Continuing from where I left off in Portland…
I hit the road for Crater Lake with a plan to stop for lunch in Eugene.
It was a cute town with arts and crafts cottages and a tiny co-op market that reminded me of Austin’s. But that’s the most I can say about it, as I pretty much zipped right through.
The landscape started out pretty piney and only grew pinier the further south and east I went. But eventually, as I turned onto the 10 or 15 mile road that led into the park, the trees gave way to a barren landscape that is technically a desert covered with pumice and ash from a volcanic explosion a very long time ago.
And then I turned onto the 33 mile-long rim road, where there are 30-something viewpoints at which you can get out of your car and look down upon the lake from every possible angle.
I knew I only had four hours in the park since I needed to get to Bend by that night. I had read that one of the best views is from the top of Watchman Trail, which is a one and a half hour roundtrip hike. Sadly, Watchman Trail had closed that same day for refurbishment, and all the other trails to high lookout points were hours long, so I decided to head straight for the Cleetwood Cove trail instead. That trail, which only takes an hour roundtrip (but is a steep climb back up), is the only legal trail down to the shoreline.
The water is so blue because it is not fed by any river; it’s totally enclosed by the mountains around it. The lake was formed almost 8,000 years ago when a mountain collapsed on itself after a volcanic eruption.
After seeing the lake from top to bottom and all the way around, I headed northeast for Bend, a very cute town that I only later learned is the site of simmering conflict between the long-time Oregonians and an influx of well-off Californians who are driving up prices.
Bend is in the high desert and the air was pleasantly crisp and pine-tinged that night. The next morning, I left early for Smith Rock State Park, which looked like a mini Grand Canyon popping up out of nowhere.
It was stunning. I felt like I was in a Western and that at any moment two horses carrying cowboys or outlaws would appear from around the bend in the rock.
This particular rock formation and the river that runs through it were, like Crater Lake, caused by volcanic activity – first, an explosion, and then flows of basalt lava over thousands of years.
Although I walked down to the trailheads and wandered around a little, I didn’t do any actual hiking because I had a six hour drive ahead of me to Boise.
I’ll talk about Boise in my Idaho post, coming up after this one. For now, let’s skip right over it and head north to Pendleton, which I passed through on my way back to Portland. (I took route 84 from just outside Boise to Portland, and route 20 – which is much further south – from Bend to Boise.)
Before entering Pendleton I visited the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, a tribal-run museum dedicated to the history, present, and future possibilities of the Native American tribes living in this area. Photography wasn’t allowed inside and the building exterior was hard to capture well, so I took a picture of the lovely landscape surrounding it instead.
Then I drove on to Pendleton, home to the famous woolen mills, and took a look inside their vast factory store.
It was packed with people, probably because the town was in the midst of its biggest event of their year, the Round-Up. I had no idea what the Round-Up was or that it was happening until the night before, when I could barely find a hotel room in a town 70 miles away because of the overflow crowds.
I learned the history of the Round-Up in the Tamastslikt museum. Apparently a hundred years ago, Native Americans and white settlers started hosting a rodeo, pow-wow, and a bunch of other assorted hoopla together. It’s viewed with pride by the town as an enduring example of the friendship and brotherhood possible between the two groups, but I am really uncomfortable with the concept of rodeos so I stayed away from that part and just walked around the town.
Pendleton, like the rest of Oregon, is full of amazing antique stores. The one below made me teary-eyed because it had the same exact musty smell as my grandparents’ house had. It was also piled high with stuff from my grandparents’ era, much of it junk – but old, interesting, well-worn junk.
I loved it and the old lady keeping watch over it with her yappy dogs.
Pendleton’s main street is appropriately Western-looking.
In addition to the rodeo, there were bands and food stalls up and down the streets in the town’s center.
I lingered far too long looking around, and then I looked at the time and realized I had to get on the road stat if I wanted to get back to Portland without falling asleep at the wheel.
On the way out of town, I happened to drive by the stadium where the rodeo was taking place, and I could heard the announcer and the wild cheers of the crowd from my rolled down windows.
Then I drove back to Portland by way of the Dalles, where I had told myself I would fill up my gas tank. It was only when the digital screen between my oil and gas gauge started flashing me warnings that I realized I had forgotten to get gas and had fourteen miles left in the tank. And I was in the middle of nowhere. This is what my dashboard looked like when I finally pulled into the first gas station I found, twenty miles outside of Portland.
One mile left in the tank. Clearly I had not been responsible for a car in many, many years.
By the way, the gas station I found was actually a country mart at the top of a steep curvy road that I kept thinking I would crap out on. The gas came from an ancient-looking free-standing receptacle that looked like it belonged in one of the antique stores I loved so much. But the next gas station was not for another twelve miles.
Nothing like a little knuckle-biting adventure to end a road trip…