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North America » United States » Oregon » Crater Lake
September 23rd 2009
Published: September 23rd 2009
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I’m composing this first blog entry sitting on the window seat in our room at the Crater Lake Lodge, watching dusk arrive. The sky above the rim of the lake is tinged with pink and the normally vivid blue water has turned a steely gray. We just came up to our room from enjoying a glass of Tolosa Pinot and watching the changing light from the rocking chairs which line the patio behind the Lodge…

Sounds so slow and peaceful, right? But of course that impression betrays the pace and the ups and downs (mostly ups) of the past three days. Let me summarize:

Our 7 hour plus drive from SLO to the tiny town of McCloud at the base of Mt Shasta was relatively uneventful. We amused ourselves by trying to come up with the perfect name to baptize the disembodied, calm, robotic female voice emitting from our new Garmin GPS. We tried out several , but had difficulty coming up with a good fit for the combination of her calm yet slightly demonic tone—think female version of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Eventually we decided on Helen, and so far she has served us well—as long as we take her directions with a big dose of common sense!

As we finally got past the Central Valley-esque landscape of most of our drive north and began gaining in elevation, we had the first “oooh” moment of the trip. We rounded a curve in the road and were startled by our first glimpse of Mt Shasta, all 14,000+ feet of it, towering over the mountain ridge.

We spent our first night at the base of Mt Shasta in the very small, but charming, town of McCloud, which is trying to transform itself from the proverbial “company town” (lumber mill pulled out in the 60’s) to a tourist destination. It boasts a one block long historic main street and the “Dinner Train”, a 40 mile ride through the foothills plus 4 course gourmet dinner, which wasn’t running while we were there. Other than that, not much to do other than relax, which we were pleased to do. We stayed at the historic McCloud Hotel, where our first activity was to partake of the complimentary wine and appetizer on the large front porch. The hotel is actually a B & B, which was originally built in 1915, and saved from the wrecking ball and remodeled by the current owner in the mid 1990’s. The building and gardens are lovely, and the breakfast was fantastic—cinnamon-croissant bread pudding soufflé with crème anglais!

After said breakfast, we drove to nearby McCloud River and hiked the couple of miles from Lower Falls to Middle Falls—which was quite impressive. Then we headed over to Mt Shasta and drove the Everitt Memorial Highway up its flanks. The road ends at 7,000 ft, about halfway up the peak, and offers spectacular views.

Next, onward to Ashland, Oregon, after experiencing the first of several technological breadowns—the death of Dave’s beloved camera. No obvious reason for this—it was working just fine 2 days before. Since there were no camera stores open on Sunday in Ashland, we were “forced” to play tourist and wander through the tree-lined residential streets and the boutique and restaurant lined Main Street. Unfortunately we were doing this in the 85+ degree heat in the uncomfortable “nice” clothes and shoes we’d donned for our theater date later in the evening. We cooled off in the shade of Lithia Park, a 92 acre jewel, designed by the same landscape architect who designed Golden Gate Park. We enjoyed an outstanding dinner at a restaurant called Amuse, which was recommended by my sister Sandy’s friend and Ashland resident, Julia Sommer. Dave said his salmon was so good, he didn’t even mind the cucumbers that were part of the preparation! (Close family members will realize this is high praise indeed!) Then onto the Shakespeare Festival “campus” where we saw the contemporary play about Shakespeare called Equivocation—a smart, clever, maddening, wonderfully-acted, overlong, confusing piece of theater. Our hostess, Julia, said she saw it, bought and read the script, then saw it again in order to understand it all—and she’s a playwright, herself! We wish we had the same opportunity! Needless to say, much discussion ensued on the way back to Julia’s house, where we spent the night…

Monday morning brought yet another technological breakdown. We woke late to discover that the alarm didn’t go off because Dave’s two-week old Blackberry had died! Two electronic deaths in two days—all Dave’s devices, hmmm… Maybe the universe is trying to tell him that he’s too tied to his toys? Not sure how to explain the fact that immediately after Dave logged off the wireless internet at Julia’s house, after completing his research on camera and Verizon stores in the area, her router died! Seriously!

So we headed for Medford where we spent several hours in several malls and came away with a new (and better) camera (with a touch screen!) for Dave and a replacement battery for the Blackberry, marking what we hope will be the end of technological malfunctions on this trip! (Although we’ve think we’ve noticed a rebellious tone in Helen’s instructions today—or are we just being paranoid…)

Onward to Crater Lake, which unfortunately we didn’t reach until 3 PM. We checked into our charming room on the top floor of the historic Crater Lake Lodge, with its aforementioned window seat, spectacular views—the best from the claw foot tub in the bathroom! We headed out to drive the Rim Road around the breathtakingly dramatic lake, with water so blue in the mid-afternoon light that it defies description. We stopped at several overlooks and snapped numerous photos—had to break in that new camera! Due to time constraints (and the fact that we were determined to fit in happy hour on the Lodge patio—we have our priorities, after all) we settled for only one short “hike” at the end of the Pinnacles Overlook to see the “fossil fumaroles”—each pinnacle actually the remains of the spots where volcanic gas rose up through ash and pumice deposits, cementing them into solid rock—created during the explosion of the Mt Mazama volcano about 7,700 years ago, the event which also created Crater Lake.

Now it’s time to get ourselves down to dinner in the Lodge dining room, which features real tree trunks as pillars, and what looks like some great food, too! Tomorrow we head for Mt Hood and the Timberline Lodge (of The Shining fame) where it is rumored we will have access to wireless internet in the Lounge. If so, I hope to upload this very long blog entry and some photos for your viewing enjoyment!

Fun Fact: It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. Really!




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