A few weeks ago, the U.S. National Park Service celebrated the “Opening Weekend”, in which parks that have to be closed for the winter can typically open. But best of all, admission to all of the National Parks across the country was FREE that weekend! The National Park closest to me is Crater Lake, and I was definitely interested in getting in for free! Even though it was a nannying weekend for me, I brainstormed ways to make it fun for the kids while still enjoying the time myself. But when I got that Saturday off, it seemed like everything fell into place perfectly, and off I went!
Coming from the South required going though lots of farmland and forest, which is probably my favorite driving scenery. I even happened to come across a little trail system next to a river, so I stopped there along the way. (There are a lot of other places to stop, but I had already been to most of them while going on my Jackson County One-Day Road Trip!)
It was a pretty long drive to Crater Lake. Even after my GPS announced “arriving at destination”, there was still a lot of driving through the forest to get to the actual entry area. I drove right past the admission booth and parked at the first Visitor Center. The had a film that told many interesting facts about the uniqueness of the lake. Of course after seeing that, I had to head up to the lake myself!
Now, it has not snowed all winter where I live. There wasn’t even much snow in the mountains, so little that the ski area was closed down! I guess all the snow ended up at Crater Lake. In the past I have snowshoed through the area, and once even played in the snow midsummer. So I was expecting there to be some snow, but not as much as there was! Most of the roads were closed off, and the one road that was open up to the lake did not have enough cleared-out parking spots, so I and dozens of other drivers parked in the middle of the road! It was thick enough that I could stand on the informational signs, and had to bend all the way to the ground to put garbage in the trash cans. There were even signs warning us to stay off the roof! (Although the footprints on the snow-covered roof suggested that not everyone followed that rule!)
The funniest sight was that half of the people there were wearing shorts in the snow. If it wasn’t for the breeze picking up the chill from the snow, it actually would have been a very warm day! But of course, the best sight was the Crater Lake itself:
On the way back, I stopped at Union Creek and walked on a short nature trail by the stream.
The most memorable thing about Union Creek is “The Living Stump”. As you can see in this picture, this stump has been healed over, proving that even though it was chopped down, it is still alive. The reason behind this is that its roots are grafted to the roots of the tree next to it.
And here are a few more pictures of Union Creek.
This nature day trip to Crater Lake National Park was pretty fun, and on a wonderfully low budget, too! My only expense was the gas in the van I drove. However, if you’d like to visit Crater Lake National Park, know there is typically an entrance fee. But I do have good news: If you’d like to visit a National Park, whether it be Crater Lake or anywhere else, you can get in for FREE on August 25th, in celebration of the National Park Service Birthday! In fact, there are several days each year where all U.S. National Parks are free to enter. Plan your low-budget park visits on these days!