Answering the Call to Crater Lake, Oregon
As a woman that enjoys my freedom, traveling alone has benefits. No need to compromise or wait for others’ free time to match my own. Like many inspired travelers, my to-see list is long.
Crater Lake tugged at my spirit for a few years before I made the Oregon vacation come true. A research paper for a college science class put my love affair in an empirical light, this added to my experience but the color of the water, the steepness of the crater walls, and the circumnavigation in my rented Chevy elicited a strictly emotional attachment.
I couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on the famed pure blue water of the ancient volcanic crater basin. Driving through the National Park, my chest grew tight with anticipation. I was not disappointed as I rounded the left-hand turn leading me to my initial viewpoint at Rim Village. The shade of blue that met my eyes as I dared a glimpse could be called Persian, Hans, or indigo. I was stunned to tears before I could put my car into gear to park.
I shared my area of trekking with a couple that was almost as moved as I was and a family of deer. The deer were camera shy and I nearly broke my neck following them down the steep snowy crater walls as far as I safely could while balancing my camera at my eye. I succeeded in getting some shots of their rear ends.
The caldera is five miles wide and was formed when Mount Mazama violently erupted almost 8,000 years ago. Wizard Island, the near perfect infant cone volcano that grew up from the floor of the basin, shows its tip (500 ft.), with another 2,000 ft. submerged. Phantom Ship, a dike visible at the surface is so small it is easy to miss. Below the lake’s surface and poised around the diameter are many geologic features that are easily overlooked by the amateur enthusiast. The record depth of Crater Lake is 1,949ft.; it is surprising that the depth around Phantom Ship is only 20 ft.
I lingered for a long time before turning my tiny car toward the winding exit road. I was nervous encountering other vehicles since the road was also rather narrow and I passed many brave RV owners. The gift shop at Mazama Village had a sale on clothes so I bought gifts for friends. I noticed a strong smell of smoke about the air but only full appreciated that reason for the clothing sale once I got my gifts back to Florida. I tried to sell my friends on the fact that not only were they getting a souvenir but also a true sensual Northwest fire experience.
I abandoned my time restraints and drove back toward the rim. I had come this far so decided to take the eastern drive around the full diameter of the crater rim. This less traveled road had me wishing many times that I could turn around. After the fact, I am happy that I took the hour-plus drive, but I was blue with fear while enduring the sheer cliff drop-offs. Most of the time, I stared at the yellow line at the inside of my lane to avoid the petrified feelings that had me close to tears. There was no way I could look off to the right and my doom. I was giddy with relieve at the areas that were obviously built into the road to give drivers a chance to take pictures and thank God for sparing their lives for another few miles.
A gift along the road was a close-up view of Phantom Ship. There was plenty of level ground at this particular stop-off and I remained there quite a while gaining my composure and breathing in as much of my surroundings as I could. I was not even three-quarters of the way around the rim.
When I got to North Junction, sad to leave but happy to relieve the fear in my heart from the vicarious route, I turned north.
Indeed, I kept an eye in the rear-view mirror as I began the drive north through the Pumice Desert. I remember thinking, “What is going on with this landscape.” My memory returned to my research paper and I remembered this was the area that took the greatest brunt of the volcanic fallout from the Mount Mazama event; again, I wanted to turn around and further inspect the scene. I was being closely followed by a white van and my sensibilities reminded me that I may want this van on the road with me as I ventured north-west on lonely roads into the nearing darkness. I continued on.
I stopped to scoop some sand from a cliff along the road to add to my soil collection wondering why there was sand this far inland and that it I not seem a very strong support for the cliffs above it. Again, the amateur geologist within me had questions but no answers.
Darkness fell quickly and I looked for any place to rest for the night. My tarrying throughout the day had made me late for the main road north toward Eugene. I came across The Dogwood Motel suddenly on the left. Thankfully there was a vacancy and the proprietor, Norman Call, was a vigilant host. He showed me to the cabin room I rented for the tiny charge of $45, the grounds which were decorated with flowers and a Koi pond. He walked me across the road to where there was a set of stairs that led down to the river. Back in his office, he offered me DVD’s as entertainment.
Instead, I placed my pack on the second bed and walked to the river across the road. I spent the rest of daylight there writing about my day’s adventures. Sleep came quickly that night and I dreamt…
For more information about visiting Crater Lake inquire at Crater Lake National Park P.O. Box 7 Crater Lake, OR 97604-0007 or learn more at www.nps.gov/crla