A pre-Thanksgiving trip had us driving down to Crater Lake National Park. We wanted to snowshoe into the park for a quick overnight backcountry camping experience before continuing south to see more of Southern Oregon.
After hopping off I-5 near Eugene we drove along a snowy Highway 58 and enjoyed glimpses of Diamond Peak and Mount Thielsen in the distance before heading south toward the open winter gate for Crater Lake National Park. The park was quiet, cold, and snowy as we pulled into the parking lot of the park headquarters to obtain our backcountry permits for camping and to talk to the ranger about conditions. We knew there was more snow on the way, but weren't intending to hike too far; it was already mid-afternoon, and we just needed to set up a camp.
We drove up the road and parked our car just beyond the Crater Lake Lodge in the parking zone designated for winter parking. We warmed up with a quick stop in the heated restrooms, and then we geared up, hauled on our packs, and headed into a winter wonderland. Our plan was to snowshoe along the rim trail as far as we felt like going: in winter, you can camp nearly anywhere as long as it is a mile from any plowed road.
I don't think we made it more than 2 miles before we decided to pitch our tents before darkness fell. We found a great spot off of a snow-covered Rim Drive in a dip that was protected from the wind. We quickly set up our tents, made dinner and hot drinks, and congratulated ourselves on a great idea. That night the storm blew in, and between 6 and 8 inches of snow fell. We woke intermittently during the night to knock snow off of the tent walls and to listen to the wind howling over the top of us.
The next morning was calm. The clouds lingered, but the sun was shining and there was a perfect blanket of snow surrounding us. After a quick breakfast we continued further down the Rim Trail, leaving our tents as we explored the area. We came to a point where the snow drifts were large and deep, and we decided this was our natural turn around point. We headed back as the clouds were lifting, giving us glimpses of the azure waters of Crater Lake.
We packed up our gear and meandered very slowly back toward the lodge. Due to the volume of snow, no other visitors could reach the park until after lunchtime, so we had the entire national park to ourselves! The air sparkled with snow, and the sun was now beating down as we made our tracks. The snow had transformed the forest, and we spent plenty of time admiring the snow-covered trees that appeared to have come straight out of a Dr. Seuss illustration.
The car was deep in snow when we returned. The road had just been plowed, and visitors were busy with snowshoes and cross-country skis. We made some tea and sat on the back of our car admiring the incredible view. It had been a thoroughly magical trip, courtesy of the winter storm.