Have you ever seen a lake that is so blue that it makes you wonder how it is possible? That is what you would see when you arrive at Crater Lake. Unless you already know why it is so blue, it is simply mind boggling to see the water as blue as just that for the first time. I was just blown away to say the least.
Back in late June through early July, I took a long photography road trip. This is Part 4 of the Road Trip series, and if you haven’t checked out the photos that I took while visiting Mono Lake and, Lake Tahoe and/or Lassen Volcanic, click here, here and here to take a look.
SIGHT OF MT. SHASTA
While you are driving from Lassen Volcanic National Park to Crater Lake, you will be greeted with a sight of Mt. Shasta. It is definitely one of the mountains in California that has gotten all the surveyors and adventurers super excited alike since the early days, the mid- to late-19th century, when people in the East Coast had a fervent fantasy about the unknown in the West, thanks to the Gold Rush.
The sight of Mt. Shasta got me really excited too. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in my plan. Well, at least this time. For now, taking a few shots from a distance had to do it.
And I had to promise myself that I’d come back. Hopefully soon.
After Mt. Shasta, I was reaching the north end of California. Finally! It has been a long drive!
Crater Lake was one of the places that I had always wanted to visit. So, when I started creating an itinerary for the trip, it was one of the places that first came on board.
When I got there, because it was still early in the season, the road that goes around the south rim counter-clockwise still remained closed – from the south entrance to Cloudcap Overlook. It meant that I would not be able to hike Mt. Scott. It would’ve offered the spectacular view of the entire Crater Lake from the east.
It was quite breezy when I arrived. And it turned out that it was a good thing. Because later when the wind stopped blowing a few times, I realized that I’d rather be bundled up in layers.
Besides the fact that it is the deepest lake in the US, I was always fascinated by its deep blue color of the lake. How could Crater Lake be so blue?
To put that deepest lake in the US claim in perspective, I’ll borrow the example of the lake that I had traveled prior to Crater Lake. The deepest point in Lake Tahoe, which is way larger than Crater Lake, as I mentioned in the post is Crystal Bay, and it could sink the Empire State Building. The iconic building is 1,454 feet tall to tip. The deepest point in Lake Tahoe is 1,644 feet deep.
So, how deep is Crater Lake?
1,949 feet deep!
DEEP BLUE LAKE
Unless you actually see it in person, you’d think that the color must have been ‘enhanced’ or ‘Photoshopped’.
But, that isn’t the case. Once one steps onto the rim, he/she will just get stunned by the color of the lake. For real.
And how is it so blue?
You can read all about it on the park’s website, but if I may sum it up…
The water at Crater Lake has no water source coming in other than rain throughout the year and snow that falls in winter. And there’s a known seepage somewhere in the west side of the rim, but most of it evaporates. That is how water comes in and goes out.
Because there’s no other water coming in, like a river or a stream, the lake water is pure. There’s no incoming flow to introduce what’s collected in the water or to stir the sediments at this deep bottom of the lake. And the mass is so large that it just simply doesn’t get stirred easily.
And then this pure water of the deepest lake in the US basically absorbs all the colors of spectrum when the light penetrates the surface. Every wavelength gets absorbed because there’s nothing in the water to defuse or bounce back on.
In the end only the blue wavelengths bounce back out.
DEEP BLUE AND ORANGE
Once I got the shots that I wanted, I realized that I would not make it to the top of the Watchman in time to catch the sunset, whose trail was still covered with snow. I pondered for a little bit and then decided to drive to the other side of the lake instead.
The sky was as clear as it could be. At least around the sky where the sun was setting.
What was interesting though was that the water was so blue that even when everything was getting stained in orange, it remained blue.
LIGHTNING ROD OF THE CASCADES
As the Blue Hour set in, I started noticing the peaks in the far distance more clearly. I say that because I was sure that they were there, but they had remained blended in like wallpaper, so I never paid a great deal of attention to them. Till the right moment, that is.
Mt. Thielsen dominated the skyline in the north of Crater Lake throughout the whole time though. When the sky was completely saturated in orange and pink, the horn-like peak looked as though it was about to puncture the sky.
While catching the sunset, everyone at Cloudcap Overlook was struggling to fight off a gazillion amount of mosquitoes hovering all over us as soon as the wind stopped blowing. I frankly had never dealt with so many mosquitoes at once in my life. I counted at least 40 of them at once. They followed me everywhere! It was scary.
And then as soon as the wind picked up, they were kept at bay. As if they weren’t there!
Once I was done with the shots, I packed up my gear and got in the car while fighting them off. And some of them managed to follow me into the car!
I had no desire to stick around for another second.
I was half way in the north rim when I reached another overlook. The south rim looked amazing in glowing magenta. I had to pull over.
As soon as I powered down the window, they showed up out of blue! These mosquitoes were everywhere as long as there was no wind! I couldn’t keep the window down. I didn’t even want to get out of the car.
So, I just left.
BEAUTIFUL AND YET FUZZY
I found a spot near the Watchman Overlook, where I was earlier, to catch the Milky Way. There was a strong wind, which meant it was cold. But it also meant I didn’t have to worry about those damn mosquitoes.
I wished I could have hiked down to the water, but that was not an option at Crater Lake, so all of the shots had to be taken from the rim.
Our galaxy looked quite bright, thanks to the lack of light pollution in and around the park. And because of that, the reflection of the Milky Way looked quite bright too. Or that’s how it appeared to me anyway.
Part of me wished though that I had been at the top of the Watchman so that I could catch the Milky Way over the lake from there.
Oh, well… That will have to be next time.
CRADLE OF HUMANITY
As the Milky Way rose higher and higher, I was able to frame the Watchman and Hillman Peak in.
I like this shot a lot. I really like how the reflections of the Milky Way and the stars came out.
I still remember those days when I was taking photos with one of those inexpensive bridge cameras. I was not even able to attempt at astrophotography then. And now every time when I look through the shots that I took, I always get fascinated by the fact that I am able to capture the stars and that the possibility of what I can create with such amazing imageries is endless.
It is all in my imagination.
DANCING AROUND NORTH STAR
As I mentioned in the earlier post, star trails is one of my favorite things to photograph when it comes to astrophotography. It involves different techniques while shooting as well as in post processing, in my opinion. And I love that challenge. And simply it is always fun creating visuals with the stars.
I wasn’t planning on any light painting while shooting this particular photo. However, I soon realized that there were cars passing by every now and then. So, I decided to give it a try. And the result was better than what I expected.
VIEW THAT YOU WISH NOT TO FORGET
Next morning I was back at the lake for sunrise.
What was rewarding about this shot was that I was able to capture both Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Shasta in the far, far distance. Of course, it might’ve been a better sight from the top of the Watchman, but I was extremely happy with this.
It was just stupendous that I was able to see both peaks from Crater Lake! What a clear morning sky!
And the calm lake surface looked like mirror. Simply reflecting the blue sky… I just stood there gazing at it for quite some time…
Once the sun rose higher in the sky, I knew it was time to say good bye to the deep blue lake.
I wished I had had more time to stay, but now that I knew hiking Mt. Scott was out of the question, I wanted to hit the road.
Heading north. Oregon is not a small state.
Crater Lake offered more than what I was expecting – deep blue lake itself, cow-horn like Mt. Thielsen peak and mesmerizing Milky Way view.
Oh, and those swarming mosquitoes won’t be forgotten.
From the moment when I stepped onto the rim of the deep blue lake, I felt like I was back at this huge lake that I used to go to when I was young.
The lake had nothing special, except that it froze in winter and allowed me and my friends to play on the ice. I am sure that it would look a lot smaller now than how I remember it if I ever go back. But to the eyes of a fourth grader, it definitely looked way bigger than a few baseball fields combined.
And that is what I saw when I was at Crater Lake. Huge. And as blue as it gets.
My stay at the lake was quite brief, even compared to that at Lassen Volcanic National Park, and it definitely begs for another trip. The top of the Watchman still remains on my list to hike, and I can’t wait to see the Milky Way from up there.
Also, the snow covered rim of Crater Lake and Wizard Island are also something that always gets my heart pumping. Wonder if I have time to squeeze in a short road trip to check out the deep blue lake in winter…
Wait. It’s a long drive. Hmm…
Have you been to Crater Lake? What is your favorite spot(s) in the park to visit? Have you hiked the Watchman? How about Mt. Scott? Did you catch the sunrise at the lake? Let me know what other shots I can take if you have something very memorable to share!
Thanks for reading.