We had one more full day to explore Crater Lake National Park on Thursday, August 20, and Joe and Amy chose to bike Rim Drive. Rim Drive circles the entire crater, and a complete loop is thirty-three miles. The distance is not extraordinarily imposing, but the topography is quite challenging. Our drive from the Cleetwood Trailhead back to Mazama Village encompassed nearly half of the mileage, so Jane and I can attest to the grueling climbs that the adventuresome duo committed to.
Jane and I accompanied Joe and Amy to the park headquarters where they unloaded their vintage bikes and prepared to depart. Both have old road bikes with only twelve to fourteen gears, so this added additional difficulty to the rim ride challenge. As parents are apt to do, we made sure they had sun screen and water and spare tires before we wished them luck and watched them roll down the road.
While the cyclists were doing their thing, Jane and I picked out two moderate hikes to tackle. Our first stop was a fire overlook called The Watchman. Visiting The Watchman entailed a 1.6 mile roundtrip hike, but it was well worth the effort. A small building stood at the terminus of the trail, and we climbed the stairs and enjoyed spectacular views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island. As we stood on the north side of the platform, we could see the dense volume of smoke that was created by the wildfire that burned out of control in the northwest corner of the park. Fortunately the main body of the smoke cloud hovered in the atmosphere north of Crater Lake so that our views were largely unobstructed.
After we returned to the car, we stopped at Lightning Spring and ate our light lunches and then moved on to Rim Village and Crater Lake Lodge. The old but recently remodeled lodge was perched on the edge of the crater wall, and many guests enjoyed the view from the small deck while sipping coffee or an alcoholic beverage. The scene appeared to be quite restful, but we had another hike to complete, so we once again moved on.
Our final hike for the day was Plaikni Falls, and reaching this destination caused us to drive southeastward on East Rim Drive until we turned south on Pinnacles Road. The hike to Plaikni Falls was only two miles roundtrip, and the elevation rise and fall was fairly minimal. The falls were pretty, but fairly narrow, and ten to fifteen tourists rested and posed for photos while Jane and I did the same.
As we returned to East Rim Drive, we estimated that Joe and Amy would be passing through during the late afternoon time window, so we found a pullout at the top of a long hill and waited for their arrival. Sure enough within fifteen minutes they came into view as they climbed a relentless uphill. They rested and stretched and chatted a bit, and then they resumed their quest to finish the endurance test. Jane and I drove ahead to the top of another steep uphill section, and we once again waited and offered them encouragement.
This was our last contact with the cycling pair until they arrived at our campsite at five o’clock. We were all quite proud of their accomplishment, although it took some food and water before Amy was feeling positive about her experience. For dinner on Thursday Amy prepared beans and rice while Joe built a campfire which we used to grill some leftover bratwursts. These ingredients were combined in a tortilla to yield a tasty burrito to satisfy everyone’s hunger. While preparing the meal I noticed that our camping neighbors were waving crawfish above a pot, so I visited their table. A young thirteen year old camper had apparently captured ten crawfish from the rocky shores of Crater Lake. In addition he discovered a trap that had not been emptied for several days, and he was offered the captured crustaceans. He and his mother combined all the shell fish to create a boiled crawfish feast, and Joe and I each sampled one. They were OK, but a small cup of melted butter would have enhanced the taste.
It was a challenging and fun day at Crater Lake. We all looked forward to returning to Portland for showers and clean clothing, but we were also sad to say goodbye to the beautiful clean cold waters. Crater Lake National Park actually lived up to and probably exceeded our expectations.