Oregon – Day 2 – Watchman Lookout Station

Another long day, not by intention but what’s that saying about when the iron is hot? Granted it was by design that I sat the alarm for 5 AM. I wanted plenty of time to get into position before the sun popped up over the rim of Crater Lake, and if things went really well a hike up to the Watchman Lookout Station for breakfast.

The alarm went as expected and sliding out of bed I took a look at the thermometer; 34F outside the trailer. I’ll be the first to admit that my days of bivvying are, at the least, going to be few, but I felt no gilt as I turned on the furnace to heat the trailer to a balmy 64. Pot of water on the stove for coffee and a quick step outside to relieve myself.

That’s when I saw the night sky full of stars!

West Rim

Getting to our previously scouted spot on the west rim I was surprised at the amount of wind coming across the lake. It was while Theresa and I were putting on an extra layer that i realized the east rim was already tinged with pink. Tripods set up we proceed to do jumping jacks to keep the blood circulating. But I think the excitement of watching the rim grow brighter and knowing what was coming kept us warm as much as the goofy dance we were doing.

Shutters started clicking away as the sun made it’s appearance. I was alternating between shooting single frames and bracketed shots. Once the sun cleared the rim and we relaxed feeling confident that we had captured something worthwhile on our cards we decided to take our packed breakfast to the top of a massive hill nearby and breakfast at the Watchman Tower.

Watchman Lookout Station

The view from up here was worth the exertion of climbing up the steep switchbacks. And the treats Theresa had prepared were delicious. For someone who has spent most of his time exploring at sea level having breakfast and watching the lights and shadows play over the landscape from 6000+ feet was something else.

The Watchman Lookout Station No. 168 is located 8,025 feet above sea level on Watchman Peak, a high point on the western rim above Crater Lake. Watchman Peak was named by William Gladstone Steel in 1886 when he brought a survey team to Crater Lake to measure its depth. The lookout structure was constructed in 1932, and served the dual purpose of fire lookout and trail museum. The lookout location was selected by Merel S. Sager of the National Park Service Landscape Division.

Early detection and prompt suppression of forest fires was a primary responsibility of the National Park Service. Lookouts, like the one on Watchman Peak, were located on heights overlooking great expanses of forest area. The Watchman tower was part of the fire detection network for Crater Lake National Park which included a number of National Park Service, United States Forest Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs lookouts. A trained observer, usually a park ranger, manned the lookout and kept in contact with the fire dispatcher at the park headquarters on short-wave radio. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps also provided observers. The National Park Service manned the Watchman Lookout Station during fire season until 1974 and intermittently since then.

East Rim

Back at camp we reorganized our gear, started the charging process on spent batteries using our Yeti 400; how did I ever get along without one of these? Another cup of coffee by the campfire and I started researching just where and when the Milky Way would make an appearance over the crater.

A new moon is only a couple of nights away so there is just a sliver of moon. The constellation Sagittarius will be high over the SW rim of the lake around 10 PM and with night at 7 PM it should be spectacular. I have a new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens for just such event so things were lining up.

We took a small nap, then in the afternoon jumped back in the FJ with compass in hand. Finally found a spot I like that should have the Milky Way coming up just over Wizard Island. There’s a bonus in that I should also be able to frame an incredible cliff face in the shot as well.

Long day. But we’ll catch up on sleep once we get to the coast tomorrow.

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