Sunrise at Crater Lake National Park



I've been on the road in the US living out my car for just over a week at this point. In this time I'd driven from Vancouver to South Dakota and was on my way back west. This day was my first full day in Oregon. The night before I had rolled up to Walmart in Bend, Oregon only to be met by something I’d not experienced at the other Walmarts…. Signs saying no overnight parking. I’m talking A LOT of signs. Even a few hand-written signs. So, I came up with the genius (although I do say so myself) plan of not actually staying over night- only staying part of the night and leaving at 2:30am to go catch sunrise at Crater Lake National Park.

It took about 3 minutes of planning (me googling how long the route would take and figuring out what time I should wake up) then I was off to bed in the car at 9pm. Yep, it was still light. It was an easy decision to make, you never know when you'll get opportunities like this. Carpe Diem and all that.

I woke up at 2:20am, not at all tired just ready to go. I had had one of those fitful sleeps where you wake up every hour panicking you’ve missed your alarm- I was just too excited. I was on the road by 2:30 with a just under three-hour drive in darkness ahead of me.

The majority of the route over was 65 mph speed limit but when you’ve been on the road in the US as much as me and you’ve seen all the roadkill I’ve seen, you’re hesitant to go to fast. I was glad to have been careful as I passed a bunch of deer, including one or two on the road in front of me that I carefully navigated round so as not to create more roadkill/ damage my car/ ruin chances of catching sunrise. The road was more or less empty apart from me and my deer friends.

From driving in the country roads back home in England I know the rule that deer usually come in two so if you can see one on the side of the road or just crossing the road you need to be aware of where the other one may be. Maybe I should teach a class to American drivers? I’ve got to say if you want to see a wide range of the wildlife species America has to offer and you don’t care whether they’re alive or dead you should drive across the country. I’ve seen animals I’ve never seen before- but 70% of them are lying on the side of the road so that’s not great.

Anyway, so I drove for hours in the dark, not hitting any wildlife, eventually entering Crater Lake National Park around 4:50am. I drove up the long winding road in the park to the viewpoint as it was beginning to get light. I got to the lodge at the top and the parking spaces next to a wall of snow at just the right time.

I parked up, bundled up in my hat, scarf, gloves and ski jacket and ran up the snow bank to get a view of the lake I was greeted by a fuschia pink scar in the sky just above the glowing orange horizon. That was just the beginning. I sat down on my jacket, grabbed my breakfast of granola clusters and settled in to watch the show.

The sunrise changed from a bright red to light shades of orange and blue that were reflected in the expanse of the lake infront of me. The light shades of gray/blue reflected in the lake looked like mist and it was hard to tell where the lake ended and the sky began.

Eventually, the sun burst through the cloud warming up my face and casting an orange glow in the snow that descended down to the lake. With the sun out the lake began to glitter and sparkle orange. The extra light illuminated the wind patterns on the lake adding an extra dimension to the dynamic landscape I was watching.

At this point my butt was freezing from the snow, I needed the bathroom and I was pretty tired. The show was over for now. All the trails in Crater Lake were still closed because of the snow so there was little point hanging around waiting for full daylight. I decided to leave the view so that Crater Lake at sunrise would be my lasting memory of the place. It may just have been the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and I would 100% recommend doing this. I drove down to the village at the entrance of the park, found a parking spot in the empty lot (it was 6am) and napped for 3 hours.