A Different Side of Crater Lake

One of our original reasons for transiting Oregon via this route was to visit Crater Lake National Park. Of course that was before the recent series of big Pacific storms took aim at the Pacific Northwest covering anything above 5,000 feet with the first serious snowfall of the season. Checking the NPS webcams in the park [here] and [here] (daylight hours only... pleeeze!), it didn't look like we'd be seeing much even if we could get through snow-covered roads with our little front-wheel-drive toad and make it to the rim at 7,100 feet. And after the first snowfall of the season, the Rim Drive around the lake is closed for the Winter. So it appeared we missed a great opportunity to visit the park by just a week or so. Or did we? Read on.

The forecast for Tuesday, the only day we had to explore during this stop, was for snow showers interspersed with some sun breaks. The term "sun breaks" hooked us... not to mention a bad case of bus-house fever from hunkering down in that 300 sq. feet space for, what... three days now? So before you could say "Mount Mazama" we had the toad pointed uphill for the 35 mile drive to the Park.

We had visited Crater Lake before... about 20 years ago. During the time we lived in Vancouver, Dar, the kids, and I took a week long vacation to the southern Oregon coast. On the way back home we visited Crater Lake, doing all the touristy things expected... the Rim Drive, Cleetwood Trail, the Cloudcap and Phantom Ship Overlooks, and a good long stop at Rim Village as well as a visit to the Crater Lake Lodge. But that was 20 years ago. After a few years you just gotta reconcile those fading memories with reality... brighten-up the colors of those fading mind-pictures... re-confirm that those incredible scenes and evidence of the forces of nature do, really, exist.

Despite diminished expectations of what we'd be able to see, we bravely headed toward the park. Before long, the snow-less and sunny plateau south of the Park gave way to a dense pine forest covered with snow. As the climb steepened, the depth of the snow increased too. Tall Ponderosa Pines were full of snow... branches bowing under the weight... creating a cathedral-like effect that lined both sides of the road. Before we made it to the Park's South entrance at Mazama Village, there was close to a couple feet of snow on the ground. All color was gone... leaving only shades of black and white.

The roads were plowed, but the higher we climbed the more snow-covered they were. Up here there were fewer sun-breaks and more snow showers... mostly snow showers I'd say. We stopped at the Steel Information Center about 3 miles from the rim of the crater and got the low-down. OK, the road is open to Rim Village and the Visitor Center there... but that was it. We probably won't see much in the crater either. Oh, and "be careful". We were technically out of compliance with the rules by not having chains or traction tires for the car... but would Intrepid Explorers let a little thing like that stop them? We pressed on.

Finally, up at the Rim, snow showers and low dense clouds conspired to keep any actual view of the crater or lake hidden. Here, the snow was more than two feet deep. Everything was white. We stopped at the Visitor Center, had a small lunch (for a hefty $24), and checked out some exhibits while we waited for that glimpse into the crater that never came.

It's true, we weren't able to see the main attraction... and we weren't able to reconcile most of those old memories because everything was covered in snow. But we DID get to see a different side of Crater Lake... a monochromatic side... a side that not many people have ever seen. And that made the day one of the special ones in our book of explorations.

Check out our Crater Lake photo album when you get a chance.


Joe and Tracey said…
Great monochrome photos! That last one of the building in the snowy trees looks downright Ansel Adams-ish.

- Joe
Great picture! Views very few ever get to see of the Crater Lake NP. Your gamble to press on certainly paid off.

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