously the one between the Crater Lake Lodge and the lake itself.

The deep blue of Crater Lake is transfixing.  The lake was named at least three times: Blue Lake, Lake Majesty, and finally Crater Lake.

Do you have a new definition of blue?

Do you have a new definition of blue?

No matter where you hike in this country and no matter how crowded the parking lots are, if you go three tenths of a mile along any trail, you will find 90% fewer people.  Today our hike begins at 7100 feet with a relentless, steady climb through an alpine meadow.

At any point, you can look left and see this awe inspiring lake (and that is no hyperbole!).  The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot deep caldera that was formed nearly 8000 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama.

Though much of the initial section of the trail is dusty lava packed dirt, the trail of switchbacks turns rocky as we approach the summit of Garfield Peak at nearly 8000 feet.

The Garfield Peak trail turns rockier

The Garfield Peak trail turns rockier

Though it is rated a difficult hike, it takes us only 45 minutes to get to the top.  The climb is a steady Eddie climb and my breathing is heavy. But I think that it’s Hannah’s due excellent pace, not the altitude.  Never does the trail have perilous ledges; that said, it’s important not to be an idiot.

We are told that the trail is usually covered in snow from October to early July.  The top portion of the trail may be covered in snow until late-July.   Today in the first week of August there is not a hint of snow.

Dan and Hannah on top of the world at Crater Lake

Dan and Hannah on top of the world at Crater Lake

The son of a French family snaps our picture.  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the second deepest in North America (after the Great Slave Lake in Canada).

Heading back on the switchbacks on the Mount Garfield trail

Heading back on the switchbacks on the Mount Garfield trail

No rivers flow into or out of the lake; the evaporation is balanced by rain and snowfall.

The Garfield Peak trail is very obvious, with no chance of getting lost as we are always in sight of the Rim Village.  The hike down is 35 minutes to the Crater Lake Lodge.

Once done, we take in the National Park film of the origins of Crater Lake.  Surprisingly when we emerge, there is a smoky layer descending into the pines of the valley.

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Click on image to enlarge)

It seems the wild fires 50 miles to the south of the Park deliver smoke on schedule each mid-afternoon.

The not so blue Crater Lake

The not so blue Crater Lake

Smoke or not, I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than Crater Lake or a person I’d rather be with than Hannah.