San Francisco, Crater Lake and Seattle

Duration: 7 days, 7 nights
Location: West Coast, CA
Budget: €2000
Miles Travelled: 1,200

An early morning start out of San Francisco is how it all beings the first day. Head North on the 101 towards Crescent City and Bandon. Stop in the giant Redwood Forests and Parks for some amazing landscape shots.

Across into Crater Lake National Park then for some hiking and photography before continuing north to Seattle where the week finishes up in Pike St market and scenic nighttime views of Seattle.

Day 7 – So we left Honolulu Saturday night on the red-eye flight to San Francisco. We got a little sleep on the plane but not a lot – there is a lot of pressure to make sure that everything is organised and booked properly – especially when you are doing most of the organising yourself. If you are wondering where the first six days are, they are in an earlier post in Hawaii. So the flight time was approximately five hours and we got a bit of sleep on the plane. There were not a lot of people on the plane due to the late hour of the flight. We arrived in San Francisco and I was hopeful that I might get a nice sunrise photo of the Golden Gate Bridge as we were heading North towards our next destination. However there was a problem with the car rental at the airport and the weather was not in it for us. Sunrise was just after 06:00 that morning and we had landed at 05:10 but someone was complaining to the staff at the car rental desk and there was only one person working the graveyard shift. Eventually we got our car and there were a few options. I had booked a convertible for the drive up north. There was a lotus eclipse and the trusty ford Mustang. Suffice it to say, I chose the Mustang. The boot was not the biggest but I did not mind, the car looked cool 🙂 We got a sat nav off the car rental company also – I think that it was part of the rental agreement – and proceeded to plot a course due North from San Francisco on the 101. Traffic was light at that hour of the morning and we got across the bridge with no delays. We could see the fog covering the bridge as we approached it and after only getting a few hours sleep on the plane it was nice to get some fresh air as we drove. We headed North towards Crescent City – which is located just below the Oregon border. We left San Fran at 06:00 and we arrived in Crescent City around 14:00 hours with a couple of stop off’s along the way. We stopped off in Jeremiah State Park as well as the Founder Tree on the road North in the Redwood National Park. It was nice to walk around the trails and get some fresh air. Another benefit of the car was that it was a convertible so it was impressive to drop the top and drive along among these giant tree’s as we continued on this epic journey of a lifetime.

We arrived in Crescent City around 14:30 and checked in to the accommodation – the Curly Redwood Lodge on Highway 101 South. We were a little early now but thankfully the room was ready and we could check in. We dropped off the bags and decided to take a power nap for a few hours before we headed out for the evening. It was a long drive up from San Fran and the place was nice and quiet – though a bit windy being on the coast. We got up after a few hours and decided to head out for something to eat. We drove around the place but there was not a lot going on really. We got something to eat in a diner down the road and then headed back out the 101 to look for some sunset shots. We took a walk along the beach but it was extremely windy and cold. It did however give us a good opportunity to have some wind surfers out on the water and try to capture them in action. We walked up and down the beach and then headed up to a pull out for some sunset shots. After the sunset, we headed to Pizza Hut and got something to eat and drove down to the Lighthouse for a bit of air before heading back to the motel and going to bed. The plan was for a short run in the morning before we headed off to Bandon in Oregon.

Founders Tree

Day 8 – After a good nights sleep we got up and headed out for a short run around the area. The weather was nice and dry and we chatted as we explored some of the routes in and around the town. We were planning on heading into Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park later on so we started running out that road and turned off then before we were too far along and returned on a different route. The one thing that we did notice was there were a few mosquitos around the place when you went away from the coast so we were concscious of that when out running. Luckily we did not get any bites so we were ok. We returned from the run and grabbed some breakfast and packed up the car. Around 10:00 we checked out and headed easterly towards Jedediah State Park with the plan of coming out on the North of it and continuing that way towards Bandon. The park was nice and the number of cars in there was a lot for the early hour of the day and the time of the year. We travelled through the park and took some pictures and headed out towards Bandon then around noon. It was a short drive up to Bandon as Crescent City is only a short distance from the Oregon border.

We arrived in the early afternoon and proceed to check in to the Sunset Motel where we were staying for the night. We were able to check in early so we dropped off the bags at the accommodation – number 354 – and parked the car across the way in the car park. The view was great from the balcony and the beach stretched along for miles. Tracey went out for a run along the beach and I headed down with my cameras and walked up towards the southern end of the beach. There was a nice breeze but it was lovely and refreshing. After that, we headed into town to look around the place and get something to eat. It was a nice small area again and quaint. We walked around a little and stopped off at a pub where we could get something to eat and chat about the plans for the coming days. After a hearty american meal we got some fuel for the car and headed back to the motel where we walked down onto the beach for some sunset photography. We went back to the motel then and watched some tv and relaxed for the night before heading to bed. Tomorrow we were going towards Crater Lake National Park.

Founders Tree

Day 9 – So we got up this morning and went for a short run down the beach – it was nice and early and there were only a few people out walking their dogs. It was a different sort of run now to be honest – there were some obstacles to get over or around but all in all it was nice and relaxing. We got back to the motel and showered and loaded up the car and started our drive across towards Crater Lake. We were booked into Crater Lake Lodge for the night and it was around 5 hours of a drive across to the National Park. It took us a little longer because there seemed to be a lot of road works on the way across to the lodging.

Crater Lake National Park is a United States national park located in southern Oregon, in the United States. The centerpiece of the park is Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States, known for its deep blue color.Crater Lake was formed from the collapse of Mount Mazama, a volcano in southern Oregon that once stood about 11,000 feet tall. A series of destructive eruptions around 5000 BC caused the mountain’s peak to collapse into its lava chamber, resulting in a caldera nearly six miles wide. Over time, snowmelt and rain collected in the crater to form the lake, which at 1,949 feet deep, is presently the deepest in the USA, 2nd in North America, and 9th in the world. Based on a comparison of average depths, however, Crater Lake at 1148 feet, is the deepest in the Western Hemisphere and third deepest in the world.

Crater Lake’s location high in the Cascade mountains (about 6,000 feet above sea level) means that snow is often visible year-round. The lake is often enveloped in heavy snow during the fall, winter, and spring, forcing the closure of roads and trails. In fact, the lake averages 533 inches of snow a year. Consequently, the best time to visit Crater Lake is in the summer months, when all facilities, roads, and trails are open. Based on this piece of information that I pulled off of Wikipedia before we left on the trip, we timed it to go in July when both entrances are open and accessibility to the rim is higher.

The 33-mile Rim Drive encircles Crater Lake, giving varied perspectives of the lake, rim, and surrounding terrain. Open only during the summer from late June to mid-October, there are many overlooks with interpretive signs. The only access to the lake itself is by steep trail to Cleetwood Cove, where boat tours of the lake are offered. Numerous picnic areas are along the Rim Drive, as is hiking access from Rim Village to Garfield Peak. Rim Drive also accesses Lightning Springs (west side), Cleetwood Cove (north side), Mount Scott (east side), Sun Notch Viewpoint and Crater Peak (south side). Both Kerr Notch and Sun Notch Viewpoints are particularly spectacular viewpoints, with views down to Phantom Rock and across the lake to Wizard Island. The one thing that a lot of the websites forget to mention are mosquitos. There are a lot of them around at this time of the year – even though there is snow on the trail when you are driving in. Thankfully there were not too many there when we were there but it was only a matter of time – according to locals. They are most active in the early morning and late evening – as I found out when we headed out to take some sunset images of the crater. The lodging is really nice albeit a little expensive. We got a cup of soup and a salad for lunch and the cost was a little high – but the views are really nice and worth it so you get what you pay for I suppose! After getting back to the hotel from the drive, we sat down by the fire in the lobby and relaxed before retiring to bed.

Day 10 – I got up to do some sunrise photography over the rim. I left my tripod in the car so started out with taking images from the low running wall around the back of the hotel. In the end I had to go to the car to get the tripod as I was capturing bracketed images of the views and I needed to hold the camera steady for several seconds. The wall was fine but the views were limited. There was another photographer up at that hour of the morning too – approximately 07:00 – and we were chatting and talking as we were waiting for the sun to crest over the rim of the crater. I saw some deer nearby in the snow as I was moving around looking for different vantage points in order to capture the best views of the scene. We checked out of the hotel around 09:00 and started the long journey to Paradise in eastern Washington. It was going to take around 8 hours to drive up to here today but we were aware of this starting off so we were prepared. We started out early with the hope that we were going to get some food along the way and hopefully make it to Paradise shortly after 14:00 hours. We took the 138 East to the 97 North and drove along here till we reached Bend, Oregon. We stopped off and got something to eat for lunch and then we were on the road again heading up towards Portland and the east towards Paradise. We were on the I5 North till we got past Portland and then we turned off to the 12 East heading towards Mt Rainier National Park. It was around 90 minutes from Portland to our destination. We missed the turn off to the hotel but that was ok – we saw an arctic fox when we were heading back around to the car park at the hotel – The Paradise Inn. We checked in without ant trouble though car parking was a bit tough. We dropped most of the stuff in the room and decided to take a short hike up the trail to a pano view-point – it was on the Skyline Trail and depending on your level of fitness, could take anywhere between 3 and 4 hours to complete. We went in the reverse direction in order to do the hardest part first and hopefully make the descent a little easier. The view was amazing and there was some marmots on the trail as well on the lower altitudes. There was a nice bit of snow on the trail so you needed a good pair of hiking boots or shoes in order to have a nice grip when you were climbing up the scree and loose stones. There was a time on the hike when Tracey was a bit worried as it was getting dark but the sun had not quite set yet. We kept going though and made it to that view-point up top which was well worth the hike. The weather was nice and mild and a t-shirt was all you needed on the climb. When we stopped we put on our jumpers to stay work and enjoy the view for a few minutes before we started back down to the car park and the hotel. We got back down in around 45 minutes and the sun was just setting in front on the car park as we landed back into it. A truly impressive view and very scenic. We dropped our gear back to the room and grabbed a shower before heading down the lobby where there was an open fire going. We looked around the hotel some more, sat down and relaxed after the long day and sat out on the porch looking up at the stars in the clear night sky – with Rainier alight in the background. That was, until the mosquitos came out and we went in.

Crater Lake

Day 11 – We got up and headed for a short run around the place – we had a little loop picked out from the day before when we came into the National Park but it was hilly. That was the problem with the location – there was nothing but hills. Great for biking and hiking now but the run was another matter. We did the loop and followed it with some stretches before we checked out of the hotel and started the drive towards Seattle. We were going to head back to the way we came up but we found an alternative route that was a lot shorter – brought us out on to the I5 and we headed North and kept going. All in all we were in Seattle within three hours and we hit it at lunch time – which meant that traffic was a bit crazy. We were heading to the Boeing Future of Flight that was located about 40 minutes north of Seattle. We were too early to check into the hotel so we decided to head there and see what it was like. We called ahead and booked the tickets via phone so we saved a few dollars that way. The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour offers the only opportunity to tour a commercial jet assembly plant in North America. The Boeing Tour is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to view 747, 767, 777, and 787 jets being assembled on the Everett product line before they take to the sky. Each tour is approximately 90 minutes long and includes fascinating facts about Boeing and the planes that bear its name. The Boeing Tour involves walking approximately one-third of a mile, climbing 21 steep stairs, riding an elevator 35 feet above the factory floor and walking through a tunnel. All in all now I have to say that it was a very enlightening tour and full of facts and tidbits of information. The sheer size of the setup and plants there are staggering and very very impressive. As mentioned above, no cameras or cell phones are allowed on the tour so we left our’s in the car and collected them after the tour to take some images of the shops and memorabilia inside.

Once we finished up the tour and got some final pictures we headed back to Seattle. We headed for the Silver Cloud Inn on Broadway and paid the 19$ a day car parking charge for keeping the car there. It was one of the cheaper rates around the place thankfully and they had a free shuttle into Pike Market from the hotel every 30 minutes. We were barely in the door and checked in when we decided to get the shuttle into town and get something to eat so we literally dropped the bags and headed back out again . We ended up going to the Hard Rock Cafe downtown and then we walked along the pier and took some pictures before we headed back to the pickup point at 22:15. There was a nice lighting show going out west and we sat and watched that for a while – unfortunately I did not have the fast camera or the tripod or the shutter release with me – three key elements that I would have needed in order to get the killer photos.I pushed the iso as it was and got one or two workable shots though. We got the shuttle back to the hotel and then went to bed as there was a nice bit planned for the coming days when we were going to be in Seattle.


Day 12 – Today we got up and headed into the downtown area to have a look at Pike Market – or that was the plan at least. It was raining when we woke up – not much now and not that heavy but it was raining. It was still warm though. One of the last things that we saw before we went to bed the night before we people queuing for the new Batman show at midnight – so when the weather was so bad we decided to head to the cinema. It worked out quite well now – we headed down to the 11:10 show of Batman – The Dark Knight Rises – the final in the trilogy of the Batman story. There were not a lot of people in the queue so that was great so we just lined up with the rest of the people there – in out of the rain as well as we were under a shelter – and then we went in and watched the 2h45 minute show of Batman – and it was great!!

When we came out of the cinema most of the rain had stopped. We looked around some of the shops in the area and walked around towards Pike Market and the downtown area. It was nice and relaxed and there were lots of people around doing shopping and chatting and working. We spent a few hours here and headed back to the hotel then via the free shuttle. It was such a great service and if I had of known about it before hand I probably would have dropped the car off when we got to Seattle as we did not need it. Later on that evening we went up to Kerry Park to get a nice skyline view of Seattle – and even with that we took a taxi for 10$ – it was way easier that trying to navigate the back street and trying to find parking and everything else. There were a lot of photographers and people up there and one a clear day you can see Rainier in the background – seemingly. It was not the case for us that night but all in all it went well now. The only thing that we were not prepared for was the cold. There was a cold wind blowing in across the vista point constantly. You would need a warm light jacket or jumper in order to keep warm when you are there. We stuck around for a bit and got some nice images and then walked back down into downtown and got the last shuttle up to the hotel for the night – all in all an enjoyable relaxing day before our last day in Seattle and the onward journey to Alaska.

Seattle at night

Day 13 – This was the last day in Seattle and we were off the following morning early to Alaska so we got up and decided to head to the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. It is right under the Space Needle so it aint that hard to find. We got up here around 10:30 and bought our ticket to head into see the exhibition. There was an option to double up and purchase a ticket to go up the Space Needle as well at a discounted price but the view from Kerry Park is more spectacular – and it is free. Plus it was too hazy and sunny out that day so we were not going to see a whole lot now. There was an issue with taking bags into the museum – the staff are nervous re loose bags swinging around the place and breaking the glass on show so I had to strap my small camera bag to my back and swear that I was not going to take it off – or if I did I was out. In the end it all worked out ok for me but it is just something to be aware of if you are a photographer and you want or need to bring in different lenses with you. We toured around the exhibition and then took some images outside in the garden part – all in all a really cool experience. We looked through the shop and then headed away from there and walked back down towards downtown. We headed back to the hotel and dropped off our bags and collected the tripod and some warm clothes for later on – another trip back to the Kerry Park lookout was on the cards again for me tonight and Tracey was ok with that. Before we headed up to there for sunset – around 21:00 hours – we went down towards 7th Ave and looked around some more shops and got some good deals on H&M running tops. This was after we tried to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. The place was busy but they said to  call back in an hour and we would get a place so there was nothing else to do really but shop. We walked around into the different places and looked at this and that and then headed back to the Cheesecake Factory. The portions of food in here are unreal – bordering on insanely massive. We could hardly move after it now and it was getting kinda late too when we got out of there – coming up on 21:00 and sunset. Instead of walking up to the Park – which was the plan – we grabbed a cab and he waited for us when we took some shots up there. I only wanted a few quick shots and I wanted to make sure that blue hour was finishing and nite was starting. I got the shots and then the cab dropped us down to the Pier when I captured some more images and then we walked back to the hotel to let the food digest. All in all it was a nice walk that took 50 odd minutes but it was worth it and the night was nice and fresh and not too cold. We got back to the hotel at 23:00 and finished packing before going to bed as we had an early start in the morning – 06:00 out of Seattle to Anchorage.

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