We left home at 8:30AM, but quickly had our first emergency (what is it with our summer trips this year being cursed). Our trailer had a tire issue that would force us to a Big O Tires in downtown Sacramento. What we thought would be a 45 minute job sent us for a brief walk to a Java City for a mid-morning snack. Then we walked couple of more blocks to Capitol Park where the kids enjoyed running, the rose garden, and spending a bit of time discussing war, soldiers, etc at the War Memorials. Back at Big O we would learn our troubles were worse than feared and it would be longer. Equipped with a laptop loaded with movies we would create a movie theatre in a corner of the waiting room. And after one show we would cross the street to California Pizza Kitchen and with a quick call enjoy lunch with a friend who worked downtown.
Finally on the road at 2PM we had a back-up campsite in Redding at Mountain Gate RV Park in case we didn’t think we would make it to Crater Lake by dark. A little bummed my research lunch stop at Dam Burger was early evening when we made it to Redding. But with 100+ degrees and daylight until at least 9:30pm we pressed on with Mt Shasta looming in view. Dinner was the always convenient McDonald’s with a play structure with one of the best views in the United Stated we are guessing as it sat at Shasta’s base in Weed, CA. We pulled into Crater Lake at 9:30PM. Gate house and check-in already closed our friends who were joining us had made it in time and left a note with our site# on the communication board. They had also left us with a warning the mosquitoes were bad.
Bad would turn out to be an understatement. With melting snow and 90+degree days it meant prime breeding. And the second we stepped out of the car we were attacked. Sprayed down we quickly popped up and headed to our friend’s campfire for the added protection of smoke.
Breakfast the next morning would be spent huddled inside our trailer avoiding the biting. And it was a comfort once we loaded up and started climbing towards to Ranger Station the mosquitoes lessened. The Steel Visitor's Center (aka Ranger Station) was packed with folks asking questions, etc.. We found our way to the auditorium for a 18 minute video on Crater Lake’s history and snow removal process. We also grabbed Junior Ranger paperwork for the kids to complete to earn a badge. Then we headed up to the rim.
Tempted to park immediately upon arrival we didn’t and found more parking around the Rim Visitor's Center and closer to the Rim and Lodge. We walked the edge and enjoyed the view from Sinnott Memorial Overlook, then took a snack from the rocking chairs lining the deck at Crater Lake Lodge. With raindrops starting to fall we headed back to mosquito alley aka camp. Other than the paved trails there wasn't much for a 3 & 5yo as well as our friend’s dog who was in tow.
Back at camp we lit a Off® PowerPad Lattern and we were mosquito free for the afternoon or reading and chatting tucked away under our awning while rain showers passed in and out of the area. There were bike rides around the campgrounds and stops at a very well-equipped store for cortisone for our 3yo who was being munched on more so than the rest of us. At first we thought we were quite lucky to be on the “E” loop with the amphitheater until we learned all the programs (posted on the bathroom doors) occurred at 9:30PM well after our children’s bedtimes. Disappointing… : ( Speaking of bathrooms though it did seem they sprayed there a few times a day as the mosquitoes were minimal once hidden away inside. There is 1-2 bathrooms per loop. Unfortunately on of ours was being remodeled. And showers were a coin operated and a bit further away. If we returned we liked site “F9” for its size and location to a small creek. Otherwise we would return E8 or if traveling with another group would choose E5 & E8 so the kids could venture between sites without wandering onto the road.
The next day we would pack up quickly to escape the biting and head for the Rim Village Cafe and Gifts and to turn in the kids’ Ranger papers. Sadly we didn’t know what a big deal it was and we have no pictures or video. But the kids stood alongside the Rangers with their little hands held high and was issued the oath “to protect Crater Lake….” Needless to say the experience was quite the grin producer. Definitely worth the 6 pages of fun learning activities. They program paperwork said 6-12 years old. But with our help they let our 3 & 5 yo old participate.
We did note there was not a single campsite reserved for more than 2 nights. With lots of snow, minimal hiking trails open, or other activities it seemed a lot of folks were just passing through. There was one activitiy I should mention that we did not do which was the boat ride. On the opposite rim (~15mi drive) you could for a fare sum of money take a boast nearly 2 hour boat ride around the lake and to Wizard Island. We opted out with our children after learning there was a steep hike down to the boat launch. So steep they said it would take 30minutes going down and an hour and a half coming out equivalent to 70+ steps and 700+ elevation gain.
Crater Lake was amazing. Definitely worth the trip.