Waking up in a lava field is always exciting stuff around me, as I’ll make sure everyone knows how excited I am to be in a lava field! I mean, I was near the Newberry shield volcano, which is purported to be the largest volcano in the Cascades at twenty miles across, and it was dark on the drive in the night before so I had no idea the ground was all lava! Alas, I did willingly leave the lava of our campsite, and we hit the road to Diamond Lake to rendezvous with Jessica and Linda to complete the adventure crew before heading to Crater Lake National Park (also another, you know, VOLCANO).
The landscape turned snowier and snowier as the elevation rose to one I was more familiar with being at. We ate breakfast at the restaurant at Diamond Lake, and then took to packing up backpacks and gear for the adventure to come. I had just purchased my backpacking pack a few weeks prior, so I was an utter newbie on how to pack it as Eric kept tossing more and more oatmeal in my direction. Unsure what to do with so much oatmeal, I just kept stashing and stashing! Finally the eight of us were ready to go, and after a quick lake group photo we headed towards the west entrance of Crater Lake National Park.
Created in 1902, Crater Lake National Park is the fifth oldest national park in the United States, and the only one in the state of Oregon (though there are other NPS units in the state, this is the only one called a park). Crater Lake itself is the remnant of Mount Mazama, a stratovolcano part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. About 7700 years ago it gone done went and blew itself to pieces, leaving a deep caldera in its wake and spreading ash as far as Yellowstone. Over hundreds and hundreds of years rain and snowmelt filled the caldera, creating the deepest lake in the U.S. Because it is still an active volcano, vents grew, forming Wizard Island, and three other volcanos lie beneath the surface of the water. Mount Mazama was roughly 12,000 feet before it blew up and collapsed, and the caldera rim is 7000-8000 feet in elevation.
Crater Lake is not fully open in the winter, mostly due to the ridiculous amount of snowfall the area normally receives. Only the west and south entrances are open in the winter, and Rim Drive, the road that encircles the caldera, is only open for snowshoeing and skiing. Normally camping isn’t allowed on the rim in the warmer months, so backpacking and camping in the winter is a unique experience!
People and gear got shuffled and shuttled when we arrived at the overnight backcountry camping, and Eric took to arranging the permit for our group before five of us set off up Raven Trail to Rim Village.
Luckily I didn’t find the snowshoe up to be too bad, and I was quickly so warm that I was plodding along wearing a tank top (an alarming sight for the bundled up tourists up top!). After a gift shop and passport stamp run, we readied the sled, added layers, and donned our packs for the trek to camping.
Backpacking is tough, and I found new muscles, but I really couldn’t complain with the deep blue water to my right and snowy scenes all around! (And a distant California volcano to boot!)
Finally after a few miles we settled on a campsite overlooking the lake and Wizard Island. It was going to be a cold night, so we worked quickly to set up the four season tent (the precious precious four season tent I was so happy for!), sleeping pads, and sleeping bag. We attempted to make nachos, but they froze stiff by the time we were just a few chips in. Mmmm frozen guacamole! We settled for some pad thai in a bag. Time for a couple of Nalgenes filled with boiling water and hoping we stay warm enough!
Weather moved in overnight, and gone were the clear skies and mild temperatures from the day before when we awoke. I shoved a blueberry cream danish in my mouth, and then took to preparing for the miles of snowshoeing out, trying to beat worsening weather. Outside the tent a wash of white and wind greeted us.
I still don’t think I would call it Type 2 fun, as I still enjoyed the miles of plodding along. I was thankful I was not sore from the day before, and my wet boots (which were now frozen solid) were not bothering me. Once we reached Rim Village Eric and I dropped our packs and hiked down Raven Trail with Jeromy to pick up vehicles to come fetch the others. We didn’t need snowshoes, but I did manage to fall up to my waist into a tree well! We then drove back up to Rim Village to retrieve our packs, and I reveled in the fact not only did I survive my first backpacking experience, but nailed it doing it in the winter, on snowshoes, at Crater Lake! Time to put on all the dry layers and enjoy the heated seats…
Nobody really took the time for coffee and breakfast at camp, so we all headed back to Diamond Lake for lunch after picking up gear and people. Next up was plotting how to get me back to Portland for my evening flight the next day…