Last September my son Eli and I went on a road trip to deliver my daughter Bea, an incoming freshman, to Stanford University.
Then all of a sudden Bea was at school…
…and Eli and I were back in the van for the long drive home.
For our trip down, we’d booked nice hotels in advance. It was all about our last hurrah before saying goodbye to Bea. Maybe because we didn’t want to think about returning without her, we forgot to plan the trip home. We were unprepared, disorganized, and we both kept looking around for Bea.
It was after midnight when we pulled into Redding, CA.
We found a place that was simple, but clean, and woke refreshed and ready to move on–from Redding, and from Stanford. We were going to write ourselves a new story.
We explored a delightfully shabby gold rush town, browsed its antique stores, and bought some dusty old tomes. Back on the road, Eli read aloud from The Last of the Plainsmen, Zane Grey’s 1908 memoir about the end of an era and the start of a new one.
Perhaps inspired by Grey, Eli suggested swinging by Crater Lake National Park. It was out of our way, and we didn’t even know how far, because we hadn’t brought a proper map. We hadn’t been there since the kids were young enough to earn their Junior Ranger Badges. I recalled Crater Lake as a one trick pony, with one view of a lake, gorgeous, but unaccessible. If we couldn’t get there before dark, the trip would be pointless.
It was a gamble.
We decided to go for it. We had a few ‘Where are we going, Carl?’ moments. Like at a crossroads, where two roads both had signage pointing to Crater Lake. The sun was sinking, and we couldn’t afford to get lost. I kicked myself for not stopping earlier for directions. This was a remote wilderness, late in the day and late in the season, without even another car to flag down.
Do you believe in spirit helpers? I took this handsome creature’s greeting as positive reinforcement.
Upon leaving the endless forest to begin our ascent. Whatever happened, the view on the way to the crater was worth the drive.
At last we arrived at the crater rim, with sunshine to spare, but not for long.
As the sun sank behind us, the shadows crept up the side of Wizard Island, until it looked like it was wearing a little sun hat.
While we looked down on shadow, on the far side of the crater, the sun still shone.
Our goal was to visit as many viewpoints as possible before we lost the light.
Crater Lake was not a one trick pony. It was a Horse of a Different Color. With the constantly changing light, the landscape changed dramatically too.
Each view highlighted different sights and inspired different insights.
Whether looking from a distance…
…or close up.
We were alone on the top of the world, awestruck by the beauty surrounding us, not just of the lake, but the valley as well.
Eli captured the detail of an alpine meadow in this shot….
…while I borrowed back the camera to capture the big picture.
Feverishly, we passed the camera back and forth. Where one of us recognized the stark beauty of an outcrop…
…the other saw a sleeping lady, turned to stone by an evil wizard.
Eli and I discovered our new superpower…
We had learned to spin straw into gold.
Peace of mind.
All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck