Hubby and I made a road trip recently and this was the longest we have made ever. He drove alone for about 1200 miles. And as a result, we ended up suffering from back ache and other body pains for over a week :)

I wanted to visit Oregon and Crater lake park from a very long time. Finally for the long weekend, we headed to Oregon. The drive is very beautiful and I was so busy clicking pics, that I hardly had time for anything else. I prefer not driving on scenic roads, since I can enjoy the beautiful scenery outside and can keep clicking pics whenever I want to :) We stopped a lot of times on the way, whenever we saw a Vista point. As usual, I planned the entire trip and we covered everything we wanted to cover. Interestingly, they don’t let you fill gas on your own in Oregon. It’s just like in India where someone fills it for you.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

We took this highway which is very scenic. Thanks to the Earth’s plates that keep moving and bumping on to each other, this region is full of some pretty volcanoes (err.. not sure I should call volcanoes pretty since they are devil in disguise when they erupt). They are part of the cascade range of volcanoes. Most of these volcanoes have not erupted from 1000s of years, except for few that erupted in 1900s. Exception being St. Helens, which erupted recently in 1980s. We also saw some nice farms with lot of cows and horses. It will be so nice to own a farmhouse. You get to lead a calm life without the tensions that one faces in cities. But maybe we will get bored after a few days. We passed Klamath lake and as soon as we crossed the lake, a swarm of insects hit the windshield and died. Their blood was dripping and the dead bodies clung to my car. We had to get the car cleaned in order to drive further. I wonder how people stay close to that lake which looks like the abode for these insects.

The above pic shows one of the volcanoes en-route. I really liked this volcano since it looks “like a volcano”. You know what I mean? I always imagined that a volcano would look like this. Imagine seeing hundreds of such volcanoes while driving.

Lava Beds National Monument

We took a detour on the way and landed up at Lava Beds National Monument. This park was formed after a volcano erupted sometime in 1912 or something. Here you can see lava rocks and the lava flow (the black rocks that you see below in the pic is lava which got cooled). I really really loved this place. I want to visit it again sometime. We collected a couple of rocks so that we can always see how a lava looks like and so that I can show it to my parents. While driving you can see many such flows from various eruptions.

The next best thing in the park are lava tubes. These are formed because of lava flows. When lava starts flowing, usually the outer surface of the lava loses heat and becomes solid since it is exposed to the atmosphere. However the lava inside continues flowing. As a result, we have these tubes which are hollow inside. I had never heard/seen/read about these lava tubes. So it was very interesting to know that this place has like hundreds of such caves with lava tubes in them. We entered 2 of the caves but they were soooo dark inside and supposedly inhabited by bats, that we gave up. Hubby was pushing me inside saying I might just end up becoming a bat woman (if a bat bites me). The cave which supposedly had lights inside it was closed for renovation. So maybe some other time.

Crater Lake National Park

From Lava Beds, we went to our hotel and just took some rest. Next day we left to Crater Lake. We took the northern entrance since we thought we could cover some more of the scenic highway and maybe spot couple of interesting volcanoes on the way. But we were pretty disappointed. Since most part of the route had a thick grown forest, it made seeing any mountains impossible. Once we reached Crater lake park, it was awesome. Area is completely surrounded with volcanoes. And Crater Lake itself is formed because of a volcanic eruption. The lake is the deepest lake in US and 6th deepest in the world. It is so deep that you can immerse Eiffel tower, Washington monument and Statue of Liberty stacked one on top of the other vertically, and yet Liberty’s torch will be 100 ft below the water surface. :D

This is one place where you can see a volcano inside a volcano. Wizard Island is a volcano which was formed inside the crater lake. It is so amazingly blue because of its depth and clarity of water. Water is contained within the volcano crater and its only source is snow and rain. Hence the water is supposedly very pure. It is very scenic and probably the prettiest water body I have ever seen.

We took a trolley tour around the lake and the tour was full of noisy Indians with crying babies. It was a disaster. Wonder why people bring such small kids to these places and on tours? I feel kids must be old enough to enjoy, otherwise there is no point in coming to a tour with them. Or take them to places like Disneyland where even kids can enjoy.

You can see volcanic flows and debris on the walls of the crater. This crater was formed because of an eruption of a volcano called Mount Mazama. The volcano kind of collapsed inside and this caldera (crater) was formed.

If we drive for some 12 miles or so, we get to see these pinnacles. These were also formed because of the same eruption. These pillar like structures are nothing but ash and other lighter materials which were erupted. When gas escapes through them, we see these pillar like structures. I never knew that such a thing even existed. It was interesting to learn about them.

Mt. Shasta

Next day we headed back home. On the way we were greeted with some very scenic views of Mt. Shasta. Mt.Shasta is again a volcano which is huge and since it is covered with snow, it looks pretty. We did not go on the mountain because of lack of time. We will probably make another trip to it some other time.

McArthur-Burney Falls State Park

We again took a detour on the way back and went to this nice falls. This falls was again formed because of water leaking through lava flows. You see so many tiny streams trying to escape from the cracks in the rocks. The source for water is supposedly melting snow. Lovely falls and there is a trail that takes you on top of the falls too (which we did not take). But we went to the base of the falls and it was great.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

After the falls, we ended up in Lassen Park. This park is famous for Lassen peak, which is supposedly the largest plug dome volcano in the world. Before coming to this park, I did not even know that there were 4 types of volcanoes in the world – Composite, Shield, Cinder cones and Plug dome. In this park, you can see all 4 types of volcanoes. But 3 of them are outside the park, which we got to know after buying entrance fee and entering the park :P We thought of covering them some other time. But we had seen the other types on the scenic highway anyway.

These rocks were thrown as part of the eruption. Look at the sheer size of it. Scary!

We got a closer look at Lassen Peak and even walked a bit. It looks so steep and huge.

Finally I got to see something that I always wanted to see – Fumaroles and mudpots. Fumaroles are these hot spots where steam escapes from under the Earth’s surface. Mudpots are these boiling pots on Earth’s surface. They release Hydrogen Sulphide gas. For a minute, I felt I was back in Chemistry lab. Looking at the way Sulphur and other materials were fuming, I was wondering how hot the surface must be. Makes you feel how hot our planet is below the surface. I want to see Geysers and Hot springs sometime. Need to visit Yellowstone for that. Even this park has them, if you ready to hike for plenty of miles for which you need lot of time at hand. We did see an ex-hot spring in Mt. Rainier (which is the largest volcano in the cascade volcano range). I call it ex- since it is no longer hot and is now just a spring. We were advised not to touch the water since it contains all sorts of minerals and chemicals. I accidentally slipped and kind of fell into one :)

I bought this book on Crater Lake called Crater Lake – Gem of the cascades by K. Rob Cranson. It is too good and very informative. It gives the geological history about how the crater was formed and also about cascade volcano range in general. I also learnt a lot of things from the book like what kind of materials are thrown when a volcano erupts, how does a volcano even get formed, where does the magma for lava come from and many more interesting facts.

Like I always say, I prefer visiting National parks to Big cities any day. Nature is more beautiful :)