Nature Notes

Volume XXVIII - 1997

Visited in Midwinter: A Trip to Crater Lake in 18971
By M. A. Loosley

Editor's note: The following article represents the first recorded account of a winter visit to Crater Lake. It appeared in a Klamath Falls newspaper 100 years ago.

We left Fort Klamath on Tuesday, February 23, at 2:30 p.m. mounted on showshoes and drawing a hand-sled on which we packed our provisions and blankets and went that afternoon as far as Chas. Martin's place at the upper end of the valley.2 That night the mercury went down to four above zero which made snowshoeing fine the next day, until we got within four miles of Bridge Creek, where the thermometer stood 45 degrees in the shade and 83 degrees in the sun, which temperature softened the snow to such an extent that it made shoeing impossible.3 We then ate our noonday lunch, put our shoes on the sled and footed it through the soft snow above our knees to Bridge Creek, where we arrived at 6 o'clock that evening, all tired out, having made only four miles that afternoon. After eating supper we made our bed down, or rather up, on fourteen feet of snow. Of course this was only a drift, as we did not have time that evening to look around for a shallower snow-bank upon which to make our bed.

Next morning we arose at daybreak, made breakfast and took the depth of the snow on the ledge across the creek, which we found to be only 8 and one-half feet deep. The thermometer registered that morning 28 above.4

Skiers going to Crater Lake from Fort Klamath in 1918. Photo by Alex Sparrow.

Again we mounted our shoes and shoved our way slowly up Annie Creek Canyon, arriving at Cold Camp at 11:30 a.m., where we lunched and rested.5 We found the snow to be only 8 feet deep there. We had to abandon our shoes going up the summit and "take it afoot," as the mountain was so steep that our shoes would slip back. However, we arrived on top at 1:20 p.m., and found the snow there to be 10 feet deep.6

When we got on the summit, instead of keeping [to] the road leading down on the other (north) side, we turned to the right and went along the backbone of the mountain which we thought would be a gradual slope all the way up to the lake and would avoid footing it down the mountain and crossing the swale and up the steep mountain again on the other side to the lake.7 But two miles of extremely difficult traveling along the steep backbone, through snow up to our waists, brought us to the conclusion that we had better abandon our roundabout trip and make our way down the mountain side to the camping place at the foot of Crater Lake Mountain, which we did, arriving in camp at 5:25 p.m. It would be useless to say that we were wet through to the waist and all tired out. However, we lost no time in getting a few slabs of thick fir bark upon which to build our fire by which we dried our clothing and cooked our supper.

Next morning, being the 26th, we left camp at 6 o'clock without breakfast, for the lake. Two miles up the steep mountain brought us to the brink of the most picturesque view which we were privileged to behold. There was the lake away down in the almost bottomless pit wrapped in the snowy gause of silence, while the gentle rays of the rising sun kissed the snowcapped peaks of the surrounding mountains as the gentle breeze rippled the inky water far below. There was a soft breeze blowing from the south, while the mercury stood at 38 in the shade and 76 in the sun.

There was a thick skim of ice on the west end of the lake extending eastward from the bank some two hundred yards and probably half a mile long north and south.

The snow under the trees on Mrs. Victor's rock was five feet deep, while back farther in the open it was 10 feet, and seemed to be of an even depth all around the south side.8 It was impossible to go down to the water as the snow which had blown from the south, broke off abruptly from the top for probably one hundred feet below when it would take its regular slant until within about the same distance from the water where it would again form another perpendicular bank. The water seemed to be as black as ink. We had a very strong glass with us, but we could not see any beach at the water's edge.

snow-covered landscape
Photo by Rudy Lueck, 1935.

The snow was all off the trees on Wizard Island and surrounding bank, while the strip of land running out northwest from the island seemed to be a floating snowdrift.

We spent about an hour and a half at the lake when we turned our shoes homeward, where we arrived on the evening of the 27th.

No pen can describe the picturesque views we beheld on our trip. No orator could do justice to the mountain breeze, the crisp mild air and delightfully cool water bursting gleefully from the sides of the mountains. Now we are passing along one of nature's wonderful creations -- a canyon -- where massive perpendicular rocks rise hundreds of feet on either hand. Again in open space, with massive peaks all about us, do we find ourselves. These nearest spurs are snow-capped and uninviting; those at a distance jagged and rugged.

The scenery at times partakes of weird and grotesque appearance, and is then grand and awful. Odd forms of snow, sometimes resembling mammoth animals, overhang our path or project from the mountain beyond and appear ready to leap upon us. Over all this magnificence, enhancing the picture to a marvelous degree, shone the azure vault above.

It is true we found places that were extremely difficult of traveling over, and yet how foolish we would have been to remain at home because of them. Deep gulches must be crossed, narrow and sliding ones were not infrequent. More than once did we hold our breath as we passed over some of these places, but a steady nerve and lots of energy were all that was necessary to carry us through.


1 Originally titled Visited in Midwinter: A Trip to Crater Lake Through Unfrozen Snow -- A Difficult But Interesting Adventure. It was originally written as a letter to Captain O.C. Applegate and subsequently published as a newspaper article in March 1897.

2 The author was in the company of his brother, P. S. Loosley. Martin's homestead was about 1.5 miles north of the town of Fort Klamath near what is presently Highway 62. The brothers would have gone approximately five miles that afternoon since the Loosley Ranch is located south of town.

3 This area is where the ponderosa pine and white fir forest gives way to lodgepole pine, a transition readily seen along the south entrance road. Bridge Creek is now called Pole Bridge Creek.

4 Much of the temperature difference between the two days was due to the downslope movement of air. This often makes the area around Fort Klamath (at 4200 feet in elevation) much colder than a site on Mount Mazama such as Pole Bridge Creek, some 1600 feet higher.

5 The vicinity of Annie Spring.

6 Their route corresponds to the trail which connects Annie Spring with the Pacific Crest Trail.

7 They tried traversing Munson Ridge instead of using the wagon route which roughly corresponds to what is now the Dutton Creek Trail.

8 Victor Rock is where the Sinnott Memorial is presently situated. The south side described by Loosley was named Rim Village in 1924.

snow cornice
Winter Illustration by L. Howard Crawford, Nature Notes from Crater Lake, 8:1, July 1935.

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