If ever there was a crown jewel for the state of Oregon, it would have to be Crater Lake.
Crystal clear deep blue water, towering cliffs, a mysterious island in the shape of a wizards cap, rock formations that mimic a castle or phantom ship, surrounded by miles and miles of forested hiking trails.
Having grown up in Oregon, I was fortunate to have visited here several times over the years. Each time is still magical.
The formation of the lake, begins with a mighty mountain. Mount Mazama was just one of a chain of volcanic mountains that stretched all along the Western United States. Many of you will be familiar with Mount St. Helen, near the northern end of this chain, that famously erupted in 1980.
“Mount Mazama’s eruption about 5700 B.C. catapulted volcanic ash miles into the sky and expelled so much pumice and ash that the summit soon collapsed, creating a huge, smoldering caldera. Eventually, rain and snowmelt accumulated in the caldera, forming a lake more than 1,900 feet deep, the deepest lake in the United States.” ~ Travel.nationalgeographic.com
The water is famous for the deep dark blue color and because it is filled almost entirely by melting snow it is one of the clearest lakes in the world. On average the lake receives 43 feet of snow a year. Besides being the deepest lake in the US, it is the second deepest in North America and either the seventh or ninth deepest in the world, depending upon which report you read.
There is a superb 33 mile Rim Drive (closed during the winter months) that circles the lake along the caldera rim and allows numerous vantage points for photos or hikes with a variety of difficulty ratings and lengths. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the park.
In case you don’t want to drive, there are also Trolley Tours around the lake. They run at set times – 10:30, 12:00, 1:30 and 3:00 (weather and road conditions permitting) and are currently priced at $27 adult, $24 senior, $17 children (5-13), under 5 free.
If you are feeling energetic, you can walk 1 mile down to the water from Cleetwood Trail and take a boat ride out to Wizard Island. The trail is steep and winding, but there are benches to rest on the rather strenuous hike back up the hill.
You can also swim in the lake. The water temperature on the surface is a brisk 32 to 66 degrees F. It rarely freezes over, but in 1949 it remained frozen for three entire months.
Fun Fact: All the boats on the lake were brought in by helicopter. There are no roads down to the water.
There is also fishing available for those inclined. The lake contains both rainbow trout and kokanee salmon that were stocked from 1888 to 1941. There were no fish originally in the lake. But just FYI, there are numerous better places to fish in Oregon where you don’t have a tough hike to get to the water’s edge.
The geology of the area may be of interest to some, but for me the rock formations allowed me to use my imagination to identify several of the most popular named structures.
Return in the winter for cross-country skiing, snowmobile riding or simply sit by the fire in the lodge and enjoy a hot toddy.
The one thing I had always wanted to do was to stay at the lodge here at the lake, and this time we made it happen. Often sold out months in advance, I somehow lucked out and got us a room with a view of the lake. I’m not sure how that transpired, as I just now did a reservation search and found one night available the 11th of October and the next available night is the end of May 2016.
In other words, it is probably best to plan ahead if you want to stay at the lodge.
The room was rather small, sparse and basic, but we were just so excited to be there that it might as well have been a palace.
There is something romantic about sitting by the fire in an old lodge, sipping on a blue drink the color of the lake, waking up the next morning to enjoy a sweet breakfast and then sitting on the porch soaking up the sunshine.
And for an added treat:
On the highway between Crater Lake and Medford is one of my favorite stops, Becky’s Cafe, in Union Creek. They make awesome Oregon huckleberry pie. Stopping here has been a family tradition for many years. The pie may taste even better when sprinkled with some nostalgia.
And right next door is a simple little walk to several overlooks to see the beautiful Rouge River Gorge.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful that I grew up in Oregon back in the 50’s and 60’s. We had excellent education opportunities, small safe communities and no one needed to lock their house or car doors. We knew our neighbors and played outside until dark. Stunning nature was all around us from the forested mountains to the rugged ocean beaches.
This beautiful state has certainly had some hard knocks lately, especially the most recent mass attack in Roseburg. I send my love and condolences to the families and friends of those lost or injured. May you have the support of the community, state and country that you need to help begin the healing process.
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