Snowshoeing at Crater Lake National Park


As 2015 came to an end, Cheuk and I decided to take a road trip up to Oregon over the long holiday break. Our original plan was to stop by Crater Lake National Park on the way to Portland, and end up in Seattle for New Years, but all the driving and the incredible things to do in Portland brought our trip to an early halt. From the Bay Area to Portland is about a 10-hour drive without traffic or weather hazards, but branching off to US-97 from I-5 to get to Crater Lake significantly slowed down our drive with a scenic view.

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We left my family’s home in Campbell around 11am and didn’t arrive at the small motel in Chemult until 9:30pm to meet up with our friends Ana and Trevor. Chemult is a small town in Oregon located about an hour north of Crater Lake National Park with a population of 300. The elevation made all the difference in the weather condition, sitting at a little above 4,700ft sea level, the roads in Chemult were lined with piles of snow and made traveling virtually impossible without the hard working snow plowers.

The next morning, we grabbed a hearty breakfast at Loree’s Chalet, just down the street from the Eagle Crater Lake Inn. We took OR-62 from US-97 to make our way to the lake, driving less than 45mph due to the slippery roads. It was really helpful to check the most current weather and road conditions through where you can see photographs taken from the road cameras! The road to Crater Lake was lined with walls of snow as tall as 10-12ft. As a Californian with minimal exposure to snow, this was such an unbelievable sight to see.

Our trip to Crater Lake would not have been as memorable if it wasn’t for the free, ranger-guided snowshoe tour around the lake. You have to call the visitor center before your trip to reserve a spot and they will provide you with the snowshoes and other cold weather accessories. The biggest mistake I made that day was wearing my Hunter boots with only two layers of socks, I thank the universe that I still have all ten of my toes! Next time, I would definitely invest in some warm pair of snow boots or wear my hiking boots with thermal socks.

The snowshoe tour lasted a little over two hours, covering 1-2 miles of the area around the lake. The ranger led a group of 15-20 people through an unmarked trail, treading over 10-12ft of snow. He talked to us about animals and trees that can survive the brutal weather as well as things to watch out for when you’re snowshoeing through an open space. You don’t want to find yourself at the bottom of a tree well or trapped under a “roof-alanche.”

At the end of the tour, I made a swift and painful walk back to the car to check out my toes, they had been freezing during the walk and became numb towards the end. I told myself that I’ll deal with the consequences of my poor preparation later and just enjoy the experience first. I slowly peeled of my socks, anticipating my toes on the verge of falling off–they were intact and only slightly red. However, the next 15 minutes thawing my toes were filled with the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt on my feet. My toes began to swell up like taut grapes and made it difficult for me to wiggle them, this symptom lasted up to eight hours until they were fully functional again. I had experienced my first frost nipping.

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