Road Trip Day 5: Crater Lake, National Creek Falls, Rogue River Gorge

by Kara on August 2, 2010

Chipmunk at Crater Lake, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

We got up at 4:55 this morning so that we could get to Crater Lake for the sunrise. Stephen promised that we can sleep in tomorrow. We went to Watchman Overlook, and unfortunately Stephen realized that the angle of the sun was wrong for his picture. I didn’t wait for him to ask – I said we should get up early again tomorrow to try from a different spot. Why bother coming here if we aren’t going to try getting him the shots he wants?

After the only mildly successful sunrise shots, we took off on a drive around the entire rim, stopping to check out the view from every pullout. Cloudcap was pretty good, as well as a couple for the phantom ship, which is a tiny little “island” near the shore.

At one of the stops, the second I got out of the car, a little chipmunk came running right up to me. Although it’s fun to see them up close, it always makes me kind of sad. Even though there are signs are over the place asking people not to feed the animals, so many people decide the rules don’t apply to them and feed them anyway. This is the only reason the chipmunk was so interested in me. He had clearly been fed by humans before and he expected me to feed him too. If you are one of these people, you are not doing the animals any favors. It can cause aggressive behavior and they lose their fear of humans – and fear of humans is a healthy thing. The best diet for animals is their natural diet, not “people food”. If you are unable to resist feeding wild animals, then you certainly don’t care very much about them. Okay, off my soapbox now – humans putting their own amusement ahead of what is best for nature is just one of my pet peeves.

We also drove out to the Pinnacles trailhead and took a short hike to see the fumaroles, which basically looked like mud castle turrets. Every place we stopped on the eastern shore seemed to have lots of Mosquitos, and every time Stephen opened the car door to select a new lens or something, about 50 of them would get in the car. As soon as I would get them all cleared out, he’d come open the car door again.

After that, we headed to the Rim Village gift shop and cafe for lunch. We each had soup in bread bowls and it was really good! That seemed to be what everyone was ordering. They had quite a few types of soup and I had clam chowder and Stephen had beef barley. The only thing that would have made it better is if they had broccoli cheese soup. If you eat there, though, bring your own drinks. The juice and PowerAde that we bought were $3 each. We thought the bread bowls were reasonable at $8.50. The coffee was $1.75, but very good.

On the way out of the park, we stopped at Mazama Village, which is the RV campground, and filled up on gas and washed the windows. Note that Mazama Village only has gas approximately May through October, and even then not always. So if you can’t take a chance on running out, then fill up somewhere before you enter the park. They had a pretty good little store at the RV park too.

National Creek Falls, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

We took the 45 minute drive back to Union Creek, with Stephen sleeping and me afraid I might fall asleep. When we got back to the cabin, we napped for a couple hours, then headed out to the National Creek Falls. We heard about the falls in the book Photographing Oregon. Luckily the information in the book was slightly outdated. The book said the road to the trailhead parking area was gravel, but it is now paved (and must have been for awhile, because it wasn’t in great repair. The only gravel part now is the parking lot. The book also said that the trail was short, but very steep. However, they’ve since replaced the steep trail with switchbacks, making the descent much more gradual. When we got to the bottom, we were really impressed with the falls. For my money, smaller falls surrounded with lush greenery are much prettier than huge, impressive waterfalls like Niagara Falls.

Carved log at National Creek Falls, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

I am generally quite critical of vandalism, but there was a fallen tree trunk near the falls that was covered with carved initials and names, and it was a typographic work of art. I couldn’t resist taking some photos of it.

When we came back up, I filled out a survey they left for visitors, and I also left a donation in their donation slot. I think it’s important to support the work that the park and forest services does, because I feel like we get so much out of it. The falls were outside Crater Lake, so they don’t benefit from the entrance fees for that attraction.

Rogue River Gorge, copyright Kara Sjoblom-Bay

Then we went back to the cabin, because our next stop was a very short hike from the resort. When the sun started going down, we walked over to the Rogue River Gorge viewpoint, which can be seen from the road. It was a pretty little spot, but we had to wait quite awhile for there to be enough color in the sky for Stephen to get nice shots. So I just pulled out my iPad and started writing today’s travel blog entry. I even had Stephen take a picture of me writing in front of the little falls. I was a little afraid that either me, my iPad, or both of us would end up in the river, but the shot turned out great. I probably won’t be able to post that one till we get home, so I had him take one with my iPhone as well. It won’t be as nice, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Stephen then made a dinner of tortellini with tuna and cream of mushroom soup, with a side of corn. We hit the sack by 10:30 pm, since we planned another early morning.

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