Nature Notes

Volume XII No. 1 - October, 1946

The Back Country Of Crater Lake
By Dr. C. G. Ruhle, Park Naturalist

Llao's Hallway

Crater Lake National Park is generally considered with but one point of view, namely, that of seeing the lake. This is generally accomplished by taking the Rim Drive which encircles it. Some with a little more time at their disposal hike down the rim trail from the Rim Campground, take a boat trip on the lake, and perhaps venture a climb of Wizard Island or Garfield Peak. Few try anything else. This is rather unfortunate, for the country surrounding the lake abounds in interesting features: there are inviting park-like forests, pumice flats, flower-bedecked meadows, grassy flats around cold springs, solitary cones and craters, and interesting animal inhabitants with which to become acquainted.

This back country has the advantage of being close at hand; none of the trips which are outlined require more than a day's time. There is no need of fretting with pack and pack animals; no bother about planning and setting up a camp. As there are no saddle horses in the park at present, the trips are for the hiker; except for the gradual slopes away from the lake in all directions the terrain in general is not rough, and there is small probability of getting lost.

The park is traversed from north to south by the Pacific Crest Trail System, being on the section between Diamond Lake and Mount McLoughlin. It is also crisscrossed by a system of primitive roads called motorways, which make excellent trails, but are closed to general automobile traffic, since they can be maintained for administrative purposes only. The hiker is not likely to met with a single vehicle on these motorways, even though he spend a whole week in hiking around. Three are no snakes, no poisonous plants, no savage wild animals about which to worry. In the trips outlined there are not dangerous climbs. The trip down Llao's Hallway is strenuous and should not be undertaken by one who is physically handicapped.

Only one other warning is considered timely here. Never venture up or down the crater wall or the steep walls of the various canyons. The composing material is very loosely consolidated offering few foot or hand-holds, and there is constant danger from slide rock.

1. Around the Rim. From the rim road there are several interesting trips. The Watchman, which has a fire lookout at its summit, is a short climb of less than half an hour by trail, starting on the north side from the parking area by the road. A splendid view and a chance to learn something of the work of a fire lookout are the reward. The ranger-naturalists conduct scheduled walks to this objective. Firemaps, binoculars, the vantage point of a lookout tower, and an enthusiastic green-clad dispenser of information are valuable aids. Just north of the Watchman is Hillman Peak, 8156, an interesting, easy climb. So, too, is the walk up the grassy slopes to the summit of Llao Rock. On the opposite side of the lake a trail leads from the junction of the Cloudcap Spur to the summit of Mount Scott, 8938, the highest point in the park, which is also surmounted by a fire lookout. From it there is a magnificent view along the crest of the Cascades from Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters to Mount Shasta. To the west, one gets a bird's eye view of Crater Lake and its relation to the remnant slopes of old Mount Mazama. Beyond are the Calapooyas and the Siskiyous. To the east are block fault mountain ranges and desert pumice flats.

On the south side of Crater Lake is Sun Notch, only a quarter of a mile above the big loop in the road. The Notch was cut by a glacier existing on Mount Mazama before its destruction. Its U-shaped form is characteristic of a glacially scoured trough. The view from this place of vantage is well worth the few minutes needed to make the trip. From the Notch it is easy and worth while to climb along the edge of the rim to the summit of Dutton Ridge.

Another easy hike is to follow the old road and the crest of Munson Ridge to Park Headquarters or all of the way to Annie Springs, if desired. At places the crest is knife-edged, and opens up surprising views. A return hike to the Rim can be made via the trail that leads through the Castlecrest Gardens.

2. The Northwest Section of the Park. Red Cone, 7372, is a very easy climb that can be made from the north entrance road; the slopes are open and there is no need of following any trail. From this elevation come most of the volcanic bombs, big and small, which are found in the park. There is an old crater on the summit which has been almost completely filled with volcanic ejecta.

In the extreme northwest part of the park on the boundary line are Boundary Springs, the source of the Rogue River. This is an enticing, flowery spot, which can be reached by following the Castle Creek and Bald Crater motorways for seven miles from the north entrance road at a point four miles below the rim drive. The springs can also be reached by a much shorter trip from the Diamond Lake Highway to the north.

3. The Northeast Section. Timber Crater is readily reached by following a motorway from the North Entrance Road. A most delightful hike can be made down the Wineglass Motorway into stately, open yellow pine forests. Three miles down, a spur leads to the right to Cascade Spring several miles away, at which place there is a charming camp site.

4. The Southeast Section of the Park. The principal objective here is Crater Peak, 7265. It is reached by following Crater Peak motorway down Vidae Ridge. A short trail leads from the motorway to the summit. A much longer trip, but also worthwhile, is the trip down Munson Creek below Park Headquarters, following the canyon past Godfrey Glen and the Colonnades to the south entrance. This is a long trip of about 15 miles and requires a whole day. However, a poor trail leads from Godfrey Glen to the road, should one not care to traverse the whole distance.

5. Southwest Corner of the Park. Union Peak, Snow Crater, and Llao's Hallway are perhaps the most interesting features in the park aside from the lake. Union Peak, 6220, is readily reached by following the Union Peak loop motorway from the Medford Highway, three-fourths mile above Annie Spring. This sharp summit represents the neck of an old volcano that antedates Mount Mazama. To the south of it is Red Blanket Creek, which touches the lowest part of the park and consequently has trees, flowers, and animals found nowhere else within the boundaries. All of this is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The motorway continues from Union Peak over Pumice Flat, and rejoins the main highway system near Cold Spring Campground.

Snow Crater is a steep-walled depression, no one knows how deep, that is filled with snow to a depth of at least scores of feet, even when the days of the summer melting are over. There is no trail to Snow Crater, but as the forests are open, it is easily reached by following the ridge south of Arant Point for a distance of some two miles. It is well to get specific directions from the ranger-naturalists before starting.

Llao's Hallway is a spectacular chasm with overhanging walls cut by a tiny creek in the soft fragmental materials, to a depth of one hundred feet or more. It can readily be entered by following a trail down White Horse Creek starting from the old campground on the Medford Highway, four miles below Annie Spring. The Hallway begins less than a quarter mile below the road; with ever increasing depth and impressiveness it continues for about a mile. From the junction with the main creek about a mile away, it is necessary to retrace one's steps to the beginning. The course below that point is through a deep and dangerous canyon, difficult to traverse, and with little chance of one's climbing out for five miles or more. Because the Hallway is filled with treacherous snow packs throughout most of the year, it is wiser not to undertake this trip until August or September.

6. Fishing in the Back Country. There is good opportunity to fish in the larger streams of the park but the fish are small. They are usually taken with angle worms.

For all of the trips outlined, it is wise to provide oneself with a topographic map of the park, which is obtainable from the ranger-naturalists on the rim. It is well also to get further information from these men before setting out on the course of discovery.

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