Favorite thing: Crater Lake’s “other island” is also very interesting. Phantom Ship Island got its name from the resemblance to a pirate ship. The island is much smaller than Wizard Island but is still as tall as a 16 story building. The island is composed of erosion-resistant rock that is 400,000 years old making it the oldest exposed rock in the caldera.
Favorite thing: Wizard Island was formed during a second eruption some 400 years after the one that formed Crater Lake. It is a cinder cone volcano named after its resemblance to a wizards hat. There are numerous places along the rim drive to see the island but one of the best is Watchman Overlook. There are also boat tours that take you by the island and 96 tickets per day are sold to actually disembark on the island for swimming, fishing and hiking.
You pretty much cannot go wrong when going to a national park. If a place attains that status it is beautiful or interesting or both. Crater Lake certainly qualifies on both accounts. Crater Lake was formed about 7700 years ago when a 12,000 foot (3600 meter) volcano collapsed during a major eruption, believed to be the largest eruption in North America in the last 640,000 years. The lake is fed by rain and snow and has no rivers or streams. It is considered the cleanest large body of water in the world and at 1943 feet (or 593 meters) is the deepest lake in the United States. Today the slopes of the volcano are blanketed by old growth forest and meadows providing a home for a variety of plants and animals including several rare species. The park was established in 1902, consists of 183,000 acres and attracts over half a million visitors a year. One good way to see the lake is to drive the 33 mile (53 kilometer) rim drive and stop at several of the overlooks. You can do this in a fast day but to fully experience the park you should spend at least a couple of days here. The entrance fee is $10. Accessibility is limited during winter months.
Fondest memory: My first view of the lake and how large and bright blue it is.
Once it got dark, we went back to camp to make up dinner and were surprised to find the campground besieged by mosquitoes. There seemed to be millions of them. With the late snow melt, they were just coming into spring mode which we had already experienced a bit in Yosemite a few weeks earlier. But that had mostly been in the backcountry. This was right in the drive in campground. We got through a very quick meal and took refuge in the tent. We knew we would have a very early start. We talked little about the next morning but surely nodded off with visions of perfection in our thoughts.
We awoke long before the sun the next morning and packed up our tent before the mosquitoes came out for their breakfast. We ate some cereal bars on our way over to the best of the overlooks that we had scouted the previous night. It pays to do your homework and we knew what would be the best vantage point for the sunrise. Now, all we would need was a little luck. Coming up over the rim on this very fine and cold morning, we gazed upon a giant blue reflective mirror. It was total, it was pure. We looked at each other and smiled. It was perfection.
The only problem was, we were now headed to the area that the best parts of that memorable summer were made, the Pacific Northwest. Crater Lake may not have been one of the great moments but it still remained unblemished in memory and even one slight ripple across the water on this return visit would be deemed a failure. Such is the price of perfection. Doreen knew what she was up against and in this case, had very little control over the outcome. There wasn't much she could do. No amount of training or effort would still the winds.
It was early July and prime time but with such a huge campground, we managed to get a spot. We set up and set out to take her first gander at the lake but soon found out that a third of the circular road around the massive crater was still closed due to snow. The Pacific Northwest had been particularly hard hit with snow that winter and temperatures in the spring had been lower than normal, keeping large tracts of snow intact. It would be a reoccurring theme as we toured the region in the weeks to come.
The good part of all this snow on the road was there was also a lot of snow in the peaks that fringe the frigid blue waters of Crater Lake. This helped offset the fact that the waters were not entirely still. It is a huge lake and there certainly were parts of it that were flat, but you did not get the total effect of looking at one giant mirror-like reflection. We did what we could of the scenic drive and enjoyed taking photos as the sun went lower in the sky. With warm light and snowy peaks, it was still gorgeous. It just wasn't perfect. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Nothing beats getting up early and enjoying the sun come up at Crater Lake. You have a great chance of finding the lake at its most reflective best too.
Fondest memory: Driving towards Crater Lake National Park, I was filled with mixed feelings. I looked forward to showing this stunning deep alpine lake to my wife but my first visit to the park some 14 years earlier had been so perfect I couldn't help but anticipate a letdown. On that visit, I had no idea what to expect, having never even seen a photo of the deep blue wonder. It was on my path and in my National Park guide. I simply went. Coming up over the rim of the lake for the first time is akin to your first view of the Grand Canyon. It's breathtaking and you are speechless. It's that damn pretty. On that day, it was also a mirror, with not a stitch of wind. It was flat as glass and the most reflective body of water I had ever seen. I left the park feeling that there was no need to return, that it would never be any better and my breath would not be taken away so fully again.
Time passes and new people come into your life. Pieces of your past are lost but you also feel a need to show the special ones who you were. This current six-month trip around the US was in some ways based on that. To show my wife just how amazing it can be to be untethered for so long, surrounded by such beauty that you ultimately just surrender to it.
She also was contending with my memories of what had been up to that point probably the greatest summer of my life. Those memories included the person I had done the 1994 trip with for I was not alone. Thus far, my wife had through sheer will, determination and a lot of training, obliterated everything I had done that summer. After weeks of conquering the deserts of the Southwest, she shredded Yosemite with three backpacking trips and a summit of Half Dome. There was little doubt that so far, this summer had even usurped the great one. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
The Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga Columbiana) is a black and white bird that feeds mainly on pine seeds. With the thick cover of forest of Crater Lake National Park, no wonder if they are numerous. Visitors are not supposed to feed them but the birds are so familiar that they do not hesitate to steel food.
On photo 1, a Nutcracker had stolen a cracker from our table.
On Photo 2, it is going to fly away.
On photo 3, it went on top of a nearby whitebark pine, waiting for next food to steel!
Chipmunks (%Tamia striatus) and ground squirrels (Spermophilus sp) are found everywhere in the park. It is strictly forbidden to feed the animals.
Chipmunks do not carry usually dangerous disease for humans. However, they are potential carriers of Lyme’s disease. The two photos are close-ups on chipmunks.
Ground squirrels are more a threat and can transmit tularemia and plague to humans as well as several other less common diseases (Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rat bite fever, Chagas’ disease, adiospiromycosis and encephalomycarditis)
These are really fun and spark interest in the National Park Service system. The brainchild of a marketing genius, the purchaser can get a stamp from each of the NPS sites he or she visits. The collection of these stamps, similar to postal cancellation postmarks (which include the name of the park and the date visited) become fun to collect. It's a great way to get the kids (of all ages!) excited about going to different parks, monuments, seashores, etc. that are operated by the NPS.
The passport itself is reasonably priced and the stamps are, of course, free. Each NPS facility has a stamp available at the visitor's center. If you don't see it just ask the ranger on duty. Some (e.g., Mt. Rushmore, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse) have special stamps with a depiction of the area/monument. Great fun!
You can obtain an NPS passport at any park Visitor's Center or online at the National Park Service Store.
Besides Crater Lake National Park, if you're in Oregon there is also Oregon Caves National Park which is about a 3-hour drive southwest of Crater Lake. The other two NPS sites in Oregon are not near Crater Lake. For a full list of NPS sites, go to www.nps.gov.
Fondest memory: My favorite memory has to be the first time we saw the deep blue color of the lake itself. It was even more breathtaking with the rim slopes covered in snow and dotted with the green color of the fir trees. Magnificent!
Via car there is only one spot to view the Crater Lake during the winter season (Sept. - April). There is one road in, one road out, and one parking lot that overlooks the lake.
Other ways to view the lake during winter time are:
-Snow Machine (limited access, limited lake views)
-Cross Country Skiing
If you visit Crater Lake NP in the winter time there are only 3 activities that you can do.
2. Cross Country Ski
3. Snow Machine
If you don't like these activies or can't afford to do them, then don't visit Crater Lake in the winter time.
The winter season last from September thru April. Most of the roads in the park are unplowed and closed this time of year. From May thru August the park is fully open (weather depending).
If the three activies above to intrigue you, then visit during the summer time for a plethora of outdoor actvities.
My favorite things in Crater Lake have been the tour on the lake, and the ride around the lake...
For the tour on the lake, you have to reserve at least 4 hours ahead of time. Better book the day before or early in the morning or you will miss it.
For the ride around the lake, traffic can be crazy in peak hours of weekend. Again, early morning is the best. Most of my pics have been taken before noon.
Favorite thing: The Rim trail of Crater Lake is a must. There are awe inspiring vistas. But watch out as this is an extinct volcano and the inside walls are steep and dangerous. Go in late June or a warmer month as roads and trails may be closed due to unmelted snow.