Like no other place in the World! That statement that holds true for every National Park! That’s why after celebrating the 2017 New Year in Joshua Tree I had to kick off 2018 in a National Park. With the help of my girlfriend we planned to snow camp in the 6th oldest US National Park, Crater Lake.
Before there was a lake there was Mount Mazama, a member of the Cascade Volcanic Arc in south central Oregon. 8,000 years ago a cataclysmic eruption caused the volcano to collapse into itself creating a massive caldera rimmed by 4,000ft cliffs. Today the caldera is completely fed by melted snow and rain. There are no inlets or outlets which makes Crater Lake one of the purest large bodies of water on the planet!
In the winter the park transforms into a snowy paradise collecting over 40 feet of snowfall each year. Thanks to an amazing snow plow crew the south and west entrances stay open all year taking you right up to Rim Village! It’s an 8 hour drive from Seattle so we left at 3am to arrive the Steel Visitor Center (Park HQ) at 11am. We spent the previous day skiing in the pouring rain so we were in bed early enough to get a full night sleep. Most of the drive it rained hard so we were getting a little worried but right as we approached the park the clouds parted and we were blessed with blue skies!
Before we could start snowshoeing around the rim we picked up a free backcountry permit at the Ranger Station. Our hike would start 3 miles up at Rim Village but the only overnight parking available is at the Steel Visitor Center. We choose to drop off one person and all our gear at Rim Village and one of us would snowshoe up. Right after parking the car back at Steel I asked a couple for a ride and they thankfully said yes! They were very kind people and one of them was applying to be a Park Ranger!
The view from the first step may be the best but there is a lot of competition! We’d be stomping around the west rim drive passing countless epic viewpoints while looking for a place to set up camp. Some try for complete 31 mile loop around the lake but we only had time for a sliver. Following the road made it impossible to get lost.
Around every pine, fir and hemlock tree was a perfectly clear view of America’s deepest lake and the World’s 9th deepest! The 5 trillion gallons of clean water sit at a depth of 1,949ft!
The first landmark we reached was Discovery Point. I bet you can guess what happened here. Next was the Wizard Island Overlook. An eruption 7,000 years ago formed a cinder cone that really compliments the uniqueness of the lake.
About a mile later we started looking for a potential home for the night. We had to be out of sight of the road and 100ft from the rim. We found a perfect viewpoint for sunset and sunrise so we camped close by.
We meet two other campers at the viewpoint and they were excellent company. Both hailed from Seattle and one of them once lived in Buford, Georgia, a town I grew up in!
We expected the worse weather wise so this was heaven! There also happened to be a super moon on display!
The sunset was magic as was the champagne!
The view of Watchman Peak, Hillman Peak, Mount Thielsen and Llao Rock were extraordinary!
The highest peak in the park is Mount Scott at 8,934ft. Here it is during blue hour.
Once we started to freeze we jumped in our warm Enlightened Equipment quilts and embraced the long cool night.
At the first traces of sunlight we were up. We took in the last sunrise of 2017 alongside our friendly neighbors!
It was a spectacular show!
The second highest peak in the Cascades also decided to say hello! This was my first view of Mount Shasta. I hope to climb to its summit in the near future.
As soon as our toes began to freeze again we snuck back in our sleeping bags before packing up.
Once the sun hit our tent we geared up and started our snowshoe back to Rim Village.
The morning light was incredible and provided some perfect reflections.
I love the look of Llao Rock and the mini volcanic islands of Wizard Island.
The weather was wonderful so every mountain was out like Union Peak and Mount McLoughlin.
I think this is the bluest blue there is!
Eventually we made our way back to Rim Village.
The visitor center/gift shop/cafe is great and helped supplement a failed dehydrated meal. For the way back to the car I decided to use my feet leaving behind Ellie and our gear. I was happy to finally test out my new Dion racing snowshoes. They’re flawless!
I ended up going the wrong way so I covered about 3 miles before reaching the car. At least it was an enjoyable environment to get lost in.
Ellie was glad I was alive after taking longer than when I said!
This was a perfect way to end the year and to cap it all off we met our sweet golden retriever puppy named Moose!
Expect to see a lot of this good boy in 2018!
I’ll leave you with some advice from the lake, “Be clear, make positive ripples, shore up friendships, take time to reflect and be full of life!”