Crater Lake / by Brian Beck

When we woke up on Saturday morning, we packed up our sleeping bags and tent and backtracked into Eureka for the wheel bearings that had been ordered the afternoon before.  The guy at the counter looked for my parts for a few minutes and just as I was resigning myself to the fact that they may not have arrived, he produced two small boxes from a plastic tote near the register.  I thanked him for getting them in time and returned to the far end of the parking lot.  I jacked up the front wheel, broke the lug nuts and removed the wheel hub from the right front wheel.  As I suspected, the bearing races were spalled, cracked and filled with small metal shavings.  I cleaned them with paper towels and returned to the store to buy a mallet to beat the damaged races from the hub.  It took me about an hour to repack the new bearings and install them, making sure this time to torque the hub back on the spindle and back it off one notch for the cotter pin to seat in the castle nut.  After another ten minutes of wiping the grease off, we were back on four wheels.

The noise that screeched at me for the past two hundred miles was completely gone, and the sweet rumble of the exhaust played solo once again as we rolled north towards Crescent City.  Around 11am, I spied a gaggle of wild blackberry bushes on an abandoned road and we pulled off.  For half an hour, we stuffed our faces, fingers and lips the color of dark bruises.  We turned east at Crescent City and as we climbed through the Rogue River Valley, the crisp temperatures of the coast climbed into the triple digits.  We stopped early in Grants Pass, Oregon and I let the kids swim for an hour before dinner.

On Sunday morning we resumed our eastward trek, climbing to 6,000 feet to Mazama Campground just inside Crater Lake National Park.  Crater Lake is a spectacular remnant of a mountain the size of Mount Hood that blew its top around 7,700 years ago—in geologic time, practically yesterday.  The mountain collapsed into the deep magma chamber below, and over the intervening period, the caldera filled with snow melt.  Five trillion gallons of the purest fresh water on Earth now occupy the bowl, creating an awesome sapphire-blue lake nearly 2,000 feet deep.  It’s gorgeous and awe-inspiring, and one can’t help but look at the massive hole and wonder what it must have been like when the mountain disintegrated into a plume of ash and rock.

On Tuesday we'll clear out and head back to the Oregon coast for a low and slow cruise through what I consider to be some of the best coastal scenery in the United States.  If I can get the kids to turn off their iPads, maybe they'll get to see some of it too!

 Crater Lake is impossibly blue.  This is a view through the trees to Phantom Shiprock.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm @ 38mm, ISO 100, f8, 1/100 sec.  

Crater Lake is impossibly blue.  This is a view through the trees to Phantom Shiprock.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm @ 38mm, ISO 100, f8, 1/100 sec.  

 Picking wild blackberries.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 58mm, ISO 250, 1/160 sec, f5.6.

Picking wild blackberries.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 58mm, ISO 250, 1/160 sec, f5.6.

 Parker and Samantha among the wildflowers at Crater Lake.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 66mm, ISO 320, f5.6, 1/250 sec.

Parker and Samantha among the wildflowers at Crater Lake.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 66mm, ISO 320, f5.6, 1/250 sec.