A Few Facts on Crater Lake
The deepest lake in America was formed over seven thousand of years ago when a great volcano collapsed on itself. Snow and rain filled the almost 2,000 foot deep crater, creating a giant blue eye. Due to evaporation, the water replaces itself every 250 years, keeping that vivid blue color.
Today, you can get a 360 degree view of Crater Lake by circling Rim Drive (which takes about an hour if you don’t stop). The tricky part? Crater Lake is often hidden by fog. Some visitors spend days at the Park Lodge, waiting for a clear day, and never see the vibrant lake.
Guillaume and I decided to spend two days at Crater Lake, overnighting in a backpacker campsite.
We arrived early in the morning on day one, excited to photograph the majestic crater. To our dismay, the dreaded fog monster decided to shield the entire lake. We could hardly see five feet in front of our car. On top of that, it was freezing cold and misting – all around miserable weather. We decided to wait it out at the park lodge.
Crater Lake Lodge
On a clear day, Crater Lake Lodge offers spectacular views of the lake. A large balcony offers an opportunity to gaze at the unique wonder, while sitting comfortably in a wooden rocking chair and sipping your drink of choice.
Inside, the lodge has a bar, restaurant, comfy chairs and large stone hearths. On a cold, rainy day with nothing to see or do, there’s nothing better than sitting next to a warm fire with a hot chocolate. Guillaume and I played cards and waited out the weather – which never cleared.
Lightning Springs Backcountry Campsite
Despite the view, we trekked out to our campsite – located only a half mile from Rim Drive on Lightning Springs Trail. We arrived just before sunset, and the location was secluded and serene. The warm beams danced through the mist and fog. It was a spectacular sight and almost made up for not seeing Crater Lake.
Lightning Springs is usually a popular campsite, due to it’s proximity to Rim Drive, but since we came mid-week during rough weather we had the place to ourselves. Fires were banned due to the drought, so we cooked dinner on our propane camp stove, played another game of cards and let the pitter patter of rain drops lull us to sleep.
We woke up at 3am, as planned, and packed up our tent in the dark. Stars were visible, and Guillaume was motivated to photograph the lake at sunrise. I groggily agreed to tag along, knowing I’d probably fall back asleep in the car.
The hike back to the car was magical. A full moon illuminated the terrain that we couldn’t see the day before. The sight was intoxicating and it seemed to awake something inside of me. The air was silent, and I felt like howling to break it apart. I wondered what Guillaume would do if I suddenly decided to run naked through the wilderness. Then, a sudden chill crept up my spine causing me to shiver – what else is out here? I flickered my flashlight at every breaking branch and rustling bush. We were not alone.
We reached the car and unloaded our backpacks. I jumped in the passenger seat and settled in for a nap, but once we reached the lake – which was finally visible, I embraced the cold long enough to appreciate the sheer size of the crater.
Time: 1 hour
Length: .7 mi
Elevation: 7579 – 7881ft
A short hike up a to watchman peak offers the best views of wizard island – a conical island in the middle of the lake. Sunset is the best time to see the vivid colors of the lake from this location. Ranger lead hikes up to watchman peak happen daily in high season.
Photography of Crater Lake
Guillaume and I drove around the lake at least three times, embracing the clear skies and snapping photos along the way. I’ll let his photography do the rest of the talking.
Next up on our travels: Guillaume is brought back to the Basque region in France, in one of the most unexpected locations.