Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Geologic Wonder

Sisters to Crater Lake: 137 miles. Crater Lake partially fills a caldera formed after the eruption of 12,000-foot Mount Mazama some 7,700 years ago. The amount of magma or molten rock from the eruption is estimated to have been 50 cubic kilometers. Given our recent view of the environmental impact caused by the 1980 eruption of Mt. Saint Helens (it produced a mere 1/2 cubic kilometer of magma) we got a better picture of just how large of an eruption Mount Mazama represented. Layers of ash from this eruption may still be found in the soil as far away as Alberta, Canada, more than 1,000 miles away.
Averaging just over five miles wide and with a depth of 1,943 feet, it's the deepest lake in the United States and seventh deepest in the world. Fed almost entirely by snowfall runoffs and with no outlet, lake levels fluctuate slightly from year to year (mainly due to evaporation).
The waters are some of the clearest in the world with 157 identified species of phytoplankton and 12 species of zooplankton. Communities of bacteria grow around two areas of hydrothermal activity at the lake's bottom. Two species of fish thrive: rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, the result of extensive stocking between 1888 and 1942.
The two most striking eye-candy aspects of Crater Lake which caught our attention were the nearly 2,000-foot high rock walls that rise about the lake's surface and the vivid hues of the lake water, a product of solar radiation. Reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and the brightest of azure blue. Lake colors vary from day to day or hour to hour depending upon wind, cloud cover and the sun's angle.

views from Rim Drive

Our approach from the north took us around the western side of the lake via a section of the narrow and winding Rim Drive. Mazama Village is where the campground was located, southwest of the crater. On our way around the west rim we found numerous pull-outs. One in particular afforded a panoramic view of of a small volcanic island, Wizard Island. Rising 767 feet above the lake, and with its own small crater at its summit, the cinder cone was formed when both water and lava flowed simultaneously into the caldera following the collapse of Mount Mazama.

Clark's Nutcracker

Settled in to our site (no hookups so it didn't take long) we had plenty of time left in the day to explore other sections of the 33-mile Rim Drive plus a few side stops. With over 90 miles of hiking trails there was no shortage of things to do, just time.

Wizard's Island

crater walls

The next morning we had to start back to the coast, but, delighted that Carol's miscalculation of routes had taken us to Crater Lake if even for one day, a stop we had missed during our 1996 Pacific Northwest trip. We would have stayed longer but the awning parts we had on order were due to arrive within a few days at the dealer in North Bend. Plus, we had gotten a good tip on an RV park in Winchester Bay we wanted to check out.
Our jaunt over to Sisters and subsequent drive south to Crater Lake caused us to miss seeing roughly 75 miles of Oregon coast. No biggie as we had seen the same section in '96 and we really needed to get the awning repair resolved.
Our drive to Winchester Bay was scenic. But then there isn't much about Oregon that isn't scenic! Winchester Bay RV turned out to be a park to consider when seeing the coast. Our stay wound up being a bit windy. The park staff were extremely helpful and considerate and Johnny-on-the-spot when there was an issue (like connecting to their free wi-fi). The park itself was neat as a pin, again, due to staff diligence. 

Unger's Fish-N-Chips

Within walking distance was Unger's Fish-N-Chips, a small floating restaurant (emphasis on small - get there before the locals beat you to it). Indoor and outdoor seating although it was too chilly for outdoor eating when we stopped. Walk down a short dock to access the restaurant. Fish-n-chips are recommended and the clam chowder, while good, wasn't the best we've had.
The next morning we had an embarrassingly short drive down to Coos Bay to the Mill Casino Hotel and RV Park. Once more, the staff were incredibly accommodating and helpful, especially since we didn't know exactly how long we would be there. On our way down to Coos Bay we stopped at the RV dealer in North Bend where the parts were destined to arrive (soon we hoped) to introduce ourselves. Up until that time we had only spoken over the phone or communicated via email. The parts manager confirmed that the parts were scheduled to be delivered on the following Monday (it was now Thursday). We made a Monday afternoon appointment for service. Yaaaay!

Carol & Tom, Crater Lake

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