The essence of Oregon summer: visiting Crater Lake – July 23, 2006

The essence of Oregon summer: visiting Crater Lake

It’s summer. It’s Oregon. What better time to explore our state and see some sights?The Oregonian
Portland, Oregon
July 23, 2006
By Sara Perry

If I had one wish for all Oregonians, it would be to see Crater Lake. My second wish would be that they spend a night at the Crater Lake Lodge or at least enjoy a superb meal in the dining room. Lucky for me, the lodge was the second night’s stop on a 10-day motorcycle trip my husband, Pete, and I took through Southern and Central Oregon.

Traveling on a bike, you come face to face with the brisk mountain air (OK, and a few bugs), you inhale the aroma of the landscape and you feel every notch in the road. But no matter the number of wheels it takes, the drive is exhilarating and the lake and its lodge are worth the trip. Here then, are a few of my favorite things that make the place a destination not to be missed.

Getting there via the North Entrance of Crater Lake National Park. A few miles from the entrance station the road crosses the park’s barren Pumice Desert, where the ash lies 50 feet deep. The flat terrain is stark and always surprises you.

The first view of the lake from the rim. There’s a mirrorlike reflection on the lake’s glassy surface that tricks the eye in a spectacular and disquieting way. Where does the water end and the land begin?

Its color. You have to see the blue to believe it.

Crater Lake Lodge’s rustic feel and intimate size. From the approach, it looks like a grand old early-1900s timbered lodge. Inside, it’s small, intimate and friendly.

The front desk staff is friendly, super helpful and knows when to keep quiet. Must be the mountain air. (After all, a majority of the lodge’s staff lives in a dorm to the east of the lodge.) When I arrived to register, I was head-to-toe in motorcycle paraphernalia and forgot our credit card on the desk. The clerk discovered it, came to our room, found me and was about to say, “Here’s the credit card you left behind,” when she took one look at the finger across my mouth as I silently mouthed “shh” and Pete as he turned around to see what was going on. Instead, she quickly said, “I think you left your gloves at the desk.” Whew — saved from a marital melee.

The dining room, on so many levels. The setting couldn’t be better. That goes for the wait staff — outgoing college students and professional park staff — and the food. I still haven’t figured out how the chef pulls it off way out in the middle of nowhere. The choices and presentations are top rate and the ingredients are fresh, flavorful and most locally produced and organic. (Want to look at the menu? www.craterlakelodges.com.) By the way, reservations are required for dinner: 541-830-8700.

The camaraderie among guests. I think because the lodge has only 71 guest rooms and we’re something of a captive audience, people feel free to visit, and talking comes easily. After all, we’re all on vacation. My favorite encounter was with Portlander Tricia Marco and her 11-year-old granddaughter, Sophia Van Dyke. We started talking in the dining room over dinner and learned that besides Crater Lake, they were off to Ashland to see a play. Marco, a former teacher, takes each of her grandchildren on a special vacation to explore a common interest. Where do we sign up?

Enjoying an Irish coffee and watching the sun set over the caldera rim while bundled in a blanket and rocking in a rocking chair on the lodge’s patio. Need I say more?

Sara Perry: sara@saraperry.com; The Oregonian, 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201

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