Day 2: SAPPHIRE BLUE
We intended to wake up at 5:30am this morning to give ourselves plenty of time to do some waterfall hikes and also see Crater Lake later today. But given how tired we were, it turned out that this morning was the day we got a little bit more caught up on sleep. So we ended up getting up at 7am, and after a quick breakfast that was included, we checked out and left the Comfort Suites at 8:15am.
The drive went pretty uneventfully as we followed the Highway 58 towards Oakridge. The intent was to visit Salt Creek Falls and hike to Diamond Creek Falls. And by 9:20am, we made it to the car park for Salt Creek Falls. The drive took longer than I thought, but we were still the first ones here.
The falls was essentially a very easy drive-up waterfall. Upon setting our eyes on this very tall 286ft waterfall, Julie ooohed and aaahed and said, “This is the best waterfall in Oregon we’ve seen since Multnomah Falls.”
There was a sign here saying it was Oregon’s 2nd tallest waterfall, but this was a very disputable claim. Anyhow, the sun was just starting to encroach on the falls, but it was still primarily in shadow at the moment so we could still take pretty decent photos.
After getting our fill of the upper cliff-hanging overlooks of the Salt Creek Falls, we proceeded to walk to the bottom viewpoint. By then, some people started to trickle in and the place started to become a bit busier.
The short walk to the bottom viewpoint was mostly under shade and provided a view between trees of the falls on one of the switchbacks. But at the very bottom, we got more frontal views of the falls with some of its mist lightly coming towards us. It was a bit steeper at this overlook and care needed to be taken to avoid a nasty fall past the railings and towards the plunge pool below, but it wasn’t all that bad and even the kids that were here had no such problems.
When we had our fill of the falls from down here, we headed back up to the upper viewpoints, and then continued towards the Diamond Creek Falls Trailhead. But at 10:25am, we reached the bridge crossing Salt Creek where we were greeted with several signs. Besides the obligatory directional signs, there was one triangular sign posted on a blockade preventing further access to the bridge. Clearly, the trail was closed.
The sign read that this bridge sustained snow damage, and we could easily see that it was tilted to the left with an apparent gap in many of the planks detached from the support beams on the right hand side. It looked so rickety that there was no way we’d make it across, and thus our hopes of seeing the Diamond Creek Falls were dashed. I guess closures were nothing new to us as it seemed we always got the short end of the stick when it came to bad timing or being overcome by events these days.
At 10:30am, we returned to the car and proceeded to continue the drive towards Crater Lake. It wasn’t until 12:15pm did we get past the Crater Lake north entrance and stopped the car at the Junction Overlook. It was our first exposure to the sapphire blue Crater Lake, and boy did it feel pretty hot out here at high noon.
Crater Lake was the third famous volcanic lake we had seen this year. We were supposed to see it some 5 months ago, but snow kept that from happening (plus we could’ve done a little better job researching the area and realizing that it wouldn’t have been open until at least June). We had already seen Heaven Lake (Tianchi) on Changbai Shan on the China/North Korea border as well as Mashuko (Lake Mashu) in Hokkaido, Japan. But of all the volcanic lakes we had seen so far, this one seemed to be the best one.
Perhaps it was a combination of blue skies here and poor conditions elsewhere. But this lake also had Wizard Island providing a nice subject within the lake itself. The sapphire blue color of the lake really contrasted its surroundings further adding to the allure of the place.
After getting our fill of this overlook, we then went through a procession of other overlooks on the west rim. The next one was the Watchman Overlook, which got us even closer to Wizard Island as well as some of the additional colors in the water on the lakeshores of both Wizard Island and the outer perimeter of the lake itself.
I expressed a desire to climb up to the Watchman Peak Observation Deck, but this would’ve required an hour long climb in the hot, unrelenting sun. And given how hungry we were, we decided to pass on that and continue closer to the Rim Village.
Beyond this overlook, we next went to the Discovery Point. There, we looked back towards Wizard Island between some trees framing the scene below us. Lots of tourists here were thoughtlessly feeding the chipmunks, which was disturbing. But it did result in some photo ops of the obliging rodents. But I’m sure this would cause starvation in the long term if they get trained to high carb human food and can’t survive on their own especially when the tourists aren’t here outside the Summer.
At 1:25pm, we arrived at the busy Rim Village. From there, we had ourselves a small lunch of Greek salad and a chili soup. It wasn’t anything special, but at least we addressed our hunger and we were energized to continue our touring.
So after our meal, we spent some more time checking out the view of the lake. We were well into Crater Lake rim-view-fatigue at this point so we didn’t partake in this exercise for too long.
Next, we left the Rim Village and continued over to Vidae Falls. This was a drive-up waterfall and very easy to see. However, it didn’t seem to have very good flow (still pretty decent flow nonetheless) as it would’ve had in June or July as evidenced by the cascade disappearing beneath the screen near the bottom of the slope (the falls would’ve continued being visible above the scree at more optimal times).
Many other tourists also showed up and enjoyed the falls. Some even tried foolishly to scramble amongst the steep scree from closer looks at the falls.
At 2:45pm, we left the falls and five minutes later, we parked at a lot next to a sign that mentioned a 1/4-mile walk towards the Phantom Ship. We wasted no time getting our cameras and walked to the edge of the rim where we could see far below us the rock protrusion surrounded by the sapphire blue lake.
A rock protruding from the slope below us looked like it was producing a shadow that might suggest a natural arch there. We couldn’t tell for sure, but I’m sure it’s hard to see unless you somehow scramble for a better view of have a real good eye if you were on one of those boat cruises in the lake itself (I wonder how much pollution it puts into the lake).
After getting our fill of this view of the Phantom Ship, we continued onwards to an easier drive-up lookout of the Phantom Ship. But this one wasn’t as impressive as the one we walked to. So we quickly got back into the car and finally headed to the Diamond Lake Resort where we were to spend this night.
And at 4:20pm, we finally made it. Our room was kind of a dingy motel, which we didn’t expect much from anyways. But when we had dinner a little after 6pm at the local restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. We had trout, halibut, prawns, and scallops, and the soup was some kind of spicy Thai shrimp soup with lemongrass and other veggies within.
Clearly, we’re going to be seeing sapphire blue when we close our eyes and sleep the night away…