As the summer of 2005 came to an end, my family of five was about to embark on our annual camping trip to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, near Medford, Oregon. For those who have not had the opportunity to visit the park, Crater Lake is an enormous lake that was formed ages ago by the volcanic collapse of Mount Mazama. The result was an extraordinarily deep crater that today is one of the world’s most picturesque lakes.
Trekking south from our suburban Portland home on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, I was excited for a final chance to get away before starting my first year of high school. As we arrived at the park later that evening, the weather seemed too good to be true. The temperature was a balmy seventy degrees, with no clouds and brilliant array of stars lighting up the night sky.
Our family had just purchased two new ‘family size’ tents the week before and that evening proved an excellent time to finally exploit their use. I slept peacefully that night, in the tent with my two younger brothers, content with the way our vacation had started. The sun rose over the lakes outer rim early Friday morning in splendid fashion, revealing the deep blue color that Crater Lake is famous for.
We spent the better part of the morning on a boat tour of the lake. After a quick lunch, we went hiking on one of the park’s numerous trails. This one led us gently to the bottom of a deep canyon with an average size stream meandering peacefully through.
Annie Creek Canyon, as it is called, was an excellent place to simply sit and view nature in its full beauty. The smoothly flowing stream surrounded by an abundance of red, blue, and yellow wildflowers and rugged canyon walls on either side was truly an impressive sight. That evening, my father made his famous beef stew for dinner and as we sat around a glowing orange campfire, I specifically remember thinking that our vacation could not get any better.
I finally fell asleep, with a full stomach, to the sound of a lone coyote howling off in the distance. I awoke some time later to a steady pattering noise on the tent. That’s funny I thought, since there had been no indication that rain was coming anytime that weekend.
I stuck my head outside the tent and looked up into a starless night sky. Sure enough, a light rain was falling. Groggily, I returned to bed thinking nothing of it.
No more than an hour later I awoke once again, this time to a violent pounding noise on the tent. I stuck my head outside once again only to observe a torrential downpour this time. Water was everywhere and even worse was the fact that it was beginning to seep under my tent.
My younger brothers, oblivious to this fact, continued to sleep peacefully. Meanwhile I settled into my sleeping bag once again, this time however, noticing a damp spot underneath it. I managed to ignore it long enough to fall asleep again, as rain continued to mercilessly pound down around us. Somehow, I was able to sleep until the morning. I opened my eyes on Saturday morning to a sight I will never soon forget. The floor of the tent was completely saturated with water, meaning that it had seeped into the sleeping bags, and even worse our dry clothing. Looking outside on a not so beautiful morning I saw a small lake right in the middle of our campsite. The shoes we had all set outside our tent prior to entering the night before were literally floating away. My parents had apparently abandoned their tent in the middle of the night in favor of the car, as I saw them fast asleep in the two front seats, completely soaked. Mother Nature had turned on us in a wicked way. As the remaining four members of my family finally woke up, it became apparent that cleaning up the mess that was our campsite was going to be virtually impossible. Instead we elected to just throw all the wet items into the back of the car and get out of that campground. We headed home early, soaking wet and freezing cold, after an amazing weekend experiencing the beauty of nature firsthand.
Crater Lake photo courtesy of NPS.gov
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