Day 11: Crater Lake!! Sort of.

This morning we got up DWP, which is an acronym we use that stands for (Whenever We) Damn Well Please.  We haven’t had the opportunity to use it very often on this trip, so we relished the extra moments.  Around 10:00 AM we found ourselves in the car and a’rarin’ to go.  Today was the day we were to see Crater Lake!

Before we fully hit the road, we needed a gas stop and discovered something that absolutely tilts Jim:  the fact you aren’t allowed to pump your own gasoline in Oregon.  And believe me, I heard an earful about it.  In fact, randomly throughout the rest of the day I’d hear him muttering something about how gorgeous central Oregon is but he just couldn’t do it and then the words gas and pump would be uttered in a combination of amazement and somewhere between contempt and derision.  He would also say, “Eight cars waiting, one guy pumping, and everyone is annoyed.  It doesn’t make any sense.  It’s just stupid.  Even in Croatia you can pump your own gas.”

Mt. Bachelor from the Scenic Bypass (Hwy 46)

We drove around Bend for quite some time before heading west toward Mt. Bachelor on Highway 46, also known as the Cascade Lakes Highway, an Oregon Scenic Bypass.  The reason we drove around Bend for so long may or may not have been because we had some difficulties finding Highway 46, but it afforded us the opportunity to really investigate the town.  Firstly, it is exceptionally clean and visually refreshing because it would appear they eschew the use of all neon signs (like Maine).  Secondly, the surrounding scenery is really interesting, it’s where the desert meets the forest, which is what I kept saying until it dawned on us this is why they call the area the High Desert.  Thirdly, many of the houses are this/close to each other so if you live in Bend I suppose you want to be in the blinds or other assorted window treatment business.

Is snow really that high in winter?

Possibly up to an hour later we found ourselves on the scenic bypass that Jimmy had read about the day before and decided we should do, and was he ever right.  We have seen some gosh darn amazing scenery on this trip and this was no exception.  The first part of the drive took us up to and right around the north side of Mt. Bachelor before taking us back down the rest of Highway 46 on a stretch that was marked “Closed in Winter” on our map and had some scary tall snow markers already out.  But the views of the mountains, lakes, and endless forests were dizzyingly grand.  We made a few stops along the way for photos and ogling, including Elk Lake and Davis Lake and a few photos taken right from the middle of the road because we were practically the only ones on it.

This snow was fast and furious

As we were nearing the end of our Scenic Highway 46 Bypass it started to drizzle.  Oh, well, what can you do?  At least it hadn’t rained at all until this point and we thought a passing shower wouldn’t kill us.  Well, this passing shower turned into something along the lines of a torrent from the sky as we were heading toward Crater Lake National Park on US 97 to 138 west and down to 62 east to enter from the west side.  It’s a really funny thing about rain in the foothills:  it turns into snow once you reach a certain altitude.  And today’s bewitching number was somewhere around 5,400 feet.  In fact, we had just finished noting that it was starting to look like a rain/snow mix when *BAM* we were in the snow.  It happened just that fast.  We were so close to the entrance to the park that we decided to keep going up, but a couple hundred feet higher in altitude and we knew it was a foregone conclusion we were not going to see that lake.  It was snowing so hard and accumulating so fast that we were afraid of getting stranded up there with nothing but ½ of a Voodoo Doughnut apple fritter to tide us over until the spring thaw.  There would have been fisticuffs over that doughnut, and not necessarily for survival reasons.  We made it as far as the Visitor’s Center, where there was easily a 3” accumulation of snow already and it wasn’t letting up.  The fog, too, impeded visibility so had we pressed on we likely would have wound up with a bunch of photos that look like we took them through cheesecloth.  It would appear Crater Lake had decided to dress up like a snowman for Halloween.

The Visitor’s Center, the closest we got to the lake

You have no idea how disappointing it was to be so close and yet so far to Crater Lake, and I’m not sure I can convince Jimmy to go back someday unless I promise to take a full supply of gasoline with us in the car that he can slyly put in himself when no one is looking.  However, we absolutely made the right decision to move on, as it wasn’t worth risking a mountain incident.

Our original plan was to spend some time at Crater Lake and then overnight in Klamath Falls, OR, but since we scuttled the Crater Lake part and Jimmy was feeling good to go for driving, we decided to take a different direction and head to Redding, CA, instead.  Much of the genesis for this new plan was because we were dying to finally be able to use the phrase, “Honey, can I get you your sunglasses?” and we figured we had a much better chance of that in California.

200 Feet Tall!

This also turned out to be a bit fortuitous, as this new route allowed us to go right past Dorris, CA, home of the Second Tallest Flagpole in the US.  Hooo-weeee, she’s a tall’un, standing at 200 feet.  Oh, and Jim has a rule that when you mention something is the “second” of something, he thinks one has a duty to inform one’s audience of what the “first” is.  I agree with him.  So here and now, you should know that The Tallest Flagpole in the US is allegedly in Laredo, TX.  I have no idea how tall it is.

After the flagpole bit of excitement, the rest of the drive was fairly uneventful with the exception of seeing Mt. Shasta from many angles.  Oh, and it rained a whole bunch more before we got to Redding, but since we were on the home stretch we just didn’t care.  Another reason we didn’t care is because we discovered there was an In-n-Out Burger in Redding, and an In-n-Out Burger stop will cure any weather woes.  And it did.  Besides, tomorrow Jim can pump gas to his heart’s content.

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