You know when a place is so breathlessly beautiful that you have to tear your eyes away for a while because it becomes overwhelming? That was my experience of Crater Lake.
Many South Africans haven’t heard of it and it is one of the lesser known national parks in America, but I stumbled across a picture of it many years ago and have wanted to visit ever since. When we drove up snowcapped peaks to reach the Lodge (the only hotel inside the park) and first sighted the lake, Al and I were speechless – a rare thing for us.
We took a boat cruise on the lake and marvelled at the alien landscape of the crater walls and sheer depth of the crater. The perfectly cylindrical crater formed when a volcano erupted 7000 years ago. Once it had cooled, it gradually filled with water from falling snow in winter and snowmelt in summer. It is now, at 600 metres, one of the deepest lakes in the world.
The unparalleled clarity of the lake led physicists to readjust their theories on our deeply light could penetrate water. Indeed, the water is such an intense blue that at times it appears almost purple.
The air was bracingly clean and clear, and I also got to see and touch snow for the first time in my life. Amazingly, despite the year-round snow, the lake has only frozen over once in known history (in 1949). Still, the water is usually a bone-aching 3-5 degrees Celsius.
Even though we were only there for two nights, Crater Lake sticks in my heart for its sheer otherworldliness. It defies my meagre description and the photos don’t do it justice either, although I tried.