Crater Lake National Park

Newberry National Monument is a short drive away from a more well-known national park: Crater Lake. Founded in 1902, the park protects a deep freshwater lake cradled by the remnants of what was once the volcanic Mount Mazama. A large eruption about 7,700 years ago devastated the mountain and created the gigantic hole which now house’s the eponymous Crater Lake.

We got up early to make the drive to our new location in time to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, several area fires meant that the lake was quite hazy during our trip, giving it an almost otherworldly glow and reducing our visibility somewhat.

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Having the pup with us on our trip made it necessary to stick to the Rim Drive, a circuit which circumscribes the entire perimeter of the crater. Despite our inability to take to the trails, we still saw plenty of wildlife.

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Much like elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the dainty black-tailed deer (a subspecies of mule deer) abound here, as well as several other large mammals, including black bear, bobcat, and coyote, among others.

We saw quite a few birds during our stay, including the ever-present and noisy Clark’s nutcrackers, Stellar’s jays, yellow and yellow-rumped warblers, and several kinds of sparrow. We also saw two different types of rodents. While there are several species of them at the park, including the iconic golden-mantled ground squirrel, several species of chipmunk, marmots, and pikas, they fall into two distinct categories: those that are fed by well-meaning park visitors (or via their leavings in the form of food litter), and those that aren’t.

Take this least chipmunk, for instance, doing what rodents do best: stuffing some natural food item, in this case some choice wildflowers, into their cute, furry bellies:

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This chipmunk may even go so far as to cache food items for the approaching winter. When he forgets where he left some of that cache, it may germinate to form new vegetation in the area surrounding the crater. Meanwhile, having run around all fall gathering food, he will be well-fed into the late spring seen in the Cascade range.

His friend the golden-mantled ground squirrel, however, has just hung around the campgrounds all summer, which is why he looks like this:

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No, that is not fluff giving him the appearance of curves. This squirrel is obese. This guy was acclimated to people to the extent that he would pop up when he saw cars parking in the lot to see what edibles might be arriving with the metal behemoths. We actually had to ask a family to stop feeding one of the squirrels sunflower seeds when we stopped at one of the viewpoints. They asked what the problem was. Aside from the problem of feeding rodents high-fat, low-nutrition foods like sunflower seeds (which contributes to a host of life-shortening diseases in these species), let’s just say that slow moving, easy targets like this are the reason the foxes and coyotes in the area are so sleek and well-fed.

Remember that story about the ant and the grasshopper? The difference between the two creatures reminded me a lot of that tale. Please be responsible and don’t feed the wildlife. Just don’t do it.

I know, I know, what you really want to know is what I thought of the park: It was amazing, tiring, and awesome in the way that only something so unexpectedly large and magnificent can be. Go see it yourself, and have your breath taken away by the views.

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