After the trauma that was backing into our campsite at La Pine State Park, we were relieved for the ease of a pull-thru site again when we drove about 1.5 hrs south to Collier Memorial State Park. With only 2 full days here, we decided to make one work and one play.
Our one work day meant for Brad a drive south to the town of Klamath Falls where he stumbled upon an amazing work-sharing space and cranked out lots of hours of work. For the girls and me, it was a morning of school work in Stumbo, and then a short bike ride to the other side of the state park which is home to the Collier Memorial Logging Museum. We spent a couple of hours exploring the old machinery, cabins, and gift shop before heading back to our campsite.
Our one day of play was at Crater Lake National Park. It did not disappoint. Because the lake is only filled by rainfall & snow, it’s not only the deepest lake in our country but also the cleanest.
The blue water seemed other-worldly. The girls took part in their first Junior Park Ranger Program and earned badges by completing puzzles, challenges, and other fun quests in small activity books we picked up at the visitors center. Well…they actually only earned STICKERS because they ran out of badges this summer due to the high volume of visitors to the park. The ran out…in June. Because that month alone, Crater Lake hosted 200,000 guests! I guess with it being the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks there have been record number of people enjoying these treasures. But just from the few places we have visited so far, I can tell that museum staff, park rangers, and camp hosts are TIRED. A ranger at Crater Lake informed us that the park only has 3 seasons: July, August, and winter. So I’m glad we were able to get a visit in during the short time that the entire Rim Drive is open to vehicles.
My girls were the most delighted by the overly friendly chipmunks and ground squirrels, and spent a lot of giggly moments trying to capture photos of the creatures on their respective cameras. Most other tourists watched the girls and their delight and just smiled. But one guy as he walked past made the comment, “You come to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and take pictures of the squirrels?”
“Well, they’re pretty great,” was my quick reply in my daughters defense. “Don’t let the giant lake keep you from appreciating all the small beautiful things.” Besides, ground squirrels and chipmunks were BOTH on our Jr. Ranger scavenger hunt bingo page. I bet that guy didn’t get a sticker on his way out of the park…
This first visit to a National Park was quite interesting to me as a melting pot of tourists, and it makes me eager to continue to people-watch at other national attractions. I overheard one man talking about recently moving to Central Oregon from Colorado. Another man a little further off asked, “What part of Colorado did you move from?”
“Springs” was the reply.
“That’s where I’m from!” They were immediate friends.
I overheard an Asian-American couple talking with 2 through-hikers about their motivation for hiking the entire PCT. I didn’t hear much of the conversation, but the couple must have thought it was an insane idea, because the through-hikers seemed to be giving lots of reasons why they had made the decision – “Just the challenge of it…” etc. It seemed that the couple and the 2 hikers didn’t have a lot in common. But then the hikers asked the couple where they were from. Cincinnati. “I was born in Ohio!” said one of the hikers, and the tone of the conversation completely changed as they discussed their literal common ground. Brad overheard 2 couples find each other that were both from Illinois. “We haven’t met ANYBODY else out on the road from Illinois! We thought we must be out here on our own!” They swapped stories about where they had been because one couple was traveling north to south and the other couple was doing the opposite. The first 2 people we spoke with in the park (the ranger at the fee booth and a man who offered to take our picture) were both from England. Our girls were excited to tell them both that we recently visited the replica of Stonehenge in Washington. Neither of our English friends had seen the original. It’s interesting in such a strange, tourist-filled, melting pot of people where there are basically no “locals” how our perspectives of US and THEM and WE so quickly shift.
Our visit to Central Oregon has already made us feel like we were part of a new community in some ways. We camped next to a sweet family from Maine at our first site in Monitor, and then bumped into them again at the High Desert Museum and at the Bend Library. Then we found some of the pee-wee bikers from La Pine in our campground at Collier Memorial. However, much as we had been forewarned, I can already tell that once Labor Day weekend passed that most of the kids have disappeared from the campgrounds. I think this will be a mixed blessing, as having new friends to play with is wonderful. But it also seems to be really great for our girls to have to rely on each other as playmates. I am already seeing them both stretch their patience and compromising skills to keep the games going.