If you’re a geek like me you’ll remember the iconic IBM machine Deep Blue that beat the world champion of chess in 1997. It was a deep moment (geekwise) and for some reason that very image popped into my mind the first time I viewed Crater Lake. What I was seeing was almost inconceivable -> an all-encompassing panorama of the most unnatural rich shade of blue. It almost seemed staged, man-made and yet it’s 100% mother earth and inevitably a deeply moving moment. How do you wrap your head around something like that? And even more how do you write about it?
Crater Lake is unique and sometimes spots like these are the hardest blog posts to write, for the very reason that they’ve been written about millions of times over. Nothing I can tell you has not already been said, and everything I tell you will be moot until you come here for yourself. Alex, Ellen and the two of us spent an afternoon soaking in the atmosphere and my impressions came in waves, reflecting, echoing and multiplying off the oh-so-glassy surface and rocky sides of the lake. My thoughts built to a crescendo so perhaps that’s the best way to describe them. In any case, here goes my feeble attempt to capture the gloriousness of it all:
Crater Lake is Oh-So Deep
The lake, or rather caldera that is Crater Lake reaches down 1,932 feet (589 m). It is the deepest lake in the US and the 6th deepest in the world. The water is so clear that you can almost imagine reaching the bottom and yet it goes on beyond what you can possibly imagine. There are folks who scuba dive here, which must surely be a fabulously surreal experience (= the natural version of a sensory deprivation immersion chamber?).
Crater Lake is Oh-So-Blue
You can’t help but wonder at the blueness of it all. Deep as the ocean, bright as the sky, varied as a summer day. The intense richness of the color is direct thanks to the depth and clarity of the waters. Of all the colors of the rainbow violet and blue are the shortest wavelengths, and being so very deep Crater Lake absorbs the rest and reflects back a rich blend of the two. The blueness moves with the time of day ranging from a light fluffiness to a deep baritone, reflecting the sky in almost perfect symmetry. At the shallow edges of the lake the color shifts to aqua and even shades of orange. Quite the panorama.
Crater Lake is Oh-So-Steep
This unearthly depression with unthinkably steep sides is actually a massive caldera the remanent of an enormous volcanic explosion 7,700 years ago. Mount Mazama grew, blew and collapsed creating the base for this enduring lake. The rim drive that circles the crater (33 miles) stops at multiple scenic views and affords over 90 miles of hikes up steep and panoramic paths (For a short, easy hike do the stunning 1.6 mile roundtrip to Watchman Tower, for a longer and steeper one indulge in the 3.4 mile Garfield Peak). The steepness and vastness of the view will draw you into another world.
Crater Lake is Oh-So Crazy
This little slice of nature’s story sits at ~6,200 feet of elevation and enjoys all the craziness of mother nature’s whims. In winter it lies dormant in deep snow (~533 inches per year!), vast and seemingly dead, although rarely freezing due to its depth (the last recorded freeze was 1949). The park is hard to access during this time, but is free with rangers offering free winter snowshoe hikes too. In summer it resists the sun for many, many months finally coming out of hibernation for a short few late summer days for full access. Summertime the whole lake opens up and offers boat rides to the central island too (we just missed the season for these).
Crater Lake is Oh-So Incredible
All the facts about this spot make it interesting, but cannot possibly describe the scene. Whether you’re stopping at a viewpoint, or hiking a trail or perhaps even sipping a long drink at the lodge the lake absorbs you completely. Deep blue drawing you in and keeping you captive in a game of mother nature’s chess. No, I couldn’t possibly describe what it’s like. It’s a moment, it’s a thought, it’s a spot unlike any other….and you’ll just have to come here to soak it in yourself!
P.S. Sadly no dogs are allowed on the trails at Crater Lake. You can bring pooch on roads, parking lots and picnic areas but not on your hike. Polly stayed home for our outing.