2024 Road Trip: Part 2 – The Oregon Trail

I’ve always wanted to visit Oregon, so I decided what the hell, let’s do it now! After a quiet night by Skinwalker Ranch, I hit the road and headed Northwest. I ended up doing the longest continuous drive for this trip so far, which was about ten hours of straight driving. No big deal, really. I regularly do longer drives than that when I visit family.

My drive took me through a lot of desert landscapes of Utah. The salt flats West of Salt Lake City were interesting. This particular stretch of highway towards Nevada had absolutely no curves for miles and miles, and the salty desert along the highway had so many random sculptures and art pieces that people have left along the highway. I should’ve stopped and snapped some photos along the way, but I was determined to at least make it into Oregon in a reasonable amount of time, so I didn’t bother to stop. Kind of regretting not stopping, though. Lots of weird cool shit to see there.

After 10-ish hours of driving, I stopped in the town of Lakeview, Oregon to get a room for the night. The town looked a bit run down, but it was the only place with lodging for at least another 1.5 hours, and I was tired, so I booked a crappy hotel here. It was one of those places that looked nice on the outside, with well-manicured lawns, good lighting, etc. The rooms themselves, though, we’re not exactly high society to say the least. It was a place to sleep, though, and there were no bed bugs, so hey, I’ll take it!

The next morning, I made my way to Crater Lake. It was only a couple of hours away, and I just had to see it. Only a small part of it was actually open. I assume a lot of the roads were still blocked by snow. I must say, though, that pictures really don’t do it justice. You just have to see this place for yourself. The water is such an incredible shade of blue, and it’s just a breathtaking sight.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island. Yeah, it looks blue as fuck here, but in person it’s even more majestic.

This place is incredibly touristy, so be prepared for crowds and slow traffic. I ended up hiking a trail through some deep snow, wearing some not-so-grippy Chuck Taylors, but I found myself away from the crowds, and found some beautiful vantage points where I could enjoy the silence, just like Depeche Mode wanted me to.

After a couple of hours, I made my way to the Toketee Lake Campground, which is roughly 1.5 hours North of Crater Lake. I booked a site for two nights, that way I could catch a break from all of the driving and just enjoy nature for a while.

I set up camp in a super woodsy area, then took a little hike that led to Toketee Falls. The trailhead starts at this huge water pipe that seems to have sprung a few leaks. I’m not exactly sure what it’s for, but it made for a nice free car wash as I made my way into the parking lot.

The trail is fairly short, but mostly uphill. It goes through some very dense forest, and alongside the North Umpqua River. There are lots of cool areas where the river has carved little pools in the rock, and the water is also very blue. I guess blue water must be a common Oregon thing.

A little canyon carved by the North Umpqua River. Yeah, the water really is this blue.

The trail ends on a wooden deck with a chain link fence that overlooks the waterfall. It’s an awesome waterfall, but I really wanted to make my way to the bottom of it. Technically, there was a way to get down there, but it was a very steep climb, and looked like a great way to slip and fall to your death, or at the very least, break a lot of bones and be very miserable. I might’ve done it if I had a buddy, but I was alone, so I chose to play it safe and stick to the trail.

Toketee Falls, as viewed from the overlook

I met a group of girls on the trail, and their dog who was named Harlow (I think?) They were from Washington state, and also camping in the area. Seemed like a cool group of people. They eventually went on their way as I hung back at the overlook for a while. It was starting to get dark, so eventually I started making my way back to camp. Snapped a few more pictures of the river. I still can’t get over how blue the water is.

The very blue waters of the Umpqua River

It got pretty cold at night while I was sleeping, but I was prepared for this. I picked up a heated sleeping pad that plugs into a portable power station, and it kept me nice and comfortable throughout the night. Definitely a worthy purchase. Unfortunately, I still barely slept that first night. A group of campers in a nearby campsite seemed to be completely incapable of talking without yelling, and one of them kept constantly hitting the lock button on their key fob, which made their car horn honk every time. They literally did this every couple of minutes for the entire night. Like, dude, your car is locked. It’s not getting any more locked. Please stop fucking locking your car. I can live with the loud talking, but the constant horn honking was getting on my nerves.

The next morning, I got up and made some coffee, then hiked to a nearby hot spring in the woods. The trail is mostly uphill, but it’s a pretty short hike and definitely worth it. As with most hot springs, this one is clothing optional, so be prepared to encounter naked people in the pools. And if you think I was going to have any part of that nudity in the woods, you are absolutely correct, fuck yeah! I stripped down and got into one of the many pools, and just relaxed in the hot water. The pools at this particular hot spring are on a steep hill, with various pools at different levels on the hill. At the bottom of the hill, there is a creek, and I wanted to check out the pools at the very bottom next to the creek. It’s quite the climb. You literally have to rappel down the hill while holding onto a rope, so I made my way down and discovered that there is a cool little cave at the bottom, right along the creek. This cave is filled with hot spring water, so I made my way inside and sat down for a soak. The cave smelled funny, however, and I noticed I could hear some squeaking in there. I looked up, and realized that the ceiling was filled with bats, just hanging above the water. I like bats, though, so this didn’t bother me. It’s not every day a goth kid gets to hang out in a hot spring within a bat cave.

I eventually climbed the rope back to the top of the springs. The sun was getting to be a bit unbearable by this point, however, especially for my pale ass, so I made my way back to my campsite for a while. I did not take any photos of the hot spring for obvious reasons.

Later in the evening, I made my way back to the hot spring. This time, the sun was behind the trees, so it was much more bearable. I ended up bullshitting with several locals. This one dude – I never did catch his name – was camping somewhere within walking distance of the hot spring. I wish I had done that instead of booking a paid campsite. The hot spring was closed at night, and you wouldn’t be able to get away with parking at the trailhead without the park ranger busting you. There was nothing stopping you from just walking in, though, but my campsite was WAY too far away for that kind of walk. The local dude was “totally not going to come back at night” because “that’s illegal, and I am a law-abiding citizen”, he said. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. If I ever come back here, I’m finding a dispersed campsite next time.

After a few hours of evening soaking, I was a complete wrinkly prune, so I made my way back to camp. Thankfully, the loud group of horn-honking dudes were gone, so I actually got some decent sleep that night.

The next morning, I packed up my gear, and hit the road again. This time, I’m aiming for the coast.


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