And so the story goes that every living entity has a soul and if we truly listen, the earth and its inhabitants will impart their knowledge to us.
Surrounded by the Rogue River National Forest, Sky Lakes Wilderness, Winema National Forest, and Sun Pass State Forest, Crater Lake was formed 7,700-odd years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and formed the caldera we know come to visit. It's the only national park in Oregon and is an ideal weekend trip from Portland between its rich history and 183,224 acres to explore. As the deepest lake in the Northen Hemisphere, let alone one of the deepest in the world, Crater Lake is something of a marvel to look at. The lake is a truly shocking shade of clear, deep blue.
The summer road trip is now something of a tradition for my brother and I. Despite spending summers camping and fishing at nearby Diamond Lake, we had never been to Crater Lake and so it was the easy choice for our trip. After about a four-hour drive from Portland, we were eager to get out of the car and check out Crater Lake for ourselves. We pulled over to the first overlook we saw and began exploring the trails for the afternoon.
That evening we decided to tag along on a daily hike up The Watchman trail overlooking Crater Lake with one of the park rangers. Along the way, the ranger interwove the history of the Klamath with stories of the mischievous coyote capturing fire for the people and the creation of the lake itself. At the watchtower, the combination of looming smoke from distant forest fires and thunderclouds made for a bizarre yet stunning sunset. All of a sudden, lighting broke out over the sky. Standing next to a lighting rod at one of the highest points at Crater Lake didn't seem like the best idea and so we split. Back at the campsite we hashed out adventure plans for the morning over s'mores around the fire.
If you do one thing on your next trip to Crater Lake National Park, make sure it's catching the sunrise. We cruised around the rim in the dark before finding just the right place overlooking the Wizard Island and the East side of the lake. As we stood before Crater Lake, witnessing one of the most beautiful sunrises that I've seen to-date, a buck appeared on a ridge. He remained still for a while. It was one of those moments that could have turned out to be photo-of-the-year worthy, but I knew that the moment I picked up my camera he'd be gone. It reminded me of the stories the ranger had told us the night before.
The sunrise exploration around Crater Lake's rim ended up easily being my favorite part of visiting the park. We didn't pass a single person. Instead, we quietly watched all sorts of creatures get a start to their day before retreating into the woods. Does meandered through a field with their fawns. Chipmunks scrambled over boulders. Birds chirped while soaring above. Another buck appeared in a meadow and regarded us for a moment before trotting back to the trees. The park felt intensely more alive than the day before when crowded with people. In its silent moments, Crater Lake National Park never seemed so alive.
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
WHERE TO EXPLORE
Cleetwood Trail - A strenuous 2.2-mile roundtrip trail that leads to a cliff jump into Crater Lake.
The Watchman Trail - Guided ranger hikes depart each evening throughout the summer from Watchman Overlook. The trail is a moderate climb (1.6-mile roundtrip) up to the Watchman lookout.
Wizard Island - Only accessible by boat during the summer, the lake's island offers two tough hiking trails to explore.
Phantom Ship Overlook - An optical illusion of rock formations in resembles a lone ship out on the lake.
Rim Drive - Open only in the summer, the 33-mile Rim Drive provide an all-encompassing view of Crater Lake. Pull off at the overlooks to hike and explore along the way.
WHERE TO STAY
Mazama Village Campground - Well-kept and quiet campgrounds tucked in the trees. Arrive early to scout out the best camp site as it is first-come-first-serve.
Crater Lake Lodge - Recently updated, the lodge located in Rim Village features a café, gift shop, scenic overlook, and more.
DO GOOD WITH NAKED JUICE
If you've been following along on the blog this summer, you know that I've partnered with Naked Juice to share iconic Oregon adventures with you all.
Recently, Naked Juice has partnered with Wholesome Wave — an organization that helps create affordable access to fresh, local and regional food to those in need. For every social media post with #DrinkGoodDoGoodand #NakedJuice, Naked Juice will donate the monetary equivalent of 10lbs of produce to Wholesome Wave. (Equating up to $500,000 worth of produce.)
In a place as bountiful as Oregon, no one should go hungry due to lack of resources.
Disclaimer: Naked Juice graciously provided The Paper Airplane with a sponsorship to share amazing adventures with you. As always, all opinions are my own. The goal of The Paper Airplane is to share the best of the best in travel experiences, products, food, and entertainment. If it’s reviewed, it’s because the given entity is genuinely awesome.