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Ski Crater Lake: An out and back in Oregon's national park

A little bit of what to expect when skiing around the wonders of Crater Lake.

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On June 12, 1853, three members of a mining expedition searching for the legendary "Lost Cabin" gold mine stumbled upon a "deep blue lake" in southern Oregon. Roughly 50 years later President Theodore Roosevelt created Crater Lake National Park on May 22, 1902. And, last Thursday, I turned 40. I couldn't think of a better way to beat back the middle-aged blues than tackling Oregon's crown jewel of a national park.

Ski hopes and dreams

There are many numbers that illustrate the magnificence of Crater Lake. It's 594 meters deep with 4.6 trillion gallons of water. But, the only number in my head was the 31 miles around the lake.

My desire to complete the circumnavigation was squelched by a broken down truck and less than accommodating ranger station hours. The foot of new snow and no tracks helped set up my executive decision to make this a day trip and hold the complete circle for another weekend.

As you approach Crater Lake, you begin to marvel at the amount of snow still defining the park's features. The ranger kiosk welcoming tourists was barely visible as I drove through the tunnels carved out by the snowplows.

Where's the Lake?

As further evidence of the recent snowfall, both the trailhead and the lake were obscured by walls of snow. I had a funny conversation on this subject with a foreign patriarch shepherding a van full of kids. He sheepishly asked where the actual lake was located. I unsuccessfully tried to explain. The confusion ended with me cutting a path from the road to the trailhead's view point. He proceeded to give piggyback rides, one at a time, to each of the seven kids in the van.

He was finishing up his sherpa duties as I completed my pre-ski routine. Dress, pack, stretch, and I was on my way. The "Danger, keep back" signs surrounding the lake's rim are typical of a national park that draws tourists from around the world, many of who leave their normal intelligence at home.

On the trail

Once on the trail, I hastily organized my many thoughts and feelings. The beauty of the water combined with the "Winter Wonderland" qualities of the snow-covered land was enough to make me want to set up camp and enjoy a lazy day taking in the scenery. But, the skiing drove me into the wilderness.

I broke trail through the fresh accumulation, all the while unsuccessfully trying to avoid being drenched in my own sweat. I have always enjoyed the subtle irony of overheating on a twenty-five degree morning. Once out of the lodge's view, I marveled at the various terrain, all of which seemed to call to me.

Oh, the Many Places We Go

I skied from Rim Village through Discovery Point, past Lightning Springs Trailhead, around The Watchman to North Junction and back. Once on the trail, I had the park to myself for more than two hours. After turning around, I encountered many different user groups. The first bunch was made up of five friends tackling the entire circumnavigation.

Other groups of backcountry revelers consisted of the typical tourists enjoying one of our national parks. Smiles were aplenty, even if gear wasn't.

Weather in the park can change in an instant, leaving ill-equipped skiers and snowshoers searching for the number to the Crater Lake Ski Patrol. Luckily for everyone, the main worry of the day would be too much sun.

While this trip was more Bill Bryson not taking a long walk than Jon Krakauer climbing into thin air, I was not disappointed in my inability to complete the circumnavigation. That trip will come!

Little Shredder Results

The Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation snowboard/freeride team had a successful trip to Copper Mountain for the USASA Nationals two weekends ago. Carolyn Boyle took third in the halfpipe and first overall, and Jake Mageau took the top spot in Pipe. Meanwhile, Anna Gorham won the half pipe, was second in Slopestyle and received the Hot Shot Award for best trick in slope.

Am I the only one who thinks the feckless criminal who broke into MBSEF offices last week could have benefited from their programs as a child?

Important Brain News

Next Tuesday, April 24, The Center will conduct ImPACT Concussion Baseline testing for children, ages 11 through 17 years. Because it is estimated that 15-20 percent of high school athletes receive a concussion in any given school year, this snapshot of your child's brain could help eliminate the risk of second impact concussion syndrome. Information and registration requirements can be obtained by contacting Laurie Bonn, 541-322-2321.

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