We continued on driving on up to the Crater Lake National Park stopping to pay our $10 entry fee and then at the visitor's center to get oriented. Crater Lake is actually within the ancient collapsed caldera of Mount Mazama, a volcano which erupted and collapsed hundreds of thousands of years ago. The lake contains the purest water in the U.S. being fed only by rainfall and snowmelt. At its deepest point it is nearly 2,000 feet deep. It is nearly impossible to get to the edge of the lake as it is a collapsed volcanic caldera, the rim of which is hundreds of feet below and with sheer drop offs it is accessible only by a hair raising mile-long trail which drops 700 feet. Of course, it must be navigated back up hill when you leave so it is not for the faint of heart. If you choose to take the trail you will be rewarded with some choices. You can fish and catch all the fish you want without a license. You can swim in the pristine water, though the August water temperature is around 59 degrees. Or, you can take a boat ride out to Wizard Island for a day hike. If you enlarge the photo above you might be able to see the tiny boat cruising back to shore after picking up visitors to Wizard Island. Wizard Island is itself an ancient caldera sticking up several hundred feet above the surface of the lake. The photo on the right was taken on Wizard Island looking at the edge of the Mount Mazama caldera and the rim above the caldera.
We hiked along the rim of the caldera stopping to take a photo or take in the amazing views that changed with each stop. Then we walked over to the Crater Lake Lodge to look around inside and have lunch overlooking the lake. Outside on the front deck of the lodge stood a row of very confortable rocking chairs that give the occupant an uninterrupted view of the lake and a peaceful spot to read, sketch, visit or just take in the beauty of the view. Wildflowers and wildlife were everywhere you looked. Though we saw no black bears, people were warned that they did enter campgrounds and to be careful. We saw these two characters straight out of Walt Disney's Chip and Dale cartoons playing along the trail.
We left about 1:00 in order to get back to town and get some last minute shopping we needed to do before our trip north to home. Apparently it was a good thing that we had left so early in the morning since the traffic coming up to the park was sigificantly heavier as we descended the mountain. We saw Crater Lake at its finest. Quiet breezes blowing through the pines, few people around to spoil the serenity and a chance to see one of nature's most beautiful creations nearly to ourselves.
We arrived back in Medford about 2:00, dropped by a couple of stores including the Rogue Creamery which we had visited on our way south to Atwater. Now we wanted to pick up some of their scrumpcious award-winning bleu cheeses to take back with us. We had even bought an Igloo ice chest just to keep it in. We especially liked their Oregonzola Bleu and the Crater Lake Bleu cheeses. They were melt in your mouth delicious!
Had dinner at the Black Bear Diner in Medford. We didn't have any great expectation. It looked pretty much like the average coffee shop. We ordered the classic comfort food entrees of meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. It was actually really good. Who knew? A stop at Harry and David's to pick up some fruit and nuts for gifts back home and then back to our room. A big day! Tomorrow, Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.