Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories
Jeanie (Paine) Mendoza, 1960’s
For six years, when school let out in Illinois, our folks packed the four Paine small fry into a station wagon, heading West toward Daddy’s seasonal post in CLNP. Some years the road trip took two weeks and included places like Banff or Grand Canyon. Sometimes it was the mirror-image of our usual four-day late-August rush back to the Midwest.
Once we arrived, there was plenty to explore. For two years, we had Annie Creek Canyon right behind our trailer, with its deer paths, wild flowers, and huckleberries. Then we lived at the base of Munson Ridge, where pika and marmots inhabited the rocky slope and, if you climbed the cliff, you could see smoke from the garbage dump, which we anxiously reported to park staff, who were amused to ‘thank you’ for your efforts at public service.
Even with its ‘great outdoors’, CLNP might have been a lonesome place had we not met Michael, Jennifer, Joel and Marty Arthur. And the Cookseys, the Teuschers, Debbie Schulz, the Richarts, and Jan Volz. There were younger kids, like the Maddens and the Browns, and others, seasonal and permanent, whose names are now trapped in a ‘senior moment’.
What comes to mind? Monopoly games in the sunshine (how did we keep the money from blowing away?). The Arthurs’ mini travel trailer packed with “big Kids” playing cutthroat Password and pinochle. Making pizza and oatmeal cookies (Tabasco added as a practical joke on siblings). The latest 45’s on Mike & Jennifer’s tiny, tinny record player: “Wild thing, You make my heart sing (tick) heart sing (tick) heart sing (Whack!)….everything groovy….”
Summer memories like those could come from many places in the US. But the unique everyday life of a seasonal kid in CLNP might include: Being “buzzed” by Rufous hummingbirds while munching carrot sticks atop a boulder in Castle Crest Wildflower Garden. Waking one night to agonized roaring from the woods – the men who got out of bed to search deciding it must have been a colicky bear cub. Sleeping under the stars on The Watchman when Maddens were fire lookouts; then waking in the clear predawn to see the lake serene and dark, mirroring the Rim landmarks. Wearing extra bug repellent for outdoor slide talks. “And the smoke goes up the chimney just the same, just the same, just same….” Feeling proud of Dad in his green uniform. Holding a grocery bag of buttered popcorn at Rim Village movie screening: Lonely Are the Brave, Charade – the best (if not the most current) in family entertainment. Driving lessons with Harriet Kaye, held in remote maintenance lots for the safety of all concerned. A comforting two-night stay with Ann and Dick Brown during a family emergency. Snowfall in July. The view from Union Peak, Red Cone, Mt. Scott, Wizard Island. The view off the dock at Cleetwood Cove: of lure-shy kokonee, and of usually sane adults courting hypothermia in the water. The ancient legend (invented by and Arthur or a Cooksey?) Of the Latrine Monster, dread denizen of the Cleetwood pit toilets.
Sometimes the outside would intruded, overcoming the challenge of wretched TV and radio reception. One year, it was rumored, rampaging Hell’s Angels were headed for the park. A bunch of girls sat around a cabin bedroom planning where to hide should that horror come to pass. Some of the same girls camped at Mazama one night despite a breaking news story: several people murdered in their California homes, the perpetrators still at large. We were nonchalant till the sun went down and some strangers tried to talk to us…. What better place for killer to hide out than here, we reasoned! Bur we were stuck; no parent could retrieve us till morning. We left a Coleman lantern burning on the picnic table all night. In the morning we were not quite sleepless and still intact. The killings that so worried us would later be know as the Manson murders.
Though I promised myself frequent returns to the park, I’ve been back only once, in 1993. The view from the Rim pullouts was of course still spectacular. The Watchman trail was closed by snow. Our two sons were altitude-sick; one was carsick, too. (“No, Dad!” he groaned every time a certain flatlander took a curve to fast.) I recalled how, as kids, we competitively counted mosquito bites, but nothing prepared us for the hordes of voracious bloodsuckers that appeared as the sun dipped below the horizon. The boys and I dove into the car and slapped at the beasts that had slipped in with us, while Durango stayed at his tripod, snapping pictures as a full moon rose. That didn’t last long; to this day he tells of mosquitoes colliding heavily with his face. We spent a few hours in the park before retreating to a rented cabin at Diamond Lake. There we had the extraordinary good to find Ted and Marie Arthur volunteering – but that’s another story. In some ways, that visit affirmed the notion that one can’t go home again. Some things are irrevocably changed – the living quarters, the staff roster. The balance in the lake’s waters is disturbed. But even that short visit was a reminder of how much is still there, unchanged, fulfilling the vision that created national parks in the first place. It’s still home, still awaiting the traveler’s return.
The “other kids” of past summers, those whose parents have kept in touch, include an attorney, a judge, medical personnel, a librarian/gentleman farmer, a journalist. We’re parents. Good grief, we’re Grandparents! Our identities now seem to have little to do with the crew that could play kick-the-can all afternoon. I look forward to reading how that crew and their parents and everyone else makes meaning of their own time at CLNP.
Jeff was 2 ½ our first summer at Crater Lake, and we lived in a trailer house at Annie Spring ranger station. Besides playing in the inner circle of the little group of trailers, the kids sometimes ranged into the open sunny woods between us and what was then Annie Creek campground. One day Jeff came in from the woods at a run, his big eyes even bigger, saying “Me saw SOMETHING!” And when I looked, there was a doe looking our way, probably as puzzled about him as he was about her.
Early one summer, Ed wanted to go to Quillwort Pond to see the fairy shrimp, a freshwater crustacean unique to that pond in the park. All six of us set off from the roadway. There was no trail to follow, so we walked along the base of a bluff, scrambled up the bluff to high ground with a huge rock outcrop nearby, and off through the forest, following directions or instinct. We soon found the lovely little pond surrounded by forest primeval, and enchanted spot.
Ed located and pointed out the shrimp, almost invisible because they were nearly transparent, and even the kids were interested. Suddenly, on the opposite side of the pond, a big handsome shiny black bear waded quietly into the pond. He never looked our way; maybe he was just eating shrimp or taking a bath, but when he saw a big log floating on the water he began wrestling with it, big splashes, sometimes him, sometimes the log on top. After several minutes he decided he’d won, shook himself grandly, ambled off the way he was headed, and disappeared into the woods, leaving us stunned, but happy at seeing a true bit of wild nature.