Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake, OR
We were scheduled to visit Crater Lake National Park last summer, but the nearby wildfires forced us to cancel those plans and reschedule for this summer. So, after a night in the Bay area with friends Karen and David and watching the White Sox defeat the Giants, we escaped the intolerable California gasoline prices and headed into Oregon. Crater Lake is 6,178 feet above sea level and the Park advises guests to visit in July, August and September when the park's roads, trails and facilities are fully open. We arrived on July 4, which I guess does not qualify, because only one trail was open due to the heavy winter snows and even that trail required crossing multiple deep, slippery snow fields.
Once it stopped raining, everybody, including us, headed for the same trail, so it was a pretty typical national park experience. And, of course, the roof of the lodge was being replaced that month which meant that the main entrance to the lodge was closed between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. If you stay in the lodge, there is one restaurant, that requires reservations that can only be made on-site and a nearby snack bar that closes at 4:30 p.m. The restaurant, which is buffet only, was quite good, as well it should be for $52/person.
I don’t know what the solution is for our national parks. Many have instituted quota systems that require advanced reservations just to enter the park. Those that have lodges charge rates that most people can’t afford and even then you can’t get a reservation months in advance. Roads and trails are overcrowded and visitors often wait for hours in traffic or in lines. Other parks require shuttles or buses to see the park. I’m glad that I got to experience our national parks when they were still accessible. Now, I avoid them when I can and that’s just very sad as they are spectacular.