Monday, June 24, 2013

Lakely, Baby - Crater Lake, That Is

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever

Unfortunately, on the only day (May 21) my son and I had available to head up to Crater Lake, Oregon, it did not turn out to be a clear day. In the early morning, from the lake webcam, it looked pretty good, a few rainshowers, perhaps, and it was not supposed to snow until later in the evening.


Well, not really. I knew that the weather there is highly changeable.And it was.

Note my son's body language - not what he was expecting.
Rim Village. Very light flurries, not "sticking" at the time we arrived.
Know why the road marker poles are so tall? Because they need to be.

Snowing. Definitely big fatty flakes coming down. And wind blowing already snowed layers around.
From the Lodge main hall. You will not be shocked to find it is a non-smoking facility.
From the little mini-museum on site, we learned that, opening in 1915, the original Crater Lake Lodge was a hellhole somewhat rustic. Narrow iron bedsteads that dumped their occupants onto the floor, limited water supplies, not seismically sound (you kind of want that when you're built on a major fault line), and no heat in the rooms.

Yep, with an annual snowfall of 530 inches, you really want heat in your rooms, even if the Lodge is only open from mid-May through October. Weather permitting.

The Lodge went through a major retrofitting in 1995 and all rooms currently have heat (if not showers - some rooms only have a bathtub); some are handicapped accessible, and the entire Lodge is now built with seismic reinforcements. It looks like a very cozy place to spend a few days.

There was a fire burning in the smaller lobby, but this one had yet to be lit.
One of the staff made sure I captured the squirrel andirons.
Even though we were not Lodge guests, we were welcomed to look around as we escaped the snow.

The smoking/viewing section. The blue haze almost obscured by the railing? That's the lake.

Back view of the Lodge from a walkway.
There are signs everywhere cautioning idiots from climbing onto/into the caldera.
It would be one swift sled ride to the bottom; no sled necessary.

The slope from the Lodge continues.
See the boats and helipad ready to rescue dumbass tourists from the water?
That's right - there aren't any. Fall in, you're on your own. So don't be a dumbass.
This was as close as we decided to go for this vantage point.
Granted, if you fell off the edge, you might not reach the water.
You might get "lucky" and hit a tree.

We did reach a lookout trail that was not too inaccessible or unsafe to navigate, provided we didn't mind walking on top of the snow.

Looking left (north?) from the lookout point, the round sheltered structure is called Sinnott Memorial Outlook.
Totally inaccessible that day.
You can see on the left side floor of this outlook, several inches of standing water.
There were moments of almost-clear, when the lake color was visible, though snow was still blowing.

Victory! That is definitely blue water, with ripples on it.
Because it would have been sad to come all that way and not see the lake.
Though other travelers have come farther and seen less.

By the time I got the camera pointed at it, it had almost disappeared again.

In the places where the snow was not hard-packed, here's the depth.

Instead of sporadic light flurries and mostly wind, next the snow seriously started to come down. On the way out, we stopped at the Steel Visitor Center. They show a short film there on the history of Crater Lake, but I was concerned about stopping even for the 10 minutes or so to the next viewing, plus the 20 minute film, lest the roads close (which they did a few hours after we left).

My poor SoCal car was all, WTF is this stuff?

From inside the car, after only ten minutes inside the Visitors' Center.

 Here's a short clip I took showing the snow activity from a covered walkway at the Visitor Center.

For your reference, here is what Crater Lake would have looked like if it had been clear that day. (And if we were in a helicopter.)

English: Crater Lake is a caldera lake in the ...
English: Crater Lake is a caldera lake in the U.S. state of Oregon. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The lake partly fills a nearly 4,000 feet (1,220 m) deep caldera that was formed around 5,677 (± 150) BC by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if it had been clear and if we were in a boat, we might have seen The Old Man of the Lake, if we were lucky. This is an ancient tree stump recording floating (and traveling) in Crater Lake since at least 1896.

via Wikimedia Commons
It's a very interesting place, and I'd like to return, deeper into the summer. Since it's only about 90 minutes from my son's home base, the Medford area, I will probably have another opportunity on my next visit or three.

Have you been to Crater Lake?
Your experiences?

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