Diamond and Crater Lakes, Oregon

We have fairly high expectations for the National Park. We don’t know much about Diamond Lake except that it isn’t shaped like any gem I can afford. It is sort of oval, almost rectangular. Look it up on Google maps.

Diamond Lake RV Park is a private campground in the midst of the enormous Umpqua National Forest. They operate under a special permit from the shrinking National Forest Service. The campground sits a couple of hundred yards from Diamond Lake, and it is the closest RV park to Crater Lake that can handle an RV the size of Odyssey, and it has full hookups.

Driving from the Klamath River to Diamond Lake is about 212 miles, just outside our window of 200 miles that we set as an arbitrary maximum miles to drive in a day. If the route was all interstate I would have done it in a day. In fact, our original plans had us staying four nights on the Klamath but after so many recent segments on twisting, winding roads, which wear you out physically and mentally, and which take twice as long, I called a week before to cancel the fourth night. Finding Grants Pass in Oregon to be right in the center of the route, I located the most perfect sounding RV Park to stay at the 105 mile point, the Rogue Valley Overnighter RV Park.

This Memorial Day weekend the town hosted some boaters’ extravaganza. Coming into town we stopped at a regular gas station next to the fairgrounds, where the out of town boaty people gathered. We found an outside pump with easy exit and, had Marty, the attendant, put in two rounds of $75 worth, their maximum. Oregon still has guys out there in uniforms pumping gas? What is this, New Jersey? For all I know Marty was just dressed the part and was reading off my credit card information to partner, Spin, and I’m about to be bilked. Such are our thoughts these days. Well, maybe mine. Too many stories in the news about that stuff.

Anyway, I was told it is a $500 fine to pump your own gas. That’s a lot of jobs they don’t have in 48 other states. These guys are busy, but I have to keep reminding myself it’s a holiday weekend – totally meaningless to retirees, unless you don’t have reservations. And, even with gas stations paying these pump attendants, gas is much cheaper than in California. What is California doing with all that gas tax money?

The Overnighter park was 107 miles from Diamond Lake. Most of the drive was on smaller state roads after a small section on I-5. We expected a twisty, windy (long i) drive but a long section of it followed the Rogue River into Oregon where it was quite beautiful. Welcome to Oregon, as pretty as expected.

Anyway, arriving on Memorial Day, May 28, in Diamond Lake, when most campers have already headed home, we pretty much have the park to ourselves. The plan is to see Crater Lake on Tuesday. Before we left civilization, we got very good weather reports for the three days here. As mentioned in the previous posts from Ft Bragg to now, we have had intermittent connectivity and absolutely nothing in this RV park. Nice campground though.

After settling in, we took Luna down to the lake. Oddly, right across the road from the campground and right on the lake is a pizza parlor. Nothing else there. It is the only commercial establishment around the lake except for a run down old “resort” at the top of the lake, also run with special permission from the National Forest Service. We passed on the pizza and walked down to the lake.

That’s Mt Bailey.

Notice the scooped out section on the left, with all the snow on it? Remind you of Mt St Helens? Yes, it’s what’s left after the volcano blew it’s top. Though dormant for thousands of years, it is still considered active.

In the evening, I tried to get a few shots of the sunset through the trees. While reviewing the photos, I was about to delete a couple that appeared, at first, to have some odd, yellow glare off to the left.

I was going to proceed with a story about receiving messages from either a fourth dimensional civilization or the aliens, once again, contacting me. There were actually five pictures with a yellow glare. I can make a case for subliminal images in each, but I’ll save those for the book. Check out the first one. Zoom in on your own. Make your own conclusions. I know what I see.

Check him out:

I hope these zoomed in blowups are clear enough on the website. Incredible, right?

Further evidence is available upon written request. (Remember, the NSA is monitoring contact with ET.)

When the sun finally dropped in the west, you knew it was going to be a great setting for stargazing, but a full moon rising put an end to thoughts of hanging out in a lounge chair, looking up. Kind of a spooky sky, especially after that mind-blowing sunset.

Say, do you remember Jack Horkheimer, the Star Hustler? He had a five minute TV show, years ago. I recall watching it in the late 70’s, when cable TV was growing up. I started watching Star Trek reruns – I rarely watched it when it aired originally – from a PBS station in Allentown, PA. At about 5:30 every afternoon they would switch to a Miami, Florida station and the segment, ‘Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler’. He was a very animated, extremely enthusiastic, astronomy dude, a bit of a nut-job – and I mean that in a very positive way – who would provide illustrated information about the current week’s celestial events. He ended each show with old science fiction music, and reminded us to “Keep looking up!”
I urge you, on any clear night, to do the same.

Did I digress. On to Crater Lake. How did this pristine, deep blue lake come to be? A zillion years ago, Mt Mazama blew up and subsequently, after a gajillion more years, filled up with rainwater. That’s it. Actual times may vary. No rivers flow into the crater, it’s all rainwater. Very little flows out either.

You might wonder then, why doesn’t it overflow from rain? Or, you might not. Evaporation! Rain and evaporation balance each other out. Scientists have determined that in the last few thousand years (maybe it was a few hundred years, I threw out that pamphlet), the level of the lake has only varied about sixteen feet. Sounds like a lot? Maybe to you Lake Powell boaters, but we’re talking about the deepest lake in the world, at 1,943 feet!

You wanted to see pictures of the lake? Well, it was pretty hard coming up with a “best of” when most of them were stunning. We came in from the north entrance which hadn’t officially opened yet, even after Memorial Day. The only around-the-lake-scenic-drive option was to the west and only from about 10 o’clock to 7, if you look at the lake like a clock. The east side was still snow packed. The crater is on an 8,000′ mountain and to view from the top you are pretty damn high. Check out the plowing done at this point, one of the highest:

But you didn’t come all the way out here in the middle of nowhere to look at snow. Let’s get on with a tour of the around-the-lake-drive-but-just-a-small-part-of-it. First stop was breathtaking. You had to walk up a bit of a hill to get to the really good viewpoint.

Let’s get a little closer to the edge.


It was also another Forest Gump moment. Look at the clouds in the photo above and the distant wall of the crater and the mirror reflection on the water.

Forest was telling his dying Jenny about his running days, “There was always a million sparkles on the water… like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It’s so beautiful.” I get a little choked up at that point every time – I really love how nature puts it all in perspective, and when I look at scenes like this, I get the same feeling:

Like looking at an ink blotch on a folded piece of paper.


We stopped at nearly every opportunity for a different perspective.

That’s Wizard’s Island:

We were drawn to the very green pools of water, which are just shallows. Wizard’s Island is itself a volcano. Yep, a volcano within a volcano. Looks like an arrowhead from this angle.

Or maybe a bird of prey:

We were very lucky to have such a beautiful day. I know, this one’s very similar to an earlier shot, but hey, you can’t love something too much.

I don’t think we have been so impressed with a National Park since our last Grand Canyon trip and we are pretty jaded. Put this one on your bucket list. The closest city of any size looks like it is Eugene but long distance travellers would most likely have to fly into Portland. Oh, just make a week out of it. Start in SF, take the Pacific Coast Highway up to Crescent City in a couple of days, being sure to stop at Tiffany’s Treasure Trove in Eureka – oops, I was just reminded, that the Tiffany thing (from a now-deleted Gus Grissom Mercury capsule story that could, in no way, get by the editor-in-chief – but gloves off in the book) was just a figment of my imagination (you ever use figment in a sentence where it wasn’t followed by “of my imagination”? I can imagine Stymie, of the Little Rascals (you pc-indoctrinated young’uns missed that series) saying, “I ate a fig mint for my breath”, right?). But, I digress. Then turn northeast to Crater Lake. They have a lodge. It is mainly a summer destination so plan accordingly.

One excellent adventure! That night, another clear one where the lack of cloud cover let any heat, at our 5,360′ altitude, escape up into the stars. It was 30° in the morning. Where are we, Monument? Those poor tent campers.

The next day, the sun warmed things up considerably, so we decided to try the bike path around the lake. I think I read somewhere that the Army Corp of Engineers trained in this area and originally built the trail. It has since been paved, about 95% of it, the rest gravel. I also thought I had read that the trail was about six miles around. No big deal on a bike, for us, as long as it’s flat.

Starting out at about the 4 o’clock point, if you think of north as 12, we headed south on the trail to the bottom of the lake. It meandered in and out from the shoreline. One of the feeder streams:

As we swung around to the west side, we crossed the road around the lake and went deeper into the forest. And then up. So much for it being flat. My old mountain bike has twenty-one gears and I got to about 14 going up some of those hills. Since I put high-rise handlebars on it, I’ve lost the ability to change the front three gears – the bolt securing the left shifter/(front)brake broke when I tried taking it off the old handlebars. The mechanism now sits loosely, and uselessly, on the new handlebars, so no front brakes either. The right shifter/rear brake is halfway down the tall handlebars, making it a reach to shift and brake. I bought a new, left gear/brake contraption and longer cables so that both shifters/brakes are near my hands, but I haven’t gotten to that project yet. I wish I had on this ride. On the downhill, I started going too fast on the bumpy, curving trail to take my right hand off the handle grip to reach down for the brake. Mr. Toad’s wild ride! Andrea, on her three-speed cruiser with a pedal-activated rear brake, maintained a reasonable speed and wondered who I was racing. Truthfully, I scared the shit out of myself, though it was a good thrill. Gotta get those brakes moved up where my fingertips can reach them. You ever wonder how you got this far, relatively untouched (you are excused from that thought, brother), with all those reckless moments in the rear view mirror?

But, I digress. As we came back down to lake level, we crossed the road again and the trail took us alongside the lake. From the western side of the lake, Mt Thielson became visible. This mountain is very Matterhornish:

And wanted it’s picture taken.


We cycled around to the top, north end, of the lake where we ran into the first hill I haven’t been able to climb completely since that sixty mile ride in NYC when the route took us up the Palisades. Remember that, John? That whoosh through the Lincoln Tunnel? The start at the Twin Towers? The upper deck on the ferry ride back from Staten Island on the five-borough tour with those 24oz beers? Good times.

Anyway, this old body is way out of shape and a couple of steep hills on the north end put us both on our feet, just before the tops. Disappointing. Oh well. Keep at it, old guy. More mountains from this viewpoint.

We believe, according to an informational board with neat graphics, that the little white mountain top in the far distant right part of the photo is Crater Lake, the late Mount Mazama.

The Diamond Lake Resort and Marina resides on the northwest corner of the lake. It looks like it was built in the fifties and has not been maintained very well. People were staying there but from the looks of it, mostly boaters. We had stopped there the evening before, after the Crater Lake show, so no need to stop this time. And, the steep hills had us wanting the ride to be over.

Just south of the resort, now on the east side again, we passed the National Recreation Area’s public boat ramp and noticed a “Sheriff” pickup truck next to a truck-camper (one of those little RV looking things sitting on the back of a pickup) and two uniformed officers of the law sitting in camping chairs, drinking what looked like beer. It was probably, though sometimes first instincts are correct, soda – or pop, as much of the country is prone to call it. We didn’t think much of it as we continued on the trail by the lake and headed south toward our campground. No more than a hundred yards beyond the boat ramp, we both hear a pop and then a loud hiss that continued as I slowed down, realizing my back tire blew. Shit!

Though we had no internet, the GPS in Google maps still worked on a small scale and indicated we had a bit over a mile to go. It was already five o’clock, Luna’s dinner time – we left her back in the RV, and I was beat, so Andrea rode her bike back the last mile to get the Jeep to pick me up. It still had the bike rack on it. She would meet me back at the boat ramp.

I walked back to the ramp and looked for a bench to sit down but found a large rock that would do. I was just about fifty feet from the sheriffs and was looking directly at them and the camper, and, the body lying on the ground between them! At first I thought they might be watching over someone sleeping off a big drunk until the wind blew the now-visible tarp off the dead guy and they put it back on him, covering his face. Oh my.

I haven’t seen many dead people outside of funeral homes and I really didn’t want to appear, nor was I, too curious about this one. I got a friggin’ flat! I walked the bike up to the entrance to the parking lot where I could sit on a slightly softer log. And watch this guy fly around:

(You can tell it’s a turkey vulture by the v-shaped wings when he glides. Most other big bird wings are straight out.) Wonder if he was looking for a meal.

Andrea arrived about forty minutes later, just after the suit-and-tied coroner had made it official and they were all loading the zipped up body bag onto the back of the sheriffs’ pickup. I wonder if that guy was in a better place. At least he didn’t end up as big bird’s dinner.
We watched Andy and Barney drive ole’ Willard away to the morgue.

Andrea found out the next morning that the trail around the lake is eleven miles. Oh, that’s why our butts are so sore. We packed up and headed for the coast.

(Apologies for being a couple of weeks behind.)

How ’bout a beer?

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