Sunday, July 14, 2013

Happiness Is a Deep Lake

SOMEWHERE SOUTH OF A REDWOOD TREE, Oregon--I love it! There's The Gas Station (also sells firewood). The Resort (The Post Office is behind the registration desk). The Pizza Shop (also sells 16 flavors of ice cream). The Campground (National Forest Service; fire ring and table at every site, pit toilets).  The RV Park (across the road from The Campground, privately owned and operated.  No propane; you get that at The Gas Station).

And there's The Park.  That would be Crater Lake National Park surrounding the deepest lake in the United States, 30-some miles in circumference and nearly 2,000 feet at its deepest point. Although it has at least as many Spectacular Things per square mile as Yosemite or Yellowstone, only about 500,000 people a year navigate south central Oregon's narrow, twisting Cascade range roads to visit it. For miles around it, there is, as Dorothy Parker put it, "no There there."

The Gas Station is open 7 days a week from 7 to 7. But there's a hot line telephone that rings up the night watchman at The Resort, who will hustle down there and fill your tank when the station is closed.

The nearest real grocery store is 35 miles away but there's a small store inThe Resort that sells the necessities of life -- fishing tackle, snowmobile route maps, sleeping bags, mosquito repellant, lots of mosquito repellant, bread, milk and coffee.  Plus Dave's amazing organic bread and Sin Dawgs. "Dave" is actually a small corporation far away in Salem, but, hey!, they're people, aren't they?  Dave bakes up the best-tasting loaf of healthy, whole-grain organic bread between the Atlantic and Pacific. And the Sin Dawg? It's a whole-grain baguette with a cinnamon-raisin filling that is so sublime it drove two generations of French pastry chefs out of business. A Sin Dawg breakfast sends you to heaven despite its name.

The Restaurant (part of The Resort) occasionally features Pan Seared Rainbow Trout. A patron might imagine he's devouring an animal that swam that very morning in Muir creek, but he'd be wrong.  It's a farm-raised fish from Idaho. The patron can content himself as he consumes the import with the knowledge that Muir creek indeed teems with the real thing.  The waterway, a thing of great beauty, is an appropriate tribute to John Muir, the great American naturalist who campaigned so articulately for the preservation of just such places as these. To sit beside it, hearing only its babble and the songs of birds, is to know at last what serenity is.

Absent the crowds attendant to other national park neighborhoods, Crater Lake is host to countless other serene places. Knowing this, one is prone to condemn the more harshly the crimes mankind, most especially corporate mankind, commits against too many of the planet's finest places. Imagine a mine pumping toxic tailings into Crater Lake near Wizard Island; behemoth thumper trucks pounding Pumice Desert seeking pockets of oil to drill into; a field of natural gas pumps where now stand the redwoods that tower over worshipful pines in the Rogue-Umpqua National Forest. Such sacrilege has been committed elsewhere on our public lands, and the profiteering overlords are pounding on the doors at this very moment of Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Otero Mesa and more.

Almost 8,000 years ago, Mount Mazama erupted in what may have been the greatest volcanic episode ever to take place on this continent. It made the crater that Nature filled with rain and snowfall alone (no river or stream flows into the lake carrying sediment; that's why its waters are so deep, deep blue) . For a long time native Americans were the custodians of this special lake and held it sacred. Sandals worn by their distant ancestors have been found buried under volcanic ash in a cave deep in the surrounding forests.

In 1853, a European-American Caucasian looking for gold found something far better: today we call it Crater Lake. We've only had 160 years In which to spoil it.  Give us time.

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