Crater Lake – Early Light

I have just returned after a wonderfully busy four night vacation in the Klamath Falls area with two new friends. The plan was to travel to the refuge and wetland areas in search of wildlife and birds. My travel companions arrived a few days ahead of me and explored the familiar landscape of trips here from years past. 

It’s an epic drought year near Klamath. Water is in short supply and it only takes a drive through the area to understand the “politics of water”. Parts of the refuge have run dry, as in cracked-earth dry. I saw a hand-lettered sign near one small farm desperate for a share of the limited water supply. It’s survival to the little guy. 

As we neared the small resort where we rented a townhome for the week, you see lush green golf courses and sprinklers drenching lawn and sidewalks in the early hours. It’s truly a “shake your head” moment. As a household we did our best to conserve resources, but …

I arrived on Friday late in the afternoon. The temperature soared into the 90’s over the weekend. The fire season had an early start just as summer officially began. There were three major wildfires, one of which put us in Level 2 evacuation status (Be Ready). I never saw smoke or fire, but the hot winds down here can shift a fire’s direction without warning or any regard for what might lie in it’s path. I got my first hint of what it means to live in the area. 

The remains of previous wildfires dotted the landscape as we drove to the different wildlife areas. My companions have traveled here annually and noted the huge difference in the number of shorebirds and the falling levels of water in the wetlands. 2020 was a devastating year with regard to bird loss. A changing climate and wildfires certainly contributed to the loss of these insect-eaters, as may have the loss of habitat as the water sources dry up. 

It was an education to be in the area for sure. Despite less water in many wetland areas, I was able to add thirteen birds to my “lifer” list and capture photos of a few I had seen but was unable to photograph before. The shore and water-birds were stunning discoveries for me. Here is my list of new lifer birds for the list: 

New “Lifers”

White-faced Ibis
Clark’s Grebe
Western Grebe
Eared Grebe
Black-necked Stilt
Black-crowned Night Heron
Clark’s Nutcracker
Yellow-headed Blackbird
American White Pelican
Brewer’s Blackbird
Snowy Egret

New photos:

Ring-necked pheasant
Great Egret
Bullock’s Oriole
Yellow Warbler
Savannah Sparrow

I posted previously about many of the wetland areas. We spent a part of each day at Putnam’s Point near the Pelican Marina. It’s a tiny little cove and there are dozens of Western and Clark’s Grebes. Egrets and pelicans occasionally fly in, as does a night heron. This is close to where we stayed and was a short drive in the morning and early afternoon.

Monday morning, Keitha and I drove up to Crater Lake ahead of the swarms people likely to make it a destination later in the day. We got some great views along the rim, though the popular rim drive was not yet open. 

Tuesday morning, Susan agreed to join me for a 3:30AM departure from the house to arrive at the rim of Crater Lake for sunrise. There were clouds in the forecast, but you know me, I always go on faith. We were not disappointed ! 

I left around 10 AM, exhausted already, for a 9 hour drive home. I made a river stop, one stop for a very tall cold brew and a pull-out at Diamond Peak. My plan had been to stop and visit one of my favorite creative friends on my drive home. Helvi’s home gallery is a feel good place and there is always something new happening on her work table. I came to pick up a couple paintings I bought this spring. I love this woman’s style !

I brought Thai food so we could enjoy a late afternoon early dinner on the porch. There’s a cool breeze and always a parade of people in the neighborhood that I so love. Check out Helvi’s work on Facebook (Helvi Smith Artist) or at her website ( ).

It’s lovely to get away but really nice to come home too. Thanks for indulging me again. Your visits and comments here and on Facebook keep me inspired to keep at it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart 💜

Sunrise Road at Mount Rainier opens July 2nd ! I can hardly wait ! May an epic season of summer hiking begin !

19 Comments on “Crater Lake – Early Light

  1. Every one of those mountain rim images is spectacular, Bon! Crisp and breath-taking! Seriously. Your delight and thrall is evident in every frame, and you have definitely upped your game behind the camera. Onward… and most definitely, UPWARD…*

    • Thanks so much for all the encouragement 💚 So appreciated.
      I will never tire of this left coast. There is just SO MUCH here to experience and discover ! Bring it on 2021 !

  2. Wonderful wonderful, all of it. That Crater Lake sky made me realize it’s not just the lake that I need to re-visit, but the gestalt of it all. Thanks for being my advance human, checking the road ahead for me.

    • My pleasure ! It is pretty striking for a first-timer, well … THIS first-timer. Loved it. I drove by Sauvie Island when I visted my niece on my way down south. Do you ever go there during the week ?

      • Yes I do – in fact, I rarely go anywhere on weekends, preferring to avoid crowds. And, why add to the density if I don’t have to, happy to give the working folk some space.

    • She is wildly creative and a dear person too ! So much fun to visit. I have my eye on another painting … of course I do !

  3. What an amazing trip! The green golf course in drought would make me shake my head too and think hard about it. And how funny that you were there with Crystal almost at the same time! I have heard the word Klammath now more than all my life before (the third blogger to mention it recently just returned from his Route 66 trip passing it).

    And how interesting that only now you saw your first magpie!! They kept waking me up back in Slovenia with their loud bickering while passing in groups from garden to garden, and they do the same here in Tuscany now, especially if there is a cat on the horizon. They are the most common bird here, almost.

    Marvellous view in your post. Happy for you. Not happy for the fires. 🙁

    • Oh, it really was a great trip ! Yes, water rights are the big issue down here. Lots of head-scratching things, but it’s by no means a new issue. I love “coinkidinks” too, as happened with Crystal’s trip magie’s sre pretty popularin the eastern part of our state but not where I live. Thanks for writing ♡

  4. Lovely photos and travelogue. I added magpie to my rather informal (as in, it’s just in my head) list in early May when I spent the week in Pullman while Willow was at the vet hospital. Magpies are all over the WSU campus—seemingly as common as robins are here.

    • Hi ! Thanks for writing !
      Yes, magpies are pretty common east of the mountains. I saw a few on a hike I did several weeks back but I don’t add them to my list until I’ve photographed them. Now they are official !

    • Oh, me too. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to explore that area. And yes, that sky .. pretty incredible. It was the kind like you probably see over the valley, color shifting every few minutes. Gorgeous.

  5. I rode there on my motorcycle from So. California a couple years ago and was and still am in total awe of that blue lake! It was stunning. The whole area is beautiful. Now that I have seen these photos, I need to go for another trip!

    • Oh, and so many different shades of blue, too ! I’ve never spent any meaningful time down in Southern OR/Northern CA … so much to discover. That lake area is amazing. Thanks for writing.

  6. Beautiful pictures, I know you will go back and get more. I love Crater lake so much

    • I cannot believe I haven’t been there before. Gorgeous and such fabulous history. I’d love to wake up in that Lodge …

  7. Amazing photos. Love the last one of you in front of Rainier. Always look forward to your posts.

    • Thanks for reading. That’s one of my favorite photos too. A friend took it in a place and time of great gratitude.

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