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Roadtrip to Crater Lake & The Lost Coast with my Mama

I have wanted to visit Crater Lake ever since I was a kid and never had been despite having spent all of my college years in Oregon.  Following my recent visits to several National Parks in Utah, I began to make seeing these beautiful places a priority.  Between California and Oregon there are a total of 9 National Parks, and I really have no excuse for only barely having seen 1 or 2!

My mom grew up with her parents always dragging her and her siblings on road trips around America, and then one day a spur of the moment trip brought them all the way from Wisconsin to Marin, California where they permanently stayed.  My childhood, too, involved a lot of aimless weekend drives with my parents behind the wheel and commanding my bored and stir-crazy sisters and me to “LOOK OUT AND ENJOY THE SCENERY”.  I think that I have my mom and dad to thank that I am never content to be in one place for very long without needing to see a change of scenery.

Last month I had agreed to take part in the Drone World Expo in San Jose, so I made the trip up and stayed with my mom in San Francisco.  I wanted to take advantage of already being a 6 hour drive closer to all of the sights of Northern California and Southern Oregon, and conveniently my mom had just recently retired, so I asked her to go on a road trip with me.

The day following my Drone Expo (and Good Morning America) appearance we left San Francisco for Sacramento where we caught up with my sister Serene before taking to the open road the following morning.

Foggy early morning leaving Sacramento


We left Sacramento at 6 and made it to Lassen Volcanic National Park by 9am.  

Although Lassen Park stays open year round, the main road through the park was closed for the winter (the road was already snowed over with 4 or 5 feet of snow). We visited the park’s north entrance where we got a lovely look at Lassen Peak and a partially frozen over Manzanita Lake.  I’ll definitely be back in the spring or summer to give Lassen a proper visit.

Back on the road headed north from Lassen I spotted this unpaved road to another volcanic peak and stopped to snap this photo.

Between Lassen and Crater Lake is Burney Falls at McArthur-Burney State Park. These falls flow over and directly out of springs within the volcanic rock.

Highway 299 brought us above Fall River Valley which had gorgeous views of the fall colored valley and the volcanic peaks in the distance. It was on this highway that we spotted one of the two bald eagles we encountered at close distance flying over the road.


Approaching Oregon on highway 139 we spotted a sign for something called Lava Beds and were intrigued by the name. Daylight was running out, but we decided to take the rather long detour to what felt like nowhere.  We entered Lava Beds National Monument and continued to drive through a pretty desolate landscape before arriving at the visitor’s center, which to our surprise was open. 

We learned that National Monuments are part of the National Parks system, but because of their size or other factors have not received full National Park status.  National Monuments still receive all of the protection of the Nat’l Park system, which unfortunately for me means no drones are allowed.

Lava Beds features several subterranean lava tube caves open to visitors.  Because it was so late in the day we only visited one cave, one of the more accessible ones called Mushpot cave.  Lava Beds includes caves of every level- from Mushpot which is paved and lit with motion sensor lights, to more extreme caves that require a headlamp and crawling through dark, very tight spaces (I’ll pass on those).  



We spent the night just over the Oregon state line in the town of Klamath Falls and were back on the road by 6 again.


Mom’s second visit to Crater Lake, only something like 55 years later!


So like Lassen, Crater Lake was open, but the majority of the roads were not. We could make the icy drive up to Rim Village where we enjoyed an epic view of the lake, but the roads that take you around the perimeter of the lake were closed for the winter (sad face).  I had no idea that Mid-November was already deep winter anywhere in California.

Oh yeah, Gary (who is an excellent road dog) was along for the trip.

From Crater Lake we continued the day driving southwest to the Northern California coast.  We would have liked to have checked out the Oregon Caves (another National Monument) along the way, but they were closed for the season.

We spent the night at a dog friendly motel in Crescent City. 


Sunrise the following morning in Klamath, California at the Trees Of Mystery (shot from my drone). 

Me with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox at the Trees of Mystery in Klamath. I had visited these two before in the summer before college when my family drove up to Oregon to check out my future college and we (of course) decided to take the scenic coastal drive back. 

Humboldt Lagoons State Park nestled in the Redwood National and State Parks. I love these foggy coastal mornings.

Elk are a very common sight along the Redwood Highway



Lighthouse and overlook at the cute little town of Trinidad.

We continued our drive to one of my mom’s favorite places she wanted to show me called the Lost Coast. The road to the Lost Coast was narrow and winding and in pretty rough shape. There was very little traffic on the road, it really felt like we were driving out to a forgotten place.

The winding road climbed and dropped for some time until we finally arrived to the coast of the Lost Coast.


The drive back to Highway 101 from the Lost Coast returns through Humboldt State Park, where the road ping pongs between thousand year old redwoods. I flew my drone to capture this last hairpin turn before leaving the redwoods. 

As night fell we made our way back to San Francisco.