90,000 Miles to Me

20,430 Miles • Crater Lake

I spent the night at Corral Springs campground in Winema National Forest. It was possibly the coldest night in the van yet, in the mid 20˚s F. I was okay bundled in my blankets, but every little movement took me away from my (semi-) warm nest. I left the vent fan off because of the cold, but that meant my house battery turned itself off in between the fridge’s power cycles, and although the fridge was off all night, it still registered below freezing at 8 am. 

Just south of my campsite lay Crater Lake National Park. 

My first view of the lake. I took this picture around 9 am, not realizing my camera was on black and white mode, but I love how it turned out.

The water was a beautiful, deep, pristine blue. I hiked the 1.6 mi roundtrip Watchman Trail, since it was described in my guidebook as possibly the best view of the entire lake. the trail is steep and was described as moderate to strenuous, and both of those were accurate. Everyone on the trail was huffing and puffing by halfway up at the latest. I gave myself permission to take it slowly and rest often, deciding that I didn’t need to impress complete strangers, who won’t remember me and don’t care anyway, with how much I could push myself, and spend the next several days coddling my painful knees.

The gorgeous view at the top was worth the hike. From there, the whole lake and Wizard Island below shone in the mid-morning light to best effect. 

Crater lake is indeed a crater, the remnant of an ancient volcano that erupted so strongly that it blew its top and collapsed in on itself. A few more, smaller eruptions filled in the opening over time, and formed a giant bowl, trapping rain and snow which have nowhere else to go. Since the lake isn’t fed by any rivers or streams, only snowmelt and rain, it is incredibly pure. No pollutants, no pesticides, no contaminants get in (generally, except what people have put in it, but since it became a nationally protected park early in the history of European settlement of the area, it has remained pretty close to unscathed).

Because the water is so pure, you can see deep down, and that is also what gives it such a deep blue tint. 

The few islands in the lake are also the remnants of various volcanic eruptions. The largest, named Wizard Island, perhaps because it evokes images of Merlin’s retreat, is a small, dormant volcano, with its own little caldera on top that periodically fills with water.

Along the trail, these three trees stared at passersby. They reminded me of the three witches in Macbeth brewing a secret potion. “Bubble bubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…”

Something else that caught my attention was damp ground outlining dry shadows of the large rocks that lined one part of the trail. I would have expected the opposite, thinking that the shadows would have lowered the temperature just enough that the morning dew would not yet have evaporated.

I aked a ranger about it, and he explained that the ground is wet because mist rises up from the lake and drifts over the crater, then dampens the ground as it falls, but the rocks block the mist in the same shape that the sun later casts shadows. Awesome!

I spent the day driving around the lake, getting out frequently to see it from all angles. In the late afternoon I took the East Rim Drive for the best view of the sunset, enjoying dinner at an overlook with the free light show. 

It was getting dark as I drove away from the crater, but as the road rounded the mountain and that giant chunk of Earth was no longer in the way, the sunset colors filled the sky again. Two sunsets in one day!

* * *