Marooned – 03

Marooned in Crater Lake by Alfred Powers

 When the man on mule back, who accidentally discovered Crater Lake, cast the first white man’s gaze down the precipitous and far descending walls of that deep basin, it was his belief that the unruffled blue water, a thousand feet below, would forever remain inviolate to human touch it would never slake thirst, or wash dirt from hand or face, or be navigated.

Yet Jim Turner, on that October day in 1910, had done all that the discoverer, seeing no possibility of man’s descent down those sheer precipices, thought never would be done. Lying prone, with no cup but the lake itself, he had taken a drink of the cold, satisfying water. He had dipped up in his hat some of it with which to loosen the jelly that clung to his fingers from the sandwiches of his lunch. Finally, that morning at eleven o’clock, he had come in a rowboat to the tiny beach upon which he still stood, dismayed by a universal solitude, menaced by approaching night deserted, alone!

At six o’clock that October evening he still remained there, the only soul anywhere about the edges of the lake, the unattainable rim itself virtually left unpeopled. The winds that rocked the firs far up on that rim, descended to him with abated strength. But the cold crept down, piercing and numbing, so that he had to pace his cramped beach for warmth.

Gathering dusk had already changed the indigo water to black and was blurring the silhouette of Wizard Island out in the lake. The stars brightened and increased. He imagined they were visible to him earlier than to others, as he looked up from the darkening depths of that vast hole in which he stood. Those stars promised that the first snows, due at this season of the year, mercifully would not come that night.

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