Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Pumice Desert, Crater Lake National Park, OR

Something about The Pumice Desert causes one to stop and appreciate the beauty of something so empty and desolate within an otherwise thick carpet of trees.

Lying in the middle of Highway 138, inside Oregon's Crater Lake National Park, the Pumice Desert was created by some 200 feet of volcanic ash after an eruption of Mount Mazama nearly 7,700 years ago.

The lack of nutrients in the soil prevented anything from growing back.

Today, the Pumice Desert remains as a scar that may never heal on an otherwise spectacular geography.

Just walking out into the middle of the field and then standing still, I felt a sense of personification, as if Crater Lake National Park was an old man nursing a wound from his childhood that never went away.

I know some people who are like that.  Overwhelmed by a load of burden placed upon them by others, and then criticized when that load topples over, they languish in their shame and guilt, forgetting to see how beautiful they are everywhere else.

the pumice desert
The Pumice Desert, Crater Lake National Park, OR, June 2006, with my Yamaha Road Star
But much of Highway 138 cuts through thick woods, and while it's nice to see tall trees, you can only appreciate them for so long until you get bored.  Hence, coming upon a place as empty and dead as The Pumice Desert actually provides a sense of amazement, proving that something as lifeless and empty can still be a sight for sore eyes.

It makes me think about how we as humans grow up with success and failure, joy and hurt, pride and humiliation.  The opposing experiences creates conflicts inside us as if we're a rope being pulled from both ends.

And isn't it the scars that make us proud of our finer points? Isn't the pain and hurt that makes us appreciate our joys and triumphs?  Without emptiness we can never define fulfillment.  Without death we can't appreciate life.

highway through tall trees
If our road in life is flanked by hundreds of miles of pristine pines, we wouldn't see much at all. The road becomes a tunnel with our eyes fixed on one tiny point ahead of us. The little details to the left and right blend together into a blur that passes by unnoticed.

It makes us sink into one continual feeling, like a machine over an assembly line that runs at a constant speed, creating a rhythm of stagnant noise that we can't shut our ears from.  We yearn for an opposing emotion, just to feel alive and exhilarated, even if'painful.

It was rather cold when I rode through here in June of 2006.  Much of central Oregon had been warm when I rode south along US 97.  I guess even the cold, wet conditions at Crater Lake was a welcome reprieve.

And Crater Lake National Park is like that, offering a motorcycle rider a change of pace when traveling through Oregon, with its amazing views of the lake and the twisties along the rim.  The high elevation at 8,000 feet leaves banks of snow on either side of Highway 138 making for more unusual riding.

Remember to visit the Crater Lake Lodge and get yourself something warm to eat.

From there, head south to Klamath Falls for some small town relaxation.


  1. When we rode through Southern Oregon, after a day of astounding pines as far as the eye could see, I felt a little ashamed that I had so quickly lost my fascination with the giant beauties. But how many trees can I see until I've had my fill?

    Thank you for the perspective. I get it; I really do.


  2. I never get tired of seeing the trees, but I do enjoy how the scenery changes during a ride. On my one, so far, trip through Oregon I was amazed with the beauty of the state. Going back and spending some quality time in the Crater Lake area is near the top of my list.

  3. Steve:

    It has been many years since we have been to Crater Lake. I remember the last time, from there we headed over to Crescent City, CA. I like Oregon. We were riding in Hell's Canyon last summer.

    Riding the Wet Coast


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)