Upgrades, a visit with friends, and Crater Lake

Our trip into Oregon was twisty and slow. Highway 199 is definitely doable in a big rig, but it takes patience and full attention. Sheer cliffs, steep drop-offs, blind turns, and narrow lanes make it a beautiful but technical course. 199 took us to Grants Pass, where we had an appointment to install upgraded springs for Rover’s suspension. Our appointment was for 8AM the next morning so we camped in their parking lot overnight and woke up early.

One of the downsides of driving an almost 13-foot tall motorhome is how much it rocks from side-to-side when turning, and it’s especially bad at slow speeds like when turning into a sloped parking lot entrance. In the RV world, it’s known as the “Wal-mart Wobble”, and several times it’s caused our refrigerator or cabinets to fly open, spilling jars, cans, plates, or spices on the ground while driving. Our new Sumo Springs provide a major improvement to Rover’s handling by preventing side-to-side motion. We can really feel the difference already! Here’s Rover with both his back left wheels removed, and the new bright yellow Sumo Spring installed on top of the existing leaf spring:

Sumo Spring installed!

Sumo Spring installed!

As luck would have it, some new friends we made back in Quartzsite were in the same town, staying at the nearby Valley of the Rogue State Park (love that name!), so we made the 15 minute drive there and set up camp. Dave and Diane are fellow full-time RVers, but have been doing it a few years longer than we have. We found their blog when we started researching the full-time RV lifestyle, and it helped educate and inspire us to make our decision. It was great to see them again and sit around a campfire with some drinks and some excellent food provided by their friends Rich and Chris. Unfortunately, since it was Memorial Day weekend, the park was sold out so we could only stay the one night. So, on we went to Prospect Oregon and Crater Lake National Park.

Barr Falls, a short drive and short hike from our campground

Barr Creek Falls, a short drive and short hike from our campground

The Rogue Rover runs through Prospect, and there are quite a few large waterfalls an easy hike from the road. We took Opie out for a half day to explore, and he really enjoyed it, as usual. The Avenue of Boulders is a section of the river filled with huge stones thrown here from the eruption of the Mount Mazama volcano 7,700 years ago. We found a shallow pool where Opie could get wet, but due to the strong current we couldn’t let him go in any place else.

Mike and Opie at the Avenue of Boulders

Mike and Opie at the Avenue of Boulders

Speaking of Mount Mazama, it was largely destroyed in that volcanic eruption! The explosion and collapse reduced the over 12,000 foot high mountain to around 8,000 feet, leaving a giant crater in its place. Cooling lava sealed the crater and over time rains and snows filled it until it became Crater Lake.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Since Crater Lake is the highest point in the area, no rivers or streams flow into the lake, and since it’s sealed, no water flows out. The only water it receives is from snowmelt and rain, so the lake has been measured as having some of the purest fresh water in the world. The lake is almost 2,000 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the U.S. The area receives an average of 43 feet (yes feet) of snow each year, so Rim Drive which circles the crater is usually only open in late summer. With the ongoing drought on the west coast, this year they only received 25% of their normal snowfall, so they were able to plow part of Rim Drive early and open in mid-May, just in time for our visit. Unfortunately, this lack of snow is just going to make the drought worse this summer, when Oregon and California depend on mountain snowmelt to supply fresh water.

Exploring Rim Drive around Crater Lake

Exploring Rim Drive around Crater Lake

Like most National Parks, dogs are not permitted on trails, but most of the trails were still closed due to snow anyway, so we brought Opie with us to explore all the overlooks and visitor areas. I’m sure the entire day he kept wondering why there was a huge lake and we weren’t taking him to go swim in it. He probably wouldn’t have even cared that the water is a chilly 34°F. We did find one short 0.7 mile trail that allowed dogs, so we hopped out of the car and hit the trail. Large sections were still covered in snow, so we had to make a couple detours and almost got lost once, but we made it through eventually.

Kathie and Opie on the trail.

Kathie and Opie on the trail.

Crater Lake is a pretty amazing sight, and the many pull-offs and viewpoints along Rim Drive made it easy to experience. We were able to make a day of it, but it might be nice to come back again someday during the summer when all the hiking trails are open to explore. You can even hike down to the lake and go for a swim (if you like freezing cold water), or take a boat tour to Wizard Island (pictured above), which formed inside Crater Lake during a subsequent smaller eruption of the volcano.

Michael Fischer

After a high-tech career spanning software development and systems administration to leading hundreds of engineers across cities and continents, I'm now slowing things down a bit. Traveling full-time in an RV with my awesome wife Kathie and our two big dogs Max and Opie, I'm now pursuing smaller personal software projects while seeing North America up close.


  1. Vicki   •  

    This blog entry brought back many memories of my first camping experience at Whistler’s Bend, in Oregon. It was the summer of ’72 and I camped out with my uncle and his family in a pop-up in Grants Pass, swam in the Rouge River and then tented in other areas around Eugene, Coos Bay and West Bend.

    I fell in love with Oregon and can’t wait to return in “Allie.”

    Crater Lake is as beautiful as I remember. Thanks for the memories!

    Safe travels.

  2. Mike   •     Author

    This being our first time in Oregon, we’re definitely enjoying it so far, and we haven’t even been to the coast yet which I hear is beautiful. We’ve already bookmarked the Bend/Sisters area as someplace we want to return to next year to spend more time in! -Mike

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