The forecast for the next day said 30 percent chance of rain. Blake and I figured that a 30 percent chance wasn’t very high, so we set out to Crater Lake the next day.
The weather was a bit overcast in Roseburg, OR when we woke up, but we still had a two and half hour drive to go before our destination and I assumed that at some point along the way it would clear. We headed down and out of town on the Umqua Valley Scenic Byway. It is by far one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever traveled along. The rushing river dotted by the occasional white water raft was a clear emerald green. Clear right down to the rocky bottom. Along the byway, there are numerous waterfalls to stop at and hike to. But I made the executive decision to carry on to make sure we had enough time to see the lake. If time allowed on the way back, we could stop.
The weather started to change half way there and the temperature was quickly dropping. It started to sprinkle, then drizzle, then the fog rolled in. We were worried.
Our worries were escalating by the fact that we had not passed one gas station since leaving the boundaries of Roseburg. We left with half a tank of gas and luckily an economical car, but the concern was still lingering.
We finally pulled into the south entrance of Crater Lake and paid our $10 with no mention from the ranger of low visibility that day. I feel that when you can’t see the main attraction, you either notify the people pulling in of the circumstances or you let them in at no charge.
The fog was thickening and it was harder to see in front of us as we pulled through the gate. We eventually found the Visitors Center snuggled under a mass of snow up to its roof. Visitors were outside shivering in their shorts and t-shirts wondering where the warm weather was they had left at a lower elevation.
Layered under my fleece, down vest and rain coast, I was staying warm and dry despite the dismal conditions. The main point of stopping at the visitors center was to get my national park passport stamped. And for good measure and proof that I was there, I stamped it twice with two different stamps.
We glanced at the maps and diagrams of the lake and surrounding area, and went back to the car not knowing whether to laugh or scream at our circumstance. Flash back to weeks before our trip and our diligent effort to look at the Crater Lake webcam everyday in anticipation of seeing it in real life. This was beginning to be a major let down.
At Rim Village, we parked the car and struggled up more snow to the building. Inside was a cafeteria and large gift shop. I browsed through it looking for gifts that might make it through airport security, but nothing was appealing. We climbed upstairs to where the gift shop man directed us for more information on Crater Lake and a view of the lake, but the room was designed to be for big groups picnicking, and the “more information” looked like science fair tri-fold poster boards. And there was no view as we peered out the window into more fog.
We went back outside and hiked our way up the street to the famous Crater Lake Lodge, passing other disgruntled tourists along the way. The lodge was overflowing with people waiting patiently for the fog to clear before they could get a fantastic view of the lake. I headed for the well-known rocking chairs outside and plopped myself down in what was now pouring rain. I stared into the fog and just imagined what lay behind all of the mist thousands of feet below.
When I was nearly soaked, we headed back to the car and got a hot chocolate along the way. We took a few more funny pictures of me shaking my fist and angrily kicking the snow. It was supposed to be one of the bigger highlights on our trip and it had quickly turned into one of the bigger disappointments.
We hopped in the car with the hopes of being able to drive the 125 miles back to Roseburg without running out of gas. With the rain following us back to the B&B, and the sad disappointment of our day at Crater Lake, we didn’t make it to any of the waterfalls on the way back. But we vowed that one day we would return back to what is supposed one of the most amazing spectacles and that we would stop at the waterfalls along the way.