Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crater Lake: Tranquility From Turbulence

"The blue is so vibrant, it almost looks fake!" I commented to the man next to me as the two of us stood on the Crater Lake overlook, intoxicated by its surreal sapphire beauty. He agreed, and told me of his friends who visited Crater Lake years ago, prior to the time of digital cameras. The photo processing place called them to apologize, because no matter how they adjusted their machine, they just couldn't get those Crater Lake photos to come out with a realistic blue color. That's because Crater Lake itself doesn't have a realistic blue color--instead, it's colored like a brilliant blue jewel.

The drive to Crater Lake from Medford Oregon was peaceful that October morning. At times the road felt like a tunnel, with only a narrow strip of sky visible between the thick, towering fir trees on either side. As I drove along, I was filled with gratitude for the beauty of the earth and for the chance to be alive to enjoy it.

As I drove along happily, I noticed a waterfall out of the corner of my eye. So, I did a U-turn and parked along the side of the road to check it out. Here's what I found:

It turns out that this is the Rogue River Gorge, and that it has a trail maintained by the Forest Service. Because I had missed the main entrance and hiked in from a different direction, I found myself on the wrong side (the river side) of the protective fence they had put up to keep people from falling in. I wasn't sure how to get on the safe side of the fence, so I just held on tight as I made my way along the beautiful gorge.

Here's a little video I took with one hand (as I held onto the fence with the other), that will give you a sense of what I saw:

For those who can't view movies, here are some still photos:

Here's another beautiful view of the Rogue River:

I love the Rogue River. I love Crater Lake too.

I love the fact that Crater Lake is totally calm and peaceful; it has no water flowing in or out--it's entirely fed by rain and snow melt and loses water only to evaporation.

I love the fact that Crater Lake is very deep and very pure, which is what gives it the jewel blue color.

I love the fact that Crater Lake has a cute little volcano island in the middle of it, named Wizard Island because it's shaped like a wizard's hat:

Most of all, I love Crater Lake because it symbolizes something very special to me. I first noticed it when I saw this sign, explaining the lake's origin:

This beautiful, tranquil spot exists only because a mountain once went through a massive volcanic eruption, violent enough to blow the mountain top entirely off. This lake jewel sits in the caldera that remains.

As I hiked around it, pondering its beauty, I thought of a few special people in my life. Some of the best human beings I've been privileged to know--the ones of great depth, great purity, and great beauty--were also formed by passing through very difficult experiences. Perhaps some of the very best human qualities, some of the most sublime human beauties, can be acquired in no other way.

So I think of Crater Lake as a hopeful a symbol of the beauty, goodness, grace, and depth that can come out of the tragedies or trials in our lives, if we choose.

It reminded me of a favorite scripture in Isaiah 61, describing Jesus Christ as one who was sent to "bind up the brokenhearted", to "comfort all that mourn", to give us "beauty for ashes". In the case of Crater Lake, beauty literally came from those volcanic ashes. And what a hopeful thing to know that as we turn to Christ, He can help us make beauty out of the ashes that remain after a trial has scalded and seared us.

Here's a video where I expressed these feelings while I was there: