We live about an hour and a half from Crater Lake National Park and, while we’ve visited several times, we don’t get to it (or at least the Rim) as often as we should. Too busy with tourists in the summer months; too challenged by snow and weather in the winter months. A little touch of guilt here – particularly now that there’s talk of privatizing National Parks and abolishing National Monuments (so sad, so stupid). So, yesterday, with the LovedOne mostly recovered from a bout of bronchitis, we went for a short – but amazing – snowshoe hike to Discovery Point on the lake’s west rim.
We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day – cloudless, sunny, light breeze, and only a smattering of fellow visitors. We stopped at the Visitor Center – still buried in 100 inches of snow – then continued on to the Rim where we watched crews clearing mountains of snow from the lodge in anticipation of its opening later this month.
Then we parked at Rim Village – open and accessible via a covered tunnel through the snow – and carried our snowshoes from there up on to the snow along the Rim.
There is no way my little snapshots are doing justice to what we saw when we crested the Rim and took in the full view of a dead calm lake under a nearly cloudless sky. You just had to be there to absorb the magnificence of it all!
West Rim Drive is still closed by snow – and may be so until July this year – so we shoed toward Discovery Point on the snow covered ridge above, which gave us access to huge views out across the lake.
Our original plan – likely overly ambitious – had been to try snowshoeing Garfield Peak. But the avalanches we could see running down its southwest side – the trail side – indicated that this would have been a bad, bad idea.
Along the way, we reached a saddle on the ridge that gave us a view to the west and southwest, where we could see all the way to Mount Shasta in California. Union Peak is a very fun hike/scramble, with great views from its summit (post).
We got a little past Discovery Point, marveled – yet again – at the glass-like surface of the lake, and then (reluctantly) headed back.
To make a simple loop, we followed the uncleared road back toward Rim Village. Along the way we spotted what looked intially like a rock in the middle of a snow field,
but when the “rock’s” nose twitched, we saw that it was a marmot. Having seen the marmot – instead of that perfidious woodchuck – we knew that winter was finally over (except, of course, for the snow predicted for this weekend – which calls into question the use of what are essentially large ground squirrels as weather stations).
After about a mile, we reached the leading edge of the Park’s road clearing efforts and got a better appreciation of what 15+ feet (a normal year’s worth) of snow looks like.
We also encountered the Park Service crew charged with clearing the road of all this snow. Because of equipment and staff shortages (plenty of federal money for bombs, very little for Park maintenance) they’re only progressing at 0.3 to 0.5 miles per day (per day!) but are at it seven days a week and hope to have the road open by July.
This was a short (~2 miles roundtrip) snowshoe but with stunning views that literally took our breath away. Now we feel even more guilty for not visiting more often. So, we may do Union Peak again once the snow is gone and have sketched out a hike across the Park’s Pumice Flat to Stuart Falls. We capped off a perfect day with a stop on the way home at Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek for two pieces of their excellent pie!