Friday, July 01, 2005

Little Crater Lake

I can't reconstruct the thoughts of the person who named this pool. It's circular and clear and deep, and that's the extent of the similarity I could see to the real Crater Lake -- the ruins of Mt Mazama that haunt Oregon postcard racks.

A hot blue sky. We'd been driving for a couple hours. Back up through the Warm Springs Reservation, where we saw white wild horses dotting the tumble-home of the mesas, like mountain-goats in the North Cascades; and where stranded cars in various stages of decay seemed to wash up around every homestead. Up into the Mt Hood National Wilderness. All the windows down so that the dry wind could roar through and mitigate the heat; all of us a little cross and sick of road-food. The end of our trip was in sight, when everyone starts looking ahead to what they will be able to do when they can get away from each other.

We turned off at the Timothy Lake road. One of our goals from the start had been to have a look at this "Little Crater Lake," which was on our forest-service map, but which we had never heard of. At this point we were near the balance. One complaint or squabble and we would have gone straight on over Mt Hood's shoulder and back into Portland. But everyone held their grumpy peace. Overhead, a raven soared silently over us, scanning for road-kill, or for interesting litter to come out of those open windows. Ravens don't, apparently, tire of road-food.

An empty campground. This is a jumping-off place for cross-country skiers. Not much of a summer haunt -- no way to get a boat to the lake from here. So no one was in sight as we got out of the van and wandered down a little paved path in a sea of brilliant green meadow-grass, inwoven with purple lupine. Tiny white and orange butterflies tumbled drunkenly by. All quiet, all hot. Into a stand of hemlocks. Over a mysterious style; I couldn't imagine what animals might be being kept out, or in. Riding-horses? Deer?

A clearing opened, and a brimming blue pool appeared. But as we approached, its color became intenser, became an unearthly ice-cave blue, shot with phosophorescent green. The pool, maybe fifty yards across, was deeper than it was wide, and you could see all the way down. The sides were striated rock. Tree-trunks, glowing a paler blue, lay scattered at the bottom. The water was so clear that I couldn't shake the conviction that if you tried to swim here you would fall, not sink, through the water.

It's really a huge artesian well. No signs forbade swimming, but though we were all hot and the the water was cold and inviting, we all felt that to swim in this place would be wrong, even if we weren't slathered with sunscreen. I had never seen a place so obviously sacred. I cupped my hands in the water, feeling even this to be ethically dubious, and pressed them, wet and cool, to my face.

A sacred place, but the key to its meaning and ceremony are lost, and it's saddled now with this inappropriate tourist-mongering name. I wonder what its real name used to be. Names count, at a place such as this.

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