Crater Lake National Park Centennial Oral Histories
Lois (Wise) Soulia, 1947-1953
My Grandmother went to Crater Lake in a buckboard pulled by horses; last weekend I traveled to the lake in a Jeep Cherokee. When I go there I relive all the experiences I have had at the lake over a span of sixty years and I feel the timelessness of the views my Grandmother also saw.
My Grandmother, Stella Sheets lived in Klamath Falls, Oregon and my mother, (Vivian Wise Lang) who is now eighty-eight years ole, tells of her early childhood memories of her mother, Stella, loading her and her mother’s friends and their children onto a buckboard pulled by two horses for a trip to Union Creek where they picked and canned huckleberries. A side trip up to the rim was always a treat for the berry pickers and canners.
Later Stella and family made a trip to the lake in a more modern conveyance, one of the old touring cars complete with picnic baskets mounted on the running boards. This was an open car for which Stella was dressed appropriately with a large brimmed hat with a veil, voluminous skits, and a high buttoned boots that adventurous ladies wore in those days.
As a child of a rancher who hated to leave his cattle untended and always had work to do, my childhood trips to the lake were limited, even though we lived between Klamath Falls and Merrill, Oregon at the base of Stukel mountain, not that far from the lake. The trip took about three hours, and I was usually carsick coming and going.
Over the years, I have taken my children and any visitors who come from other places to the lake and no one is untouched by the timeless beauty of the place. I make a point of hiking, skiing and camping at the lake as often as I can; somehow being at the lake renews my feeling of the continuity and beauty of life.
This year, friends and I hiked the Dutton Creek Trail to Mazama Campground and to the top and around the crater in Wizard Island. This winter we skied below the lodge area and watched a rescue crew from Chiloquin pickup a injured skier with great dispatch and skill. We visited with people from Poland, France, Kansas, and Mexico whose appreciation of the area increases our enjoyment.
One last thing. My mother and grandmother fed the ‘chipmunks’ (I know that technically they are ground squirrels), I fed them as a child, my children loved feeding them as much as they enjoyed the view, and I notice that children and people today still get a thrill of a wild animal eating out of their hand. This in spite of generations of rangers making dire prediction of the extinction the park’s chipmunks due to people feeding them improper food. Maybe the view is not the only timeless wonder in Crater Lake.
In 1952, after a year of college, I got the job of driving and manning the Klamath County Library’s bookmobile on the summer schedule, which included driving to Crater Lake, with stops along the way which included some of the communities of Upper Klamath Lake, Ft. Klamath, the Wilson Cottages (with their wonderful swim pond), the Park Headquarters, and finally the rim where there were two stops, one at the store and one at the lodge. Our library patrons at the park were the employees, ranging from the year-round rangers and their families, to the ‘summer’ help who were traditionally eighteen to twenty-one year old, or teachers who often manned the information desks or even the fire watch towers.
Our customers were fun to visit with but not always reliable about returning the county’s books. I can remember many end-of-summer forages into the dormitories and under the beds especially at the dormitories which are not part of the park headquarters complex, looking for my books.