Klamath Falls: #atozchallenge, Day 13

Has this ever happened to you?

You make a plan, and prepare for an adventure. It’s spring, and you and your Accomplice have a case of wanderlust. You want to go somewhere new, and do something different. You decide, since you’re living in Oregon, to drive to Crater Lake, and camp in the covered bed of your big ole three-quarter ton Dodge Truck (circa 1974, when you were all of five years old), the first thing the two of you bought together.

Long before you reach the summit of the mountain, you suspect you’ve made a terrible miscalculation. There’s snow here, at altitude. It’s not spring…

At all. The snowbanks are twice as tall as the truck, maybe more – and the hood of this truck reaches your chest…and you’re not a short woman…


Some people would have turned around, but you’re either brave, or foolish, or quite possibly both. You decide you’re going to the summit, and that you’ll camp there like you planned. In the morning, you can go do something else, because you clearly aren’t descending the trail to the crater when there’s no trail to descend.

But you get to the top, and it’s cold. More than cold. You know cold – you hail from upstate New York, and snowy winters are no stranger to you…but this is cold on a whole other level. There’s a bathroom, at least, accessed through a covered tunnel – the bathroom’s cold, and the tunnel’s cold, and when you get to the end of it – it’s even colder.

Finally, it’s too cold. It was already dark when you arrived, so there’s nothing to see but snow – a cloudy sky promises even more, and hides the stars…

And so you do something you don’t often do. You abort the adventure. You descend the mountain, arguing about the next course of action. One of you (possibly the female one who tends to think a bit more about the niceties of life) says that a hotel with heat and running water and a comfortable bed would be just the thing. Fatigue wins out over the budget – it was a long drive back down that mountain and to a populated area – and you spend an exorbitant amount of money for the bed, the shower, the heat – and a few hours’ comfortable sleep.

In the morning, you find yourself in Klamath Falls and at Lava Beds National Monument. It’s got lava tubes, and history – the Modoc Indians made their stand there, attempting to hold their ancestral lands. One of you knows this already, having recently read a book set here. The other vaguely remembers it from history class.

A rugged and historic landscape. Photo by Don Barrett, courtesy Lava Beds National Monument Photo Pool, via Flickr. Creative commons non-commercial license.

You wander the lava fields imagining the standoff, reading the guided self-tour pamphlet for a better view. You explore a lava tube or two, eating a PowerBar in complete dark. Then you stop by the visitor’s center, and follow that up with a short hike on one of the trails of the Tule Lake Wilderness Refuge, where you are thrilled to see a family of great horned owls nesting in a cliff wall, blinking in the daylight.

You head home, your heads and hearts full, your wallets light, and an adventure that began as a mishap to add to the little collection of travel stories you’ll blog about, years later, sitting in a study while your family sleeps in warm, comfortable, safe, and predictable places…and you’ll know that sometimes the best adventures come not from planning and preparation, but from embracing the utterly unexpected.

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more killer “K” posts, klick the banner!

So, tell me – has this ever happened to you? Don’t change course; follow the trail and leave a comment!




  1. My adventure like this happened at Crater Lake, not far from Klamath Falls, as it happens. Never a bad idea to go to the bathroom at sea level before driving up the mountain. It was 70 degrees at the foot of the mountain, about 35 degrees colder (and I mean colder) next to the lake. And I was wearing a light spring jacket, and really, really had to go to the bathroom, and the one at the top of the mountain was closed… naturally, I got back in the car and set speed records to get to the gift shop, which thank God had a bathroom…

    • The gift shop was not remotely opened when we went. And cold…we weren’t dressed for that, either.

      I’m glad you made it down without embarrassment – and I’m glad we ended up in Klamath, because it was a lovely day.

      • Ground level was great. That part of Oregon is gorgeous, and Medford (where I did my work at wonderful Harry & David) is a nice little city. But man, it’s cold on the way up…

        • Indeed it is! We did return to Crater Lake in the summer, and had a lovely and warm visit. But, as luck would have it, the trail was closed for maintenance, so we still didn’t make it down to the lake. Instead, we sat on a rock at the rim, and just soaked in the beauty.

          I really haven’t found a part of Oregon I’m NOT in love with…I’ll be talking more about it when I get to ‘O’.

          Nice to chat about it with you! =)

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