Tuesday August 18 was a day of transition for us, as we packed up our camping gear at Lassen Volcanic National Park and drove six hours to Crater Lake National Park. This was new terrain for both of us, so we enjoyed the drive immensely.
Since we had all day to make the trip, we stopped on the north side of Lassen at the Devastation Area. Ironically the last eruption of Lassen Peak was one hundred years ago in 1915, and at that time the northeast side of the mountain blew out and hurled debris for great distances. The hot lava combined with melting snow to flood the streams and create new lakes in the area. The Devastation Area has trails that enable the visitor to browse one of the areas that retains much of the character of the post-eruption time. We stopped to read about the 1915 event and marveled at the huge boulders that were tossed over three miles. A photographer was present at the time of one of the eruptions a century ago, and he captured some spectacular photos.
We left the park in the late morning and continued toward the northwest until we intersected with interstate 5. The next leg of our trip displayed the sad situation that exists in northern California and the Pacific Northwest during the summer of 2015. The landscape was parched and portrayed all the characteristics of a tinder box. Grass looked like straw and was brittle to the touch. Shrubs and leafy vegetation displayed brown curled leaves, but the most distressing visual was the heavy layer of smoke that pervaded the atmosphere in every direction. Every time we exited the car, the air smelled like a campfire as wildfires raged through the region.
I followed our northern progression on the road atlas, and I was excited to realize that we would pass by Redding, CA and then Mt. Shasta. I read numerous articles in my fly fishing magazines about streams in this area, and a well known fly shop is located in Redding. Unfortunately as we passed over the McCloud River, I was depressed to see the low level and the large margins of exposed stream bed. Mt. Shasta is a 14,000 foot volcanic peak northeast of Redding, and I could barely see several snowfields through the smokey haze that engulfed the tall prominent peak.
As we progressed farther north the smoke became worse rather than better. We talked to our daughter Amy on the phone, and she informed us that the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park was closed due to wildfires. We were unaffected by this news, as we were entering from the south, but it was concerning nonetheless. How would this situation affect our ability to view Crater Lake and all the landmarks that it offers?
By late afternoon we entered the national park and drove northwest on the main highway, route 62, until we turned right and passed through the Annie Spring entrance station. Just beyond the entrance gate we turned right and parked at the camping kiosk for Mazama Village, where we waited in line to check in. A young lady behind the counter confirmed our reservation and informed us that we could select any brown post campsite in the E loop. We were unaccustomed to not reserving a specific campsite, but we went with the flow and drove to our loop and made a long circle before we selected site 54 since it appeared to provide more space for two tents and a party of four.
Amy and Joe were not expected until 6PM since they were required to detour from the north to the south entrance, so we assembled our new tent and then hopped on our bikes and explored the area. We biked north and then east for a mile, and then we stashed our bicycles behind some large trees and walked to the edge of the Annie Creek canyon. We were both amazed that such a tiny stream could cut such a deep trough in the volcanic soil. On the return ride we parked our bikes at a trailhead that led to the Pacific Crest Trail, and from here we hiked to Annie Spring which is the source of Annie Creek.
We returned to the campground and posted a sign on the bulletin board at the kiosk so Amy and Joe would know where to find us, and then we cruised through the other loops and also checked out the hiker/biker area that was nearly across from our loop. During this survey of the campground we discovered that we could have reserved a nicer campsite by selecting one of the larger categories. We chose small tent because that is what we have, but we now learned that we could have upgraded to large tent or even small RV, and these sites offered much more space. Of course these sites also cost more per night, but I was eligible for a senior discount of 50% off.
Eventually we returned to the campsite just as Joe and Amy arrived. We helped them unpack, and Jane began dinner while they set up their tent. After dinner we took a walk at dusk and discovered that there was a campground talk at the amphitheater at 8:00PM. We elected to stay for the presentation, and a volunteer ranger named Tim Elam conveyed a large quantity of information about Crater Lake. Crater Lake is actually a volcano that last erupted 7,700 years ago. When the magma spewed out of the earth, it emptied the large cavity beneath the mountain, and the lack of mass caused the earth to implode creating a huge crater. Over the next 500 years the crater filled with rain water until it reached its current volume.
The volume of water remains in equilibrium as water seeps through the soil and becomes the source of famous rivers in Oregon such as the Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath. If rainfall is above normal, it creates more pressure on the seep, and outflows increase. When drought and low snow level conditions occur, the pressure is less, and the outflow decreases. Crater Lake is one of the deepest lakes on earth, and the water is a constant 45 degrees and crystal clear. Supposedly it is clean enough to drink without treatment or filtration.
After the talk ended we returned to our campsite and after a board game, we retired to our sleeping bags. We all pondered our new knowledge of Crater Lake and volcanoes, and we anxiously looked forward to our boat cruise on Wednesday.