Crater Lake, Oregon

This weekend was a camping weekend — first time since I’ve been an adult! Crater Lake is about 5 hours from Portland, and we wanted to get photographs of the sunset and sunrise so we decided to stay overnight. Our first view of the lake was breathtaking — the bluest water I’ve ever seen!

First view of Crater Lake

Crater Lake is a caldera, which is a volcano that has collapsed on itself, and it really is fascinating to see the results of such a monumental event. Here’s a link to the National Park Service site, if you’re interested in more information: About Crater Lake

There is only one way down to the lake itself, and unfortunately it’s a steep trail, so I didn’t make it to the bottom (the elevation at Crater Lake is such that the air is much thinner, and I immediately noticed that my energy level was lower than usual from the reduced oxygen). Instead, after securing a campsite, we drove around the rim, hopping in and out of the car pretty much all day to photograph from the various lookouts (and there are MANY of those).

The park is filled with wildflower gardens and gorgeous cliffs, and we did see one waterfall right off the rim drive (I have a thing for waterfalls, obviously).

Vidae Falls
Wildflowers everywhere!

While I was hoping against hope to see an elk or an antelope, chipmunks were the only wildlife in abundance in the park — and they were abundant! I’ve never seen as many chipmunks in one trip as I did on this one. They kept the visitors entertained at every stop, even posing for the cameras!

Tour guide

It was an exhilarating day, but tiring. We gathered firewood at the highest elevation in the park — Mt. Scott, around 9000 feet — while waiting for the sunset, but then decided to head back to get a shower before the facilities closed. Unfortunately, our timing was off and we almost missed the sunset, so we had to drive at breakneck speed to capture what we could before it got too dark.

Sunset at Crater Lake
Sunset in the mountains surrounding Crater Lake National Park

Back at the campsite, we built a fire and got the car ready for the night (not having a tent, we had decided to sleep in the back of the car). I do not recommend car camping, by the way! Trying to sleep in the fetal position all night is not conducive to a good night’s rest, and we had to get up around 5:30 to photograph the sunrise. And, the campfire I built practically smoked out the campgrounds — and us!

Fortunately, the sunrise we got up for was spectacular — one photographer noted it was the best sunrise he had ever seen — and we were so enthralled with the views we didn’t notice how tired we were.

Sunrise at the southeast rim of Crater Lake

After getting our sunrise photographs, we left the park and headed for Bend, Oregon. The photograph below was taken from the main road in one of the five national forests we drove through on the way to Bend. . .

Morning in the woods

Bend itself is a beautiful city at the base of Mt. Bachelor, very artsy and welcoming! We had planned to camp at Tumalo State Park, which is at the north end of Bend, but I had NO desire to sleep in the back of the car again. Instead, we decided to take the Cascades Lakes Highway to see what we could see (arguably the most scenic drive in Oregon), and then drive home.

I found a place called Sparks Lake on the internet guide (touted as a “photographer’s dream”), so we decided to stop there. The lake is accessed via a heavily-rutted gravel road, and at one point we turned around thinking we had somehow taken a wrong turn. After confirming it was the right road after all, we bumped our way back down it and discovered one of the most scenic lakes I have ever seen — reflections galore!

South Sister (one of the Three Sisters) reflected in Sparks Lake

Sparks Lake is surrounded by mountains, including Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters. It was actually formed by lava flow from Mt. Bachelor, and the trail around the lake is full of lava rock.

Lava rock surrounds Sparks Lake


For anyone interested, Sparks Lake is well worth the internal organ-jostling drive to see it, and I definitely want to go back there in the future.

The rest of the trip consisted of trying to capture the Cascade Mountains while driving by them, not wanting to stop again, and searching for a place to get coffee and ice cream. This is the reward for a trip well-done.

As always, you can find more photographs of my trips at

Until next time!

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