A few weekends ago, my partner and I had the rare gift of being able to visit Crater Lake, thanks to a visiting friend who was willing to make the long drive. As the car climbed into the ever-higher elevations approaching the lake, ponderosa pine forests gave way to lodgepole pines and finally gnarled, twisted whitebark pine, trees which can tolerate the more severe weather (nearly ten months of winter) immediately surrounding the lake. The fallen trees made the woodlands we passed through resemble, at times, a blasted landscape studded with the skeletons of fallen giants.
About 7,000 years ago, Mount Mazama (a volcano in the Cascade Range) erupted, and much of its mass collapsed into its center to form a caldera. The resulting 1,900-foot deep pit then gradually filled with water from snowfall (there are no underground streams feeding this lake), and Crater Lake–the deepest lake in the United States–was formed. It is an ice-cold, perfectly clear, pristine and pure lake of the most intense blue, ringed with jagged, glassy cliffs that rise to 7,000 feet above the water's edge, the water broken by only two islands, the wooded Wizard (formed by a cinder cone) and the eerie, barren Phantom Ship. It is a place inhabited not only by water wights but also by snow wights–a melding of water and sky. And yet, the fire etins are still very much present here as well, for the volcano is not extinct, only sleeping.