Tuesday, September 18, 2012

DAY 28- Crater Lake...

The last time that I saw Crater Lake was about 8 years ago.  It was in the early part of July and there was about 4 to 5 ft. of snow still surrounding the lake.  I had pictures of myself, my dog Rocky, and my friend Kory posing with a snowman in our shorts with the lake behind us.  Sorry, the copies of those photos are buried somewhere in a little 5X5 storage unit in Salt Lake City.  So you see, I had some memory of seeing the lake before.

Photo- My first sight of Crater Lake from Rim Village. Wow!
But when I got to the Rim Village and got out of my car, the lake still took my breath away.  It was rather surprising to see it with no snow, and the brilliant blue color didn’t seem quite as brilliant as the last time I saw it.  I think that was due to a couple of factors.  The first is that there’s smoke in the whole area because of the fire up at Sister’s is still burning.  In fact, that fire has now doubled overnight and they are struggling to attempt to contain it.  The second reason it doesn’t seem as brilliant blue is because there’s no snow.  The contrast with the snow and the light that the snow throws off just makes that blue of Crater Lake all that much more dramatic.
Photo- The pretty scenery on the drive but
note smoke making distance sighting hard.

I explored around the Rim village very quickly.  Taking quite a few pictures but not really being able to catch the real awe of the place.  I took the short trail down to Sinnott Memorial Overlook and got an even more amazing view of the lake.  I tried not to look down because I got a bit dizzy from the height.  Inside and behind the overlook area there’s a room with background information about the lake.  I walked along the path area that runs along the lake in the Rim Village area.
Photo- The view from Sinnott Memorial Overlook.
Photo- A photo taken from the Sinnott Memorial Overlook
(without the roof.)
I really had hoped to take the boat ride that goes down on the lake but the day before was the last day of the season that they ran the boat.  Go figure!  So I opted instead to take a trolley tour guide that goes along the rim road.  It’s a little over a two hour tour; stopping along the way and the National Parks Tour Guide explaining things as we go along.  I went to the Rim Village Café and grabbed lunch while I waited for my time slot for the trolley tour.  I ended up having a conversation with a gentleman named Frank who was from Grant Pass.  He invited me to join him and his friend for a 3 hour hike up to Garfield Peak; a trail with a 1000ft climb.  I thanked him and told him I had already reserved a tour on the trolley.  All I could imagine that I would’ve probably slowed down him and his friend.
Photo- Me with Crater Lake.

The trolley tour around Crater Lake is very well worth the $25; and the guide that I had, Dave, was a former school teacher that was cracking puns and jokes along the way.  At one point, he even got out props of a rubber chicken and a huge pair of men’s underwear.  He would make up names of the Crater Lake scientists and what not like; Rockand Debris, who was an assistant to the Lake’s geologist. Dave, our tour guide, kept it interesting and seemed not to mind the hecklers at all.  In fact, one of the hecklers was a man from Texas and later he made a comment about sometimes people will come up with their boats pulled by large diesel trucks and expect to be able to fish on the lake with their boats.  Quite often, they are Texan’s wearing big ten gallon hats.
Photo- Inside the full trolley tour.

The tour guide then goes on to explain that access to the lake is near impossible. There are cliffs along the lake that vary in heights from 300ft to 1000ft.  The boats that are currently on the lake were helicoptered in and placed onto the lake.  They are stored and winterized just off to the side of the lake. 

Yes, there’s fish in the lake that were stocked into the lake years ago and in fact, they have fishing allowed.  It’s quite a hike to get down there to fish.  The fish are not native to the lake and some feel that the fish may have already made an impact on the ecology of the area but the only way to get rid of the fish safely would be to have them fished out.

What cause Crater Lake to be what it is?  Well, the tour guide explained that they believe at one time there was a HUGE mountain thousands of years ago and it had a volcanic episode.  Then, it collapse a bit on itself and over 800 years snow melting has filled it up.  But the interesting thing is because of a pumice area of rock in one of the cliff areas it maintains a certain height of water inside and will never overflow.  The pumice stone cliff area acts as similar as an overflow spout area works in a sink.  Thus, this lake will never overflow and evaporate.

The lake is one of the clearest waters in the world; and has done a clarity test that proved clear all the way down to 144ft.  The only other that comes close is Tahoe Lake which tested to 70ft. down.  The water is so clear because its source is only the snow pack that comes from snow.  There are no underground springs or rivers that run into the crater. The area gets on average 533 inches of snow.  In fact, the tour guide said he took about 800 years for the snow pack to fill the area.

Crater Lake is the 7th deepest body of water in the world at 1,943ft.  The tour guide then did a visual prop of showing how deep the lake was.  He took a picture of the Eiffel Tour, the Washington Monument, and the Statue of Liberty; one right above the other.  He said that there still would be 150ft of water above that.  Across one way the lake is 6 miles and is 5 miles the other way.  The tour guide told a story of how a well known female swimmer had swam across the Lake in 1939.  Of course, she swam the 6 mile distance, she didn't want to be considered a sissy.  (This tour guide had me cracking up!)  It took the swimmer nearly 42 hours to swim across it.

Did I mention I was glad to take the trolley tour around the lake because it saved me trying to drive it?  I’m a bit scared of heights and there were times where off to the side of the road looked like a sheer 300 ft. drop off.  It was more than what my nerves could’ve handled and I’m really not sure I could bike around the lake either because that would unnerve me.  But I was glad to have the bus driver being driving, then I could look up and across (not down) and I could enjoy it.
Photo- The gully area that runs along the road on the way up to Crater Lake.
That's called Annie's Falls down there but that's as close as you get.

After the trolley tour, I walked through the Crater Lake Lodge and found out that there was a talk being given by another National Park employee on the back porch area of the lodge.  The talk covered some of the same things that the trolley tour did, but went more in depth with the first visitors that came to Crater Lake.  It was interesting imagine how the early visitors came up the rugged terrain and they had to have camped out because of the distances and time involved.  Unlike my day where I could be 50 miles away, visit the park for several hours and still manage to be back at my Aunt’s for dinner.

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