I have been trying to catch up on my stack of unread Outdoor Photographer magazines lately. I brought my final three unopened issues along with me for a long day of plane rides from Omaha, Nebraska, to Portland, Oregon, about two weeks ago. In the September 2010 issue, I came across an article by Randy Wells in which he recounted his retracing of John Steinbeck’s epic tour of America chronicled in his 1962 travelogue Travels with Charley: In Search of America. I am a big John Steinbeck fan (though I’ve never read this particular book), so I read on.
It was an interesting article in its own right, but what really resonated with me were Steinbeck’s observations on traveling—more specifically, the idea of a journey as an entity all its own: “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike… We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
Now, I’m not going to pretend that any of my one-week journeys (punctuated most days by a comfy motel stay) holds a candle to a three-month trans-American voyage in a camper with a French poodle (Charley), but it is true that my trips develop their own personality and, accordingly, impose their own will. Steinbeck goes on to say, “Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
Never had such a concept held more relevance than right then, on that flight. Already my Oregon trip had been letting me know who was boss. The night before, the Omaha airport (as well as our house in eastern Council Bluffs) had been pummeled by a violent hailstorm. The airport was closed for hours, eventually delaying all the next morning’s flights (including mine). I got into Denver well after my connecting flight to Portland had departed, so my fifty-minute layover swelled to three hours.
The original plan was to arrive at Portland International Airport at 10:00 am, take the hour-long train ride through Portland to my good buddy Ben’s apartment in Beaverton, and go explore the city for several hours before embarking on a road trip to Crater Lake National Park. As it happened, though, I didn’t arrive at his apartment until it was nearly time to leave again. So I had just enough time to gather most of my photography gear into two bags, pack a change of clothes, and load up Ben’s car in preparation for a weekend tour of Crater Lake, Diamond Lake (where Ben, his wife [Lori], their young son [Leo], and I would camp), and the waterfalls of Umpqua National Forest.
I understood early on that this journey would test my limits of sleep deprivation. Not only had Ben and I planned sunrise and sunset shots every day, but I also caught a cold on our first full day of camping, which seriously impaired my ability to sleep. Nonetheless, I had no plans to slow down. It was exhilarating being in such a gorgeous area, and Diamond Lake was even more beautiful than I had expected. The lakeshore was adorned with an amazing display of lush wildflowers, and Mount Bailey loomed beautifully across the lake. It was like walking into a postcard.
And as I fully expected, Crater Lake was stunning (behold its intense blueness below). With the exception of a brief storm, which made for an amazing sunset our second day there, the weather was perfect. I only wish Teri had been there to see it. She had decided not to join me for the trip, and her absence had begun to assert itself as another part of the journey’s complexion. She has accompanied me on all my major trips since we met in 2004, meaning that this was to be the longest period we’ve been apart. This made it all the more important to fully document the trip through photos, so I could show her what she missed, meaning I spent a lot of time with my camera.
The photos in this post are from Friday night and Saturday before sunset. I’ll share the rest of our visit to Crater Lake in the next post.