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the old man of the lake
May 18, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

It's just a dead old tree trunk...that's been floating around Crater Lake for at least a hundred years.
posted by moonmilk (59 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
Anyone else think of Green Noah? Just me? Okay. *shiver*
posted by Gator at 2:23 PM on May 18, 2011


My face time with this thing. . .
posted by Danf at 2:36 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've seen this. What they fail to fully convey here is that it's really kind of eerie when you're up close.

Crater lake is beautiful, but it's actually kind of inhospitable. That water is freezing, and I think I remember reading that there's not any kind of fish in it. There are few access points to the lake since it's surrounded by cliffs, and any sand/gravel --what little there is of it -- is really sharp volcanic stuff.

All this makes the lake very quiet, and while it's beautiful, it's kind of foreboding, too. It's not the kind of place where you're going to hang out on the beach and go for a nice dip.

Coming across this strange log during one of the tourist boat rides is actually kind of strange. It's a lot more ghostly feeling than you'd expect. It feels perfectly reasonable that there's be a log floating there, but when you see its odd position, then look down into those dark waters and see it's immense height, it throws you a little. It's like its been there forever...just waiting.
posted by silkyd at 2:38 PM on May 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


> What they fail to fully convey here is that it's really kind of eerie when you're up close.

Well, for me at least this picture conveyed that very well.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:40 PM on May 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


That's pretty groovy overall. I love this kind of thing. I sure hope it doesn't end up being ruined as more people learn about it. (I think about people cutting down THE Joshua Tree and bullshit like that.)

Fascinating. Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 2:46 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've also seen this, and it's very weird. But Crater Lake is very weird. (It does have fish, which the Park Service wants gone, so fishing is not just allowed but encouraged.)
posted by rtha at 2:49 PM on May 18, 2011


Why would they want the fish gone?
posted by dng at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2011


Why would they want the fish gone?

Because the tree trunk commands it!
posted by fijiwriter at 2:54 PM on May 18, 2011 [41 favorites]


Crater Lake had no indigenous species of fish. It was stocked regularly until WWII.

They're not a part of the natural ecosystem, therefore they shouldn't be there.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Invasive species? Probably upsetting natural ecosystem, which is pretty unique.
posted by stbalbach at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's staring right at you, rtha!
posted by orme at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2011


National Park Service webpage about the fish of Crater Lake.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:57 PM on May 18, 2011


"Almost perfectly circular in shape" certainly looks a lot different than I imagined it.
posted by moonbiter at 3:01 PM on May 18, 2011


Crater Lake had no indigenous species of fish. It was stocked regularly until WWII.

Did I.Q.'s just drop sharply while I was away? rtha already said they were alien fish.
posted by cashman at 3:01 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


cashman: there is no use of the world "alien" or other explanation by rtha in any comment in this thread about the removal of the fish.
posted by hippybear at 3:03 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


cashman: Did you miss the part where dng asked why the NPS wanted the fish gone?
posted by elsietheeel at 3:05 PM on May 18, 2011


I am sorry, everyone.
posted by dng at 3:06 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Went to Crater Lake for the first time last summer and did the drive around it. It was breathtaking. Hopefully if we go back this year, we'll do the boat tour.
posted by Tacodog at 3:07 PM on May 18, 2011


"...a ‘great stump’ out in the waters of the lake near Wizard Island." This sounds like something one could find in a Tolkien novel.
posted by Meatafoecure at 3:07 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's staring right at you, rtha!

I know! Seriously, Crater Lake is weird*. Incredibly beautiful, and the drive around the rim can be completely terrifying no matter which direction you go (because you could fall down the cliff into the lake, or you could fall down the other cliff and roll down the outside of the crater). The lot where we parked to walk down to the boat launch was also home to the largest, bitey-est mosquitoes I've ever encountered, and I've lived in Maine, Vermont, Maryland, and DC.

We kept stopping and staring at the views, because we couldn't believe how much it looked like all the postcards (except, you know, more). We had a drink on the patio of the lodge and just gazed out at the spectacular beauty of the place.

*This is par for the course for Oregon, which is full of weird. And I'm not even talking about Portland. If you're a fan of strange, naked geology, Oregon is for you.
posted by rtha at 3:10 PM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is it at all possible that this thing could get waterlogged enough that it dips below the surface but not so much that it sinks to the bottom? Because seeing it suspended in mid-water would be even creepier.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:11 PM on May 18, 2011


If Crater Lake blows your mind, take the time to seek out Newberry Volcano. It has the most recent eruption in Oregon, a huge hillside of obsidian. . .basically a square mile of glass boulders.
posted by Danf at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


metafilter: waterlogged enough that it dips below the surface but not so much that it sinks to the bottom
posted by ian1977 at 3:24 PM on May 18, 2011


If Crater Lake blows your mind, take the time to seek out Newberry Volcano.

Oh hell yeah. We only explored as far as Lava Butte, on the flank of Newberry, and that was jaw-dropping all by itself.
posted by rtha at 3:30 PM on May 18, 2011




What a shame that a long trunk should keep it from reaching the shore.
posted by Meatafoecure at 3:35 PM on May 18, 2011


I worked at Crater Lake -- at the lodge -- through the summer of 1996. The most amazing summer of my life: full of highs and lows and more than a few massive head-spinning context switches.

I'm a painter. Living at the edge of Crater Lake was like living upon the world's greatest painting. Each day brought a new variation in the color of the water. The color could shift from blue to purple to a deep black in the course of a single hour or a single day. Only twice did I see it become a perfect mirror of the sky above. In time, I began apprehending these variations as the shifting moods of a living entity. I'd spend hours some mornings just studying the motion of the water from the edge of the rim.

In all those months, I took a boat ride only once. ( The boat landing was almost halfway around the rim from the dormitories in which the lodge workers stayed at that time -- and I had no car. ) At one point, the boat passed quite close to the Old Man. I distinctly recall seeing the skeleton of that great tree magnified beneath the lens of the water, a sudden sense of displacement as I lost visual contact with the world above.

The summer I was there was kind of rare in that no one committed suicide by jumping in the lake from one of the surrounding cliffs. ( A few teenagers did manage slide down the scree which lined the caldera walls near Wizard Island. They were rescued without incident. ) I only mention this because the Old Man was regularly mistaken for -- and reported as -- someone drowning in the lake.

( I did also swim in the lake briefly. The water is cold -- not as cold as I initially expected, just cold -- and absolutely, stunningly clear. It felt like a proper baptism after everything that happened there. A rite of passage. )
posted by Kikkoman at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


I drove all around Crater Lake, never did spot the Old Man, but the water really is blue.
posted by nomisxid at 3:39 PM on May 18, 2011


That's pretty groovy overall. I love this kind of thing. I sure hope it doesn't end up being ruined as more people learn about it. (I think about people cutting down THE Joshua Tree and bullshit like that.)

For those that haven't heard it, the RadioLab podcast on the death of the then-thought to be oldest living non-clonal organism is worth a listen.
posted by rtimmel at 3:43 PM on May 18, 2011


It's better than bad, it's good!
posted by 1970s Antihero at 3:47 PM on May 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I believe that cashman was making a jokey reference to a certain Ellen Ripley quote.
posted by cortex at 3:58 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Flesh speaks...wood listens.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:12 PM on May 18, 2011


For some reason, any submerged object visible from the surface of a great stretch of water - be it a shopping trolley or a ship wreck - gives me a vertiginous fear. If I ever saw the Old Man, I think I'd probably die.
posted by hnnrs at 4:12 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Card Cheat: Because seeing it suspended in mid-water would be even creepier.

Most definitely; even just loss of mass could make it neutrally buoyant, and just a few feet below the surface could make it a big hazard for boats. It sounds like the water doesn't change temperature much, but it could vary enough that the Old Man rises in the winter and sinks in the summer due to the density of the water.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:34 PM on May 18, 2011


For some reason, any submerged object visible from the surface of a great stretch of water - be it a shopping trolley or a ship wreck - gives me a vertiginous fear. If I ever saw the Old Man, I think I'd probably die.

This is kinda why icebergs scare the hell out of me.
posted by bayani at 4:54 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up within a couple hours drive of Crater Lake, but for some reason don't really remember getting up there much as a kid. But I did visit about 5-6 years ago, with some family and friends. It was a beautiful day, and as anyone can see, the scenery is gorgeous. We took so many great pictures, and then I lost my camera. For some reason it's very painful for me to lose photos, and I still get bummed out about those. I definitely hope to get back there soon.

Also, hnnrs, I concur about submerged objects. Terrifying!
posted by JenMarie at 5:00 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


> If you're a fan of strange, naked geology, Oregon is for you.

And boy, who isn't!

If the land shapes the people, then Oregon is the prime example of it. Strange and naked both of them are.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:43 PM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


rtha - "The lot where we parked to walk down to the boat launch was also home to the largest, bitey-est mosquitoes I've ever encountered, and I've lived in Maine, Vermont, Maryland, and DC."

I encountered this, too. The mosquitos were oppressive in the first weeks of summer.

Then, suddenly, they all just vanished.

I didn't really understand why they vanished until, while hiking Garfield Peak one morning, I encountered millions (?) of dragonflies hovering in the breeze from the lake. Literally hovering. They were pointed into the breeze. Simply floating. Barely moving their wings.

That place is inhabited by the miraculous.
posted by Kikkoman at 5:51 PM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does wanting to paddle out to it in a canoe with a power drill and one of those sets of screw-in tree faces make me a bad person?
posted by Decimask at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2011


Crater lake is amazing. I too have met the old man, but the lake itself is a fantastic sight. We joked that everyone would assume we cheated the saturation in our photos, but on a good day the water really was that blue.

Go see it if you have the chance, but by all means find out when kikkoman's dragonflies are on the hunt. When we went the mosquitoes were fierce.
posted by lucidprose at 6:40 PM on May 18, 2011


rtha: "We kept stopping and staring at the views, because we couldn't believe how much it looked like all the postcards (except, you know, more)."

That exactly describes my feeling on seeing Crater Lake a few years ago. That drive was really wonderful in that my grandfather was with us (brother, mother and me) and knew all about the local geology, plants and animals (he was a long time Oregon resident). It also covers the way I felt seeing the Grand Canyon.
posted by deborah at 6:55 PM on May 18, 2011


This is really incredible. A beautiful reminder that truth really is stranger than fiction.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:21 PM on May 18, 2011


My family visited Crater Lake when I was a kid. Sadly we didn't get to see the Old Man of the Lake because it WAS SNOWING!!!! in the summer!!!!!
posted by vespabelle at 9:41 PM on May 18, 2011


While in high school we took a trip every year down to Ashland for the Shakespeare Festival, and every year we stopped by Crater Lake on the way home. Every year it was completely socked in by fog. The running joke was that there was a ranger out there with a supply of dry ice and a big tub of water, and that it was all just a ruse to sell postcards. My senior year we finally got to see the lake in all its glory, and our theory was dispelled. I really need to get back down there.
posted by calamari kid at 11:05 PM on May 18, 2011


A few weeks after our trip, a car with the family dog inside fell 1100 feet off the rim. 1100 feet. And the dog survived by jumping off the sunroof.

This was in September and I remember the Park Rangers were worried about getting the car out before the snow closed down the park. I think the park is closed most of the year due to snow now that I think about it.
posted by Tacodog at 12:32 AM on May 19, 2011


out of the sunroof, rather.
posted by Tacodog at 12:32 AM on May 19, 2011


We did a summer road trip into Oregon. People were very surprised when we told them we weren't going to the coast but in towards Bend. It was a volcano trip. We did Newberry and Crater Lake as well as a few other odds and ends. I really recommend it. Bend is a great place and we enjoyed seeing all the weirdness the volcanoes have etched into the landscape. Also, there were woodchucks eating the grass in front of a strip mall on Bend's main drag whenever we passed by. Dunno about that.

Anyways, yes, oddness abounds. I loved it.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:46 AM on May 19, 2011


No way! No stinking way!! The world is so small... Kikkoman, I worked at the Rim Gift Shop in the summer of 1996, May to the first week of September! You roomed in the staff dormitory out back? I slept up under the rafters with a few other women. Holy cow, there's a good chance we met, I ate at the lodge every morning and evening with other people who worked in the lodge and the gift shop. Played cards with some men and women once or twice a week in the evenings.

I was at Information Desk in the shop. View straight out onto the lake, every day. Gorgeous. I love Crater Lake. It never inspired fear in me, but then, I grew up in the outdoors, went on a walkabout when I was three years old (our family dog saved my life, led me to a house where the man looked at the dog tag and phoned my parents), nature's always made me feel "ooh pretty what's over there?" Two bear encounters in my life, same sort of thing – "gosh they're beautiful. They could eat me, heh. Wow, they move so gracefully..." Ran across a mother and cubs checking out campsites one time I took a "vacation" downhill at the campground. Cubs are freaking adorable, my Maine Coon reminds me of the way they moved, like rollicking balls of carefree paws and ears and mouths. (But do NOT approach a mother bear. Don't move, keep calm, let her get her little 'uns together and ramble out at her own pace. That's what the one I saw did.)

I did the announcements for boat rides on the lake – the company that runs the lodge and gift shops also runs the boats. Also had the pleasure of warning people not to take any path to the lake other than the one trail down. Almost every year someone dies by trying to climb down the crater's side.

I mostly remember the questions. "Can we hike down to the lake?" "On the designated trail, yes. Please don't take any others."
"When do chipmunks turn into squirrels?" "Well, ah, they're different species..."
"When do deer turn into elk?" [see above]
"When do deer turn into moose?" [see above]
My favorite, though: "WHERE'S THE LAKE??? WE CAN'T FIND THE LAKE!!" I'd take my arm and do a "turn around and look behind you motion" with a smile comprehensive of their impatience. "What? Where is it?" Me: "It's that big blue thing." "OH! HOLY COW IT'S BIG!" heh.

One evening in summer I was counting out the tills (I balanced my till to the penny often enough that I earned the privilege, heh) with our manager. My head in dollar bills, she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh my God." She was someone who never took the Lord's name in vain, so I wondered what was going on. "Anna," she told me, "look out the window."

And there... there was a rainbow. A double rainbow. From one edge of the caldera to the other. Reflected in the deep blue waters. I have never seen anything so indescribably beautiful. "Beautiful" hardly even touches it. We stood in silence, watching the double rainbow, the mountains around the lake reflected in it with the palette of colors draped across.
posted by fraula at 5:34 AM on May 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Crater Lake had no indigenous species of fish. It was stocked regularly until WWII.

They're not a part of the natural ecosystem, therefore they shouldn't be there.


A huge fucking meteor crashing into the planet isn't part of the natural ecosystem either.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:46 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148 foot (655 m) deep caldera[1] that was formed around 7,700 (± 150) years ago[2] by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama.

D'uh, oops.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:58 AM on May 19, 2011


A huge fucking meteor crashing into the planet isn't part of the natural ecosystem either.

Sure it is. Earth has been tempered by outside intruders for millenia and our current surroundings are a reminder of it. We're surrounded by that shit. We've just been lucky when it comes to giant fucking meteors recently.
posted by h00py at 8:05 AM on May 19, 2011


Ah. Preview. I understand.
posted by h00py at 8:06 AM on May 19, 2011


What a great article! I also immensely enjoyed the ensuing posts & photos. Hopefully I can make it there myself one day.
posted by PepperMax at 9:50 AM on May 19, 2011


I want to hear more about Kikkoman and fraula!
posted by MsVader at 11:18 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I memailed him earlier and just got home, read his reply – we did indeed know each other :) I don't remember any names from that time, but I do remember going on morning walks and hikes and often passing a guy I recognized as an employee, sitting and watching the lake with a sketchbook – that would be Kikkoman!

And I'm pretty sure we chatted in the cafeteria. (I need to reply to his MeMail, it's clear we knew some of the same people too!)

I entirely agree with what he says about coming to see the lake as a living thing, by the way. What I'll say will sound corny and new-agey on the Internet, but it's one of those places with a profound... sigh. Words escape me, they're too small. The immensity, the peace, the incredible variety of fauna and flora, the lake's otherworldly yet unmistakeably Earthly waters, they touch you on a very deep level. I think you have to visit to "get" it; it's the same sort of thing visitors expressed with their awkward "HOLY COW IT'S BIG!" It's not something you can prepare to experience unless you've already seen it in person. My brother, who's a flight mechanic, got to fly over the lake in a small plane and took this photo. Those blues are true to life. She's breathtaking, that lake. Living there, you get to know her and see how she slips from one dress to another.

As a point of comparison, I do live on the French Riviera currently :) It comes nowhere near Crater Lake. Sometimes the Mediterranean gets colors that remind me of the lake, but it's the quiet and wilderness that lack. The only experiences I've had approaching it were visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks.
posted by fraula at 11:50 AM on May 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I believe that cashman was making a jokey reference to a certain Ellen Ripley quote .

The quickest way to get a favorite from me.
posted by norm at 12:12 PM on May 19, 2011


Fraula's memail inspired me to dig out some photographs from my time at the lake. They're fairly awful as such things go now, but I see few imperfections in the memories they evoke.

Looking through those photos today, I remembered something else about the lake -- which Fraula touches on in her most recent comment.

On many days -- due to the clarity of the air at that altitude -- there was no perceptible atmospheric perspective. The most distant objects -- for example, the far rim of the lake -- seemed as clear, saturated, and close as the end of my arm. That's not uncommon in much of the west, I suppose, but it shook me for weeks after I arrived there (from far smoky Appalachia).
posted by Kikkoman at 8:55 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kikkoman, those are wonderful - thank you.
posted by rtha at 10:00 PM on May 19, 2011


Thanks for the opportunity to share. :)
posted by Kikkoman at 9:21 AM on May 20, 2011


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