Crater Lake National Park: Lodge and Sinnott Memorial Observation Station

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

7,700 years ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. This is an amazing sight to see today…in my opinion, it is just as impressive as the Grand Canyon, though not as vast.

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Because I looked online about 11 months ahead of our trip, I was too late to secure lodging in the park. So our experience at the Crater Lake Lodge was limited to the lobby, front desk, patio and dining room. The no-frill rooms only sleep two people so we needed two rooms for our family and we didn’t book far enough in advance to get the two rooms for the time we wanted (reservations open up 13 months in advance and sell out quickly.)

So that left us with only one day to explore this park. While we did make the most of our day, with a hike to Garfield Peak in the AM (see my post on Garfield Peak here) and a Rim Road Trolley tour in the afternoon (coming in a future post) we would also have liked to take the boat tour to Wizard Island and explored some other areas of the park, like the Pinnacles. You really need at least two days here to experience this park.

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Crater Lake Lodge was built in 1915 and is located on the southwest rim of the Crater Lake caldera. Perched on a cliff, 1000 feet above the lake below, it boasts some wonderful views. The patio has rocking chairs where you can sit and take in the stunning scenery.

We stopped in and asked for directions and advice at the front desk before embarking on our morning’s hike. The woman at the front desk was very helpful in answering our questions about the trails.

The common areas are beautiful, vintage and inviting. We relaxed by the fireplace after our hike to Garfield Peak while we waited for the restaurant to open for lunch.

With some time to kill before boarding our trolley for the Rim Tour, we explored the other buildings in the village, taking the stairs behind the Visitors Center down to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook.

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The Sinnott Memorial Observation Station is built into an outcropping on the cliff face of the caldera wall. It was built in 1931 and was the first NPS building constructed as a museum. Its stone masonry design set the architectural standard for future buildings at Crater Lake National Park.

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The viewing area has an open-air balcony with a spectacular view of the lake, and you are 50 feet below the rim, so the view is a little different than what you can see on the balcony of the lodge.  The museum exhibits, which highlight the history of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake, are located in the center of the observation room and around the walls.

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Back in the village, at the conclusion of our trolley tour. We stopped in the Community Center building for some Ranger-led crafts and free cookies in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.

Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016

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Crater Lake National Park: Garfield Peak

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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7,700 years ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. The pure blue lake is the deepest in the United States and is famous for its bright blue color.  The Lake owes its intense blue color to its depth and clarity. Because the lake is so deep and clear, the longer rays of the light spectrum are absorbed while the shorter waves (the ‘BIV’ component of ‘ROYGBIV’) are reflected back as the color we see.

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The awesomeness of this park is on par with that of the Grand Canyon, but not as vast. We only had a day here and managed to get in a hike to Garfield Peak, along with other activities which will be covered in future posts.

 

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The Garfield Peak Trail is a 3.4 mile roundtrip, popular trail with over 1000 feet in elevation. The highest point is over 8000 feet, so you are already starting at a high elevation of around 7000 feet at Rim Village. It is a steep hike to gorgeous views. 

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The path to Garfield Peak begins behind the historic lodge. It is steep and strenuous…a steady incline to the top. Our group was a little whiny that day, having gotten up before dawn to beat the crowds into the park. And the uphill hiking at high elevations kicked our butts (except for my husband, who runs Spartan races.) Even so, we made it there and back in two hours by taking it slow and taking breaks. It was so worth it…all along the way we were treated to the most breathtaking views.

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We left at 8:00 am and had the trail to ourselves for most of the hike. It was starting to get busy when we descended. I had to watch my footing, especially on the descent…loose rock/sand makes it easy to slip and fall off a cliff or turn an ankle. I would not do this hike with young children.

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I’d used the SLR for photos on the ascent and then switched to a lighter point-and-shoot camera for the descent. This camera has a great 60x Optical zoom, so it was lucky that I was holding it as we reached the meadow at the bottom of the trail and saw a hawk up in the trees.

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Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016

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Oregon Caves National Monument: Chateau & Nature Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Chateau at Oregon Caves is one of the National Park’s “Great Lodges,” and a National Historic Landmark. While visiting the park (read my post on the Discovery Cave Tour here) we went into the Chateau to admire the decor and have lunch in the 1930s era Caves Café.

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What a fun retro café! We were delighted to step back in time while relaxing in this charming and friendly soda fountain.

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We especially enjoyed the sweet potato fries and the shakes were huge and to-die-for. My daughter could not finish her chocolate malted so of course I helped her… Delicious, best shake I’ve ever tasted.

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After our lunch and cave tour, we had time for a short hike before getting back on the road. We picked up The Cliff Nature Trail behind the Visitor Center. This one mile loop travels over the marble cave and ascends nearly 400 feet through the fir trees of Siskiyou National Forest to panoramic views of the Illinois Valley.

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It took us less than an hour to complete the trail, allowing for a slow ascent and lots of photo stops.

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Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 7/12/1909

Date of my visit: August 2016

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Oregon Caves National Monument: Cave Tour

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

We’d spent a few days with extended family on the California coast, just south of Oregon. After a lovely time spent exploring Redwoods National Park, we packed up the car, said goodbye to the cousins and headed North to Oregon Caves National Monument.

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a protected area in the northern Siskiyou Mountains. The 4,554-acre park, including the marble cave, forests, hiking trails and a historic lodge is 20 miles east of Cave Junction.

That last 20 mile stretch after Cave Junction is a real nail-biter with hairpin turns, sheer drop-offs and little gps reception as it winds through the remote mountains to the park. Originally, we’d planned to stay at the Caves Chateau while visiting sites in Southern Oregon, but when I realized that was the only way in and out, I changed our base of operations to Grants Pass.

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I’d reserved our cave tour reservations online. We arrived at the visitor center ahead of schedule. When we checked in, the ranger moved us up to an earlier tour.

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We took the Discovery Cave Tour with Ranger Neil. He really made the tour with his corny jokes and fun cave facts. Even the teenagers were entertained.

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The tour lasted 90 minutes and was pretty strenuous. We were basically climbing around inside a mountain, ascending and descending, squeezing through narrow passageways and stooping to avoid concussing ourselves on low ceilings. In many places the stairs had no railings and the marble floor was slippery. It was a chilly 44 degrees Fahrenheit and we were glad we’d worn our jackets.

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After navigating the labyrinth for a while, the path opened up into a huge room with amazing formations, about 200 feet below the surface. Here, we climbed a steep metal staircase to view some awesome ‘drapery’ formations in the dome ceiling.

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Out of close to 4000 caves managed by the National Park Service, only Oregon Cave and two others are made of marble. The rest are formed in limestone.

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Once we were all back outside the cave, Ranger Neil took a group photo for us and then accompanied us back to the visitor center to help the girls complete their junior ranger badge.

Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 7/12/1909

Date of my visit: August 2016

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Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

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Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Columbia River Gorge NSA is managed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. We knew we had to see the famous waterfalls while we were in Oregon and we decided to tour the gorge with Sea to Summit tours. We met our guide Shahn by Pioneer Square in Portland and loaded into a comfortable minibus for our full day tour.
Shahn drove us along the Historic Columbia River Highway stopping at numerous waterfalls, vista point, a dam and salmon ladder, an orchard and other picturesque places, culminating with a stop at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Shahn kept us entertained during drive time and at each stop with the history of the places we saw and advising the best places for photos, snacks, etc… We never would have fit all of this into one day if we’d tried to do it on our own, and my husband would have been cranky from all the driving and trying to find parking. I highly recommend seeing the area with Sea to Summit.

Day9-IMG_6369Vista House: Our first stop was the Vista House at Crown Point. This historic landmark observatory was built in 1916 and has views up and down the Columbia River from its perch on the Cliff.

0Day9-IMG_6376Latourell Falls: The first waterfall we stopped at was Latourell Falls. There is an easy path from the parking lot to the base of the falls. It was here that I discovered that I’d packed the wrong foot for my tripod, so no pretty long exposure waterfall pics for me.  And I felt pretty foolish having lugged the heavy thing across the country and up and down the pacific northwest for no good reason.

0Day9-IMG_6393Multnomah Falls: The most visited tourist attraction in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state and proclaims itself to be the second tallest in the US. We walked up the path to the bridge over the lower tier and explored the small museum in the historic lodge0Day9-IMG_6433

Horsetail Falls: This skinny waterfall, resembling a horse’s tail is only a few steps away from the parking lot. We jumped out, snapped a few photos and moved on to the next stop.

0Day9-IMG_6449Bonneville Lock and Dam: This Dam on the Columbia River is managed by the US Army. The visitor center has some interesting displays and an underwater viewing area of the salmon bypassing the Dam via the salmon ladder. We stood outside for a while watching the salmon jump up the ladder (and the birds of prey swooping in for an easy lunch.)0Day9-IMG_6454