Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day Two: Stranded

On the next day, we got up suuuuper early and bought two of the last three tickets available for the early boat ride. That's right, a boat ride around Crater Lake. For $38, you get a boat tour on the way to Wizard Island, the famous little volcano island in the middle of Crater Lake. You can choose to stay on Wizard Island for three hours and hike, or continue on with the tour of the lake. Boooooring. We stayed on the island.

But first, you must hike down this steep, dusty trail to Cleetwood Cove, which is 700 feet down to the lakeshore. It's small and rocky there, but it's nice to sit there along the super blue water.

Then we hopped on the boat, and got schooled on some Crater Lake knowledge. That I probably couldn't recite because I was too worried about being enamored with the blue-ness of the lake (I was convinced it HAD to look less blue when you get up close -- not true) and sweating from intense heat.

We were told it was going to be COLD. And it was chilly that morning, but there were no clouds, and the sun was a-shining. Needless to say, we quickly stripped off our outer layers before we even got to Wizard Island.

So we got to Wizard Island, which was awesome. They dropped us off and basically said there's no way to contact them at all unless it's an emergency and we broke this glass case to get a key to get into a locker which had a radio in it. Serious stuff.

But we decided we were going to hike to the top of the volcano, and were equipped with water and lunch for the summit. Here's a view on the way up.

And the thin air got to us, so it took awhile. But eventually, we summitted, and here's the crater of a volcano!

OK, so it's difficult to tell it's a crater. But it was and it was deep and big. But the view from the top was amazing! Here we are, tired but happy.

Fumerole Bay. It's apparently a good place to swim, though I wasn't swimming in the 50-degree water. Some did though. I just enjoyed how beautiful the water was. Take that, tropical islands. I'll take a volcano-turned-lake-upon-massive-explosion any day. It's only fed by rain and snowmelt (it snowed there not long after we left! EEK!), so it's unreal clean.

When it came time for the boat to pick us up, we all met on the dock, waiting. The sun was warm (OK, hot) and the water was cool. We used up all our water, and I was ready for the rest of the lake tour, hike back to the top of the caldera and a yummy, campfire dinner.

The view from the dock, where about 50 people were gathered. My camera is mere inches above that famous blue water.

But. But, but, but. The boat was supposed to return at 1:30. We sat. 1:30 came and went. Then 1:45. Then 2:00. Then I became readily aware that my skin was baking like it hadn't baked before. We were a lot closer to the sun than I was used to. And the boat was nowhere. In fact, no boat had lapped the lake since we had been there. The natives were restless. And a little concerned that we would be stranded.

Around 3:00, a boat magically appeared, and everyone was excited. My skin was hot, I was thirsty and hunger was attempting to set in. We had only brought enough to stay until 1:30!

So the park ranger hops off the boat, and everyone was excited to get back on. But. They were having technical difficulties with one of their three boats (though we're still questioning how one of the other boats couldn't pick us up), and couldn't get us and had no way of communicating that. Awesome.

But. There were four dudes toting fishing poles on the other side of the island. They had planned to stay twice as long as the rest of us so they could fish (fish aren't native to the lake, obviously, since there's no actual water source running into the lake). Unfortunately, we had to wait for them to hike from the other side of the island, since they wouldn't be taking another tour out that day. We also didn't get to finish the lake tour, but we didn't care. 

Once those fishermen got back, we were ready to go, and not looking forward to the rather steep and difficult hike we were faced with to get to our car.

Luckily, we took our hiking shoes off once we got back to the cove, and cooled off our feet before we attempted the hike. Here's the water up close.

That's a family of swimmers. The dad was French, and very so. Thick French accent, counting in French and an innate ability to get naked just about anywhere. Apparently he didn't feel the need to wear his swim "trunks" (more like underwear) under his shorts -- he just stripped down right there with people around. Thank goodness he wrapped a sweatshirt around his waist, though it was far from modest.

The boat that rescued us from the volcano island.

During this time, a major headache (most likely brought upon lack of water and too much sun) set in for me. The hike up was nearly unbearable, and I was never so happy to chug down the Gatorade we were smart to bring on the trip. Despite being stranded, it was a gorgeous experience, and a fun story in the least. 

Also, I have a nice souvenir from the adventure. Peeling sunburn. I've never peeled this much before. As I've never had sunburn like this before. Had we KNOWN it was going to be as hot as Hades on the lake (we were informed high of 50), I would have known to wear sunscreen and I would have known that my sweatshirt would most certainly not be protecting my arms. Ugh.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day One (or more like, Evening One): Sunset

As if the Rim Drive wasn't enough, we got super excited and went on a ranger-led hike listed in the brochure: a sunset hike to Watchman's Peak.

Since we were embarrassed about our abilities (or lack thereof) to breathe in the thin air, we left a little before the ranger-led group. The hike climbed to more than 7,000 feet, which is awful thin in my lungs' book. It didn't take us long, though it was steep. Once we got to the top, we knew why this hike was so popular, despite its difficult nature.

Here, looking south toward Klamath Falls. We believe the shadow of that giant mountain in the right center of the photo is Mount Shasta.

A look at the parking lot from above (and with a little zoom, otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell it was a parking lot full of cars).

Watchman's Peak (which houses a small building that's still used to spot wildfires in the forest) offers great views of Crater Lake and the Cascade Mountain range to the west. As we were patiently (and coldly) waiting for sunset, the moon was rising from the other direction.

A misty look to the northwest: some Cascade foothills in the near-sunset light.

The sun begins to set just above the Cascades.

As the sun sets, a pinkish hue rises beyond a glassy Crater Lake and lights the moon. It was incredible.

The colors were intoxicating, and photos do an awful job of portraying them. But I love the look of the mountain silhouettes against the vibrant oranges. 

If I could paint, I would paint this. This is what met us after we hiked back down and stood in the parking lot, not wanting to leave, but really wanting to crank up the heat in the car.

Also, this. The moonlight reflected in Crater Lake. If it looks like a painting in the photo, it's because it looked like a painting in person. Overwhelming.

Next up: getting stranded and burnt crispy on the volcano.

P.S. If you click the pictures, they pop up bigger. I realize these are kind of small, and they might be best viewed by clicking.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day One: Pleased to meet your acquaintance, Crater Lake

We arrived on Saturday, after just a three and a half hour drive (much shorter than we thought). We didn't do anything exciting except set up our tent and start a fire (which took much longer than we anticipated).

But here's our sweet Marmot tent. Inside: millions of blankets that turned out to be necessary the first couple of nights when it was down in the 30s, and two sleeping pads from REI, our new addiction. Those sleeping pads save LIVES.

Our humble abode (with its bug-like rain fly):

The next day, we decided to get acquainted with the former giant volcano turned deepest lake in America after a blast that was hundreds of times bigger than Mt. St. Helens. Hence, the Rim Drive. Thirty-three miles of road with great views of the lake, Wizard Island (the volcano inside the lake, more on that later) and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Golden ground squirrels. Mainly, chipmunks. And they were everywhere. And perpetually hungry.

Proof we were there (also proof that we're apparently selling Ohio colleges).

Blacktail deer on a hike. There were two babies, and we turned around shortly after this. We were huffing and puffing in the thin air, plus, we thought we might run into bears if we ran into deer. Not sure what kind of logic that is, but it scared us enough to turn around and keep on driving.

The surrounding mountain range.

Unaltered lake color. Seriously, it's that blue.

Phantom Ship. Which is apparently really exciting, though I think it's just a rock sticking out of the lake. It does look like a ship, though.

Vidae Falls on the eastern portion of the Rim Drive.

Then we went back to camp and ate and packed for our evening ahead. The sunset hike to Watchman's Peak, which gets it's own post soon. The photos are that amazing.