Coastal Oregon was an unexpected treat for my traveling partner. Although the original plan was to complete a run of Highway 101 we once again took a turn to a place neither of us had been to in the past.
Moving inland the coastal mountains were the only barrier to reaching Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake is another member of the long chain of Pacific Rim Volcanoes. Unlike Rainier and Hood the former Mt Mazama literally blew its top approximately 7,800 years ago. The ensuing action was the collapse of the volcano into itself thus reducing the height by some 3,000 feet — from an original 11,000 feet. It has been estimated that it took over 740 years for the crater to be filled with water. The water came from winter snows and summer rains: Crater Lake’s winter starts in September and ends by June. Seasonal snowfalls generally top 200 inches a year — one year the area realized 900+ inches.
Any literature about the Park describes the deep blue of the water. This color comes from the cleanliness of the water — no outside physical sources of water enter the crater. Park Rangers boast of the water’s clarity — it’s not unusual to see more than 100 feet into the lake: regular testing occurs to determine the clarity. The clarity behaves as a filter in the water — blue is the only color in the color spectrum that can penetrate the water thus creating the distinctive color.
So now you know something about the Lake. Remember a few moments ago I mentioned that winter starts in September. Much to our surprise this is correct. Driving up from Roseburg, OR we were experiencing our first day in Oregon without rain. Taking this as a good omen we hurried up to the Park. At approximately 2,000 feet some light rain began to fall until we got to 3,500 feet. Then a familiar sight occurred:
At first it was quite light. But as we reached the summit via the west gate we came face-to-face with:
Any disappointment was nullified by the fact that the south entrance was still open. So back down the hill we flew. All the while hoping that the roads would still be open. As we entered Crater Lake the ranger was looking chilled–and he was! After we exchanged pleasantries his final comments were about the temperature and being safe on the snow packed roads. Upon reaching the first Ranger station and Lodge we noticed a computer monitor showing the mountain completely fogged in. Undeterred to went forward up the mountain; snow was getting thicker and heavier.
One more time — on the top of the mountain the Park building had a message blackboard said “12 inches so far today with an inch an hour’. This was not namby-pamby snow. Oh no, the flakes were huge and heavy with the consistency of wet concrete.
We got out of the car, looked around and then walked toward the Lake. Just as we stepped forward to the overlook the sun accompanied by some blue sky changed the view from apparition to reality:
The Lake looked cold and very blue; the water had an eerily benign look about it.
Most of the folks in attendance were cynical upon entry and preferred to stay inside except for a couple dozen or so hardy souls. The peaceful serenity of the moment was overwhelmed by foreign kids chatting loudly while walking on the trail.
We chose to go with the moment tossing snowballs and building a snowman — of sorts.
What a day this was — the temperature extremes were signifcant–swings of 30-40 degrees. As with most of the incredible places we have Crater Lake was awesome. I hated to leave but the rangers were closing roads across the mountain so a departure was i order.
On the way down we stopped at a small restaurant to have some pie–pecan and huckleberry — a nice way to end the day:
Funny how a diversion in a plan often leads to something worthwhile — this Park is high on my list for a repeat visit in the future.