Day 21: Crater Lake National Park, OR / by Wookie Kim

This day began slowly, and it ended slowly too. I'd spent the night at an Airbnb in Springfield, just over the Willamette River from Eugene. It was a rainy morning, and the hosts made a delicious breakfast for me. I felt lazy.

On my way out of the city to Crater Lake, I stopped by Pre's Rock, the rock ledge that Steve Prefontaine crashed into and died from when he was 24 years old.

Pre's Rock has become a place of pilgrimage for runners of all stripes. The site is covered with medals and memorabilia.

I decided to leave something: the medal the woman had given me at the summit of Table Mountain. (I knew that it might not be there long.)





From that quiet, residential street in Eugene, I drove for Crater Lake. It was a slow drive. I was feeling tired. Also, the sky was ominous. I had my fingers crossed that, magically, the weather up on the rim and inside the caldera would be better. It wasn't. Here was my first view of the park.

It was only 3 p.m., and I didn't know what I was going to do. I proceeded to the visitor center. At 4 p.m., they played a short video on Crater Lake. It was a full house--every single person who'd visited today was packed into the tiny auditorium.

I continued driving around the rim, hoping to catch a glimpse of the lake. I finally did. It was just a glimpse.

I felt disappointed. Crater Lake was the park for which I'd had the highest expectations. Before this trip, I'd never even heard of it. Once I learned about the high-altitude lake, I began to look forward to this visit. The fog was heavy, and there was freezing rain, too.

I had to make a bit of a strategic decision. Did I just say goodbye and drive straight out of the south entrance and sleep in an Airbnb en route to Redwood (my next destination)? Or did I set up camp in the freezing rain and hope for better weather tomorrow? I couldn't bear the thought of having driven all the way here only to see fog and rain and snow, so I decided I'd pitch a tent and try again tomorrow.

With lightning speed, I found a campsite and set up camp. It was only 5 p.m. at this point, and I had no idea how to spend my free time. I figured I'd eat an early dinner and go to bed early as well. There was a lodge with a cafe in it, so I ate there instead of cooking in the frigid outdoors. After chowing down on pot roast and a pizza, I settled in for the night. By 9 p.m., I was asleep.

My goal was to wake up at 5:30 a.m., break camp, and be at the Watchman Overlook by 6:15 to watch the sun rise over the east rim of Crater Lake. I went to bed dreaming the weather would turn.