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Crater Lake

Saturday, 13 September 2003
written by Teresa

Deep Blue The connection between spectral absorption and barbecued chicken may not be immediately obvious to the vast majority of us. This is probably due to the fact that it is only by standing on your head, looking over your left shoulder whilst wearing a green ankle sock on your right foot, that you could construe even the slightest correlation between the two. However, on our recent boat tour of Crater Lake, Ranger Nick did his very best to explain the colour of the water in terms of his willingness and ability to "absorb" vast quantities of his favourite grill food. The explanation was met with a polite, stunned silence by the party and it was only later that evening when we realised the extent to which the simile had made a lasting impression elsewhere. Sitting on the veranda of the Parkís lodge early that evening, the words "barbecued chicken" followed by uncontrolled laughter floated on the breeze in our direction.

Nothing prepared us for the sheer stunning beauty of Crater Lake. On a clear still summer day, the surface reflects the cliffs on a mirror the colour of apothecary glass. The Palisades To think of this spectacle as a remnant of a volcano may briefly describe itís history but does a disservice to its present incarnation. There is something deeply satisfying both about the symmetry of its shape and the enclosed nature of its setting. The collapse of the cone left the sheer walls of the caldera towering over the cataclysm below and only with the passage of time did the rain and snow melt fill the hole to its current level. There is a natural balance here, undisturbed by our interference. The water level remains virtually constant; seepage and evaporation maintaining the equilibrium while the ravages of agriculture and industry fail to touch the pristine waters, making them the purest in the world.

This is a place of numerous moods. The amazing reflective cobalt of one day gives way the next to cloudy skies and myriad, perpetually moving wind patterns scurrying across the surface of steel grey waters. Early one morning, cloud hovers around the edges of the caldera and hangs suspended in ethereal bodies above the lake.

Turquoise It is possible to experience the lake from various levels. From the tour boat, the breathtaking turquoises of the shallows around the waterline sit beneath the vertical cliffs and scree slopes. They offer a perfect companion to the dark navies of the deeper waters. The clarity of the depths is astounding, allowing the naked eye to see a hundred feet down on an average day, the record being one hundred and forty six feet. The trail back up from the boat ramp to the rim is steep but does not deter people. The contrast of the bright greens of pine growth against the azure backdrop makes the climb worthwhile and it is the only point where a trail goes down to the waters edge.

Up on the rim, a road traces much of the shape giving varying views across the lake and along the caldera walls. Crisp clear reflections bounce off the absolutely smooth surface broken only by the wake of a solitary boat. Wizard Island In the southern quarter of the lake, the black cone of Wizard Island rises from the water; itís largely bare slopes rising to a crater some three hundred feet across. Of the things to do in National Parks, scenic drives are not usually at the top of our list, but this one is a must. It is the only access to numerous overlooks and viewpoints offering stunning panoramas of Crater itself and the surrounding topography.

The trail up to Watchman Tower goes to a point several hundred feet above the rim. The fire tower has seen long service and in the early days, rangers sat on a stool with glass feet in an attempt to protect them from lightening. Fire danger is high at the moment and the tower was again in use, with good reason. Later that afternoon a forest fire broke out in the park and it was only after Sterling took a compass reading that we agreed we did not need to dash back and rescue the Lance from the campground.

The English language was further enriched during our stay when one evening, around the campfire, Sterling observed that the burning planks of wood had been "salmonized". My spell checker has just leapt into action but I assure you that the description was perfect. The layers in the grain, their edges highlighted in bright glowing reds, bore a striking resemblance to the fish in question.

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