Thursday, May 25, 2017

Emeralds, Diamonds and Sapphires - Crater Lake, Oregon

May 20-23, 2017
Prospect, Oregon

Our quick Saturday drive takes us through more beautiful forests, along the Rogue River, to the little burg of Prospect, Oregon. 

There are very few RV parks in the area, and with an abundance of snow still on the ground in higher elevations, there are even fewer available right now. 

Crater Lake RV Park is in the trees, across Hwy 62 from Prospect. Our site in the back of the park is nicely level with FHUs, fire ring and picnic table. Our satellite connects but the park WiFi doesn't. The staff are super friendly, and provide information and maps for the area.

From on the lake, to IN the trees.

Crater Lake RV Park
In fact, there is little Internet, and no cell service, anywhere here. Being off the grid for three days feels very weird :-), but it's not a big deal, we have plenty to keep us busy!

Prospect, Oregon, is a post office, a gas station/"grocery" store, and pizza place. Everything else is closed. The gas station attendant provides way more information than we need on the troubles of the two "pending" cafes down the street - be careful what you ask for :-)

Sunday we head north in Piper. The emerald forests here are lush and thick, and driving the straight, thin highway is like the maze scene in Harry Potter where the sides of the tall green hedge get narrower and, but kind of eerie. 

Our destination today is Diamond Lake. This rare natural body of water sits between Mt Thielsen and Mt Bailey.

We take the east entrance just a few yards and find it blocked by snow. No closed signs are posted, but It. Is. Blocked. By. Snow. I wish I had taken a photo of the motorhome stuck in that snow about thirty yards in. People never cease to amaze me. It was gone when we left later in the day.

The west entrance is open, but only as far as the boat launch. Campground and resort are still closed. A fishing tournament is under way so there are a lot of boats on the water. Additionally, the small dock has a handful of people with their poles in the water.

Bill finds a spot along the shore for a couple hours of fishing while Tessa and I take the trail around the lake. It is a perfect-weather day, and although there are lots of fishermen on the lake, it is very quiet and peaceful.

Mt Thielsen

Mt Bailey

I swear the water smells cold.

And yet this visitor from Europe thinks a quick swim is a good idea - he even talks his girlfriend into joining him. There was quite a bit of screaming involved...
Plenty of room for the tournament boats to spread out.
Several of the fishermen complain about all the bugs on the water, a couple even have mosquito-net hats on when they dock, but we thankfully have no bugs on shore.

Happy man.
We make a couple stops along the river on our way home. The Rogue is running strong and loud - it is a powerful force in this otherwise quiet forest.

We save our drive to Crater Lake for Monday as the temps are supposed to reach the low 90's. It's my 61st birthday, and the whole day is a gift.

Before we head north again, we drive into Prospect to check out more falls on the Rogue. They are deafening, and spectacular.

Note the deck to the right of the falls. It is attached to a small house we could definitely call home!

The mighty Rogue.
We could both stay and watch the water for hours, but we have a special lake to see.

Bill says "There will likely be some snow up there."

Little bit....
When we enter the national park we have already been driving for miles through forest floor that is completely covered in snow. Before we get to the Visitor's Center it is taller than Piper on both sides. Still, we're surprised to learn that all of Rim Drive is closed past the first eight miles that lead to Rim Lodge. 

Relief map of the lake in the VC.

These signs are all the way least we didn't "just miss" the opening.
I don't know why I'm surprised the road is closed, we have to enter the VC from the side door.
Snow banks fill the parking spots, leaving just the middle near the lodge. The lake is over the bank on the left.

With all the avalanche warning signs, we think Piper is the perfect color!
I grab a trekking pole to navigate through the snow and ice to reach a spot where we can see the lake.

I've seen photos of this amazing place. I know the color is intense. I expect it to be beautiful.

I am completely blown away. Nothing prepares you for the reality of this view of sapphire blue - it is the definition of breathtaking.

The light color in the water is the reflection of clouds above. It is all naturally pure water from direct rain and snow melt. No streams enter or leave the lake. The blue is from the clarity and great depth (over 1900', and the deepest in the US). 

The remaining cinder cone is called Wizard Island.
A flat-lander all my life, I'm sure this is the deepest snow I've ever seen.

The snow bunny wears herself out.

The surrounding mountains are beautiful, although the steep slopes of snow above the highway are intimidating. I'm happier when the road moves away from them.
For me, it is the reflections that make it so unique.
After we finally pull ourselves away from the break in the walls of snow along the lake, we return to the VC to watch the 24 minute video about the lake's formation and history. It is worth seeing. What it doesn't speak to is how the lake is "used" today. I look it up when we have Internet again.

Seeing it in person I can't believe that any human has ever touched it - it is so pristine. But in addition to regular testing by park personnel and environmentalists, and boat tours - swimming and fishing are also allowed. 

In fact, fishing is encouraged and does not require a license. Only artificial bait is allowed. There is no limit on the number of fish you can catch from the shore (no boats) - and no releasing. Why?

Because there aren't "supposed to be" any fish here. Fish don't come from the rain or snow. Two species survive of the six that were introduced between 1888 and 1941. Now "we" know that fish are harmful and unnatural to this unique environment.

I would love to make the full loop around the lake someday, but I can't imagine it being anymore beautiful than it is surrounded in snow. What a special gift.

On our way home we stop for a very late lunch at Beckie's Cafe in Union Creek. Their food is delicious, and the staff very friendly. My birthday pie is perfect.

Coconut cream - my favorite!
Our Tuesday drive to Eugene is 160 miles with 50 miles through the mountains, so we're up and out of the park by 10:30. We loved our time here.


  1. WOW! The reflections are a unique birthday gift for you and thanks for sharing them with us. We've had the opportunity to stop several times and never/ever seen it as perfect as you show it.

    1. Thanks Jeff. I truly was blown away by the unique beauty.

  2. Diamond Lake is gorgeous with the snow capped mountains around. Bill looks very content sitting there doing what he loves:) The rushing water is such a wonderful sound. You certainly understand the power the water has seeing the rapids.

    With so much snow at Crater Lake and the Rim Road closed, a visit from Bend is almost two and half hours. We plan to visit after Labor Day, but I really want to see all that snow!! I would love to make the trip now. So glad you made it and took lots of photos. Thanks for sharing!! It is gorgeous with so much snow. That snow bunny is so cute and blends right in:) We first visited on a motorcycle trip about 12 years ago. The road had just opened the week prior and this was the second week in June. There was still lots of snow. That first view of the brilliant blue is one I will never forget!! What a birthday treat!!

    1. I was really surprised by how much snow there was, making it an even more exciting visit. You'll love Diamond Lake I think. Not as many "noticeable" trails as in other areas, but I'm sure you'll find several to keep you busy :-)

  3. My Dad lived near Crater Lake as a young man. I saw Crater Lake with my family for the first time when I was about 17 years old. A couple years ago I was so excited to take the Cowboy back to Crater Lake--he went as a child. And so disappointed--the forest fire smoke was so thick the lake was almost obscured. Just an excuse to go back again!

    1. How sad to be there with all the smoke! You must come back and see it together :-)

  4. I too am in love with Oregon's greenness! And the water! I don't believe I've ever seen Crater Lake with so much snow...truly stunning! What a wonderful way to spend your birthday!

    1. It's wonderful to be back here for a couple months - we love Oregon. Especially with all the "extra" water!!

  5. I had to laugh when you said there were screams involved :-) And I love your photo of the napping fisherman. Mount Thielsen reminds me of Disney's Matterhorn ride. What makes Diamond Lake rare? Crater Lake is stunning with all of the snow!! What an awesome birthday you had this year :-))

    1. I agree about the Matterhorn! The lake is rare because it is natural, rather than made from damming a river. We see so few natural lakes, this one was special - well both of them were.

  6. Fabulous header picture! I am eating my heart out over your being in Oregon where I’ve been trying to get to for the past 5 years. It’s just too far from cancer centers so far darn it. So thanks for taking me The words Rogue River, Crater Lake make my eyes light up. What a year to visit with the falls and water so full and high. Just love the road through the tall trees. But snow? Blocked by snow? Closed until July? Wow so how many weeks from July until the first snow fall? HA! Guess it’s clear I don’t know Oregon. Your pictures of Crater Lake are outstanding! I think it’s very lucky to see it with so much snow. Simply beautiful. Well done! HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! You picked a great place to celebrate. And Coconut Cream Pie, my favorite too!! Are you a german chocolate cake fan as well???

    1. The rangers said there is always snow in May at Crater, but not usually 9 feet. The rim road is usually open by July 4th. This year they anticipate several weeks past that. I think it comes back before Halloween, so not a long "open" season up there. Oh yes, german chocolate cake is a definite favorite as well :-))))

  7. Happy birthday! Some of my favorite family pictures are standing there next to a snowdrift above Dave's head with our daughter wearing shorts over a swimsuit because of the solar heat in our car.

    1. Great image of your daughter! Since it was 90 in the lower elevations I'm sure there were a lot more shorts visiting the snow that day too :-))

  8. What a glorious way to spend your birthday! Wishing you a year filled with all of the adventures that make your heart and spirit happy. :-)) Wow, I've never seen Crater Lake with that much snow at this time of year. Your photos are gorgeous. Years ago I went swimming in the lake -- well, if you can call jumping in and jumping right back out swimming. It was ridiculously cold! :-)

    1. Thanks Laurel. It's certainly starting out that way :-)) I'd love to put a foot in that water, but not sure I'd get much more of me in there!

  9. What a fabulous birthday. Absolutely gorgeous scenery and yummy coconut cream pie!
    Love all the snow banks and the crystal clear blue water.

  10. Happy Birthday! What gorgeous places to visit for your special day. Sure glad you found Beckies. Even when I lived and worked in Oregon and visited Crater Lake I never saw that much snow. How exciting. Your photos are absolutely wonderful.

    1. Thanks Gaelyn!! Beckies is a great little stopping spot - and right now it's the only one open :-)) Delicious homemade food after the beauty of the lake made for a perfect day.

  11. It is a beautiful lake! We didn't catch any fish when we were there, but we tried. Love those reflections! Birthday Pie. Love it. What a special day!

    1. It's so strange to think of a place where they want all the fish gone - glad you tried to do your part :-))