Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories
Lisa Johnson, 1970-1973
Of all my childhood homes, some of my fondest memories are from the years I lived at Crater Lake.
My family moved to the park when I was about Kindergarten age. Driving into the park the first time, on a narrow road lined by tall trees topped with a bright blue sky, I thought what a wondrous would it was: fresh crisp air, tall mountains, tall snow banks in winter, a deep canyon with pinnacles, brilliant wild flowers, a big deep blue lake reflecting a deep blue sky and containing a magical Wizard’s Island, a Phantom Ship, and an Old Man in the Lake….
In the winter, snow would pile up as high as our two-story duplex. Huge snow plows would roar by early in the morning, as my older brother shoveled the snow away from the house. Sometimes Mom would drove my dad, my brother and me to the top of the rim, and we’d ski down hills, around trees, until we reached the bottom. Other times Dad would take us snowmobiling or snowshoeing. But my all-time favorite was a community sled ride down the rim road. Mothers would drive fathers and kids up to the top, we’d all grab our runner sleds, pile on top and race to the bottom. It felt like a luge run at night; tall snow banks on both sides, runners on the icy ground beneath the sled, turning left, then right, then left, then right, racing as fast as we could go, under a crisp starry sky. Dad and I were a particularly fast team, and we would reach the bottom before the other teams. Back home, Mom would make us a batch of her hot cocoa and we’d relive the exciting rides down.
In the summer our family was fortunate to live in the Superintendent’s residence. The house faced a blanket of colorful wild flowers that lay between the house and the mountain ridge. Dad would take my brother and me hiking up that ridge and on other mountain trails. He taught us about pacing ourselves – speed of waling and of water consumption from our cold metal canteens – and about enjoying the beauty around us. The back side of the house looked out onto little streams and trails that let to huckleberry bushes. Mom made some tasty pies from the berries we’d collect. In the evenings, our family would gather around the large fireplace and sing songs, accompanied by Mom’s auto-harp or ukulele. Other times Mom would read us stories.
Two summers ago, my Dad, Mom and I returned to the park for a visit. It was just as beautiful as I remembered. A flood of happy family memories returned during that time. Even seeing the corner of the road where I crashed my brother’s red wagon brought a smile to my face. I’m very proud of that scar on my elbow! What a perfect place it is at Crater Lake.