Crater Lake

September 20, 2009

Some time ago I wrote about a suiseki that reminds me of a visit to Crater Lake with my mother (Evocation).  Making the daiza for this stone had fired Mas’ imagination and, having once viewed Crater Lake from 30,000 feet,  Mas wanted to go and see this magical place. We finally went this year as part of a road trip to the Pacific Northwest.

The night before, even though we had been on the road for nearly two weeks, we were like little kids waiting for Christmas who are too excited to sleep.  We got up about 4 am and left our motel just before dawn for the drive up Highway 138, along the North Umpqua River, to Crater Lake National Park.

The river runs through a dense forest, and is a quiet, introspective place.  There are no large vistas, instead you focus on the changing textures of the water surface and the play of light and shadow. We had only a beaver and the occasional fisherman to share our solitude.

Arriving at Crater Lake, the dense forest gave way to sparse vegetation with widely spaced trees, and the grand view of the lake opened up.

The crater (or more accurately caldera) was formed about 7700 years ago when the 12,000 foot high Mt. Mazama collapsed following a huge eruption. This eruption,  the largest to have occurred on earth in the last 10,000 years, scattered ash 6 inches deep over 5000 sq. miles (15 cm over 12,950 sq km).  The rim of the resulting crater stands at 7100 feet – meaning that 5000 feet of mountain disappeared in the eruption and collapse.

The rim rises 1000 feet (305 m) above the surface of the lake which formed inside the crater.  The lake is the deepest in the U.S. at about 1943 feet deep (592 meters) and the seventh deepest in the world.  The lake has no inflows or outflows and maintains itself through rain and snow melt.  The deep indigo color of the lake comes from the great depth of exceptionally clear, pure water.

Following the cataclysm, the volcano continued smaller eruptions, building cinder cones within the crater.  The largest of these is Wizard Island, which rises 2700 feet (820 meters) above the crater floor, and about 767 feet (234 meters) above the water surface.  The last eruption was about 5000 years ago, but continued hydrothermal activity at the bottom of the lake shows that the volcano is not extinct.

We spent the rest of the day on the Rim Drive, enjoying the colors and patterns on the water, the rock formations, and the whitebark pines that grow along the crater edge.

At the end of the day, with the sun getting low, we started what we expected to be a relaxed, quiet drive along the Rogue River on Highway 62 to Medford. But suddenly, as we approached the town of Union Creek, we saw amazing rapids by the side of the road.  We quickly pulled off and found ourselves at the Rogue River Gorge.  Here the river tumbles over waterfalls and through narrow chutes formed by hardened lava.   Earlier in our trip we had crossed the sedate, mature river where it flows quietly into the Pacific Ocean.  Now we were seeing it in its youth, dancing joyfully down the mountain.

What memories I have whenever I look at my little suiseki.

Click any picture to see a gallery of photos from our Crater Lake visit

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