Friday, I awoke early to whip up some scrambled eggs with sausage and cheese. I finished packing camp and desperately kept tears at bay while I bid farewell to my brother and his wife. The bright side (I told myself) was that I would see them again in a year instead of 2-3 this time. After a good cry, I hit the highway to that “WiFi” rest stop. This time I went in the visitor’s center only to be told that it was, indeed, broken. Resisting the urge to try and fix it, I dropped off my trash and hit the road.
My original plan was to enter the south side of Crater Lake, drive the rim, and exit on the north on my way to La Pine. Alas, I hadn’t told my GPS this, and missed the turn-off. The big, obvious sign I had passed on the way down indicated the entrance to the NORTH side. The kids had to go to the bathroom bad, and we were all hungry, so we stopped at a diner for lunch. With burger-full bellies, we headed towards the rim, with my truck protesting the constant gain in elevation.
At the booth I was greeted pleasantly and presented with map/brochure, and newsletter to accompany my $10 investment. Upon reaching the top, most stopped at the first vantage point they came to. Having examined the map, though, I had determined to go towards a high vista overlooking Wizard Island. It was much less crowded here, and most of the visitors were speaking foreign languages.
The kids and I explored the viewpoint, soaking up the view from multiple angles. I had wanted to see the visitor’s center, and gone on a short hike, but those opportunities were all on the south side of the lake. Seeing an opportunity to get back on schedule, we turned around and headed back to Highway 97 which took us north to our destination for the night: La Pine State Park.
Planning this trip in advance I had reserved a spot here to freshen up on the way home. The campground was paved with hot showers & electricity. We felt rather pampered, I must say. An old friend stopped by for a visit with girlfriend and puppy. He had moved to Bend 6 months ago, so it was nice to share a walk. His golden retriever had grown considerably, but was still very much a puppy. The kids and I snacked while playing games and reading stories late into the night.
The next day we woke early and inhaled some cereal. I skipped the coffee, as I hadn’t turned the propane back on for the stove. We went to visit ‘Big Tree’ on our way out of camp. It’s the largest Ponderosa Pine in Oregon. Quite impressive for the kids, can’t wait to show them the redwoods…
Oh yes, a detail I left out earlier, though it bore fruit on the way home. My brother and I, as kids, had played a role-playing game with our imaginations. We had characters that would roam imaginary lands completing quests, and surviving scrapes with death. After much polite pleading by my son, we played it around the campfire. This allowed my daughter to get in on the action as well. ANYWAY, we ended up occupying many hours on the return trip by this means of adventure.
After a complicated potty stop in the middle of the forest, we eventually reached the John Day Fossil Beds. The first attraction of which was the Painted Hills. The kids weren’t all that interested in the geology of it, as they needed to use the restroom….again. After snapping some pics, we visited the nearest facilities.
Next, we traveled down the road to the Fossil Beds Interpretive Center. This place was truly epic. Just as good and awesome as many who charge admission. They had a huge window where you could see into the lab where paleontologists were clearing debris from fossils. There was a whole kid room full of touchables, coloring activities, and a PC with microscope so you could examine some specimens up-close. I almost missed the main attraction which was a walk-through exhibit. It went through different periods of time with murals, figures, and fossils of the creatures from each period. There were pull-out drawers to explore, and ambient music to really put it over the top. It was at this point my camera started to die for the second time, so here’s where the pictures dry up.
One rest area yielded a neat water-wheel, but otherwise the only other stops were Walmart & the gas station. It was here I made up for my missed morning coffee. I grabbed a pizza on the way home, and we hit the beds like sacks of potatoes. Sunday I awoke with both kids in the bed, coffee in the pot, and chores a mile long. We took our time, staggering showers for all and 3 loads of laundry before their mother picked them up that evening.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I could dwell on wanting more time, missing the 500+ geocaches along the route, etc. The truth is, I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. Loaded with fun activities, sprinkled with memorable adversity, and just what I needed. In this modern day we live in, I think it’s all to easy to forget what’s important. For the cost of a new big flat-screen (that seem to be in every household these days) I had a wonderful experience that I hope my family will treasure forever. Now if only I could do it more often….