The Crater Lake Road tour was an event we had planned for quite some time. With 23 cars signed up, we had one of the largest groups to date. Starting in Sacramento, the group headed out for one hell of an epic adventure.
Chapter 1 – Twist and turns
Following the drivers meeting early Friday morning, we headed north on I5 for the only boring section of road for the day. We stopped for a fuel and restroom stop in Chico, before hitting some fun twisty roads. For this exciting section of road, we split into two groups, allowing the more “advanced spirited” drivers to take the lead, while the more “relaxed spirited” drivers followed closely behind. Both groups enjoyed 38 miles of weaving in and out of beautiful scenic canyons while making our way to the lunch stop.
We enjoyed a boxed lunch at a small picnic area in Chester, California. Here, we were all able to relax and socialize. Many of us had attended past trips, so this provided a great time to catch up with one another, as well as meet and welcome newcomers.
Following lunch, we stayed together as one large group and headed north to a fast road that cut us over to our next stop at the Subway Caves. Here we were able to explore one of the many lava tubes in this area. It was then a short drive to our next stop, Burney Falls, where some of us took a short hike to the bottom of the falls and enjoyed an ice cream cone.
We then made our way to McCloud, where we made brief stops to see the Upper and Middle Falls. These falls offered some beautiful picture opportunities, as well as picturesque views of Mt. Shasta. After enjoying the views, we made our way to our hotel in Weed, where we had the chance to freshen up before going to dinner.
Chapter 2 – The Lake
Saturday morning we all gathered outside the hotel before taking off for the main sight of the trip, Crater Lake. The drive to the lake was more of a cruise, as it was along a major highway rather than a fun backroad. We made one stop just past Klamath Falls for fuel and restrooms, before arriving at the park entrance.
As we made the trek up to the lake, we were surprised to see just how much snow was still on the ground, especially when the temperature was in the seventies. Once we reached the park entrance, it took us a few minutes to get everyone through the gate, as we were a large group. Fortunately, everyone had their annual National Park passes, which allowed us to move through the entrance gate much faster.
Once in the park, we made our way to the main visitor center. Due to the size of our group and the event decals on each of our cars, we quickly became an attraction to all those in the park. People and staff were asking about the group and what was going on. We have come to expect this on our trips, as it is not a common site to see these days.
It was a short hike over the snow to get to the crater’s edge where we were able to take in the amazing vistas of the lake. After taking pictures and checking out the visitor’s center, we took the ¼ mile drive to the next overlook. There was less snow here, providing a better place to picnic while enjoying the beautiful views.
Unfortunately, due to the heavy snows this past winter, the rest of the park remained closed. Therefore, with nothing more to see, following lunch we made our way out of the park. We stopped at the other visitor center, found at the park entrance/exit, as many of us still needed to pick up some souvenirs. Shortly after exiting the park, we made a quick stop in a large overlook to line up the cars for a group photo. With 23 cars, it was a tight squeeze to get everyone into this space, but we did it.
The last stop for the day was the Mountain Railway. This is a miniature railroad and museum. We all had fun checking out all the trains, cabooses and taking a ride on the miniature railway.
Following Mountain Railway, we made the short drive into Klamath Falls where we would be staying for the night. After checking everyone into the hotel, we had a couple hours to create our own adventure. Some of us went for a drive, others visited Old Town Klamath while others simply rested in their rooms. We all came back together again for dinner at a great BBQ restaurant for our final dinner together.
Chapter 3 – They come in threes
For the last day of the tour, we headed to Lava Beds National Park for a little spelunking. Once in the park, most of us made the hike down into the major caves. Some of the caves required us to duck LOOWWW in order to pass through them. These old lava tubes had some amazing formations within. Most of the caves required the use of a flashlight, as without it we found ourselves in complete darkness.
A few participants separated from the group, as they wanted to check out the petroglyphs that were at the far end of the park. As the main group headed to meet up with them, the trip got a little crazy. One of the participants, driving a Z4, got a low tire warning just as we exited the park. After stopping and filling the tire with air, we continued toward the petroglyphs. On our way there, the low tire light was on again, so we stopped to inspect the tire. This time we could hear the hissing sound of the air leaking. The plan now was to split the group up with the main group continuing on to finish the tour and one car escorting the Z4 to Klamath. Then, as the main group headed out, one of the cars, a M5, cut a corner to tight and pulled the rear tire off the rim. Freaky right!? At this point the lead car stayed behind to help the M5 while the rest of the group headed off. Setting up a flatbed for the M5 and giving them instructions to where to meet in town, the lead car headed off to catch up with the Z4, who was limping along on the flat tire.
As for the main group, they stopped for lunch at a hole in the wall restaurant a little outside Lava Beds National Park before completing the final leg to Redding where the tour ended. This final stretch had a fast section of road that allowed some drivers to open it for a short bit, providing a great ending to fun weekend.
As for the Z4 and the M5, they both made it to Klamath safely. Fortunately, the Walmart Tire Center was open on Sunday, so both vehicles could be assessed. The Z4 turned out to have a more serious leak issue than we realized. He was luckily able to get a temporary tire that would allow him to make the trip home, where he could get the original tire replaced. The M5, on the other hand, turned out to have a more catastrophic problem. The rim itself was bent, and because high performance vehicles are rather rare in Klamath, it would take two days for a replacement to arrive. So, once this couple was set up with a place to stay, the Z4 and the lead car started the trek home.
However, this is not the end of the story. These two stragglers made it safely to Redding, where the lead car somehow managed to blow his motor while passing another vehicle. As the saying goes, “All bad things come in threes,” and this was the third bad issue of the day, and the trip. After a brief car fire, which fortunately went out very quickly, a tow was arranged for this car. Despite these multiple car troubles, everyone ultimately made it home safely.
While most trips we do are not this exciting, everyone was safe and no one was hurt. All the vehicles were fixed, including the blown motor, so everyone can attend the next tour.