Okay, okay. Enough teasing, right? I've wanted to share a lot of the otherworldly sights we saw at Crater Lake and in Oregon with y'all. There are pictures from the Instagram feed, of course (y'all know I have my #instahabit), and some of them I also shared in this post, because I just couldn't wait. Let's be real, though, the main reason that vacationing to a new place is fun is because I love learning things about the places I visit - and Crater Lake National Park was obviously no exception. I mean, I come from a planning family. We don't mess around with this stuff. My father made a binder with labeled tabs for the entire trip (true story). My mother, similarly, had a handbook that spelled out all of the things we would see, with descriptions of each scenic outlook and each geographic detail, with mileage so we knew exactly where they were. Like I said, we don't mess around.
Upon arrival, and peeking out the window of the airplane closing in on the landscape below, I could already see the mountains - which, of course, made me feel instantly at ease. Mount Hood especially was so near the wing of the aircraft that I felt like I could reach out and touch it, and smell the icy snow cap on top. After landing, we drove the four and half hours or so to the Crater Lake Lodge, nestled on the side of the rim of the crater, which was the only establishment for miles and miles around - or at least it felt as much. Down below it was an almost mythical view of the bluest waters you've ever seen, and a perfect view of the island among them, Wizard Island. All of this, by the way, could also be clearly seen out of our rooms' windows in the lodge. Un-freakin'-real.
Crater Lake, I've learned, is one of the most unique and incredible wonders that our country has to offer. I've seen a lot of things, but water that is bluer than a perfectly blue sky? I can tell you right now: it's a sight that I won't soon forget. It's the deepest lake here in the United States, and among the top ten deepest lakes in the entire world, at just under 2,000 feet deep (depending on where you measure it). On top of that, it's also the clearest fresh water found nearly anywhere in the world - and the depth combined with this clarity is what gives it the rich blue color. But Crater Lake is unique for so many other reasons, y'all. Almost 8,000 years ago, this crater didn't exist yet; it was an enormous stratovolcano called Mount Mazama. When it erupted, nearly the entire volcano fell back into itself, creating a collapsed caldera which then began to fill with water, ultimately creating Crater Lake. And, when we were walking down into the crater to take a boat out onto the lake, I couldn't stop myself thinking about how truly mind-blowing it was that we were, quite literally, inside of a volcano. An inactive one for the moment, sure, but a volcano nonetheless.
If I continued on with all the fun facts that I learned about Crater Lake and it's formation, I'd probably be writing a small novel. So, with that in mind, here are some more pictures from the trip, and maybe a few more tidbits I grabbed along the way. I just can't not share them.
Mount Hood, pictured outside of our airplane window as we landed in Portland, is another stratovolcano in the same family that Mount Mazama was in - the Cascade Volcanic Arc up in northern Oregon.
The trees surrounding the crater were covered with lichens that looked like the coziest felted green coat. There are over 100 species of lichens in the entirety of the park, and more are yet to be discovered.
The Palisades is a unique structure on the rim of Crater Lake that was created from an older lava flow on the side of what once was Mount Mazama. Underneath it rests smaller rocks in a glacial till that allows for the seepage of water out of Crater Lake, helping to control the lake's water levels.
Meet my friend. This lil' guy is a Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. They're found all over the park - including on Wizard Island. They're quite friendly.
One of my absolute favorite things to see was Phantom Ship, which is the second island found on the lake. It's such a teeny tiny island, but it has it's own little ecosystem! There are seven different kinds of trees, a few varieties of wildflowers and lichens, and colonies of nesting birds at some times of the year.
The Pinnacles are incredible to look at, because they seem supernatural. They were formed by gas deposits as a result of the volcanic activity from Mount Mazama - when that gas in the ground escaped (through openings called fumaroles - another great name), it created a cement-like structure, which time and erosion has now allowed to stand tall out of the valley below.
Another friendly encounter. This little one came to visit us as we were picnicking for lunch. He's a Clarks Nutcracker, and his kind are seen all around the park.
We climbed to the top of Wizard Island, which is a cinder cone that had erupted inside of the crater after it had already started filling with water. Bonus: on top of Wizard Island is another crater, called "Witch's Cauldron." It's basically a volcano inside a volcano (simplifying it way too much, but roll with me).
To anyone else, this just looks like a dead tree in a lake. But this one is special - they call him The Old Man of the Lake, and it's a mountain tree (a hemlock, if you're wondering) that's been chilling out, floating upright in Crater Lake's waters for over 120 years! He's never in the same location, and has been known to travel over 3 miles in a day across the waters on some days, so it was special we got to see him.
And of course, the sunsets were insane.
All photos credit to: Yawner