Blog: The Lake Unseen

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Burt Ross

No sooner had I returned from Indonesia when I was itching to get back on the road again. I can feel my biological clock ticking, and I say to myself, “If not now, when?” I guess you can call me a “traveling man,” which sounds a lot kinder than the “man with ants in his pants.”

My bride was going to Vegas for a few days to be with her sister, so I decided to head north to see Crater Lake in southern Oregon, a place I have wanted to see for some time now, but a destination that God apparently does not want me to see. 

A few years ago, I drove all the way to Lake Tahoe with the full intention of driving a bit farther to Crater Lake when I had a health scare and turned around toward Cedars-Sinai. It turned out to be nothing, so now was my second chance to see the great Crater Lake.

The way I look at it is if my publisher, Arnold York, an octogenarian, can drive to Mexico to see the whales, and he and Karen can visit Toronto, Montreal and Quebec, then I should be able to make it to Crater Lake. 

The photos of Crater Lake are quite alluring. With its deep blue color and water clarity, the lake is the deepest in the United States—almost 2,000 feet deep, having been formed by a collapsed volcano. I don’t keep a bucket list, but if I did, this visit might be on it. 

It was easy to book the flight to Medford, Ore., where I made a rental car reservation for the two hour drive to Crater Lake Lodge in  Crater Lake National Park. I checked the weather, which looked fine—high 60s during the day and mid 40s at night. I had even made dinner reservations for the Lodge. All systems were go. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing the great lake this time, or so I thought. 

There is a Yiddish proverb that means “Man plans, God laughs.” It seems quite on point, because the more I plan, the more I hear God laughing. The first indication I had that things might be going awry is when I tried to book a lake cruise, the highlight of any trip to Crater Lake. 

I looked online and was surprised to read, “Standard Volcano Boat Cruises depart from the north side of Crater Lake … Guests must make the 1.1-mile hike to access the lake and boat dock. This hike can be very strenuous, as it drops approximately 700 feet to the lake … Upon returning to the boat dock, it is time for the 1.1-mile hike out. This hike can take an hour or more, and the 700-foot ascent in elevation is the equivalent of climbing more than 70 flights of stairs … This hike can take an hour or more.”

The words “very strenuous” caught my attention—as if “strenuous” weren’t bad enough—and the “climbing more than 70 flights of stairs” was the deal breaker.  What are these folks in the National Park Service thinking? Do they think I am a billy goat? Perhaps the Yorks can climb 70 flights of stairs, but as for me, count me out.

The other way of seeing the lake is to drive around the rim—one big circle without any hiking up or down. Again I received bad news online, “Due to road construction, the West Rim Drive is currently closed. The six-mile section of road will be closed on Sundays at 9 p.m. through Fridays at 4 p.m.” You could say my trip literally and figuratively had hit a roadblock. 

The coup de grace came when I checked the weather forecast. No longer beautiful, the weather had turned downright wintry. On the day I was to arrive, the Weather Channel predicted a 100 percent chance of snow with a high of 35 degrees and a low of 28 degrees. It is now abundantly clear to me that God does not wish me to see Crater Lake. It is as simple as that. I will have to stay right here and suffer paradise, or to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “To be stuck inside of Malibu with the Memphis blues again.”