Eugene is a quirky college town (again with a great proximity to adventure, not to mention to Portland), and we started off by exploring Alton Baker Park. The park borders the Willamette River and has running trails, an amphitheater and the university’s football stadium. Luckily, we had a great list of recommendations, so we knew to check out Laughing Planet for dinner and Vero Espresso for coffee the following morning. Post-caffeine, we took some time to walk around campus and then returned to the river to read. We stopped at a place called Cornbread that night for dinner and the Wandering Goat to work before starting a mini hot spring tour, starting with Cougar Hot Springs. If you like soaking in hot rock water and seeing naked old men playing flutes, boy have I got a place for you! The hot springs were actually closed due to wildfires until July 1, 2019 and are now run by a group contacted by the U.S. Forest Service. There are five different pools, varying in temperature from 114 at the top to about 98 at the bottom pool. The springs are totally clear and clean (they’re also $7 per person…and the manned kiosk is fairly impressive) but definitely a busy attraction, namely for those of the hippie persuasion. Jokes aside, the springs were beautiful, and we met a really friendly couple who gave us a great camping recommendation close to the nearby Deer Creek Hot Springs, so we retired there at the end of the night.
Crater Lake National Park
We continued our hot springs tour on Thursday after backtracking to get to Umpqua Hot Springs. These hot springs were similar to Cougar in their tiered temperature form and in quantity but had an exposed Mountain View opposed to the enclosed forest surroundings Cougar did. The hike into the hot springs was also a bit longer and more challenging. We took our time and eventually made our way to Thielson Forest Camp, a free site developed during FDR’s days and just 15 minutes from the North Entrance of Crater Lake National Park.
Did you know Crater Lake is the fifth oldest national park? Yeah, I didn’t either. We originally planned to do an overnight backpacking trip within the park but decided against it because of the lack of views the hikes offered (none went near the actual lake) and because of repeat mountain lion sightings between the Lightning and Burnabee campgrounds. Instead, we called an audible and made our own 12-mile out and back hike starting from the Watchman Overlook to Garfield Peak and back. The peak is the second tallest in the park, and our whole hike bordered the brilliantly blue lake...so a better call.
One thing that’s really cool about the park is that part of the Pacific Crest Trail goes through the park, so they have the Mazama Village, which has a large campsite, restaurant and store and serves as a base for PCT hikers (but really, we all benefit from 75 cent showers). Another thing that’s cool about the park is the Cleetwood Cove hike, a 2.2 mile out and back that brings you to the only spot in the park where you can actually get down to the water and swim!
The swimming seems mildly precarious at first, but it’s not. The lake is nearly 2,000 feet at its deepest and all the fish inside it, mainly salmon and trout, were introduced (so no predators). If that doesn’t sell you, the water is the most tempting shade of blue, and there’s a really cool spot to jump into the lake.