September 6-9

Crater Lake & Lava Beds

After Labor Day we spend four days touring Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon and also Lava Beds National Monument in extreme Northern California.



Day 1 - Tuesday, September 6 - Drive up to Crater Lake

We wake up early around 5am and we were on the road early by 7:30am. It was cool and overcast in the upper 50s. I unfortunately began to catch a head cold the night before we left, but it didn't effect any of our plans.

We drove on 101 across the Bay Bridge then on 80 toward Vacaville. Once we past Fairfield the sun broke out and the temps quickly rose. We drove north toward Redding and stopped at the famed Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay. This unique metal and glass bridge designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava spans the Sacramento River. It was just before noon when we reached Redding and the bridge and the temperature was about 90 degrees and dry. We walked across the bridge and walked down to the Sacramento River.

On the drive north we crossed Shasta Lake and then stopped at Castle Craigs State Park. We hiked up to the vista point for clear views of the Castle Crags and Mount Shasta. Toby and his family stopped here when they were very young.

We then drove north on I-5, and then exited on 97 heading northeast toward Klamath Lake. There were 3 road delays due to one-lane road construction, that prolonged our trip about 30 minutes. The temperature was hoving around 80-85 degrees for most of the drive.

We stopped and refueled in Klamath Lake. From there were drove to Crater Lake. It was around 5:15pm when we arrive at Crater Lake National Park and checked into our cabin in Mazama Village which is about 1,100 feet below the rim of the crater. We stayed at the cabin I-2.

After we unloaded our car we drove up to see the lake and visit Rim Village although manyof the stores and cafes were closed. We walked along the rim trail taking in the spectacular views in the late afternoon sun. After taking numerous photos we walked to Crater Lake Lodge and made dinner reservations for the following night. We then drove back down toward Mazama Village and ate a buffet dinner at Annie Creek Cafe.

  • Driving north on 505 in the Central Valley

  • Mt. Lassen and hot air balloons along our drive

  • The Sundial Bridge in Redding

  • FWEE

  • The bridge spans the Sacramento River

  • Looking up at the Sundial

  • Another view of the sundial

  • In the shadow

  • On the shores of the Sacramento River

  • Sun shining through the glass bridge panels

  • Are these cables really holding up this bridge?

  • Toby and Alan at the Sundial Bridge in Redding

  • Mount Shasta

  • Toby and Mount Shasta from Castle Crags State Park

  • Alan and Mount Shasta from Castle Crags State Park

  • Castle Crags

  • Old Murphy photo of the kids at Castle Crags

  • Toby years later at the same location

Closeup view of Castle Crags from the vista point. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Alan and Castle Crags

  • Toby at Castle Crags

  • Fwee at Castle Crags

  • Toby and Alan with a view of Mount Shasta

  • Black Butte cinder cone by Mount Shasta as we approach Weed, Ca.

  • Mount Shasta as seen from Highway 97 north of Weed

  • Toby driving by Klamath Lake

  • Mt. McLoughlin across from Klamath Lake

  • Our cabin at Mazama Village in Crater Lake

  • Cabin I, room 2 at Mazama Village

  • Late afternoon at Crater Lake

  • Toby at Crater Lake

Late afternoon at Crater Lake, see our shadows on lower right. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Wizard Island in the background in Crater Lake

  • Peacful quiet afternoon at Crater Lake... no crowds

  • Wildflowers were abundant everywhere

  • Trying a different jumping style

  • Touch your toes jump

  • Crater Lake Lodge on the rim of the crater.

  • We enter to make dinner reservations for the following evening

  • Warming up by the fireplace at the Lodge

  • Look at all the bugs we gathered on our 9 hour drive!

Day 2 - Wednesday, September 7 - Drive around Crater Lake

That morning we pack up our belongings for the day and around 9am we drive up toward Rim Village for the cafe. At the cafe we had breakfast, I bought some fruit, yogurt and a muffin. We walked through the gift shop before heading out to the rim for photos.

We brought along photographs taken of the Murphy's at Crater Lake during their early youth. We tried to re-enact the photo. We eventually found the exact location where Toby sat 33 years ago! We took numerous shots.

We then walked to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook, located on a the cliffs edge high above the lake. This located afforded spectacular views of the lake. The sky was dotted with clouds which reflected on the lake like a mirror, a tell tell sign of afternoon thunderstorms.

It was time to start our drive around the lake, we drove clockwise first stopping at North Junction lookout where the road forks out of the park. We then headed to our main destination, Cleetwood Cove on the northern rim of the lake. This is the only trail that leads down to lake level. We parked the car in the almost full lot and then prepared for our hike.

The hike was 1.1 miles down 700 feet to lake level. The downward hike, as expected, wasn't bad, before we knew it we were down at lake level. We found a nice rock past the boat dock to sit and relax. I stuck my feet in the cool water while snaking on our lunch. A couple of brave people jumped into the lake as if a rite of passage. During our lunch here were some aggressive chipmunks that wouldn't leave us alone, and often climbed my backpack searching for food handouts. We stayed at the cove until 1pm when about the clouds overhead started to thicken. We then did the 'fun' hike back up the steep grade. We both got hot and sweaty and removed our shirts along the way.

Once at the car and back on the road we continued our clockwise drive around the lake and made numerous stops along the way like Grotto Cove, Cloudcap, Pumice Castle and Phantom Ship Overlook.

We then drove on the 7 mile spur road to see the unusual spires called the Pinnacles and the new hike to a lush wildflower surrounded waterfall, Plaikni Falls. We also stopped at Sun Notch and Vidae waterfalls before heading back to the room. By now the thunderheads were numerous and verga can be seen pouring out of the thunderheads.

Before dinner we headed to the gift store at nearby Annie Creek where I bought a souveniour T-shirt. We then checked out the general store to see what food items they had, we bought snacks and a banana.

We then drove up to Rim Village around 7pm, we walk around the rim before heading to the Crater Lake Lodge. We rested on the rocking chairs on the deck facing Crater Lake. We watched the thick thunderhead clouds cover the lake. We then at in the Great Room and have drinks as slight sprinkles could be felt outside. We saw thunder and lightening lite up the sky on the opposite side of the lake. We had 8:15 dinner reservations. We had a nice dinner, one of the better dinners we've had at a national park restaurant. I was French onion soup, sirloin and stuffed sole. Toby had the wedge salad and seafood augratin.

  • Morning along the rim of Crater Lake

  • Murphy family photo at Crater Lake circa 1978

  • Toby 33 years later in the exact same location

  • Murphy family photo at Crater Lake circa 1978

  • Toby 33 years later in the exact same location

  • Morning along the rim of Crater Lake

  • Crater Lake and Wizard Island

  • When the sunlight hits the water just right... it seems to glow!

  • At Sinnott Overlook in Rim Village

  • At Sinnott Overlook in Rim Village

  • View of Crater Lake from North Junction Overlook

  • View of Crater Lake from North Junction Overlook

View of Crater Lake from Sinnott Overlook by Rim Village. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Hiking down 700 feet of Cleetwood Cove trail

  • Closer to lake level

  • Calm waters on the northern shore of the lake

  • Construction of a new dock at Cleetwood Cove

  • We find a quiet rock to relax and have lunch

  • Toby taking in the views of the lake at water level

  • Time to relax and have lunch

  • Soaking in some sun as it pops out between clouds

  • Cute but pesky little chipmunks everywhere

  • Crawfish in the lake

  • Lake trout can be seen through the clear water

  • My feet at the lake

  • It was tranquil relaxing by the lake

  • This cove was one of the few places to swim in the lake

  • Tour boats cruising the lake

  • Toby at Crater Lake

  • It was almost 80 degrees, time to tan

  • OK I had to too!

  • Now for the fun trek back up hill

  • My jazz hands

  • At the top of Cleetwood Cove trail

  • View of the lake from the eastern edge by Grotto Cove

  • View of the lake from the eastern edge by Grotto Cove

  • FWEE

  • View of the lake from the eastern edge by Grotto Cove

  • Highest overlook at Cloud Cap on the eastern rim at 7,960 feet.

  • Highest overlook at Cloud Cap on the eastern rim at 7,960 feet.

  • Cumulous clouds over Mt. Theilsen

  • Toby at the Pumice Castle overlook

  • At the Pumice Castle overlook

  • Look at Phantom Ship island

  • Spires at the Pinnacles

  • Pinnacle formations along Sand Creek

  • Valley full of pumice towers or pinnacles

  • Butterflies are free to fly

  • More pinnacle formations, most over 100 feet tall

  • Me at the Pinnacles Overlook

  • Plaikni Falls, a new trail at Crater Lake

  • Unusual clustering of blue butterflies by the river

  • Plaikni Falls

  • Toby at Plaikni Falls

  • Alan at Plaikni Falls

  • Toby taking in the scenery at Plaikni Falls

  • Closeup of the top of the falls

  • Lupins and other wildflowers along the rivers edge

  • Some flowers almost look arranged

  • Distant view of Klamath Valley from Crater Lake

  • Toby at the Sun Notch trail overlook

  • Clear view of Phantom Ship from Sun Notch Overlook

  • Mt. Thielsen looks perfectly symmetrical from the vantage point

  • Vidae Falls along Rim Drive

  • The complete Vidae Falls

  • Garfield Peak glows in red in the setting sun

  • Having a gin and tonic while waiting for dinner at Crater Lake Lodge

  • Thunder and lightening over the lake while waiting for dinner

  • Fabuluous dinner at Crater Lake Lodge one of the best we've had in a park.

Day 3 - Thursday, September 8 - Watchman's Peak, Drive to Klamath Falls

That morning after we checked out of the cabin we head up to Rim Village to have breakfast at the Rim Cafe and do last minute souveniour shopping.

The skies were much clearer than the previous day so we go to the rim to take photos. We also again visit the Sinnott Overlook. We then hit the road going clockwise around the lake again. We stop a couple of times before arriving at Watchmen Overlook (like Discovery Point).

After taking in the views from Watchmen's Overlook we hike up to the top of Watchmens Peak a .75 mile trail ascending over 400 feet to 8,013 feet to the fire lookout. Here we had panoramic views of the lake. We stayed a while soaking in the views before heading back down the peak.

Once back at our car we hit the road heading south and exit the park. It was just past noon at this time. On our drive toward Klamath Falls first stopping at Fort Klamath to visit the old buildings.

Once in Klamath Falls we tried to track down Toby's uncle former house. We were close but didn't have an exact address to pin down the location on the street. We then went to downtown Klamath and ate lunch at Subway along Main street.

We then checked in at Microtel around 3pm (a inexpensive yet highly rated new hotel in town), we unpacked some of our stuff then hit the pool. The weather was sunny with temperatures in the mid 80s, perfect pool temps. There was nobody by the pool, it was nice we had the pool all to ourselves. For dinner we again hit downtown Klamath Falls first stopping at the train  park by the lake and then dinner at El Palacios. I had two margaritas and fajitas, Toby had the two enchilada plate.

Panoramic view of Crater Lake from Sinnott Viewpoint on a clear cloudless day. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Clear morning along the rim, no thunderstorm clouds ... yet

  • Clear blue waters of Crater Lake

  • View from Rim Village

  • View from Rim Village

  • Calm waters as seen from Sinnott Overlook

  • Wizard Island seen from Discovery Point

  • Alan at Sinnott Overlook

  • Toby at Sinnott Overlook

  • At Discovery Point

  • Looking up at Watchman's Peak from the Overlook

  • Wizard Island from Watchman's Overlook

  • Wizard Island from Watchman's Overlook

  • Hiking up the almost mile trail up 420 feet to the top of Watchman's Peak

  • Snow patches along the route

  • Snow patches along the route

  • Butterflies are free to fly

  • Toby at Watchman's Peak fire lookout

  • Jumping lotus position

View of Wizard Island as seen from top of Watchman's Peak, 8,013 feet. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Toby and Alan at Watchman's Peak

  • Toby at Watchman's Peak

  • Wildflowers along the trail up to the peak

  • Exiting the park, heading toward Klamath Falls

  • Post Office at the Fort Klamath museum

  • Jail at Fort Klamath museum

  • Horses along the road to Klamath Falls

  • Our room at Microtel in Klamath Falls

  • Cooling off the pool

  • Nice to cool off in the mid 80 degree weather

  • Quiet and relaxing by the pool

  • FWEE over the pool

  • Veterans Memorial Park in Klamath Falls

  • Veterans Memorial Park in Klamath Falls

  • Dinner at El Palacio downtown Klamath Falls

  • Our motel... Microtel

Day 4 - Friday, September 9 - Lava Beds National Monument, Drive home

After we checked out of the motel we drove an hour south to Lava Beds National Park arriving before 11am. We stop at the vista overlooking the Homestead lava flow before driving to the visitor center. Once at the Visitor Center we pay for park dues and then change clothes to prepare for caving. We change into pants, hiking shoes and bring a long sleeve shirt (although we never wore the shirt). We brought bike helmets for head protection which really saved the day! We both had head lamps and hand held flashlights.

First cave was the nearby intro cave, Mushpot. This cave had lighted trails and interpretive signs detailing the cave features. Many of the least challenging and popular caves were closed due to bat hibernation. Our second cave was the moderately difficult yet short Sunshine cave. This cave had numerous 'skylights' which lite up the cave in various intervals. This cave as well as all the other caves we visited were not lit up or visitor friendly as Mushpot Cave, and we were alone in most of our cave adventures. Our third cave was Sentinel Cave and this was our longest cave and the only 'one-way' cave in the park. We start at lower entrance, come out at upper entrance. Forth cave is Skull Cave, a cave with a massive opening that eventually led down steep stairs/ladders to a frozen ice pond. Our fifth cave was Merrill Cave, which also led deep down into a once frozen area, the temperature has changed in this caveover the years thus melting the ice.

After all our 'spelunking' we headed back to visitors center before heading out of the park mid afternoon.

We were on the road heading home, back on 97 south toward Weed then onto I-5 south. We again encountered a couple of road construction stops, but this time the delay was almost an hour! Once we were on I-5 the traffic was smooth all the way home. We watch thunderhead clouds grow in the distance threatening with inclement weather. The sunset while we were driving down the Central Valley and the heat dropped from over 100 to milder 80s. Once in the Bay Area we crossed the Bay Bridge and headed home to Menlo Park. Close to home we noticed wet roads, apparently it recently rained.

  • Entering Lava Beds National Monument

  • At the Devils Homestead lava flow overlook

  • At the Devils Homestead lava flow overlook

  • At the Visitor Center

  • Our first cave, the introductory Mushpot Cave

  • Going down the stairs into Mushpot Cave

  • Inside this well lit cave with descriptive displays

  • Toby entering the cave

  • The lava rock features were sharp

  • The cave aglow of red from the trail lights

  • Typical shape of a lava tube cave

  • These bike helmet with head lamps worked out perfectly

About to enter the darkness of 'Sunshine' cave. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Exiting Mushpot cave

  • Entering our next cave, Sunshine Cave

  • Toby entering this pitch black cave, no lights here.

  • Yup it sure is dark in here

  • Skylights dotted the cave, hence the name

  • Is there a way out from here?

  • Walk ways made portions easy to navigate although low ceilings are common

  • Approaching another skylight

  • That sure is a narrow passage

  • It's a kneel and crawl section

  • Crawling on rough lava, gloves and knee pads would have been nice

  • Cave wall awash in light from a skylight

  • On the trail to Sentinel Cave our longest cave

  • Entering Sentinel Cave

  • Entering Sentinel Cave

  • A small skylight lights up the cave

  • Cave formations along the ceiling looks like coral

  • A 'shelf' along the cave wall

  • What is inside these cracks?

  • Stairs lead up in the cave.

  • Toby heading upstairs to a higher portion of the cave

  • Up along the cave walls

  • FWEE, not easy jumping in a cave

  • The mammoth opening of Skull Cave

  • The ice pond deep inside Skull Cave, it sure was cold down here

  • Access to the ice pond no longer permitted

  • Climbing up the steep stairs/ladders from the ice pond

  • Exiting Skull Cave

  • Schonchin Butte a cinder cone with a watch tower

  • Sparkley metallic crystals on top of Merrill Cave

  • Heading deep down inside Merrill Cave

  • Exiting our last cave, Merrill Cave

  • The trail into Merrill Cave

  • Mount Shasta on our drive home just north of Weed

  • Toby driving by Mount Shasta

  • Hot temperatures common in the Central Valley on our drive home

The northern side of Mount Shasta as seen from Highway 97 just north of Weed, California. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)