Reflections On Crater Lake in Oregon
By J.D. Adams
Oregon is a land sculpted by the volcanic fury of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The explosion of Mt. Mazama was recorded in the legends of Native Americans, who faced clouds of ash that darkened the world almost 8000 years ago. After a series of spectacular eruptions, the volcano collapsed in on itself to form a caldera that filled with water from bountiful southern Oregon rain and snowfall, creating the deepest lake in the United States.
Crater Lake is a mirror of skylight framed in whitebark pine, glowing darkly from a cold well of deepest blue. It lies cradled within high cliffs etched with the fire of an ancient cataclysm, silent now except for the sound of windblown ice crystals in the trees. After millennium the explosive power remains self-evident, spellbinding. The mystery of hidden treasure permeates this Indian legend, rediscovered by gold miners in 1853.
It is an early October morning, cold and clear, the sun reflects brightly from recent snowfall, frosting the peaks and ridges around the rim of the crater. On these days Crater Lake is at its best, displaying a royal blue to fascinated onlookers who started coming before it became a national park in 1902. Climbing the last few feet up to our first viewpoint, my wife and I stepped into a postcard setting crafted from the essential elements of sky, water, and stone. A quiet feeling of eternity resonates in the alpine perfection of Crater Lake, like a legendary place that waits at the end of a long journey, mythical and yet real.
We explored the 5-mile wide caldera on Rim Drive, a 33-mile loop with numerous viewpoints that brought many shades of blue to Crater Lake’s pristine water. The mood was festive with an international flavor, for at every viewpoint groups huddled in awe and expressed their amazement in foreign languages. At Cloudcap Overlook, at nearly 8000 ft., enter a zone of rarefied air and extreme exposure, surrounded by sun-bleached whitebark pines bent with the force of prevailing storms streaming from the west. A few miles southward, Vidae Falls tumbles gracefully from one of the ridges that rise nearly 2000 ft. around Crater Lake, creating a rugged backdrop to its profound blueness. Moving west past Crater Lake Lodge, the dormant cone of Wizard Island dominates the foreground in a dramatic statement of volcanic destruction and renewal. Soon winter snows will close the North Park Entrance, and the cross-country skiers will have it all to themselves.
There is a satisfying sense of completeness in a trip to Crater Lake, for it is something every Oregonian should experience at least once in their lifetime, if only to appreciate the grand spectrum of our geology. In the quiet waters shines the stardust of inspiration, a hypnotic spell cast by rippling patterns of sunlight in a looking-glass of blue.