Crater Lake

Going to Upper Table Rock with the sky clear rather than Crater Lake proved to be the correct decision. Crater Lake was snowed in, but I could not imagine what that meant. Drive two hours, at first imperceptibly rising but for the engine RPM rising from 1500 to 1800, passing Table Rocks, a large lake, noticeably rising through canyons, turning on the headlights upon entering a dark pine forest, notice snow under the trees, now on the roadside, the snow level rising to the hubcaps, fenders, eye level, roof, above your roof, until twice the height of a pickup. There might be a creek behind the snowbank, I see guardrails, and a lack of trees behind the snowbank. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArriving at Crater National Park, pass through the unmanned entrance, stop at the visitor center, where is it? Oh, there are windows above the snowbanks. Walk around to find an entrance, through the doors, completely dark and cold inside, are there windows? No, snow might break them. Up the stairs, to the information desk, shop and restaurant. Climb the stairs to the third story. If you stand, look out a window, you can see a bit of Crater Lake. 144 feet of snow a year on average. Much if it still there.

Leave the visitor center, walk to the end of the parking lot, climb up a snowbank on steps cut into the snowbank by the feet of previous visitors. Reach the top, there is Crater Lake. Walk a hundred feet closer. You are standing on a hard-packed snowbank which runs down to the lake, steeply down. Step too close and slide, no stopping, well maybe a tree, but miss the trees and where do you land? Do you fall into the lake or onto a shore line? Walk around a bit, and you’re done. Two hours there and two hours back for a half hour above the lake.

And yet, it is beautiful.

It was Earth Day when I visited Crater Lake and yes, protestors were present, protesting the privatization of the National Parks and other federal lands. I asked what that meant. One explained there was a proposal to sell the National Parks and Forests to private companies and the states. I said in principal I supported the idea of turning over federal lands to the states, but not all, especially the National Parks and not to entirely to private companies, but needed to learn more about the issue. I was told to look on the internet. I said I would and wished them good luck.

There are several things going on, and not understanding the issues entirely, I have no single opinion, only concerns. One question concerns the role of private companies providing services at the national parks. For instance, should the companies maintain the infrastructure of the parks, such as the and power, some of the infrastructure, when they’re making money off the parks? However, wouldn’t the Park Service have to provide the infrastructure anyways? How to divide responsibility? There are other issues to be negotiated.

As for turning over federal land to the states, the feds hold more than half the land in several western states, unlike the rest of the country where the lands were already largely in private hands or turned over by land grants. After spending many months over the last several years in rural America, I am deeply concerned about the well-being of people living there, in terms of health and income. Urban America seems not to understand or care about the people living there. For instance, driving across California, I saw signs, such as “Growing food is not wasting water.” City voters get their water; farmers sometimes. I also saw poverty in the rural areas, along the Appalachia Trail, and in Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and now Oregon, poverty that rivals that of inner cities.

Why shouldn’t the states take over some of those federal lands for the benefits of the local population? Shouldn’t the locals have a larger voice in the lands near them? True, the lands are not worthless, perhaps the states should pay something, how much…. And, where would the state get the money, but from private companies…. And so, it goes.

As an avid hiker, the preservation of the wilderness is important to me personally. So, I sympathize with the protestors. On the other hand, I think we need to do a better job of factoring the well-being of the local population into the decisions we make about the use of federal land. Simply telling these people, “No,” isn’t working for them.

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