America – I swear, just when I think I’ve seen it all, just when I think there is nothing new to surprise me, you go and do it again. The culprit this time – Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Excuse my French, but this park is tres beau. Mother Nature’s gift to the world. A beautiful anomaly. A place so pristine that it should be jarred and preserved in its current state forever. Luckily for us and you too if you choose to, it is available for the public to visit any time of the year. September’s final day of 2017 brought us to the park that forever changed our perception of nature’s capabilities. A day that will not soon be forgotten.
So where in the world did this massive crater positioned on the top of a mountain filled with the most pristine water on the planet come from? I would love to be able to tell of an ancient meteor that crashed into Mount Mazama leaving behind the sizable crater. Unfortunately, science went and ruined that theory for me. The truth is that the crater was not caused by an impact at all. It is actually the result of an enormous explosion. Eight millennia ago Mount Mazama decided it was time to blow its top. What resulted from this blast was a five-mile wide caldera (pretty much a big ass sinkhole) enclosed within a circle of 4,000 foot high cliffs. Over time melting snow and rain slowly filled the caldera to a mind-blowing depth of 1,148 feet with the bluest of blue water. In the words of Bobby Boucher, “now that’s some high quality H20”. Not quite as cool of a story as a stray meteor slamming into a mountain but still pretty awesome.
Now where to begin. I’m so excited thinking about the exquisiteness of Crater Lake that I am having trouble narrowing down everything we saw into specific things to touch on. Well for starters, no ifs, ands, or buts about it – this National Park needs to be added to your list of future endeavors immediately. The surplus of sensations that will strike you once you lay eyes on the lake for the first time will justify any amount of distance you travelled to visit the park. It is that remarkable. Once the initial awe of seeing the lake for the first time subsides, there are few things that are essential to do during a visit to Crater Lake. We would recommend beginning with the 33-mile-long Rim Drive that winds its way around the lake. Without a doubt it’s one of the most scenic drives in all the 59 national parks. This lake looks good from all angles so take your time and stop at all the pull off viewing spots to be blown away by the visuals before you. Most of the stops have an information board so you can read a little bit about the wonderful things your eyes are observing. Seeing Crater Lake from the road is special but seeing it from 4,000 feet above is really special. To experience this you’re going to have to strap up the boots and leave the car behind. Two separate hikes, Watchman Peak and Mount Scott, are the hikes you need to remember. Both so outstanding that it is impossible to pick a favorite, so you’ll just have to hike them both.
Let’s talk Watchman Peak first. The most popular hike in the park for a reason. A short 1.6 mile hike (straight up) takes you to Watchman Peak where a nice viewing station has been built. Hike this for the best views of Wizard Island (the lake’s only island that looks like a floating wizard cap) and an amazing panorama. A perfect place to just stare out and free your mind. The deepest lake in the entire US is therapeutic to witness from this vantage point. The lake will swallow up any worries you may have leaving behind only feelings of joyous harmony. There is a lot of nice informational boards to read over here as well. The next hike to do is Mount Scott. This hike is a little more strenuous at five miles but every step you take is worth it. As we climbed the mountain an amazing transformation began. The ground below us started to crunch under our feet. The golden colored trees suffering from the delightful effects of Autumn gradually turned into ice capped trees. The breeze that we enjoyed so much at the start of the hike chilled and on it rode snowflakes that frolicked in the air. We entered a winter wonderland. We snapped hundreds of pictures trying to capture the essence of the mountain, but no picture could do it justice. The memories of the moment will have to be enough. A lookout tower awaits at the summit of Mount Scott (the highest point in the park at 8,929 feet). Devote some time to hang out here. It’s one of the most delightful places we’ve ever been.
We called Crater Lake National Park and its surrounding area home for four days. The National Park is amazing on its own but to make things even better the park is surrounded entirely by national and state forests. So much nature to enjoy all within one area. We’ve become big fans of national forests during our trip. Most of them are free to camp in and they are welcoming to dogs. A lot of the national parks out west have restrictions on where dogs can go so it is nice to have a place to go where we can still hike with Apollo. Not to mention, national forests don’t get the crowds that the national parks do, so you can really get away if that’s your prerogative. We set up camp in Winema National Forest located just south of Crater Lake. Our camp was right beside the flowing Annie Creek tucked away in a forest of ponderosa pines that provided us with an endless supply of firewood to combat the freezing temperatures that accompanied the night. Miles of trails weave through the forest and if you have the endurance for it, you can hike all the way from Winema Forest right into Crater Lake National Park. Apollo did his best to lead us up and down the canyons on our tour of the epic land.
I think that is enough hype for Crater Lake National Park for now. Hopefully this post and the pictures that accompany it will fire your desire to see the park for yourself. As for us, we’re off to the Redwoods of California. Time to mingle with the giants.