Day 22: Crater Lake

Castle Crags State Park, California—Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

We both heard this scream last night in the middle of the night. It sounded like some demon child screaming. I asked the ranger as we were leaving and she said that everyone was asking her about this scream last night. She said it was probably a baby fox crying for its mother to bring food. Whatever it was I knew I didn't need to hear it again; you never know when you're in California, it could have been anything!

We drove around Mt. Shasta today, up I-5 until Weed, CA. Then we turned northeast on US 97 and drove into the Klamath National Forest. This was a desolate road, only two small towns to the Oregon border one of which had a central intersection called Malfunction Junction. Oregon was our 18th state. It was very agricultural so far, with many farms and a cow now and then. There were also many aqueducts along the side of the road and trucks everywhere. The first large town was Klamath Falls, OR on the Upper Klamath Lake. The road was wedged between the lake and the mountains and went through the Fremont and Winema National Forests. There were barriers to keep the falling rock off the road. After the town of Modoc Point, we turned up OR 62 which leads directly into Crater Lake National Park.

Sinnott Overlook in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Sinnott Overlook in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

Vividly blue water in the deepest lake in North America

Vividly blue water in the deepest lake in North America.

There was only one campground open; Mazama. We picked out a site and were ready to see the park. By now it was about 2:30 in the afternoon and our first stop was the Steel Visitor Center. Here we learned about some of the local history and picked up some information on the boat ride around the lake. Today we will explore around the rim of the lake, tomorrow we'll do the boat.

Our first stop was the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. The Crater Lake Lodge is here, built at the turn of the century. It is in danger of slipping into the lake if there is another major earthquake. The last big quake was in early fall of 1993 and was 6.0 in magnitude. This caused many landslides around the rim, including one near the lodge. The lake is the most amazing and unique thing I've laid eyes on. The color is deep, deep blue going on violet. The deepest blue sky does not compare to the color of this lake. The green trees contrast with the blue color of the lake which makes all the natural colors vibrant.

View from atop the Watchman, 1,840 feet above the lake

View from atop the Watchman, 1,840 feet above the lake.

Wizard Island, where the new volcano is forming

Wizard Island, where the new volcano is forming.

We continued along the Rim Drive to The Watchman, a high point along the rim of the lake. We climbed 400 feet to the top of the 8,013 feet peak. From the top, Mt. Shasta could be seen on a clear day as well as the lake's Wizard Island, and many other Cascade volcanoes.

Our next stop was Cloudcap, at 8,070 feet, overlooking the lake from the eastern side. After this were The Pinnacles. These are not near the lake but on a side road down a bit from the lake. They reminded me of the Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. The Pinnacles are odd formations jutting out of the canyon walls of Wheeler Creek. The difference here is that they are gray in color and made of volcanic ash instead of rock. They were formed after these glacial valleys were filled with ashflow. Fumaroles, or steam vents, formed, cooled, then erosion uncovered them to the odd gray spikes sticking out of the ground today. Some of them are hollow which makes sense if they were once fumaroles. We continued driving on the Rim Drive passing the Vidae Falls that pour down the side of the rim away from the lake into Sun Creek. By this time the sun was getting low on the horizon.

The Pinnacles, Crater Lake

The Pinnacles, Crater Lake.

We completed the rim overlooks and went back to camp, built a fire, and ate dinner. During this time, darkness had fallen and rangers were warning campers over loudspeakers that bears roam the area and to be extra careful how we take care of our food storage. Andy and I talked for a bit around the fire then decided to put the rest of the stuff in the car. One of those things was our trash from dinner. As I was about to open the car door something moved about four feet from me and all I heard was the low pitched sound of feet thumping away. I shined the flashlight to see the tail end of a bear running away. For some reason this did not scare me and, thinking about it, there could have been more of them all around our camp, but this did not freak me out. I walked back to camp and nonchalantly told Andy what I'd seen. He was more excited than I was. Were there more out there?