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Our plan for the day was to drive out to Crater Lake, a distance of 246 miles which would take a little over four hours.

We visited the Information Centre on our way out of Lincoln city because we wanted to make sure that Crater Lake was open. On the map, it said that it was closed in winter and it would have been a long way to go if we couldn’t get in. They not only assured us that it was open but also suggested that we drive out of town past the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

The plaque is headed ‘Lincoln Statue – The spirit of Lincoln is here’ and says that shortly after five North Lincoln County towns consolidated in 1965, the newly formed Lincoln City, named by school children, acquired a fitting symbol – this 14-foot high, bronze statue ‘Lincoln on the Prairie’. The statue was given to the City by Anna Hyatt Huntington, considered the country’s foremost equestrian sculptors. And it’s really very lifelike and beautifully sculpted. It goes on to say, ‘To the people of Lincoln County … as sharers in the noble history of the Old Oregon Territory, of which, in 1849, Abraham Lincoln was asked to be the governor …’

We discovered two things before we left the city. One was that no-one seemed able to tell us anything very remarkable about the city or the surrounding area, which was disappointing. And secondly, when we filled up with petrol we found out that Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states in the US where it’s actually ‘illegal’ to fill up your own car at the pump! Suzi got quite a fright when the forecourt attendant told her sternly ‘not to touch the pump’. When we enquired, we found out that in these two states you drive up to the pump and sit in the car while they do everything for you! It worked for us! We thought that meant leaving a tip but that’s apparently not the case – it’s to give more people employment!

And so we set off on our long drive to Crater Lake, highly recommended to us by Henry, before I left London. It started to rain as we drove out but we’d heard that there was a band of rain crossing the west coast which wasn’t expected to venture east so we were confident that we’d pass through it quickly, which we did.

The countryside was a bit like the prairies in South Dakota until we suddenly and very unexpectedly came upon the Lowell Covered Bridge on Cascade Highway 58 which spans one of the forks of the Willamette River.

At 180 feet in length, this is the longest covered bridge in Oregon. It was once the site of a mill pond at the town of Westfir and connected the lumber mill to its office.

The lake was glorious and is obviously a gateway to a number of recreational activities for the town. A welcome encouraged people to enjoy the Fall colours, to travel the Willamette Pass in winter and to play in the snow, to mountain bike in the Spring, camp at Fall Creek and water ski at Dexter Lame or picnic at the annual Lowell Blackberry Jam Festival!

From here the landscape began to change and we not only started to climb (ending up at 5,000 feet) but began to be surrounded by trees of every description, providing stunning views, towering over us on the roadside

And they stretched into the distance as far as the eye could see. Soon we turned into the North Entrance Station off Highway 230 at 5850 feet (it was getting colder!). For $10 we could enter the Park for a week – amazing value.

The first sight that met our eyes was the pumice desert, stretching away into the distance.

With high peaks like Desert Cone, at 6672 feet, rising above the pumice desert.

Other peaks surrounded it on all sides.

DSC03392And there was plenty of evidence of the history of the area.

Like all good tourists, we drove to the Lookout Tower on Rim Trail on the Western edge of the lake, and stared down at the amazing view in front of us. Henry had not been exaggerating! This was an astonishing sight.

Crater Lake is a caldera lake, a large volcanic crater formed by a major eruption which led to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano, and is famous for its deep blue colour and water clarity. The lake partly fills the nearly 2,148-deep caldera that was formed around 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the volcano, the 12,000 foot Mount Mazama. Over the next three to four hundred years, smaller eruptions sealed the floor, allowing rain and snowmelt to fill the basin and create Crater Lake. There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake but the evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate such that the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years. At 1,943 feet, the lake is the deepest in the United States, and the seventh or ninth deepest in the world, depending on whether average or maximum depth is measured.

Neither my camera nor my vantage point could take in the extent of the lake so I downloaded this photo from the web site.

Two islands are in Crater Lake but we saw only Wizard Island, formed from a cinder cone that erupted after Crater Lake began to fill with water. While having no indigenous fish population, the lake was stocked from 1888 to 1941 with a variety of fish. Several species have formed self-sustaining populations.

It was clear to see that the surface of the tiny islands in front of Wizard Island below us were comprised of volcanic material, too hostile to sustain much in the way of vegetation.

Although it was actually very cold (and I’d left my coat in the car) I couldn't drag myself away from the spot and had to celebrate just being there. As Henry did for us, we can both highly recommend the Park, Crater Lake and Wizard Island as ‘must see’ destinations.

Mazama is one in a long line of Cascade Range volcanoes extending from northern California into British Columbia. From here on a clear day you can see three prominent Cascade volcanoes, Union Peak, Mr. McLoughlin, and snow-capped Mt. Shasta which we saw later (on the left of the photo) when we drove on down to Red Bluff in the fading light.

Cascade Range volcanoes have produced most of the historic eruptions in the contiguous United States at an average of one or two per century. Most of these peaks have been heavily eroded by glaciers and several still carry a mantle of ice.

Leaving the lake behind us, we set off to drive as far as we could south so that our journey to Yosemite the following day wasn’t too arduous. The sunset over the mountains was stunning.

Suzi and I both thought this was a pretty good photo of the sunset. Suzi took it while hanging out of the window of the car which was travelling at about 120kph and passing fast moving giant semis!

And the rising moon was pretty spectacular too!

We could have headed for Weed on the way back to the coast but we wanted to spend two days at Yosemite so needed to get as far south as possible each day. This added 130 miles to our outward journey but a further 73 miles would take us down to Red Bluff so we opted to head there. We’d heard that Weed has suffered the most appalling forest fire just two weeks earlier and imagined that the locals would still be reeling. So we stopped there for dinner. But after a quick dinner where the food was delicious but the service was appalling, we were glad we’d made the decision to press on to Red Bluff. The hotel was another Hampton Inn Hotel, this time The Hampton Inn & Suites, Red Bluff, 520 Adobe Road, Red Bluff 96080. Hampton Inn Hotels are beginning to be our chain of hotels of choice if available, as they give us great service and there is every amenity we could ask for.

Lincoln City OR to Red Bluff CA, USA – 29 September 2014

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