The best laid plans led to… wildfire!

Crater Lake National Park Travel Blog

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9.11.08 Crater Lake National Park


We had it all planned out:  we’d drive County Route 200 to Hwy 138 to Crater Lake NP.   CR 200 was a rather scary road with skinny roads, and no shoulders, and steep dropoffs as it twisted and turned alongside beautiful farmland. 


Then on Hwy 138, within an hour of the park, we passed a highway sign that said “Hwy 138 closed between MP 59-69.  Wildfire”  Errrrck!  We braked to a stop and called Ned who quickly gleaned via internet that the road was indeed closed.  I visited a nearby deli and a kind man provided directions to circumvent the fire.


We backtracked all the way down Hwy 138, south on I-5, and then right before the directed turnoff was another construction warning sign:  “Construction:  Expect delays” on our entire detour route!


So we continued south on I-5, up and down at least 3 mountain passes in rather warm (80 degree) weather until I thought Ciao Baby would overheat and completely surrender right there on the highway.  But Ciao did fine when we blew heat off her engine into the cab and rolled down the windows for air, finally limping into a gas station for drinks and a break.


After a few more hours up some lovely roads, we finally made it to Crater Lake, 3 hours later than initially projected!  We missed the Visitor’s Center hours by 17 minutes, but we were thrilled to get a campsite in the only campground that accepts RV’s:  Manzana Village ($22 dry camping). 


It is a lovely campground and has bear boxes at each campsite for food storage.  I read that the bear-proof food storage containers have reduced bear attacks by some 90% since first use in the 1980’s- hikers and tenters in particular use them.


We read the park info and have a plan for tomorrow:  Visitor’s Center, the lake rim drive, overlooks that are “must sees”, and the boat ride on the lake.  There are many interesting facts about Crater Lake, but I’ll share those tomorrow.


It is interesting that some park activities have ended over Labor Day, others end after this Sunday (9/14)- we haven’t had to consider off-season hours previously.  But we sure like the lower crowds.  I wonder if Crater Lake, being so isolated, has many crowds normally.  The info say 500,000 visitors visit the park a year.  I don’t know how that compares to the other parks.


Crater Lake is at an elevation of over 6000 feet!  It is a long incline here, so we hardly noticed the climb up from 2000-6000 feet into the park, but the air temperature is crisp.  They brag in the pamphlets about the clean air, but we could smell and see the smoke from the fire.  We inquired in 3 places in the park about the threat of the fire, but they assure us we are not at risk. 


I did read that in 2006, they managed a lightening-strike fire and let it burn for 4 months to allow a natural progression.  It sounded like the same area of this week’s fire (it’s closed the road for a week).  That 2006 fire was extinguished by a snowstorm on Sept. 14th!


As we were retracing our path to avoid the fire closure, we saw the sign that indicated:  “Today’s Fire Threat:  High.”  I thought, “No kidding!”  I guess they don’t have a “Currently Burning” rating.


Did you know that the eastern part of Oregon is dry?  It is so dry east of the mountains that it is technically a desert! 


Speaking of weather, we’re a bit worried about Ned being in Houston with a hurricane due to strike tomorrow.  We suggested he fly out to join us, but I think he’s going to hunker down.  I wish we had internet and could tell whats’ happening, but we don’t even have cell service.  Generally, we tend to have cell phone service within 5 miles of the small towns and it quickly drops off thereafter.


Today we passed 14,000 miles on our trip!




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Crater Lake National Park
photo by: Vikram