Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crater Lake

We have unfortunately now moved inland from the costal areas.  I say unfortunately because here, in Grant’s Pass Oregon, there is a heat wave going on.  It is a bit much to take because we are now 20 degrees hotter!  However, it does cool down at night.  We did not have any plans to visit Crater Lake as we had seen it in years past.  John was considering returning there, and once I saw that area’s weather report, I needed no convincing to head north to the lake.  Grant’s Pass sits in the Rogue River valley and our trip followed a scenic byway along the Rogue River.  One of the important spots to see along that highway is the Rogue River Gorge.  We hiked on an overlook above the gorge and an interpretive sign along the way noted that the gorge was likely formed by the collapse of lava tubes and the force of the river as it followed fractures between layers of lava.  The river gorge is quite narrow and the river follows a very rocky and wild course as it tumbles down into the canyon.
 At the end of the overlook our trail abruptly ended and the river above the canyon cascades down in a series of waterfalls.
That was a beautiful sight, but Crater Lake topped the beauty which we had just seen.

The deep blue color of the lake was what immediately caught our eyes.  The lake is the deepest freshwater lake in the United States, no streams empty into it.  The clarity of it goes down 143 feet deep, which is a world’s record.  The history of the lake goes back many years when Mt. Mazama sat where it is sitting now.  The park’s brochure explains very succinctly what happened when it errupted: “ it blew, it fell, and it filled".  The volcano created a caldera, which became a lake that filled after centuries of rain and snowfall.  We hiked along the rim, soaking up the lake’s beauty from every angle.  Douglas firs and hemlocks frame the scenic picture, as well as precipitous rock walls.  
 Off in the distance in the lake we could see Wizard Island, pictured above.  It is a cinder cone which formed after the eruption.  During the summer months the park offers boat rides to the island, and it is possible to hike to the top of it.  We drove further southwest along the rim where we got a closer look at other features of the lake.
The explosion of the volcano created massive grey cliffs; we stopped to view two of them, one of which is named by Native Americans as Llao Rock.  After the eruption the area became an important ritual site for the tribes of the area, they perceive that spirits inhabit the volcanic terain.  We did not complete our drive around the rim because it was getting late in the day.  There is much more to see at Crater Lake, but we wanted to see the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway before it got dark.  The road took us through a pumice desert and offered us stunning views of large rock pinnacles, as well as the rushing Umpqua River.

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