Day 24 – Tuesday, July 23

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The Tobester: I hope he’s not not smiling because he knows he’s leaving us soon…

Some sad news today: Toby told us that he would likely be leaving us in the next week or so, as he wants to get back home to be able to focus on his work more (a freelance Web designer, he’s been working a lot on the road, and it’s been difficult for him).  He will likely stay with us through California (assuming we don’t detour to SanFran and/or LA), so we’ll still have his expertise to guide us through Yosemite and Giant Sequoia national parks.  At this point the plan is to drop him off near Lake Havasu, AZ, to visit his brother, Eli, who will be starting at the police academy there in a few weeks.  Toby will likely spend a few days with Eli before catching a flight back East from Vegas.  While Toby’s early departure isn’t totally unexpected, it’s a bit earlier than I thought he’d leave us, and it means that Aytan and I will have more time together on our own, which is both good and bad.

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Aytan during our hike up the outside of the crater rim

On the positive side, we had a very nice day today.  After leaving Eugene in the morning (thanks again to JJ Lefford for hosting us, and to my brother Mike for hooking us up with JJ), we drove south to Crater Lake National Park, where we arrived mid-afternoon.  While the crater lake is the focal point of the park, it’s only a tiny portion, but nonetheless it’s the most popular area and incredibly spectacular.  When we first viewed the lake we were totally amazed; the water was the richest blue we had ever seen.  We drove about one-third of the way around the rim of the crater to one of the visitor centers, where we read about the history of the crater lake and learned some incredible stats: the highest point on the crater rim is about 2,000 feet above the surface of the lake (almost one-and-a-half times the height of the Empire State Building!); the crater/lake is 5-6 miles across at its widest; and the lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep at its lowest point and holds about 5 trillion (that’s “trillion” with a “t“) gallons of water.   You could pee in that thing forever and never feel a warm spot.

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The deep blue of Crater Lake

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Crater Lake: bluer than my shirt

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To get a better view of the lake and the surrounding park (and to get some exercise), we hiked up a trail from the visitors center to the top of the rim.  The trail was about 1.7 miles long (3.4 miles round-trip), but the vertical gain was 1,000 feet, putting us around 1,900 feet above the lake.  The views were spectacular — not only of the crater lake in front of us, but of much of the rest of the park behind us.  I was very proud of Aytan, who like me has a slight fear of heights.  Despite the  fact that the drop on the crater side was nearly 2,000 feet — and pretty steep at that — Aytan was fearless and seemed to enjoy the hike and the views as much as Toby and I did.  In addition to the extraordinary views of the crater lake and the surrounding mountains in the park, we got an extra bonus: on the hike up to the crater rim we saw a lone deer eating grass and drinking water from a melting snowpatch (yes, there’s still some snow here in late July).

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A deer dribbling water after drinking from a snowpatch on the backside rim of Crater Lake

We finished the hike around 6:30 p.m. and, after a visit to one of the gift shops and a quick peek inside the Crater Lake Lodge, started our drive out of the park.  We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in one of the park villages a few miles from the crater, and shortly after getting back in the car saw one of the most spectacular sunsets; the sky looked like balls of cotton candy on fire.  It was amazing, and although we took photos, we knew that they would never compare to the actual sight, so we enjoyed what we could before the sky turned dark.

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A spectacular sunset over the trees in Crater Lake National Park

Then it was another 65 miles or so, and 90 minutes, south to Medford, our destination for the evening.  When we arrived in Medford we were still stuffed from dinner, so when we came upon a Dairy Queen on the way to a motel we found online, we were relieved to find that the DQ had closed 10 minutes earlier.  However, the motel was in a seedy part of town, so we left Medford for South Medford, where a Motel 6 awaited us.  Unfortunately, on the way we passed another DQ, whose drive-in window was still open, so we were obligated to partake in our second DQ of the day (we had stopped at one in Pleasant Hill, OR, before lunch).  Then as we pulled in to the Motel 6, we were horrified to see that it shared a parking lot with yet another DQ!  Fortunately, we took advantage of our 2-hour rule: We are not obligated to stop at a DQ if we stopped at one in the prior two hours.  However, if it’s open when we leave tomorrow morning, we are obligated to stop in… so here’s to hoping that we can get our tired, lazy asses out of bed before 9am…

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