Our adventures can be pretty spontaneous. Sometimes that also means expensive, but the two don’t neccessarily go together. We arrived at Crater Lake National Park in the afternoon, pulled over into a longer RV parking spot, and walked over to the Mazama campground kiosk to check in. There was a bit of a line, so Jess grabbed the park pamphlet to peruse while we waited. Hiking suggestions, viewpoints, fun things to do, history of the park, and then we saw it. Boat tours of the lake.
“Babe,” she whispered. “We could actually go out onto the lake.”
Not only onto the lake, but onto the island in the middle of the lake. Yeah, this was going to be good.
When We Visited: August 27-29, 2014
Ages of Kids: 8, 7, 4
Where We Stayed: Mazama Campground
What Was Awesome: The Wizard Island Boat Tour!
Jr. Ranger Double-Duty: This park has both a badge AND a patch. The badge we earned by completing the self-guided booklet as usual. The patch we earned by attending one of their Jr. Ranger programs led by a park ranger. It was super fun as the kids got to design their own Crater Lake postcards and mail them to friends & family!
Our turn in the line came to check in, and we secured our spot for two nights. A few circles through the campground loops revealed a few things. First, we were unlikely to reach the wifi from the lodge from any available sites. Second, it was beautiful. We found a nice pull through that would fit us, and then ignored the DO NOT ENTER sign and drove through the loop backwards to pull into the site. After some quick setup and dinner, we picked an evening hike.
Evening hikes are one of our favorite evening activities. As often as we can, we find a place to explore for an hour or so between dinner and bedtime. We chose the Godfrey Glen Trail, a 1 mile loop trail only a few miles up from campground. We were entirely alone on the hike, and we find that to be both common and preferable for our evening hikes. The trail snaked through the forest, and over to the cliff edge where the soft pumice landscape showed some interesting erosion. Though the rock material was different, this reminded us a bit of a less vibrant Cedar Breaks National Park in Utah.
The next morning, I woke up early and hauled my groggy self over to the lodge to get some work done. I found some empty tables behind the restaurant that were not in use, and set up for a work morning. The wifi was not zippy, but it was stable, and I my morning was good.
Jess and the kids headed up to the visitors center and rim for some exploring while I worked. After lunch, we all headed back up together for some exploring and a Junior Ranger activity. Jess had come back that morning all sorts of even more excited about the boat tours of the lake, and we decided it a worthy activity. I headed to the lodge to procure some tickets, and the kids set about coloring the landscape onto some postcards to mail to friends.
During our time at Crater Lake, we met so many people astonished at the number of badges the kids had earned. The kids were quite energized from the experience, seeing perhaps a glimpse of how rare and wonderful their experiences are. It was encouraging to Jess and I as well, as the journey and task isn’t always free from complaint and frustration.
Junior Ranger badges & patches added to the collection, we headed out along the Rim Trail to Discovery Point. The water of Crater Lake is all snowmelt, and there are no above-ground exists. As a result, there is very little sediment in the water. The color of the water is an unbelievably vibrant blue, captivating us during our wander along the rim. Our hike was beautiful, and with the exception of one Cara meltdown, a relaxing hike. We were tired after the hike so headed out in the truck next, driving counter clockwise along East Rim Drive.
The highlight of the East Rim Drive was our stop at the Phantom Ship Overlook. The angle of the sun presented the Phantom Ship overlook in stark contrast to the glare of the sun. The rocks of the Phantom Ship are among the oldest in the entire area, and we managed some amazing captures during our stop there. Our view there was so spectacular that we remained unimpressed with the next few overlooks, and found a nice spot for dinner at the picnic area just past the Mount Scott trailhead.
Right there in the parking lot we discovered another rare gem: We have found and experienced the nicest, cleanest pit toilet that we have ever happened upon. It was so awesome, it got posted to my Instagram account.
We rarely do ‘touristy’ activities when we wander, and even more rarely do we do expensive activities. This boat trip to Wizard Island cost over $200, but was worth it. Because of the boat tour, we needed to extend our stay by one night. I visited the campground booth after we returned from our drive, and was a little worried when the guy told me that he was all full that night, and couldn’t do anything till the next morning. Our boat trip was early enough that we would have nearly no time to pack up the Airstream and move it if we couldn’t get a spot. I fretted and worried but it turned out just fine. The lady at the booth the next morning extended our stay, and we took off around the lake headed to our tour.
The boat tours leave from Cleetwood Cove on the north side of the lake. We hiked down the mile trail to the boat docks. Our trip included a ranger guided tour around the lake, which turned out to be quite fun. Our first stop was a visit to the “Old Man of the Lake”, a vertically floating log that migrates around the lake. It had floated into the beginning of our tour, giving us a rare chance to see it up close. The tree fell into the lake at some point long ago, with it’s roots wrapped around a large bolder. The bolder has since fallen off the bottom, but the log continues to float in it’s vertical orientation. Our ranger explained the geology of now gone Mt. Mazama, the mountain formed the the lost peak that covered crater lake. The peak collapsed into an empty chamber below the mountain after an eruption, forming the area now filled by the lake.
Our main stop on our boat tour was Wizard Island, a cinder cone that formed after the mountain collapsed. We had a few hours on the island, which we used to hike to the top and have some lunch. The sides of the cone were steep on the upper slopes which gave Rachel a bit of a fright, but we all made it both up and down.
We filmed a Wandering Update video on top of Wizard Island. Check it out on Youtube!
After boarding the boat, we made a few other stops, most notably circling the Phantom Ship. It was interesting to see up close, looking very much weather beaten and eroded after centuries of wear.
The last leg of our lake tour was our hike back to the rim from the boat docks at Cleetwood Cove. The hike up took much longer than the hike down that morning. Andrew made a friend of an older gentleman and his wife, and proceeded to talk their ears off the entire trail.
Our time at Crater Lake was wonderful. We left tired, a little sore, and very grateful to have had such wonderful adventures. Jess and Rachel have decided that Crater Lake is their new favorite National Park, and there is little complaint from the rest of us.