30 September 2012

2012 WILD WEST to Oregon 5 - High on Crater Lake


We drove 520 miles from Ritzville WA to Crater Lake OR to Ashland OR. Left about 9am and got settled into our hotel about 9:30pm. That was 9 hours 54 minutes of driving time per the GPS. Lowest elevation around 128 feet along the Columbia River and highest was over 6,000 feet near Crater Lake.


Finally seeing something other than cornfields and rolling hills, it was a pleasure to be in the mountains, green leaf and evergreen trees, multi-colored wild flowers (instead of mostly yellow). Fall not evident yet. Seeing lots of trains. Counting cars and most have 90-130. Usually multi engines (two or three) and no cabooses any more. Back to cows. I love hollering "MOOOO" out the window. They always turn to look. 

Arrived at the Columbia River area of OR. Followed it a ways and stopped at several scenic lookouts. It is a mighty river. It may not be as long as the Mississippi, but it is broad, blue, and beautiful. Tug boats pushing bigger boats up and down the river. A huge dam releasing water at a reasonable pace. 

Windy. Many, many, many turbines lining the north side of the river. Like huge white flowers on a farm, nicely spaced. Must be thousands. Very impressive. The most we've seen in a bunch ever.

Forging south, turned off the freeway in the tiny town of Rufus onto an OR Scenic Byway (US-97). Signs along the road warn of deer and ELK. We got a decent view of Mt. Hood, but it was hazy and cloudy today.

Arrived at a smallish town named Madras OR. Hungry and spotted a triple-D type (you know Guy Fieri from Food Network) dive. It was Mexican and we've been craving "out west" Mexican for years. We ordered our faves--veggie burrito & margarita for Deb and chili rellenos & cerveza for Mike. We were not disappointed. IT WAS GOOD!

Continued on to Crater Lake (one of the must-sees on this trip). We were down to two clicks left on the gas meter, so fueled up at Crescent OR just before going into Crater Lake National Park and really glad we did because we did not see another gas station for over 80 miles. At one point going down the hill from Crater Lake our MPG average was showing 61.8 MPG. That was the best MPGs we'd ever seen on the Prius, but it didn't stay that way very long as we started back up hill to Mt. Ashland.

For years we have been yearning to see Crater Lake. We had gotten close several times on our trips to Ashland to the Shakespeare Festivals. But today was THE day. And today was national "Public Park" day, so we did not have to pay the $10 park fee. Bonus!

Although we were not able to get reservations in the Lodge, Crater Lake did not let up down. This lake is the result of an old volcano thats "lid" caved in after it became inactive. So almost perfectly round with a little island to one side. Views all along the rim were outstanding.

Water was not as blue as expected until we got to the Lodge. From that angle it was that purest, icy blue you see in photos. Went into the park lodge--chateau-style built with huge logs, fireplaces roaring, cocktails and soup bowls in the lobby for those that could not get into the restaurant, rocking chairs on the outdoor veranda watching sunset on Crater Lake. Can check this off our bucket list. Outstanding!

But (always a but) the night drive between C.L. and Ashland was a bear. After dark, narrow windy road, lots of traffic, an unknown road to us. Delayed for a while due to an accident scene. Two motorcyclists misjudged a turn or something. Lots of flashing lights and emergency vehicles. Weird, in the middle of this pristine forest. Glad the clean-up crew was quick. Hope no one hurt. Passed through Shady Cove where we will return tomorrow to see the Armstrongs. Happy to arrived at the hotel in Ashland. The Best Western Bard's Inn was not a particularly inviting lodging. Basic, pricy, but at least clean and right in downtown. B.W. went back down a notch from Ritzville.


We have been watching for wind turbines all along our route. Want to see more of that new eco-technology. Have seen one here and there. One at a MN shopping mall. One at a stadium. But once we hit the Oregan Columbia River corridor, they were everywhere. Bravo OR, for best use of wind farms so far. And OR ties with MN for best rest areas, as well.

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