Lucky Lodge Stay
Getting National Park Lodge reservations, is always a tricky thing. In the past we've booked a year in advance. But, last summer Don and I snagged a last-minute, cancelled room at Crater Lake Lodge.
We were also lucky just getting to the lodge. Snow closed one of the roads and we drove through rain on the other. But, the clouds began to lift when we arrived!
We were double lucky when we returned a week later with our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter!
This time we managed to get TWO last minute, lake-view rooms AND the sun was out! (Not all luck. I must admit, I spent an insane amount of time online and on my phone.)
The manmade structure looked mighty impressive as we approached. But it was hard to compete with the natural beauty behind the lodge. Crater Lake is the deepest and bluest lake in the United States!
The hotel is perched on the rim of a caldera, made by a massive volcanic eruption over 7,000 years ago! The scenery is even more stunning, when you know how it was created.
Glad It's Here
Don and I have stayed in about 10 National Park Lodges. This one has had a more troubling history than any of the others. Evidently Crater Lodge was a total mess, when it was rescued from demolition, in 1989.
The lodge's initial opening in 1917, was more pitiful than grand. Construction wasn't even completed, when they opened their doors to guests. Serious construction flaws, along with money problems, meant the lodge never had its real heyday. It fumbled along for years.
Arriving in 2023
Don and I arrived on a Friday in mid June. The stone and shingled exterior looked spotless.
Our visit was nearly 30 years after the reopening In 1995. It took 6 years of rehabilitation and reconstruction. The roof no longer sagged like it did in 1989.
The lobby felt welcoming with the stone fireplace, Stickley (reproduction) chairs and the original bark-covered columns.
The floors were bright and clean, unlike 3 decades ago. During renovation, 22 different kinds of carpet were discovered. I'm trying to imagine all the smells during that removal. Ugh.
The Great Hall
All was peaceful in the Great Hall... in the early morning hours. When we arrived in the late afternoon, things were a little more hopping.
When I looked up at the 13-foot beamed ceilings and classic light fixtures, I tried to imagine how the interior looked when the weary lodge closed down before renovation. I read that there were bug zappers hanging and florescent lights.
With both visits, we were lucky to find seats near the grand fireplace. It helps to have a grand-toddler, who wakes very early!
Over 100 years ago, the fireplace was also a favorite gathering area.
Although the interior looks massive and sturdy in this old photo, the hotel structure was doomed from the beginning. The light wood-frame construction of the lodge, never held up to the elements.
The stones of this fireplace were numbered for reconstruction, before they were taken apart.
It was nice that Don and I had our stay a week earlier. We knew what to expect when our energetic 2-year-old granddaughter was introduced.
It's a little nerve-wracking having a toddler near an enormous fireplace opening. There was no fire screen. And the 2 squirrel andirons seemed to be luring her closer. Luckily the crackling heat warned all of us, if we stepped too close.
Smokey Bear and More Squirrels
I told Charlie we should go on a hunt for some other squirrels and a Smokey Bear or two. We found Smokey next to another fireplace, which wasn't lit.
We found a couple lamps with carved squirrels! I now notice that Charlie and the squirrel are striking the same pose... only the squirrel is holding a nut, not a pacifier!
Unlike some historic lodges, we did have elevator options. But the stairs were curious and offered good exercise.
One set of stairs looked like something out of an old hospital. Very sterile!
The bark-covered stairs in the corner of the Great Hall were charming. As was the little game table with log-and-twig chairs.
The stairs were actually quite a workout for some of us, not used to an elevation of over 7,000 feet.
I'm sure the plexiglass-glass was added in the last renovation. I appreciated the addition, when I took Charlie on Climbing Missions.
My mission was to tire Charlie out a bit, so she might sit a spell with us! She loved to explore and was not too interested in sitting in a chair for very long. And how could I resist, when for the 20th time Charlie asked, "Grandma, I wanna climb stairs please?"
There were numerous little gathering areas in the Great Hall. The Mission style furniture fit the decor. Unlike some antique furniture, it happened to be comfortable.
After our stair-climbing, Charlie was happily lured into a comfy chair, with a fruit bar.
Our little group settled into a cozy area, while other families gathered nearby, with their kids and crayons and books. I didn't see anyone looking at a cellphone! Such a pleasant, homey atmosphere.
Charlie didn't stay seated too long, but she was thoroughly entertained with scarves... and her Baby Yoda...
And when Buster brought us some drinks from the bar, Charlie was quite delighted to have a new face in the mix.
Our cheery bar server told Charlie that he had a sister, with the same name as Charlie.
Buster came back to check on us and was happy to snap our photo...
...but he wasn't any more skilled than the rest of us, in convincing Charlie to remove her Paci.
Rockers on the Veranda
The Great Hall wasn't the only place with wonderful seating options.
The Veranda had a nice line up of rocking chairs, overlooking the lake.
On our first Friday visit, the rockers were all taken, until a large group headed in for dinner reservations. Then Don and I had a wonderful time rocking and taking in the view.
A week later, no one was fighting over the Veranda chairs. The weather had warmed to 69 degrees and there was a mosquito invasion. What a shame... but it was sort of comical watching from inside, as unknowing guests discovered the attacking pests!
Veranda at Sunrise
The Lodge Veranda offered impressive views at both sunrise and sunset, if you were willing to put up with bugs or chilly temps.
I got up around 5 am, to catch the sunrise on the first visit. I headed downstairs expecting to see no one, but there were a number of guests with cameras, in the wee morning hours.
No one was sitting in a rocking chairs, when the sun began to peek out. There were no voices, either. Just the sound of serious cameras clicking.
I stepped away with my cellphone camera. As soon as the sun hit the lodge, the photographers headed inside.
I could have had my pick of the rockers. I did for a moment... but it was cold!
Dining at the Lodge
The Lodge Dining Room has changed very little in a century.
Back in 1917, the tables were covered with linen, but that's about the only difference.
There were only a few tables with good lake views. Don and I didn't ask for one, when we made reservations the first time. The restaurant was packed.
Don and His Fish
We sat in the middle of the room and focussed on our food.
Don's expression looks skeptical, but he was actually very pleased with his steelhead filet.
I was sorry they no longer used the Crater Lake Lodge China, which I saw on display. But I did enjoy my salad and creamy broccoli-cheese soup. Not my usual choice for a summer dinner, but we were in a lodge, with snow outside!
Dining With the Fam
On our Friday evening with the "kids" we ended up with a great table next to the window.
It helped that we made reservations for 8:00. Most families were vacating tables.
By about 9 pm, it was time to dash outside and take a quick photo.
Snow, lake, pines, pink sunset and not a single bite!
I actually don't remember what we ate. Sometimes that happens when I'm in good company.
I just remember that everyone was happy with their food and happy to be together. This was the first night on the road with our gang. Don and I were caravanning with Heidi, Jamie and Charlie, during their move to Texas. They were excited to experience Crater Lake, before moving away from the state. We were excited to get them back in Texas!
Making last minute reservations meant we took whatever we could get. On our first visit, Don and I stayed on the top floor, overlooking the lake.
Higher rooms usually have better views. But my exterior photo shows the shed roof dormers... which meant the higher windows were more restricted.
We headed down the hall wondering what our room would look like. National Park Lodges aren't known for luxury.
The hall looked a bit spiffier than many old lodges. No dark creepy lodge halls at Crater Lake.
We really can't complain. The room was a decent size, with a comfy chair for Don's problem back. We had a queen bed instead of a double. There was a coffee maker and a bathtub. We've stayed in much tinier lodge quarters.
I was eager to get over to the window and take in the view! The scenery was indeed spectacular, but the height of the third floor window was tricky.
I felt like a kid, standing on my toes to look out. I opened the window and heard voices below, but couldn't see down. Finally I grabbed a chair and climbed up for a better view!
In the early morning, the window view was the most dramatic. A faint light woke me around 5 am.
I grabbed my phone and took this photo at 5:08! Then I tossed clothes and a jacket over my pajamas and ran downstairs to welcome the morning!
Our room was on the second floor, for our next stay. We have a little person in this picture to show the difference.
Charlie spent some time in Grandma and Pop Pop's room while her parents unloaded the car. Kids appreciate a good view as much as adults. No need for climbing chairs in Room 215!
The king bed was a welcome change, also. We had a regular tub, which was fine. Some have claw-footed tubs.
National Park Lodges don't do TVs. Who needs them, when you can stare out the window for your entertainment!
We didn't get any hikes in, on either visit. But we did some posing, with the lake...
... and with the snow!
Jamie and Heidi got in a quick selfie before we checked out.
Grandma managed a quick photo with Charlie, before we headed to the car!
Good-Bye Crater Lake
Both visits were way too quick, with not nearly enough lake time. I did absorb some facts though.
Wizard Island is really a volcanic cinder cone! Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep and holds 4.9 trillion gallons of water! The view across is 6 miles! I'll probably forget those fun facts, but I'll remember the notable stuff.
We stayed in a lodge that was cleaner and fresher and sturdier than the day it opened in 1917. When we relaxed by the fireplace, it was hard to imagine the lodge in its decayed state, 30+ years ago.
I'll remember the feel of the lodge when it was empty and quiet, as well as when it was full of activity. It was fun to see families gathering, and solo guests reading and couples playing cards. It felt like the visitors were behaving like guests from 100 years ago!
So our memories will be a combination of cozy lodge & stunning lake. Both lake and lodge have amazing histories.
I'll remember that wonderful combo well. But honestly, I'll mostly remember that Don and I stayed twice... and enjoyed our time with family, twice as much!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!