Watch it Doesn't Blow While You're in the Boat

Trip Start Jul 26, 2005
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Trip End Aug 20, 2005


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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Friday, July 29, 2005

Thirty years ago on their way to Mexico my parents tried to stop at Crater Lake, Oregon. This giant lake formed thousands of years ago after one of the biggest volcano explosions in history collapsed a mountaintop to form a caldera. It was November when they tried to visit and two-thirds of the way up the mountain, swirling snow and drifts stopped their turquoise-blue shaggin' waggon road trip van from climbing any further. Every now and then, when we discuss travelling, this gets mentioned as a past regret.

"I wish we could have seen Crater Lake, that time," one of them will say. (Usually Mom).
"Well, Ellen, the van just wouldn't have made it. Maybe another time." (Dad).

So today, almost thirty years exactly later, but in a better season, they made it to Crater Lake, with a daughter in tow the same age they were on the first attempt. There was a bit of snow, too, just to jog the memory, unmelted at the side of the road. Was it worth the thirty years of agonized waiting?

The views from the rim of the caldera are lovely; the lake is an unexpected royal blue, and the rocky slopes that ring the edge are given a perfect mirror in the silent waters. Wizard Island sits green and ominous in the middle, with a sunken cone on top that suggests that it may be looking to blow once more, hopefully not while we are visiting . . .

We hiked down to the shore for a boat tour with a park ranger, which was educational and scenic---and over-long, over-hot, and over-rangered. Mike, the ranger (should I change names to protect the guilty? nah), had an annoying delivery, couldn't explain volcano and lava formation in layman's terms at all, and pointed out the most inane features. Did we need to have a closer look, under the blinding heat of the mid-day sun, at a rock formation that somewhat resembled Alf of television fame?

Then came the hike back up. From the rim to lakeshore is over seven hundred feet and the ranger at the top who sold us the tour ticket had taken one look at our family (maybe at Mom's grey hair, maybe at Dad's beer belly) and sternly warned us to expect an eighty-minute hike back up. It certainly was steep, and hot, and packed with crying children. This was like a form of bull-baiting for me. I set the timer on my watch, steamed off, and collapsed panting on a rock at the top twenty minutes later. The parents were pleased to show up the ranger's prediction by coming in at thirty-three minutes.
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