Monday, January 21, 2013

Crater Lake

Crater Lake sits in our backyard, so to speak, and happens to be one of my favorite playgrounds. However, visiting the lake in summertime is kind of a mixed bag.  The lake is outstanding but there are hordes of visitors and not all of them belong in the great outdoors. I remember seeing a paunchy man leaning way over a parapet to hand-feed a peanut to a ground squirrel, totally unaware of the sharp teeth and claws that a ground squirrel can wield or the broken bones that gravity can inflict on a roll down to the actual lake part of Crater Lake. I remember thinking "City slicker", with a heavy sigh.

The west side of Crater Lake
Another time, Dollie and I camped at the lake in early July and the lake was covered by clouds: clouds of mosquitoes, that is. The campground store was selling bottles of insect repellent at something nearing the price of gold; their supply ran out in minutes, even at the exorbitant prices. People of all countries were slapping their faces and hands while hurling multilingual invective at the invertebrate vampires.

At least they don't drink your blood
Ah, but winter is really the best time to visit the lake. Visitors are few and far between, while the lake and environs are cloaked in picturesque snow, and a profound hush envelopes the park. Pick a sunny winter day and it's a whole new level of wow factor. And best of all, there are no mosquitoes.

Snowshoe rookie

John had never been snowshoeing before and there is really only one place to go for your first showshoe trip; prescient readers will divine that the place to go is Crater Lake. Maybe the title of this blog entry gave it away. The views will astound, the trail is fairly flat, and the snow on the west side is usually firm, and snowshoeing first-timers will be suitably impressed.

Summer, in Oregon
We started the walk mid-morning at the Rim Village and the temperature was 11 degrees, a perfect temperature for snowshoers and an abomination for Floridians. The sun was out and the day would warm up to the 50's, various clothing layers were soon shed and stowed away in our packs. I would have worn shorts but my legs are whiter than the snow this deep into winter.

Rim Drive was our trail
The "trail" was simply Rim Drive, totally devoid of smoke belching buses and tourists, some of which are also smoke belchers. The roadway's course was always eminently visible as it carved a wide and white (just like me!) swath through the forest. And if there was ever any doubt, the path of churned up snow due to skiers and 'shoers made the trail obvious and easy to follow.

Mount Scott, across the lake
The basic pattern was to hike to a lake overlook, ooh and ahh for a bit, and then meander through forest and snowy plain, then return to the lake again. We enjoyed views of all the peaks on the lake's rim, Wizard Island, and the lake itself. Despite the relative heat wave, a thin sheet of ice covered the lake's surface.

Hello, Mount McLaughlin
To the west lay the rounded peaks of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, to the south we could see the symmetrical cone of Mount McLaughlin and the jagged spire that is Union Peak. We could also see the tip of Mount Shasta, a mere 100 miles away. On a clear day in crystalline winter air, you can seemingly see forever.

The Watchman

We had a vain notion to climb to the summit of The Watchman but the notion seemed more daunting the closer we got to the formidable mountain. From far away, it seemed like a casual walk up a gentle slope. Up close, the "gentle" slope was more like The Great Wall of Watchman. John took a test run up a nearby hill and quickly disavowed himself of the idea of walking up a steep slope in soft snow.

Wizard Island

So back we went towards Rim Village and we got to enjoy the views all over again in the afternoon glow with lengthening shadows. John enjoyed his first snowshoe experience and stated he'd like to do another snowshoe hike. Mission accomplished, in my book.

For more pictures of this awesome place, see the Flickr album.


  1. Your pictures of a wintery Crater Lake and its snow-covered mountains are some your best. There is something magical about a landscape wrapped in a blanket of white snow and set against a brilliant blue sky. And, thank you for mentioning my people and our sensitivity to cold weather on your blog.

    1. Richard, sounds like your group went on its own and not with the ranger led hike right? Looks beautiful. My daughter and husband went last year....guess its time for me to get to Crater Lake and snowshoe.


  2. Absolutely gorgeous, Richard. This is the prettiest hike I've seen. It definitely has the wow factor. ..Betty