The Bluest Blues
My Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “blue” as “a color between green and violet in the spectrum” or “the color of the clear daytime sky.” The definition should also include “see Crater Lake, Oregon.” Beyond the facts of its cataclysmic creation, what astounds me the most about Crater Lake is the ever-changing hues of the water – the bluest blues I have ever seen.
I visited Crater Lake National Park this summer to check two items off of my bucket list; circumnavigating the entire 33-mile Rim Drive, and taking the boat tour on the lake. On my three previous visits to Crater Lake I was there too early in the season for these outings, with snow still blocking the East Rim Drive.
My mother and I arrived at the park by mid-morning, having driven from our previous campsite in La Pine only 60 miles away. With the entire day ahead of us and clear, sunny skies above, we decided to tackle the East Rim Drive. Maneuvering my 19-foot motor home around the narrow road and tight corners, I sometimes drove down the middle of the road when it lay too close to the precipitous caldera edge for my comfort. Luckily, traffic was light. We stopped at nearly every viewpoint to enjoy the vista and take pictures.
The colors of the lake were amazing, ranging from azure to cerulean to teal depending upon the depth of the water and brightness of the light. It is hard to fathom the enormity of Crater Lake, until you realize that the tiny white specks you see moving on the water are actually the 37-passenger boats that run multiple tours daily from Cleetwood Cove. It took us the rest of the day to work our way back to the West Rim Drive, especially since we took a side trip to see The Pinnacles – otherworldly spires of solidified ash left behind as softer material eroded away.
That evening we gratefully settled into our campsite at Mazama Village, just southwest of the lake. Despite a few sprinkles of rain, we were cozy sitting before our campfire after dinner. The setting sun was turning the western sky lovely shades of orange and pink when a rainbow appeared to the east, faintly visible in the dusk.
The next morning we were up early, excited about our scheduled boat tour. Following the West Rim Drive to North Junction, we then retraced part of the East Rim Drive as far as Cleetwood Cove on the lake’s northern shore. It took us 45 minutes to hike the 1.1 mile trail down to the water’s edge, partly because I kept stopping for photo ops.
The tour was enjoyable, cruising slowly counter-clockwise around the lake as a Park Service ranger enlightened us on Crater Lake’s geology, history and legends. Somehow, seeing the lake from this perspective made it seem even larger. We got close-up views of Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship, as well as a waterfall. Another highlight was seeing the “Old Man of the Lake,” a mountain hemlock log that has been floating upright and moving around the lake with wind and current for more than 100 years.
Climbing the steep trail back up to the rim took nearly twice as long as coming down. After a rest and lunch, we checked out the viewpoints along the West Rim, visited historic Crater Lake Lodge and took in the interpretive film at the Steel Visitor Center before heading back to camp. We celebrated our successful visit to Crater Lake with ice cream bars from the Village store. Tomorrow we would be moving on to another destination. But we were satisfied, having accomplished what we came for and gained some great memories to share.