Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 2: Crater Lake and a Sneak Peek of Things to Come

Today's Distance: 435 miles
Total Distance: 815 miles
Today's Destinations: Crater Lake, Oregon; Redwood National Forest, California

We got on the road at a decent hour this morning and headed toward Crater Lake.

 We did not know anything about Crater Lake, other than that it exists and that it's very big, deep, blue, and pretty.

It was also very sunny.
 Now we also know that it was created by a huge volcanic eruption!  After the eruption, the ground that had been on top of a magma chamber could no longer support its own weight so it collapsed, forming the crater.  Centuries of rainfall and snow accumulated in the crater, and at some point another volcano erupted and created Wizard Island.

We also know that most of the trees on the rim are called whitebark pine, one of the only species that can survive the harsh, long winters (44 feet of snow in a year!) and strong winds from the west.

The gift shop did not have any bells!  I always buy a bell when I travel.  But I also started buying Christmas ornaments when Justin and I got married, so I got a really cool one for Crater Lake.  I forgot to take a picture of it so I'll have to post that tomorrow.

There are all kinds of hiking trails around Crater Lake, but we didn't feel up to any of them.  The elevation is high enough that we really felt the lack of oxygen (I put my oximeter on both our fingers while we were driving around, and both of us had pretty low O2 sats).  So we just drove around the rim, stopping at overlooks  and walking around a little here and there.  It takes a long time to go around - it's a 33-mile drive just around the rim.

That "little" rocky formation in the water is called Phantom Ship Island.  It's the peak of yet another mountain in the crater.  It is seriously old.

There is still snow on the mountain, but not a lot.

Afterward, we continued southwest.  The drive was absolutely beautiful, trees all the way.  I learned from Justin that the parts of Return of the Jedi that were set on Endor were actually filmed in that part of the country (Northern California).  It's so lush and green and the way the light sprinkles down through the trees is just dazzlingly beautiful.

This picture is so lame compared to how it really was.

Finally, we left Oregon behind and entered California.  The first sign I saw was not a "welcome to California sign" but a "littering $1000 max fine" sign (tried to get a picture but it was blurry).  Then, once that rule had been established, we were welcomed.

I kept wondering if we would see any redwoods on the way to Crescent City, where we stopped for the night.  Justin was driving at this point, so my eyes were pretty much glued to the window as I looked at the tallest trees and tried to determine if any of the were redwoods.  How would I know?  Justin said they weren't.

Then we saw a sign: Redwoods National and State Parks.  I started to get excited.  Justin still wasn't sure there would be any redwoods in sight, but then -

but THEN -


Here and there at first, but more and more as we drove.  Huge, wide, tall, and unbelievably gorgeous.  I'm pretty sure I didn't speak or breathe for several minutes after I first saw them.  I'm not sure if it's because I have dreamed of seeing redwoods from as far back as I can remember, or if there is some innate majesty or energy or something about being in the presence of something so grand and ancient., but I had a visceral reaction to the sight of them.  Finally I regained enough presence of mind to attempt to take a few pictures.

And then, very abruptly, we were out of the forest and closing in on the coast.  We found our hotel, walked to Denny's for a quick bite, and came back, with a few travel guides for the Redwoods in tow.  Tomorrow we're going to take the Avenue of the Giants to see more.  My heart is doing an Olympic gymnastics routine in anticipation.

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