It is now Thursday June 27th, and we are very excited to be heading to Crater Lake National Park. We were less than 10 miles from the entrance station, but knew it would be about 45 minutes to get up to the Visitor Center on the rim. Our first stop was Steel Visitor center where we got our Passports stamped and the general lay of the land on the park. This is where we learned our first facts on Crater Lake.
-the Crater was created over 7,700 years ago, when Mt Masama erupted and it was such a huge blast that it caused the mountain to collapse on itself due to the huge surface area the magma had taken up
- The huge amount of precipitation each year created the lake over time
- on average it gets 502 inches or over 44 feet of snow per year
- 2011 set recent records for snowfall, and when the summer rangers came in April there was still snow over 30 feet high at the ranger station
- this year was a very LIGHT year as they only got 355 inches, so they consider themselves in a draught (even though there was still snow on the ground)
- their summer season doesn't start until July, and the full rim road usually doesn't open until mid-July.
- the North access to the park is closed all Winter due to snow
- it is considered to be the purest water in America if not the world as all of it comes from snow/rain and there are no creeks/rivers flowing into or out of it
- it is somewhere between the 5th and 8th in the world for deepest lakes, it's deepest point is 1,950 feet
- because of this it's BLUE color is something I have never seen before, it absorbs the Red and Yellow rays from the sun and reflects back out the Blue
- It is one of the oldest National Parks in the country, established in 1903
Our 2nd stop was the visitor center, as we read in the newspaper they gave us when we arrived (you always get a paper and a map) that the boat tours start TOMORROW on June 28th. Everything online said not until July, so we were BEYOND excited and rushing to the lodge to see if we could get on the first boat at 9:30 AM as this would still allow us to be in Portland on time for dinner with friends. Good news for us is daddy was successful and we were all set for tomorrow. The other good news is we were playing our stop for the night by ear and the RV park at the park had room for us, so we are all set.
We decided to walk from the visitor center to the first viewing point along the "rim" as they call it. Similar to the Grand Canyon you view from the top. Not similar is you can easily hike down to the bottom in one place here (though the walk up is not quite as easy, over 65 stories in less than a mile...yikes). I think all five of us in unison said "oh wow" when we saw the lake for the first time. That color is just unreal. Here are some pics from our first view of the lake.
We continued North/Northwest around the lake and hit the side of the rim where the sun does not hit, as there was snow everywhere. Our first observation was a group of three guys snowboarding/skiing down one of the hills, priceless, it is June 27th people. The kids just loved this and decided we had to play in the snow, so they did. They had snowball fights, went sliding down the hill - first on their rear ends, then on a garbage bag mom gave them. Henry had the most fun just galloping around and eating all the snow. We had a grand ole time as evidenced in these photos.
We continued around the rim. We could only go about 17 miles total, the rest was closed due to snow. It ends up it opened right after we left, but we still saw a ton. Here is a good view of Wizard island (named because it looks like a wizard hat in form, like a cone, think of Harry Potter's sorting hat). There are two islands in the lake, this and the 'phantom ship" which we got lots of pics on the boat ride of. The lake is 5 miles across in most places, and about a mile down from the rim. It can look small given you can see all around, but when you get close and particularly down in the boat, you see how big it is. The boat tour will be 2 hours to get around each side of the lake, never getting out of the boat.
At around 5pm we decided to head towards the campground. I figured it was a good time to call my parents as I had not checked in. I wanted to get an update on how my niece's high school graduation went on Tuesday night, and how my sister's mother-in-law was doing. She was recently diagnosed with a very rare disease where you can't process protein and it begins to attack your organs. She was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out the course of action. I got my dad on the phone and his voice was very down, which scared me. I thought for sure it was about Ginny (my sister's mother-in-law) so I asked about her first. I got the update, then we talked about Emily's graduation. I asked what else was new and he said "we got some bad news from you mom's scan today." I had totally forgot my mom's scan was that day. You just lose track of time when you are away this much, and the official date of the scan never registered. I felt so bad. My mom's cancer was back. Our connection was horrible, so I kept only hearing a portion of what he said. I got three small tumors, around the aorta, won't do surgery, next appointment on July 9 before losing him.
So now I am upset, have tons of questions, and we have no service. But we need to get to the campground as it is first come first serve, and we have to stay there. So we head out of the slim cell service down to the campground. Good news is they have room. I ask some workers near registration if there is any good cell areas down here, they point me behind the grocery store, and I get some signal. So I call my sister. After a few times I get her, and it takes a few more to get the entire update. But I now know more and have a clearer picture. We still know very little, but these likely came from some bad cells left behind that they didn't get, that is why so fast. Will do chemo because they are so close to aorta and want to try to shrink it. Clinical trial, as in past chemo has not worked, but they are making advancements. So feeling a little better we go find a site for the night. We ate dinner inside as the mosquitoes here are the worst we have had (and Ben, Sarah and I get eaten alive) and then played some games. We finally taught the kids Wizard our favorite card game. It is quite hard, but they have been bugging us for quite some time so we took the time and did it, and they did pretty well.
We had to get up and be on the road by 7:45 as it is about a 45 drive to the starting point of the hike down, and you have to start the hike 45 minutes early to ensure you are there on time. With this in mind we slept with the slides in, those are the two areas of the RV that "slide out" to make it bigger. One is in the bedroom (creates space between the closets and bed) and one is in the "living room" to create more space between table and couch which folds down to a bed. This meant a tough walk for Ben to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but also that we could drive while the kids were still sleeping if need be.
We got to the hike just fine, packed up drinks, snacks, rain coats and heading off. It was cool so we had the kids in long pants and long sleeves, they quickly told us that was a bad idea. Oh well, they said it would be cooler on the boat ride so we wanted to be prepared. Of course we forgot sunscreen, a recurring thing for Arnie and I, and he and I got the worst of it (my nose as usual and the top of his head, the kids fared ok for once).
Here are some pics from our hike down to the lake. The trip down only took about 20 minutes, we were anticipating at least 45 to hike back up as it was pretty steep for sure. Our boat driver was Steve - he grew up in Michigan and played hockey at Michigan and in minors for Red Wings. His brother works for the Wings. He lives in Florida for Winter and drives boats at Crater Lake in Summer. Our Ranger guide was Emily, this is her fourth year as a Ranger at crater Lake.
this is the kids below me on a switchback while hiking down
views of the boats at the dock
The boat ride was amazing, first one of the year, and just learned a TON about the lake. Here are some cool facts
- the had to helicopter the boats in, these we bought 10 years ago and probably seat 30 people
- The lake clarity varies but is usually at least 100 feet deep, the measure it every day, deepest was 142 feet down you could see
- two types of fish in it - salmon and trout, that they introduced a while back
- you can get off at Wizard island and hike for a few hours on one of the boat tours
- swimming is only allowed at Wizard island and by the boat launch
-the lake doesn't get deeper as there is now a seepage point close to the top where it seeps out one side, and also some natural evaporation
- our boat driver played hockey at Michigan...what a small world
Our first stop was to see "the old man in the lake" which is a cedar log that floats vertical upright in the lake sometimes and we got lucky and this day was one of them. In one photo you can see the "roots" of it down in the water, pretty cool.
Next we saw the side of the lake where the magma was the hottest, and likely flowed out the ash, as the side is the most "ashy" of all the sides, and this is the side with the snow on it and miles and miles down of ashy ground, just like at St. Helens.
Next was Wizard island up close. It is amazing to see the huge boulders left behind and just odd how they stayed this high, yet a few miles away the lake is 1,950 feet deep. Truly nature's marvel. They store the boats on the island in the winter so that is what you see when you see some structures in the pics (by the way, I let the kids take most of these pics, so I don't always know what they are). We did see an Osprey (sp?) siting atop and old tree, that pic is below.
We got a good view of the Lodge from below, and some cool pics of waterfalls that are created by the melting snow, again how the lake gets fed each year.
Our next step was the Phantom ship. Back in the old days they used to let you picnic on the ship, not sure how as it is pretty rocky and sharp edges, but they did, probably would have been really cool. They are doing a ton of biological research around the ship, so there were hoses and different traps (trying to catch crayfish which were also introduced) under the rock. You could see the water so clearly here so some pics are of the lake bottom.
Our last stop was the Pinnacles, this odd rock formation on the side of the mountain. What is most odd about it is the color, it has a red color to it, almost like we are back in Utah for a minute.
So that was it, we had a great tour and would now head North towards Portland. Tonight we are spending the night with Tim Zweber and his family. He has four kids, but three are grown and out of the house. So it will be his wife Julie and their youngest Ben who is 15. Tim and Arnie worked together when Arnie lived in Portland, so it should be a great night. Ironically Tim was in Cincy all week for P&G meetings (he still works in sales) so he was flying back on Friday and we would arrive around 6pm.
Farewell from Crater Lake, definitely the most majestic places we have gone so far.