Recover (Crater Lake)
Do you believe that someone from somewhere watches over and protects you?
I have never felt unsafe during any of my solo photography trips. And I’ve taken some dumb risks before due to my inexperience in the outdoors. But I’ve never felt anxious about going out on any hike. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, is notorious for its fog, precipitation, and cloud cover. During my visit this past May, I was fortunate to have had perfect weather. Perhaps too perfect. According to historical data on Accuweather, daytimes highs reached as high as 90F / 32C during my visit. I noticed that snow was melting very quickly, and the places that I had been standing on previous days as I photographed the lake, was probably unsafe. In fact, on the night previous to the title photo, a chunk of snow bordering the rock I was standing on, broke away and sent a micro-avalanche down the caldera wall (sign #1).
My thoughts ran in this order: “Did that just happen?” “My foreground is gone.” “What if this rock that I’m standing on gives way also? There are such things as rockslides."
The next day, I noticed that snow was melting fast. Streams of water flowed onto Rim Road as I walked to Discovery Point (sign #2).
That evening, as I drove back up to photograph sunset at a previous scouted location, I felt this anxiety unlike anything I’ve ever felt. Some voice inside (sign #3) was telling me not to go back because of the melt. I tried to shrug it off, confused by the sudden onset of this “weakness,” but I couldn’t. When I arrived at the visitor center, I saw an ambulance (sign #4.)
I headed to a popular viewpoint nearby (not my target location) and I noticed a sign pushed into the snow, warning people to stay back from the ledge, a sign that was not there on previous days (sign #5). Finally, I spoke to a man in the crowd that was now gathering and he told me two guys had fallen into the caldera. Right then and there, I knew my trip was over. I didn’t even hesitate. Although my landscape photography was finished, I went to into documentary mode. I felt voyeuristic and exploitative, benefitting from someone else’s misfortunes. The officials had called in a helicopter to rescue one man. The other was pulled out by a team of rescuers who had to repel down hundreds of feet to reach him. I didn’t not photograph the second rescue because by then, officials had asked the crowd to disperse. That night, I read the news online and learned that both men survived the fall. Sadly, another man was not so lucky this past July.
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