Crater Lake Lodge.
(click on image to return to main page)

NorthWestward Ho!:

Hank and Barbara
(finally) visit
Crater Lake

10-12 September 2005

Saturday, September 10

At breakfast we met up again with the couple from Sebastopol: William and Christina! William was looking through an offbeat area guidebook and shared an excerpt with the rest of us about a nearby lava cave that was not a bat sanctuary and hence was open year round. Before we all took off on our respective journeys, we expressed the hope that we might meet once again, perhaps at the cave!

We overshot the turnoff, but after backtracking a bit we found the road we needed and followed the somewhat sketchy directions provided by the guidebook. To our amazement, we came to a small dirt parking area. Nothing was visible from the car -- no signs, no obvious trail, no ticket office -- just a vast wilderness spotted with trees and scrub. Once we got out of the car, we spotted the metal railing. A short distance away there appeared to be a staircase leading mysteriously down into the ground!! Woohooooo!

Down down down into the dark dark cave...

How dark was it??!!!....

It was reeeeeeaaaaallllllly dark!


It was so dark, it literally swallowed up the feeble glow emanating from our small flashlight.


Suddenly, we heard voices in the distance....







It was William and Christina!!!! They came prepared with a lantern and headlamps!

Not that the lantern exactly lit up the room....

...still, the additional light allowed the four of us to venture a bit further into the cave than we had dared armed only with the illuminating power of a mighty mini-maglite (which you can see below clutched firmly in Barb's hand!).

Leaving our lava cave adventure behind, we spent some time driving around the Sunriver community wistfully contemplating what it would be like to live there.

From Sunriver, we followed the signs for Mt. Bachelor in search of the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. En route, we picked up a young hitchhiker carrying a tremendous pack who was on his way to check out job prospects at the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. The road we were on was gradually climbing and as we neared Mt. Bachelor, it began to snow! By the time we dropped our traveling companion off, it was coming down pretty steadily.

We soon joined the Cascade Lakes Byway. And as we descended, the snow turned to on-and-off rain.

The first lake we encountered, Sparks Lake, was one that was gradually silting in and becoming a meadow:

Panoramic view of the meadow at Sparks Lake.

By the time we got to Little Lava Lake, the sky seemed to be clearing. We began to hope things would continue to improve as we got closer to Crater Lake.

Alas, that was not to be. The clear skies at the lower elevations quickly turned to fog fog fog and more fog as we began our climb up Mt. Mazama. Before long, it was snowing, too! The twisty slushy road made for a long and slow drive. Trees emerged from the dark dense fog like ominous ghosts. The road seemed to fall off into a vast and impenetrable nothingness on the downslope side.

We arrived at the lodge well before sunset, but this is all we could see:

Our first view of Crater Lake (it's there, honest!)

The snow and fog created quite a scene around the lodge:
As we were heading to dinner, we were startled to see that the fog had started to lift!

The lake makes a tantalizing late-in-the-day appearance!!!

What would we find in the morning?

Sunday, September 11

We awoke to find that we had apparently been transported to a new place! There was still a layer of snow on the ground, but the sky was clear and the lake, it turns out, was extremely blue and beautiful.

To give you an appreciation of how differently things looked, run your cursor over the picture below...

Crater Lake in fog and sunshine -- now you see it, now you don't.

With clear skies and a crisp temperature to our advantage, we headed off on a clockwise tour of the snow covered Crater Lake rim.

The first hike of the day was up to the fire ranger outpost at the top of The Watchman.

The Watchman (elev., 8,013 ft)

Words cannot describe the view from the top....

Panoramic view of Crater Lake from Watchman Peak. At its widest, the lake is 6 miles across! It is the deepest lake in the United States (seventh in the world!) with a maximum depth of nearly 2,000 feet. Wizard Island (which got its name because of its resemblance to a wizard's hat) is a cinder cone which formed after Mt. Mazama collapsed nearly 8000 years ago. The top of Wizard Island is 760 feet above the lake's surface.

Closeup of the Wizard Island caldera. It is 300 feet wide and 90 feet deep.

View of the Rim Road and Hillman Peak (elev. 8,151 ft.) from The Watchman.

Next stop: the Cleetwood Cove Trail, the only trail that leads down to the lake surface. It's only one mile long, but the change in elevation along the trail is 700 feet. At an altitude of over 7,000 feet, that's one strenuous hike!

The trip down the Cleetwood Trail was a lot easier than the trek back up!!

The water at the edge of the lake was, to my surprise, a fairly comfortable temperature.

Barb and Hank basking on the shores of Crater Lake.

We stopped and took a few more hikes. One, at Kerr Notch provided a great viewing spot for the so-called "Phantom Ship," another remnant of previous volcanic activity within Mt. Mazama:
There is a 7-mile spur off the Rim Road that was built solely to allow park visitors to see an unusual volcanic formation called The Pinnacles:

The Pinnacles are hollow chimneys. When a layer of volcanic ash covered this area, superheated gases vented up through it creating cement-like walls. As the softer surrounding ash was worn away by wind and water over the years, the hardened shells of the gas vents were uncovered.

At sunset, the dull colors of the rock along the rim walls turned vibrant orange!

Wizard Island in twilight.

A range of purple mountains appears on the southern horizon.

on to Glide...