From Long Beach there was a quick stop in Portland, Oregon and then a straight shot down to Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake is one of those places that looks like a postcard everywhere you look. An extinct volcano (a caldera if you're getting snooty) whose crater has filled with snow and glacial melt, Crater Lake is not only a beautiful place, but a great choice for any child who is as fascinated by volcanoes as ours is. (Volcanoes were added to the homeschool curriculum list this year due to his extended excitement.)
After the Ranger showed him a brief, interactive presentation about the formation of the volcano, how it erupted, and its eventual collapsing in on itself (which makes it a caldera), The Barracuda was completely sold. Apparently, "caldera" means bowl in Spanish - The Barracuda was over the moon! Spanish, and Volcanoes, and Ranger Patches and Hiking! Not only that, his questions were answered without him being talked down to or treated like a kid (always a great bonus). Junior Ranger patch in hand, we set off to hike down to the water.
Hiking the Cleetwood Trail down to the water was only 2 miles round trip and only a 700 feet elevation gain, but it stretched our legs and burned off the jittery car energy. Moreover, it relieved our stress. Being able to get out, move around, exert ourselves a little and then relax to wonderful views allow moments together that were once clogged with work. So much of our lives this last year have been about working that it seems we had forgotten until now just how good it felt to relax together as a family. Hiking became a staple of our trip so much so that we have decided to do at least one hike every Friday afternoon to keep the tradition going. It is our hope that The Barracuda will not only be able to identify local flora and fauna because of our ventures, but also gain a sense of joy for the walking meditation of hiking.
Shoes came off, rocks were grabbed, and much throwing/skipping into the water ensued. This is something I will never understand because I do not contain a Y chromosome. However, after speaking with a number of males from various walks of life, I am aware of it to be a major male life development. So, I lay in the sun and point out the erosion lines along the crater, enjoy my feet going numb in the snow melt, and generally bask in our family enjoyment.
Had the mosquitoes not been the worst in years (literally swarms) and Jules' allergies weren't freaking out for unknown reasons, we might have camped a day and just enjoyed the magic of this special National Park. As it was, however, camping wouldn't have been a very positive experience so we drove on to Lassen National Volcanic Monument.