Published on Monday, August 7, 2017

Crystal clear reasons to visit Oregon

Waters blue and white characterise this leg of Dinah and Ben Hatch's scenic road trip around California and Oregon

"Holy crap, that really is beautiful," shouts a holidaying American as he approaches Crater Lake, a body of water that sits inside the long-since exploded then collapsed volcano Mount Mazama. The lake is famously blue, azure, indigo, sapphire, basically all the blues you can imagine distilled into a pure, stunning hue whose still waters perfectly mirror the sky above. It's so absurdly blue that it really, honestly, makes you take a tiny intake of breath that such a beautiful sight can exist hidden away in the Cascade Mountain range of south Oregon.

We hike a small way around the 33-mile rim then plonk down on a tree stump to eat our sandwiches and stare meditatively into the water's clear 1,943ft depth. That's America's deepest lake - if you placed New York City's One World Trade Centre at Crater Lake's deepest part, there would still be 151 feet of water above the tower's highest point. Yet, filled entirely with snow melt and rain water and with no river or inlet feeding into it, Crater Lake rangers say you can see for hundreds of feet down.
There is no commercial development here (it's a national park) except a lovely stately, wooden lodge hotel overlooking the lake whose well-appointed rooms require advance planning by about a year to secure (way beyond our abilities). So if you ever plan to see this natural beauty, that's the way to do it - just think ahead.

We left the serenity of the lake for outdoors enthusiasts' heaven, Bend. Despite its small town size, this place has an urbane feel about it (as well as our US supermarket of choice Trader Joe's with its rare-for-the-States amazing array of cheeses) and city slickers from all over western US fall in love with its Cascade peaks, hiking trails and skiing opportunities and move here.

We'd signed up for a bit of white water rafting with local outfit Sun Country Tours. Arriving with our fellow rafters at the water's edge by a very cool vintage school bus, we gingerly stepped into the rafts, Charlie and I confessing we might rather sit and watch. No chance, said our guide, and minutes later we were doing the three-mile 'Big Eddy Thriller' (named after the rapids) across class threes on the stunning Deschutes River. It's a real bonding experience, paddling in a team with people on your raft. An actress from LA next to me squeezed Phoebe's hand and screamed with laughter as we all bounced across the roaring waters and her boyfriend, a one-time dancer with Atomic Kitten he told me in a calm moment downstream, high-fived Ben when we made it across. A little girl at the front turned round and declared she had been 'hashtag scaredcited' by the whole deal but was now addicted. A great experience.

We wanted to stay longer but there were many miles to go on the trip. The next morning we headed for the I97 north towards Mount Hood National Forest, just east of Portland. Set around a dormant volcano capped by glaciers, this mountainous area is home to ski trails and alpine lakes.

But enough of that pretty scenery nonsense - the kids demanded action so we took them to the Mount Hood Adventure Park, which is nothing short of a child wonderland - with no queues. Think vast alpine slides down the hillsides, zip wires through the trees, rock walls, ski-lift chair rides, tree top walks, crazy golf in the woods, and giant hamster-in-a-plastic wheel type aqua rollers. We literally DRAGGED them away at six o'clock when it shut. They begged to go back in the morning but our itinerary showed a different sort of playground coming up - the city for hipster dudes and amazing food, Portland. And Ben had been growing his beard specially...

Dinah and Ben Hatch travelled with

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