TL;DR | Portland might be great, but we only spent an afternoon there so it is hard to say. Crater Lake, however, blew our minds with its beauty and history.
Due to the extra day we spent in Seattle, we elected to only spend an afternoon in Portland on the way to Crater Lake, rather than staying the night (our reserved campsite was significantly outside the city and would have been majorly inconvenient). Our first stop was obviously Voodoo Doughnuts, where we ordered four monstrosities (and finished them all). Despite the hype (though people on the street proudly told us other local doughnuts are better), which could have easily led to disappointment in real life, the doughnuts were really tasty. From there we walked to Powell’s, the largest bookstore in the US (that statistic could be outdated but we will just go with it). Obviously we bought more books that we will continue to struggle to fit into the car, but it felt very worth it.
We arrived to a secluded, wooded campsite next to a creek slightly outside the park; while we had been enjoying the comforts of indoor plumbing, there was something nice about setting up the tent once again.
Crater Lake is a massive, circular lake that was formed when a complex of volcanos around Mount Mazama erupted and subsequently collapsed over 7,000 years ago. The water is a deep, dazzling blue colour, and is ringed with the caldera (it’s technically a caldera thanks to a ’92 scientific definition change) on all sides. It is a magnificent sight, and for two people with no knowledge of Crater Lake National Park we were pretty blown away.
Seriously – a whole massive volcano collapsed on itself and became an enormous lake! The scale can’t be captured by camera and physically standing on one of the large cliffs composing the crater’s rim, we couldn’t wrap our head’s around how it could have been created – volcano or not.
We spent the afternoon hiking up Garfield Peak, a fairly steep but short trek to the top of one of the points on the caldera. The views were stunning, and we met another couple doing their own cross-country and cross-continent adventure as their honeymoon. It seems our route has made us more apt to run into other like-minded travelers, which is always nice in putting things in perspective.
Our hike finished at the Crater Lake lodge where we enjoyed a glass of wine, continuing to gaze over the caldera. We felt like we had discovered some hidden gem, despite the number of tourists, and it remains one of the highlights to date in terms of sheer natural beauty.