States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Footie: Friday, June 18th

No school today!  Nathan was ready to play outside by 8am, not Jake, the football was starting: US vs Slovenia, it didn’t start well, US was down 2-0 at the half but really picked it up in the second half and scored two great goals and were unfortunately denied a third thanks to some dodgy refereeing, in what is being referred to as the ‘phantom foul’!

I took our four and Ciera to the library (so funny, first official day of school holidays and where do they want to go: the library, totally not my choice, all their own doing!) for a while before lunch but we were back in good time for the England match against Algeria.  It was sadly very unmotivated and after a seemingly rather lack-luster performance, the final score was 0-0 (a chance for us to reminisce about the time when my Dad, a staunch Burnley supporter, had recorded a match once and managed to avoid seeing the score.  As he was about to sit down and watch, my Mum, decidedly not a football supporter, commented that she didn’t know why he was bothering, because “there weren’t any goals!”  She’s still giving us a laugh today, love you Mum!).  Anyway, we won’t give up, there’s still hope and we’re a nation of optimists, so come on ENGLAND!

Spurred towards the joys of soccer, Jake and other assembled kids in the campground, spent the afternoon in the wonderful sunshine, playing soccer.  Caitlin was the referee and stood around with her clipboard, recording scores and supplying the players with drinks and snacks – a girl after my heart indeed!

Craters of the Moon NM: Thursday, June 17th

Today is our last official day of school before Summer School begins, aren’t we lovely?! I’d really like the kids to continue journaling every week, simply because I love to read their perspective of what was important to them from the previous week and also because I truly believe they’ll love to read through it later on. They generally don’t share that belief or my enthusiasm, regardless, the plan is that journaling will continue, along with some math; it’s too easily forgotten and I hate for all their hard work to go to waste.

They were eager to get outside after the rain of yesterday and were spurred into action after Ciera came knocking on the door before they’d started school (the World Cup is getting in the way of our usual early starts – too many games beginning at 8am!).

After hours of playing outside, we headed back to Craters of the Moon, this time, Ciera joined us, she was disappointed we were going to take the kids away so it was just as easy to have her come along – the truck’s big enough, what’s one more?!

We bypassed the Visitor Centre and drove out to the tree molds area. It was a windy one-mile hike along the fine lava beds to reach the tree molds but more than worth it. Initially, we saw a couple of deep trunk-shaped holes that once housed large trees. Cooling lava formed around the trees but was still hot enough to burn them down, so nothing remains of the actual tree. Evidently the lava was cool enough that it held its shape as the tree must slowly have burned – fascinating.

As we continued a little way along, we were able to see molds in the ground, much more typical of what we were anticipating seeing. These really looked just like a huge version of imprinting tree bark in playdoh! We had to keep on touching them to make sure they were in fact rock solid, it seemed as though we should have been able to squish them, such a bizarre sight.

From here, we passed the Lava Fields (the waves of lava are evident, you can just imagine them slowly coming to a halt as they cooled, really an awesome sight and so different from anything else) and drove towards the caves area. With flash lights in tow, we walked towards the various caves you are able to go into. Unlike at Lava Beds, it’s a bit of a trek over a very sloping pathway. We stopped at the first little cave: Dewdrop Cave and went in. It didn’t go very far back and was quite wet, but still gave a good picture of how the lava had formed this ‘tube’.

We were most excited to visit Boy Scout Cave, a little further along. We had heard that this was quite a challenge to get into but once in, you were rewarded by ice formations. We had heard correctly. Ciera and Caitlin decided against coming much further in than the entrance, it was quite dark, and they spent their time above ground! The rest of us scrambled over the slippery rocks, being extremely careful to watch our heads, I do think it would’ve been a good idea for the Rangers to have recommended helmets for this one; it was quite tricky. Once further in, the temperature really dropped and we could see many icicles, stalactites and ‘lavaites’ hanging from the ceiling, it was very cool (double entendre intended!).

The brochure gave a good description of Tube Formation:

The formation of tubes is a complex process dependent on eruption rate, topography, and the chemical and physical properties of the lava. Often, rather than flowing as a broad sheet, lava becomes restricted in channels. Lava channels usually form in the fastest moving part of a flow, along older lava channels, tubes, stream beds, or other depressions.

Once a channel stabilizes, a roof can form in a variety of ways. Congealing lava can fuse to the channel sides and accumulate until it bridges the channel. This crust thickens through overflows onto its surface and accretion of cooled lava on its underside. Or surface crusts may form on the lava, tear loose, and drift along until they reach a constriction, fuse, and bridge over the channel. In turbulent lava flows, splashing and overflow along the channel form levees which may arch over the channel and join.

Everyone was eager to get back to the campground for something to eat and to continue their plans for the day. For Dave and I, game 7 of the NBA Finals was starting and promised to be a nail-biter, for the kids, they were awaiting big-screen movie time at 8:30pm. The KOA offered the ice cream social every evening at 8pm, often followed by a movie, as it was quite late, we’d resisted the movie until today so they were excited to be able to watch. They showed Robots, which they’d seen before but were more than happy to watch again. It was great for us too as we were able to sit, undisturbed and watch the game. The Lakers ended up taking it from the Celtics in a ‘scream at the telly’ 4th quarter. I can’t believe how many sports are going on at the moment and Wimbledon starts on Monday!

Rain: Wednesday, June 16th

A day of rain…and of movies…and of wii. There were few complaints. They set up the wii in the KOA office with the huge movie screen; clearly this was a big hit, especially for Jake! Dave took them to the library for an hour at the end of the day and the librarian commented on how unusual it was to be getting this much rain. By looking at the fields full of watering devices, we could easily believe that natural water sources are rare.

Craters of the Moon NM: Tuesday, June 15th

After work, we drove out to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. We spent some time in the Visitor Center looking at the exhibits, picking up ‘Lunar Ranger’ books (not Junior Rangers this time but Lunar Rangers) and watching the movie overviews. We requested the movie with some of the Apollo 14 astronauts. They came to visit the area both pre-and post- their space flights. One of their comments was that the area is very similar to the moon’s vastness, if we could imagine it without the roads or any vegetation.

It is incredible that anything is able to grow in the cinders of the lava and even within the gaps in the thick, black lava rock. Surprisingly though, some plants do make it through and survive. We liked the tiny, purple/pink monkey flowers which almost rest on the surface and create a blanket of color on the otherwise, dark surface. The cinders must absorb the heat as we read that in the height of summer, temperatures on the ground can reach 150°F, add to this that the area receives very little rain and you really don’t have conditions conducive to plant life.

We decided to drive the 7-mile loop to see the huge fields. Particularly interesting were the two ‘young’ lava flows: Broken Top and Blue Dragon. In the Hawaiian language, pahoehoe means ‘ropy’, which is exactly how the lava looked. Geologists predict that the processes that created these flows are likely to generate future events; I was glad we were not there to witness it up close! There were general rumbles from the rear participants of the truck as we were driving, that they absolutely did not want to hike a trail – fine, OK, we’ll just look, get out now and again to read the informational signs, and be on our way.

All this being said, we pulled into the parking area at Inferno Cone, an enormous cinder cone and immediately one of them asked: “Can we climb to the top?” “Yes, I think you can, it indicates that there is a very steep half-mile trail to the top.” “Oh wow, that’s so cool, can we?!” “I guess so!” Out they jumped and were well on their way up before we had got ourselves together to follow them, having not anticipated going on a trail at all – so fickle these kids of ours! It was a great little hike to the top with incredible views of the lava fields, other cinder cones and spatter cones. The was a lone tree just off the top which looked so out of place as well as various shrubs, some of them covered with tent caterpillars – lots of them, it did look a tad disgusting but the kids were fascinated.

The cinders are quite crunchy and contain many gas bubbles or vesicles which make them very light in weight. We kept picking up different rocks and truly, they felt as though you had nothing in your hand. Apparently some are light enough to float on water. Thin layers of glass coat the cinders, creating prisms that refract and reflect light into millions of micro-rainbows, so beautiful.

We continued with the loop, stopping in at Devil’s Garden and checking out the cave area – we’ll be coming back later in the week to see anything we missed. On our way out, at the Visitor Center, the kids were sworn in as Lunar Rangers and received a very cool patch for their efforts.

Craters of the Moon/Arco KOA: Monday, June 14th

It was a gorgeous weather-day today, beautiful outside, so there was no way we could persuade the kids away to do anything other than play!  Sheri and Neil run the KOA and have a daughter, Ciera, who is almost the same age as Jake.  Her school had already finished for the summer so she was around every day and happy to have other kids to play with.  They started out by playing with the rabbit and washing her dog and ended up in the pool – I think it would’ve been smarter to start the day by wearing swimsuits really!

They also begged to be allowed to go on the banana bikes.  We’ve tended to be pretty frugal on this trip, not spending money on things like bike rentals, saving for bigger excursions and, well, rather unexcitingly, gas money!  I said I’d rent one for an hour and they could each have 15 minutes, thankfully Sheri offered to let them each have a bike for about half an hour, which was lovely of her and also made a lot more sense, given that they were different sizes and suited them all to have the correct size.  They had a blast, speeding around the pathways, it really looked fun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

From Winnemucca, NV to Arco, ID: Sunday, June 13th

We got out of the campground before 9am and drove towards Battle Mountain (Gateway to the Outback of Nevada – I can’t make this stuff up!), passing many cyclists, the uphills must have been torturous. Today’s journey was long, but pretty, many single lane roads, through fields upon fields of green, surrounded by mountains, many still covered with snow.

From out of nowhere, we suddenly came upon a small town with a couple of casinos. Their parking lots were full, it seemed very busy for having so little, kind of weird we thought. About a mile out of town though, we came to the state line and crossed into Idaho – state number 38 for us – and then we realized: gambling! This must be the ‘go-to’ destination for those living in Idaho who like to gamble and only have to cross just into their neighboring state. We also went back into Mountain Time, so back on Valentine Time, I guess we’ll be needing to change ‘our’ time at some point in the next couple of weeks. With only two months to go, we’ll need to be losing two hours somewhere along the line, before we get back on the east coast.

As we came closer to Arco, where we were staying, our route actually took us through the National Park site: Craters of the Moon, that we were planning to visit later in the week. It has a very similar look to Lava Beds, fields of lava rock as far as the eye could see; we were impressed that the kids also immediately realized this, even Nathan.

This week, we are staying at the Arco KOA, which has large grassy spots (in stark contrast to many KOA’s), a little playground and a pool. One of the first things Dave commented on was how quiet it is – we’re not in a flight path, near an airport, next to a freeway, near train tracks; it’s very peaceful. The campground also has a view of the local mountain, covered with numbers; these are the years of graduating classes, going back as far as 1923!

Most excitingly for the kids, there are other families here – HELLO summer holidays! As many schools have now finished for the year, the number of families we meet will obviously increase and the children are super happy about that. They quickly found friends and four families of children created all sorts of different games.

At 8pm, there was an ice-cream social. All the kids sat outside, lolling on the banana bikes, benches and ground, licking their ice-creams and chatting. I really wanted to take a photo but daren’t ruin the moment, it was a great sight.

Farewell Reno: Saturday, June 12th

The day began with a huge breakfast buffet at the Peppermill with Danielle’s family, Ron’s family, Pete’s extended family and Betsy and Harry, we were quite a formidable crowd but barely made a dent in the buffet – so much great food – Jake was uber-excited! It was terribly difficult to say goodbye to everyone, we feel so blessed to have had the chance to spend so much time with them and really to get to know them all so much better. We really hope to see them again, maybe on the east coast or somewhere in the middle (we’re holding you to it Parsons/Grimms!).

Dave and the kids watched the all-important football/soccer game between the US and England at Harry’s – their big screen certainly did it more justice than our little one in the camper. I went shopping, groceries were low. Despite our chants of ‘En-ger-land’ and teaching all the family the ‘Three Lions’ song, there was great disappointment at the 1-1 result, although I think the US were secretly rather pleased as there was a general consensus of worry about Rooney. We’re hoping things’ll pick up; the World Cup is such a national institution for Brits.

Back to the camper we went, finished packing everything, hooked up and we were on our way. Given our change in itinerary to accommodate our trip to the UK, we were heading towards Idaho but needed to break up the journey as the predicted 10+ hours in one day was less than appealing.

We drove to Hi-Desert Resort in Winnemucca which was really the first major town we’d come to since leaving Reno three hours earlier! It was a windy journey so a lot slower going than it would’ve been. Trailers tend not to appreciate the wind, neither do I!

As we often do, we passed many, many small housing areas, seemingly random settlements, miles and miles from anywhere or anything. I am always so fascinated by these – who lives here, what do they do for work, how do they get their money, groceries, gas etc?? Dave said that one of these times, he’s just going to pull in, stop and knock on a door to have them answer my barrage of questions! I imagine people enjoy the quieter life of living in the middle of nowhere but I would worry about where to get basics, like milk and flour, from, maybe someone does a run once a week for everyone – just speculating.

We were glad to have made a reservation in Winnemucca as the campgrounds we passed were all full and when we arrived, they were turning people away without a reservation. Evidently there was a Basque Festival in town and that is quite the draw by all accounts – who knew?! The younger kids were happy to discover a playground but disappointed that there was no time to go in the pool or play the ‘water wars’ game, dinner was late enough!

Grand Sierra Resort: Friday, June 11th

The kids did a bit of school in the morning. They have been officially signed off by their portfolio evaluator (thank you Melissa!) and all paperwork has been submitted to the school district but I need them to finish their units, so we maybe have just one more week. I am feeling very ready to be done with the school year so I know that they are too.

They had a couple of requests of things they wanted to do before we left, so in the afternoon, we headed over to the pool/beach area to play volleyball. Clearly, I use the term ‘play volleyball’ quite loosely; the net is very high for a 5 year old! Later, we headed over to Tumble Town in the FunZone. As a total bonus, summer rates had kicked in for day use Mon-Fri, only $1 per hour and $1 lazer tag – a total bargain compared to the prices we had been paying, love it when something goes our way.

SceneStealers: Thursday, June 10th

Betsy and Danielle run a dance/acting studio in Reno, called SceneStealers. While we were staying, they had to spend quite a lot of time in the studio, preparing for shows which were happening this coming weekend. They invited us to come and see the dress rehearsals as we wouldn’t be around to see the real shows. The dancers were amazing, the choreography was incredible and with so many differing routines – and we only saw a small selection – it was clear how much work they all put in. If you’re ever in the Reno area during one of their show times, we would definitely recommend stopping in to check them out.

While we were gone…..

Jake, Becca and Nate were excited to go to Danielle’s and have a sleep-over there. Dave was looking forward to a quiet evening, watching a ‘boy’ movie with a beer, but it wasn’t to be. When he got back, he discovered that the electrics had gone out on the entire row our camper was on. He helped the neighbor secure electricity for his wife who needed oxygen, finally getting to bed about 2am – it was not the evening he had pictured! He did end up moving campsites the next day, which he was actually happy about as it took the camper away from the noise of the road.

On Memorial Day, Pete came over with all the kids and they enjoyed the pool, despite the fact that it was a bit chilly in the wind.

School was reasonably successful in my absence, I had left a few lesson plans in hopes that they would be able to work somewhat independently but they did need Dave occasionally, so he had quite a few late nights catching up on work while we were gone.

Much to Caitlin’s chagrin, they met up with Betsy, Harry and two more ‘cousins’, Stephie and Savannah, to go and see the final installment of Shreck at the movies. They really enjoyed it and apparently Becca was thrilled to limpet onto the girls; she’s not used to be in an all-boy household!

Either in spite of, or perhaps, because of, my absence, Dave spent a LOT of money! He ordered a new camera (Cannon SLR) – great excitement there - as well as a new dvd player for the truck, a few other ‘needed’ items and also took the camper in to have two new ceiling vents/fans fitted and also the a/c unit replaced with a more powerful model, we’d found that the regular unit was struggling to keep the temperature down when it got really hot.

So, they survived just fine in our absence, there was no question they could of course. We function better as a family unit though, hard when one of the essential parts is missing, so very happy to all be back together again.

To the UK: Sunday, May 30th

Caitlin and I left Reno on Sunday lunchtime, flew to San Francisco, over beautiful Lake Tahoe and as we came in to land, over the Golden Gate Bridge. We had quite a long stopover in SF before getting on the flight to Heathrow. We were on the plane a long time, thankfully though, we’d managed to get our seats reassigned and avoided the row of 5 seats in the middle of the plane; it was a full flight.

Dad and Helen came to meet us early Monday afternoon; it was great to see them, wish the circumstances were different.

It took us a few days to recover from the jetlag, flying east is so difficult, much tougher than going west; we can adapt to gaining hours and extending our day but struggle to lose a night.

Our days were filled with continued organization until Thursday. The funeral was incredibly difficult of course; it still seems rather unreal, so difficult to comprehend that Mum is gone. I found myself remembering her doing different things in the house while we were there; such an emotional couple of weeks.

The church service was lovely, Cheralee’s address was perfect and Dad’s eulogy was amazing; he delivered it incredibly well too. The outpouring of kindness for us was so touching. The church was full of people, paying their respects and supporting us. Helen and I met three cousins we had never seen before, two had flown over from Northern Ireland. It is tough to be social at times like these but it was helpful to chat with various friends and relatives – thank you all for your kindness.

Caitlin spent a lot of time reading while we were in England. They really miss going to the library, and actually taking books out, so the privilege of using Grandpa’s library card was great. She took out and read 14 books during our stay! I asked her one day if she wanted to watch TV, her response, “No, thanks!” I think if the other three had been with us, the TV may have got more use.

Helen took her out on Friday to spend time playing with Anna and enjoying a picnic at the park. It’s great that there is someone so close in age to her and, bonus, that Anna is Aunty Helen’s Goddaughter.

On Saturday we spent the day at Helen and Rae’s house, meeting up with Rae’s Mum, brother and his family for a pub lunch. Caitlin was happy to play with Tiegan, who’s the same age as her. It was a gorgeous day all day long, lots of sunshine…right up until dinnertime when the rain really came down for our drive back to Letchworth.

After church on Sunday, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Lizzie and Mick’s. So many friends popped in during our stay; including a few of mine; it was wonderful to catch up with people, just wish the reason for our visit had been different.

On Monday afternoon, we went to the cemetery to be present while Mum’s ashes were scattered. We will be organizing for a plaque to be placed at the Crematorium.

It was terribly difficult to leave on the Wednesday; I wish we could have stayed longer. It was another long day of course. This time, our flight from Heathrow took us to Denver. We were so lucky that United upgraded us, for free, to Economy Plus – thanks to Richie, the gate agent! I have to say that the (almost) extra half foot of leg room made a huge difference, so nice to not have my knees touch the seat in front of us or have to climb out at an angle if the person in front puts their seat back – it was wonderful.

We watched movies much of the flight back, I would not recommend watching ‘Dear John’ in an emotional state; I was sobbing for about an hour! We managed to get some rest and landed safely. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time between landing and the connecting flight. As Denver was our first point of call in the USA, we had to clear customs and immigration before reclaiming our luggage. I then had the challenging task of fitting Dave’s all-important duty free whiskey into the back-pack for rechecking! Thank goodness the check-out girl in the shop had reminded me about the ‘no liquids’ through security. It was incredibly hot in the airport and the effort of forcing that bottle into a non-existent space must have been quite a source of entertainment for all those people waiting in line for rechecking! I had to take a few things out so the hand luggage got heavy quickly. Caitlin and I must’ve been quite the sight, she had chosen to bring back my huge ‘Comfort’ gorilla, so was carrying that all over, getting many comments.

The flight to Reno was just beginning to board as we got to the gate. Due to high winds in the Reno area, we hit a great amount of turbulence the last half hour of the flight; it was a bumpy ride, we were glad to get back on the ground.

Dave and the kids came to meet us with lots of hugs and kisses, so happy to see them again. Skype is a wonderful thing but seeing them sitting in the camper, while we chatted, only reminded me how much I missed them, so I was very happy to be able to hold them.

Friday, June 4, 2010

From Diamond Lake, OR to Reno, NV: Saturday, May 29th

Traveling on Saturday, Monday, Thursday and again, Saturday, made for a speedy week but we were beginning to feel rather ‘driven out’; glad that we’ll be stopping in one place for a while, big travel day for Caitlin and I tomorrow but after that, hopefully everyone will get a little rest. From Reno to Reno, via just a few places, took us over 1,000 miles north and back south again.

As we drove out of Diamond Lake RV Resort, we stopped to take another photo of the Lake with beautiful Mount Bailey in the background. (Mt. Bailey has remained rounded on the top as it erupted right before the ice age and glaciation hit. It continues to be eroded year after year.) It was 8:30am and the lake was covered with boats, at least 100 of them! These fishermen certainly get an early start and this was obviously the place to be. Our campsite neighbor had caught four trout just going out for a couple of hours the evening before.

We took a tiny ¼ mile detour to the Mount Thielson viewpoint. It was a glorious, clear, blue-sky morning, sad to be leaving on such a gorgeous day. Mt. Theilson rises jaggedly up on the horizon with a very sharp point at its peak, still covered in snow. The peak also inadvertently serves as a lightning rod; it gets hit quite often and has even melted some of its rock in the past.

Dave was trying to be careful about watching his gas meter, while these roads are so beautiful to drive along and admire the untouched scenery; there are not so very many places to buy gas. He recalled one place we had stopped at, on the way up to Portland, so we stopped there again. The owner was chatting to us, another customer came in and moved the conversation to ‘Top Gear’, an English show, becoming very popular over here, also with a big following in the UK. As we were leaving, Dave heard the owner telling him, yep, they stopped here on their way out too, good people – isn’t that lovely, we’re good people!

A little further on, we drove back through Merrill, they had the Stars and Stripes flying from every telegraph pole and fence post along their main street. It was very effective. This is Memorial weekend and Americans have a great respect for the current armed forces and their veterans. It gave us pause for a few minutes to once again reflect on the wars fought and the lives lost. Some of the other small communities we passed through also had their main streets filled with flying flags; a great reminder.

Due to our ‘in the middle of nowhere’ route, we pulled off for lunch, overlooking the river. There was a tiny sign (on an old piece of railroad track), stating that this was part of the Californian Trail and was marked as a place where one explorer in the 1800s had lost his shoe and had to make one from plants! So funny, we couldn’t even see the sign from the road, the paths less traveled indeed….

There were farmlands dotted along our drive, many cows and calves. At one point we saw three ranchers on horseback herding their cattle, so neat. This was such a beautiful drive, the GPS didn’t like it though, kept trying to send us to the freeway, glad we disobeyed, despite sending ‘the voice’ into quite a tizzy!

We arrived back at Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, in time for dinner. The campground was packed so our spot was along the back fence next to the road, not nearly as nice a location as our previous week here. Danielle came over in the evening with our passports so we are ready to go!

Crater Lake National Park: Friday, May 28th

We were still too early in the year, after the harsh winter, to be able to access the Park via the North Entrance; this meant a longer drive around to the South Entrance, passing beautiful, fast-flowing streams and cliffs with trees barely hanging on, as erosion is clearly stealing their root-bed. As we entered the Park, the amount of snow slowly increased to dramatic proportions. There was just an incredible amount.

With 44 feet of average annual snowfall, Crater Lake National Park is one of the snowiest inhabited places in America. Keeping Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village open year-round is no easy task. Each day, the park’s heavy equipment operators work from 4am to 8pm in 2 different shifts, clearing snow and sanding roads. During heavy storms, snow removal becomes a 24-hour operation, with crews working 12 hours at a time. The amount of snow moved each winter by the park’s roads crew is astounding. With it, you could create a ski trail 3 feet wide, 6 inches deep, and long enough to circle the Earth at the equator!

As the weather was clear, we by-passed the Visitor Center initially and headed straight up to the overlook at Rim Village. As with the Grand Canyon, seeing Crater Lake for the first time totally took our breath away, it is amazing, a brilliant blue, so deep and wide.

7,700 years ago Mount Mazama collapsed after a massive volcanic eruption and left a deep basin (caldera) where the tall mountain once stood. Centuries of snowfall and snowmelt filled this basin with clear, pure water of an amazing blue hue, creating a lake 1,943 feet deep. It is the deepest lake in America, five miles wide. It is one of the purest and most pristine in the world. This environment provides scientists with an opportunity to study the subtle effects of human influence and global forces. It never gets any higher than it is, as it drains off through natural holes in the rock face.

In 1853 prospectors in search of gold found the lake and named it Deep Blue Lake. Later, others came to ‘discover’ it and re-named it Blue Lake and Majestic Lake (this from a group of soldiers who were challenged by their leader to be the first to reach the water, whoever got there first would be allowed to name it!). William Gladstone Steel first visited in 1885 and largely as a result of his efforts, Crater Lake became a national park in 1902.

Despite the long, snowy winters, as a result of its position at the crest of the Cascade Mountain Range, Crater Lake rarely freezes. The last time it froze was 1949 and Rangers were able to walk across the ice layer to Wizard Island. It was still only frozen from 2”-12”. Generally, it absorbs so much sunlight during the warmer months that its temperature doesn’t change drastically enough in the winter to create freezing.

We drove back down the switch-backs to the Visitor Center, accessible through the snow tunnel. We watched the informational video, a short one about the challenges of snow removal – there is metal piping under the road to allow the plows to detect where to go, the rim trail really drops off, so plowing can be quite dangerous, followed by a presentation on how Crater Lake came to be here. The kids were able to complete their Junior Ranger program, while using the video, exhibits and informational panels and sat with Ranger Brian for quite some time discussing their answers.

All the kids were eager to get back in the snow so we drove as far as would along Rim Drive – only about a mile! – to get more pictures of the Lake. Although the road was closed to cars, we were able to walk along quite a distance; they are obviously doing a good job clearing the rim for summer opening in July. It’s hard to believe that the snow will all have melted in another 6 weeks, the walls of snow on the side of the road are currently at least 12 feet high in places!

We had quite a few snowball fights along the way; it certainly distracted the kids from the fact that they were actually walking a ways! There were also more good photo opportunities of Wizards Island (so-named because it looks like a wizard’s hat) and also the Phantom Ship, a tiny little island on the far side of the Lake.

Our next stop was the Crater Lake Lodge area, a beautiful building with a very nice sledding hill next to it. We bundled up as best we could and carried those sand sleds, yep, back in service on the snow again – at the end of MAY! – to the top of the hill. They quickly created a great little run, and just as quickly, were soaked! Jake was determined to have another snowball fight, which Caitlin wanted nothing to do with as she was creating snow art and a mini-fort – so different those two! Thankfully I’d had the foresight to bring a change of clothes this time and they were needed!

Due to the long weekend, when we arrived back at the campground, it was getting quite crowded. Campers continued to arrive late into the evening, clearly a very popular place. We had a fire for the first time in a while, complete with filled mountain pies and s’mores, cooked over the flames. Despite how cold it was while we were there; we really enjoyed this beautiful, rustic, quiet campground – even though our water froze overnight!