Erik Johnson, 1970-1973

Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories

Erik Johnson, 1970-1973

Let’s see, Crater Lake. Well, I remember getting up early and hiking to the top of that mountain by the lodge…before breakfast once. Beautiful view from up there, the lake was as smooth as glass I could hardly tell where the lake stopped and the shoreline started the reflections were so clear. We did that hike more than once. One time we hiked back home along the ridge top and dropped down into the neighborhood from the east.

I remember the bears waking up from hibernation and roaming just inside the tree line along the edge of the residential area. The snow pole still measured a good five feet of snow. I didn’t go out in the back yard and explore that day.

Occasionally it would rain on top of the deep snow and then freeze, leaving the surface of the snow as hard as concrete. This made for all kinds of off beat entertainment. Like riding a bicycle on top of 8 feet of snow and not sinking in a bit. And sledding, no sled required. My tow friends and I discovered that when the snow is frozen like that if you plant your butt on the slope, point your feet down and shove off just a bit you can slide a good long distance. This was great fun until we wore holes clean through the seats of our pants. Somehow I don’t think mom was feeling as giddy about our new-found sledding methods as we were! Of course it’s not much of a logical leap for a trio of young boys to figure out that if sledding on blue jeans is fast, then a sled is going to be that much faster. Well, we each grabbed our sleds and headed for the top of the hill. We went higher up that day than we ever did before. I think I was too young to fully appreciate the lesson in basic physics I learned that day. The frozen snow surface meant greatly reduced friction. Couple that with the added downhill distance that climbing higher than ever allowed, and you have a recipe for speed, the result of which was not fully appreciated by my friends or me before the first sledder tried to run. And that sledder was me. Not far into that run, like maybe 15 feet or so, I realized that these conditions were well beyond anything I had ever experienced and that the huge push my two friends gave me to get me started was entirely unnecessary. I was going waaaaay to fast for my comfort level as trees began to blur by and every little bump I encountered sent my flying into the air. I’m not sure I can remember how long I managed to keep the sled upright, but I do recall sliding for a distance on my stomach with the sled on top, riding me down the hill. I finally came to rest as I flew feet first into a tree well in the snow. My run must have been quite the startling sight because as I was climbing out of the tree well, I saw my friend hop onto his sled and come barreling down after me to see if I was ok. His was truly and astounding feat. He did his run standing up on a toboggan, holding onto nothing but the front pull rope for stability.

This is just one of libraries-worth of fond memories that I have of Crater Lake. I remember my cousins and family sledding down from the rim of the lake on the closed, but plowed road, in the full moon’s light. Skiing cross-country from the rim down to the residential area, bundling up for long snowmobile rides on the unplowed roads of winter, exploring carefree and safe through the woods all summer long, dad taking me orienteering to places that, to this day, I couldn’t find on my own.

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