All my wife and I had talked about for three years was snowshoeing at Crater Lake. It was a clockwork sort of routine; it got cold, and we’d say things like, “We have to go snowshoeing at Crater Lake this year. Have to. This is the year.”
We were keen on it because a park ranger will let you borrow snowshoes and take you on a guided hike through the woods. You get to catch spectacular views of the lake itself, see the ice and snow twinkling on the tree needles, and learn a bit about local natural history. All free. Or I guess you technically recoup some of your tax dollars.
You’re welcome for that, Dad. Merry Christmas.
Either way, why in the world wouldn’t we take advantage of something like this sooner? I’m not sure. Likely it’s somewhere in the same handful of standard reasons we always give for not taking advantage of actual experiences. Fill-in-the-blank laziness. Choose Your Own Lack of Adventure.
This year was different. We went this past weekend, made that lazy, meandering drive up a woodland-smothered Highway 62 to the park and tried not to perform any impromptu skating routines on the frosted pavement. We joined a group of about 35 people, most of whom had never snowshoed before. Good company for us rookies.
We’d made the shortest trek. There were people from Bend, Portland, San Francisco, China, Australia. Etc. Our guide, Ranger Dave Grimes, gave us a few basic rules before we left. Stay together, don’t mangle the natural beauty. Oh, also, have fun. He threw himself down a sledding hill to prove that point, giggled like a little kid when he reached the end of his ride.
I can’t stress the beauty of Crater Lake enough, especially in the winter. Heck, especially during Christmastime. There was something about it being just a few days out from Dec. 25 that made tromping through the snow-wrapped woods even more special.
Freezing rain had launched an all out assault on the park the night before, leaving the trees wrapped in layers of frigid tinsel.
We learned the trees at Crater Lake take yoga and pilates, that they are able to bend into forests of rainbows under the weight of so much snow and snap back up when it all melts. We learned about the park wildlife: the elk that leave and the bears who go comatose and the weasels that slither through the snows like the ‘Tremors’ worms in pursuit of voles living beneath the icy powder.
Then there was the lake itself, that rocky cauldron of perfect, windswept blue that draws people from across the world and renders them speechless and barely blinking.
Forget Westeros from ‘Game of Thrones.’ Forget Middle Earth. Forget Pandora from ‘Avatar’ and Endor from ‘Return of the Jedi.’ There is a world of true, fantasy-caliber beauty in our backyard.
And we can either keep planning to go see it, or actually see it.
Take it from the guy who finally went: I’d recommend the latter.