Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Watchman: Crater Lake National Park

Fog pouring over the rim of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake National Park is perhaps one of the most underrated of our national parks. From the rim you star out over a giant circular lake with a diameter of 6 miles which is nearly 2,000 feet deep. Protruding from the lake is a massive Cinder Cone, Wizard Island, the only active remnant of what was once a 13,000ft Volcano (Mt. Mazama) which collapsed in on itself. The massive crater left behind quickly filled with snow melt and became the gem of southern Oregon that it is today.

Rain droplets clinging to a pine sapling.

Storm Clouds moving in over the Rim.

We found upon our visit though that because the lake is so massive that there wasn't much to do but stare at similar views of the same lake from different points. First we visited the Rim village and soaked in our first views. Then we continued on to road pull out after pull out expecting to find something different. Eventually though we stumbled upon the trailhead for The Watchman, an old fire lookout on a high point close to Wizard Island.

Clouds passing over Wizard Island, viewed from the watchtower.

The trail starts near the largest parking lot outside the rim village, shortly before the road to the observatory. Loose rock covers the base of the trail which switches back and forth up a grey mass, the top of which is crowned with the watchtower. After a short distance the trail does turn to dirt, and is shaded with trees but begins to steepen quickly. Views over the forest and out towards Talo Rock are constant and improve along the short climb. Roughly a mile of switchbacks later the watchtower.

Clouds covering the lake.

Llao Rock on Crater Lake Rim

From our vantage point at the top we could watch clouds roll over the rim of the old volcano and spill over the lake, dissapating, abating, and then rolling back in again. Or zoom in on the dwarf pine trees clinging to the side of the loose volcanic slopes, covered in fresh raindrops. Even in the late fall, old snow still stuck to the bottom of the rim, clutching the base, hiding in the shadows.

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