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05 July 2009 @ 01:10 pm
Crater Lake  
I love blue and Crater lake is all about that color. It had been on my list of places to see for a long time and I finally got a chance to travel to the place this summer - on the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere. I headed out from San Jose several hours before dawn to beat the weekend traffic as I don't particularly enjoy driving in bumper-kissing traffic. I'm sure there are people out there who enjoy traffic and crowds and noise and such, but that's not me. Anyway, I had put in some good miles - bless cruise control - by the time I reached Redding in California when the first rays of the sun hit this part of the world. After a quick stop for fuel and coffee, the central valley of California had ended and the mountains had begun. Mountain roads are beautiful to drive on but they do need a lot of concentration as they are filled with distractions in the form of scenic places and wildlife. As the cloud cover cleared up a bit, a giant white peak was seen among the shorter pine-covered hills. It was the great white mountain of the Cascades - Mount Shasta. Traveling further north revealed that that mountain just rises out of flat ground and forms an incredible backdrop for the highways that run around it. I thought about going to the forests around the peak, but I had to decide between that and losing out on a camping site at Crater lake, so I decided to head on towards the lake.

I had imagined Oregon to be all rugged mountains but it started off pretty flat - with Mount Shasta looking over the land. By that time, distractions had taken control and I was on an Oregon birding trail near Klamath Falls. Nesting Sandhill cranes, courting Wrens and blackbirds and mud-collecting swallows were seen and though I could have spent hours and hours there, I had to move on. When I arrived at Crater lake, the first thing I needed to do was to get a campsite. Most campgrounds get filled up by noon on summer days. However, most campgrounds at Crater lake weren't even open and the few that were open still had some snow in them! And there I was for my summer vacation in shorts and sandals. After registering at the campsite, I pitched my tent and headed seven miles north to the rim of the crater lake. It was all foggy when I reached the rim and through holes in the cloud I could see the deep, dark blue waters of the mighty crater lake. It is one of the deepest lakes in the world and was formed when a volcanic peak collapsed and trapped all the water from the snowfall on the surrounding peaks, so it has a bit of interesting history.

The overcast conditions made me feel that I wouldn't be able to see the blue that the lake is so famous for, so I headed out to the trails nearby to catch some wildlife. I had to turn around soon though because it was obviously not a 'shorts n sandals' type weather and I had to head back to the campsite to change into something more appropriate - a layer of thermals and sweaters. :-)

The fog cleared up for a few minutes during the day and the breathtaking blue was seen at last, but I think the lake deserves to be seen on a clear day when three-fourths of the rim drive isn't closed.

The morning came early for me. I could hear rainfall on my tent and I dreaded the thought of having to get outside and pull apart the wet tent and dump it into the car. The sleeping bag had saved me from the bitter cold of the night and I only realized how cold it was outside after getting out of it. I quickly pulled apart the tent and started driving towards the lake from the campsite. It was still very dark outside and it was still raining. The car said that that outside air temperature was about 27F (or -3 Celsius) but since it was windy it felt a lot colder. When I got to the rim, there was absolutely no one there. And then I saw a shadow moving in the snow - a red fox in his gray winter coat was patrolling the village one last time before the sun makes an appearance. I put on my woolens and headed out to the rim to see what was happening on the lake. The lake was calm with clouds all around the rim and fog was moving in. I spent a couple of hours walking around the place till the sun broke through the clouds to show Crater lake one last time before I continued traveling north towards Seattle.

Crater Lake Blue

Mount Shasta as seen close to the California-Oregon border

First View of Crater lake when the fog lifted for a bit

Wizard Island inside Crater lake and the fog on top of it

A raven flies over Wizard island

The view from the east side

A brief period when it looked like the clouds were going to go away

The wizard island is actually another volcanic cone inside the lake and the fog that evening was playing tricks to show how an eruption could have looked like


The sun tries to break in

But the clouds win and I had to leave...

Nesting Sandhill cranes in Oregon

A House Wren tries out his song...

A Gray Jay looks at a photographer...

...and then plots an escape route

A Clark's Nutcracker - the commonest bird on the rim.

Subodhsubodhs on July 5th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing such beautiful pictures Yathin. And the story to go along with it makes us *non-campers* drop the "no-fair" tag too. I thought you went camp-a-hopping to many-a-places though ... more stories/pictures coming?
Yathinyathin on July 5th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
Yep. Crater lake was day one of the fifteen day trip and Monument valley was the last day. So, a big chunk of the trip was in Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks. There are so many stories/pictures there that it is going to take some time to process and publish. :-)
IdahoSwedeidahoswede on July 5th, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)
I just KNEW you would love it. Didn't I say so?
Yathinyathin on July 5th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
Yep, Oregon is beautiful! :-)
depontideponti on July 6th, 2009 01:50 am (UTC)
Wonderful, Yathin...the feast has begun, as far as I am concerned!

Your words are getting better and better, too; I really look forward to the hard work that you have to do after getting back from such trips!
Yathinyathin on July 6th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
Thanks. It was an awesome trip filled with so much beauty! :)
Smithasmittenbyu on July 6th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
wow *jaw drops* just beautiful! Thank you for sharing.. hope there's more to come! I can't wait for my trip out to Southwest later next month looking at your pics!
summer_jackelsummer_jackel on July 6th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
/sighs with bliss/
Those are really, really beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.
Anush Shettyanushsh on July 6th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Awesome dude. Been enjoying your entries esp loved the Monument Valley pics.
Melkendokamel on July 6th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
Wow, those are so lovely! I love the jay.
Yathinyathin on July 6th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
I hadn't see a Gray Jay before and only after looking at the pictures and then the guidebook did I realize the identity of the bird! :-)
Premnath Kudvapremkudva on July 6th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
Truely awesome!
sandeep: eyedeepsan on July 6th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC)
Yathinyathin on July 6th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
:)) ... bluetiful indeed! :-)
Arunbirdonthewire on July 6th, 2009 09:12 am (UTC)
After your pics, I think being there will almost be a letdown!

Natalieecologygirl on July 6th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
Wow. Gorgeous photographs! Sounds like an amazing trip.
Aparna: Myselfinspirethoughts on July 6th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
Breath taking pictures! Wow, it is still snowing up there!

Wizard Island and the raven picture...I could use this as one of the location for my next story. Aah...reminds me of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

WigNesvighy on July 7th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)