Our road trip continued inland with a 190-mile /305-kilometer trip to Bend, Oregon. The nature in Oregon is just absolutely breath-taking!
From Medford, we had immediately taken Highway 62, the Crater Lake Highway, northbound. Meandering along the Rogue River, we were driving through forests most of the time.
Natural Bridge (Prospect, OR)
Our first stop was the Natural Bridge. A lava flow made a tunnel in the rocks where the Rogue River now powers through, flowing through the 250-foot lava tube before surfacing, creating huge rapids thundering from the cascades. The pictures below are sequenced taken from upstream.
We continued a short hike along the Upper Rogue River Trail, where further upstream, the Rogue River was a rather tranquil stream.
Crater Lake National Park
The next stop was Oregon’s only National Park. At 1,943 ft / 592 meters deep, Crater Lake is deepest in the US and one of the 3 deepest in the world. The lake was formed after Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed about 7,700 years ago. The smaller island within the crater, Wizard Island, was established in a subsequent, more minor eruption.
As it is contained within the volcano crater, the lake is only fed with precipitation and meltwater. Combined with the lack of vegetation in the lake, the water is unbelievably clear (visibility up to 145ft / 44m deep) and a striking shade of blue.
The caldera rim is between 7,000-8,000ft / 2,100-2,400m high, mostly shielding the lake from wind, and therefore provided beautiful views of the mirror-like lake. An absolute must-see!
Due to traffic work, we had a bumpy ride to Watchman Overlook, named after the Watchman peak at the edge of the caldera on the West Rim Drive.
There were many warnings along the way regarding the fire season – it was code red and maximum alertness for wildfires pretty much everywhere we went inland – and the fumes from the wildfires that started due to lightning strikes a couple of weeks earlier. We were in luck that the skies were relatively clear.
After rounding Crater Lake, we took Highway 138, the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, east to Klamath Falls, where the traces of past wildfires were clearly visible.
Diamond Lake Junction Café, Chemult
After a road that was straight for at least 10 miles, we came up to the T-Junction with Highway 97, The Dalles-California Highway, where we had our lunch stop at the Diamond Lake Junction Café (94401 US Highway 97).
It’s an old-fashioned roadside truck stop/diner “in the middle of nowhere” with pretty good (yet very polarised) online ratings. Obviously, one should not expect haute cuisine in such an establishment, but the rustic food was good and reasonably priced. The very friendly owner/waitress/cook wrote everything down, but with all orders, something went wrong in the execution (but promptly corrected). The fresh fries were a bit limp but tasted great, and my Wally Burger had about a whole sautéed onion on it. Instead of ‘Where is Wally’, this was a case of ‘Where is the Wally Burger’). 😋 The rest indulged in cheeseburgers and a grilled cheese sandwich.
A couple that only could be described as hipsters came in, looked at the drip coffee machine, and asked whether they also served espresso. This was greeted with a cheery, “Oh, hun, in the next town, 10 miles up north, there is a coffee shack that may serve espresso.”😃
After a near-death experience close to Bend as somebody that took an exit suddenly changed her mind and veered her van back from the ramp onto the highway, we needed the rest of the afternoon to wind down.
Luckily our room at the hotel, Tetherow (61240 Skyline Ranch Road), was simply amazing: spacious and with an excellent view on one of the 50 best golf courses of the US. We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the balcony with a glass of Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection 2015 Merlot and some beautiful Rainier cherries…
The temperatures around Bend were very agreeable. On the flip side, due to its elevation of 3700ft / 1150m, it rapidly cooled down from the 77℉/25℃ during the day once the sun disappeared. It was the first night in quite some time that we actually needed the bed covers…
The hotel is in Bend’s suburbs, so we drove to town to have dinner at Spork, which started off as a food truck (or food trailer actually as it was one of those beautiful Airstream Tradewind trailers). In 2013 they opened their brick and mortar location in Bend (937 NW Newport Ave) with a globally inspired green-conscious menu (also for take-out). Food from all corners of the world is available:. Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinean, West-African, Korean, Thai, Burmese, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese. Meat, Chicken, Fish, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free; you name it, and they have something on the menu.
The restaurant is very popular, so due to the combination of counter service, very affordable prices, availability for takeout, and not taking any reservations, standing in line for 20-30 minutes is something that you should prepare for. There was even one waiter that was taking drink orders just for those waiting in line. We arrived there at 7.30pm, and when we left just after 9pm, the line was just as long…
After ordering the food and getting the drinks (some local beers from the tap), we found a table, and very shortly after that, the food was already served. From the daily specials, we sampled the Burmese Fried Cheese and the Mexican Grilled Corn. The kids savored the Kids’ Tacos with shredded chicken, lettuce, and cotija cheese (which can be (re)ordered per taco!). Chantal had the Grilled Vegetable Coconut Green Curry (seasonal veggies, bean sprouts, cilantro, toasted sesame, and jasmine rice) and I opted for the super tender Spicy Fried Chicken (rice flour battered boneless fried chicken, spicy-sweet sambal, chilies sauce green onion, toasted sesame, jasmine rice, with a cucumber salad).
Such diversity of cuisines may indicate a lack of focus, but all the dishes that we had were very well executed and chockfull of flavor. Totally worth the wait!