Like many folks, this year's COVID pandemic has forced hubby and I to vacation closer to home. For us that meant taking more in-state camping trips. In mid-August I booked a site at southern Oregon's Diamond Lake. Our favorite camping spot when the kids were young, it had been years since we'd spent time here.
Although Diamond Lake itself is a worthy destination, one of the great things about staying here is it's close proximity to Crater Lake. Oregon's lone National Park, this ultra-blue mountain lake is a photographer's dream. The deepest lake in the US (1,943 feet), it's deep blue color is due to the extensive depth and purity of the waters. Fed only by rain and snow, scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.
|Beginning the hike down
Created from a great eruption of Mount Mazama around 5700 BC, this lake formed in the large caldera that remained after the mountain's explosion. Scientists believe this eruption deposited ash as far east as the NW corner of what is now Yellowstone National Park, as far south as central Nevada, and as far north as southern British Columbia. This destructive event is thought to have created 150 times more ash than the May 18, 1980 eruption of nearby Mt St Helens.
|Fabulous lake views
One of my brothers lives in nearby Central Oregon, and we invited him to join us for the weekend. And outdoor enthusiast like my hubby and I, it didn't take any convincing. After spending the first day fishing (the guys) and walking around Diamond Lake snapping photos (me) I suggested a visit to the more famous lake for the following day.
|The lake's water changed color near the shore
The 30-mile Rim Drive that encircles Crater Lake is a worthy trip. Open only in the summer, this road provides visitors magnificent views of this natural wonder. Numerous auto pull-outs, scenic viewpoints, and trailheads enable visitors to enjoy this park's impressive scenery. But access to the lakeshore itself is only allowed at one point - via the Cleetwood Cove Trail.
Although I've visited Crater Lake numerous times in the 30-plus years I've lived in Oregon, I'd never hiked this trail to the water's surface. So I suggested to the guys that we check it out.
|Here I am at the shoreline of Crater Lake
Hot weather was predicted that day, so we got an early start. That meant the first few viewpoints we stopped at were uncrowded, which in this time of COVID was just fine. After a short drive down the rim road, we came to the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead's huge parking area. Again, our early arrival guaranteed our pick of parking spots. I grabbed my camera stuff and followed hubby and brother across the road to the trail.
|I was surprised to see people swimming in the lake
The Cleetwood Cove trail isn't very long - only 1.1 miles to the lakeshore. But it is steep, dropping 700 feet in elevation as it switchbacks down the crater's rim. For this reason the park rates this trail as strenuous. As we started down the trail, we were met by intermittent groups of people huffing and puffing their way back up.
|Lots of people gathered at the shore
Oh the were the views stellar! As I descended I couldn't help stopping frequently to capture the scenery. It was a new and different perspective of the lake and I wanted to get as many images as I could. Of course, the guys kept walking and I began to lag far behind.
|Loved the clear waters
Probably the most exciting part of this short hike was seeing the lake's surface getting closer and closer the lower I traveled. Soon I was able to notice the difference in water color - it was an aqua shade in the shallow areas nearest the shore. And of course the lake's crystal-clear waters meant I could see all the details on the rocky bottom.
|Last look before climbing back up
Finally I reached the trail's bottom and the lakeshore. It was really interesting to see Crater Lake at water level, with the rim rising above, instead of viewing it from the top of the rim. I found my hubby and brother near the boat dock, waiting patiently for me. A couple of men were casting fishing poles into the water, but I didn't see any fish caught. I was amazed to learn there were fish in this lake. Six species of fish were introduced into Crater Lake between 1888 and 1941, but only Rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon have survived.
|View (rest) break on the way up
The most unexpected surprise was seeing people swimming in Crater Lake. As I hiked downhill many of the folks trekking back up were wearing swimsuits and carrying towels. When I finally reached the shore, I was shocked by the large number of people already splashing around in the water. Later, checking the park literature, I discovered that, yes swimming, fishing and wading are indeed allowed. However, to keep the lake water pure, scuba equipment, inflatable items, boats, waders and life jackets are not allowed. (I don't understand the logic of allowing people in the water but not items - I would think all those bodies wouldn't be good for the water's purity either.) It was interesting to see so many people swimming despite the cold water. In summer, the lake's surface temperature averages only 57 degrees. Even though it was a hot day, I wasn't interested in dipping my feet in the lake's chilly waters.
|At this overlook I could almost fit the entire lake in my frame!
And speaking of boat dock, the National Park Service normally offers boat tours of Crater Lake during summer months. However, just like everything else, COVID cancelled all boat tours for the 2020 season.
After spending a half hour wandering around the short path at the water's edge, taking photos, and watching the crazy swimmers, we decided it was time to head back. By now more and more people had arrived and the lakeshore starting to get crowded.
What goes down must come up, and the hike back to the parking lot was brutal. By now temps had risen significantly and it was hot! Hiking uphill in the heat was not any fun. My hubby, the mountain goat, marched up the trail like it was no problem. However, my brother and I slogged uphill at a much slower rate. We took advantage of a bench near the halfway mark for a quick breather.
|Wizard Island from Discovery Point
Back at hubby's truck, we discovered the huge parking lot had now entirely filled in. As a matter of fact, a vehicle hovered nearby waiting to snatch our parking spot the minute we left.
|Fireweed at Diamond Lake
We finished driving the entire Rim Loop road, stopping at the scenic viewpoints that looked interesting. By now it was midday, and the park was full of visitors. There were lots of vehicles with out-of-state license plates - and not just from the states adjacent to Oregon. (I even saw a car from Florida!) The virus wasn't stopping people from traveling, that's for sure. Our final stop, Discovery Point, was swarming with so many people that I snapped a few quick images and we got the heck out of there! Time to head back to our campsite at Diamond Lake and chill in the shade.
|Dramatic storm clouds over Diamond Lake
That evening a huge thundercloud drifted by, grumbled a bit, but didn't drop any precip. But it did make for an amazing sunset over Diamond Lake, which I was fortunate to capture.
A wonderful weekend exploring a favorite National Park, catching up with my brother, and relaxing at a beautiful lakeside campsite.