Sunday 1st October Day 12. Sisters to Bend to Crater Lake.
When we woke we heard rain gently pattering in the roof of the RV and couldn’t help but be secretly pleased that we could justify a lie in!
When we opened the curtains, however, there were shafts of sunlight shining through the trees and lighting up the little stream nearby. The ashes of last night’s pine needle and fir cone fire looked rather sad.
What to do today? Well, research suggests that what people like to do in Bend is drinking wine, exploring the Deschutes river and mountain biking. And where mountain bikers like to go is Phil’s trail.
We rang Pine Mountain bike hire, booked a couple of mountain bikes and helmets. Thus equipped we pedalled off up the 2-3 miles to the start of the trail and set off, feeling very intrepid. The trail starts gently enough with winding sandy paths through a pine forest but becomes steeper, bumpier and generally more challenging, but not frightening and it’s brilliant fun. One of our biggest challenges was to remember that the Americans wire their brakes the other way round to the UK so we tried to remember to always use the right hand lever to brake the rear wheel as a sharp pull on the front brake could herald a catastrophe...
I was just get the hang of series of steepish downhill bends that were banked up and quite fun, when disaster struck - I skidded on gravel, instinctively grabbed the left brake lever and ended up like an upside down starfish with a mouthful of dust. Grrr. Luckily no harm done apart from a few scratches and bruised pride!
The trail was well maintained and a one-way route so there were no further escapades and we had a very fun 4 hour adventure.
Back in town we moved on to find somewhere picturesque for lunch.
The Deschutes River Trail promised some beautiful waterfalls and so we set off to find Benham Falls. After a long windy drive down a gravel track we arrived in a small, full car park with absolutely nowhere to turn around. Fortunately with the help of one other extremely helpful driver who moved his car from place to place to allow us to manoeuvre, we managed to turn our behemoth vehicle through 180 degrees, ready for an easy departure.
Sandwiches in hand we walked down the trail to the riverside to view the spectacular Benham Falls. The combination of rushing white water, bright blue skies and golden fall foliage was indeed spectacular and we walked on downstream for a way to soak it all up.
The next part of the journey was another low point. We retraced our tracks back to the RV and drive back up the gravel track to the forest road. The turn to the right would have taken us back north into Bend, whereas we wanted to head south on highway 97 towards Crater Lake. The sat nav took us left. This seemed logical, except that the rough gravel track was teeth rattlingly rough and, by the time we realised that it continued for over 7 miles, it was too late to turn back. We rattled along at 20 mph with everything in the bus vibrating and clattering alarmingly. The noise was dreadful.
Well, everything survived and after about 30 minutes we emerged onto the highway and flew south to Crater Lake.
We approached this National Park from the north entrance at sunset. We had hoped to see a spectacular sight but were not prepared for what we came upon. We drove up to the edge of the caldera through desert like lava fields with scrubby vegetation and a dark red sunset through clouds to our right. As we ascended we entered a Narnia like land of snow covered fir trees illuminated from below by the red sunset and from above by the moon. Quite unique.
We arrived at the rim to find the west rim road closed for the winter and so headed east. After a mile or so we pulled onto a snowy viewing area and hopped out to peep over the wall. Well - it was every bit as spectacular and breathtaking as the guide book suggested. The night sky and the moonlight made it seem almost unreal. An enormous circular lake, shimmering within the steep sided caldera. The moon reflected in the still, dark blue water. The frosty air added to the supernatural feeling. We decided not to drive on south as planned but to retrace our steps, camp at Diamond lake, and to return tomorrow morning to drive the east rim of the caldera in daylight.
By this time we had no sat nav and without a paper map we groped our way to Diamond lake. Several campsites closed at the end of September but we found one that was open but ‘winterised’ with a great camping spot right on the lake shore. Chilly but beautiful.