I sat on the porch with my feet propped up and the crisp mountain air tickled my cheeks. A fresh warm mug of coffee warmed my hands and I let the surroundings sink in. Crater Lake is unique in its perfect circle of scenery. Coniferous firs, pine and aspens mingle together around the ash strewn cliff edges to accent the bright crystal blue water. I knew I had to learn more about this unique spot and decided to pay the $40 to ride a guided old-fashioned trolley bus tour around the lake.
This was the best decision I could have made. I eagerly took a seat in the back with a spectacular view behind me. I was the youngest on the bus by at least a decade which really surprised me and bummed me out that more people my age range don’t seek out the opportunity to learn more about the places they visit from the people who dedicate a big part of their lives studying it. Maybe they are too busy trying to get that perfect Instagram pic (don’t get me wrong I want cool pics too), but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to share something about the cool picture other than here is me, dog, friend, at crater lake Oregon…
The tour leader was this wonderfully graceful and knowledgeable woman who had studied the uniqueness of the crater lake caldera for her master thesis. She was an expert in all things environmental and someone I can only hope to strive to become when I retire someday. She taught us the difference between a caldera and crater. A caldera is a collapsed of volcano after a large forceful eruption. A crater happens from an outside falling force like a meteor or bomb. So really it should be called caldera lake.
As we wound our way around the lake I learned the names of the two islands that reside in the lake. The larger of the two Wizard Island, is from a cinder cone volcano and has a larger crater nicknamed the Witches Cauldron. I could imagine the steam rolling out of the top creating an eerie scene. The other island and my favorite is Phantom Ship Island which is formed out of 400,000-year-old rock pillars. This island had a majestic feel to it and I could sense it was much larger than it appeared from my perch way above it. The way the sun danced off the sharp edges of the rock made it live up to its name as it really did look like a large ship floating in the water.
I wondered how to get to the lake as we drove around as I didn’t see any obvious way to make it down the steep edges of the rim. I found there is only one way to access the water at Cleetwood Cove and it is a 700 foot drop in less than a mile. I decided that was too much of an effort and sought out other activities.
After the tour, I went on a quest for food which this late in the season was difficult. I did stumble across a spout that offered up water straight from the lake. I grabbed my hydroflask and filled it up eager to taste this pure water. It was very refreshing, slightly cool, and had a hint of sweetness. The only way Crater Lake receives water is from the sky from snow or rain. There is no inlet from rivers or streams and the only outlet is through a section permeable rock deep down on one side of the Caldera. I was basically tasting many years of snow melt and was amazing.
I found an overpriced sandwich at the only open café and gift shop and picked up my token sticker to commemorate my adventure. I went back for one last gander at Phantom Ship Island and hiked a short trail named Sun Notch to an overlook. It was a great place to view the formation and appreciate the overall beauty of the lake. It made me thankful for our National Parks and even more excited to go visit the next.