Tag Archives: volcano

Crater Lake

Wow, this place is unbelievable. First, we had to climb a long way UP to get here. Crater Lake is at about 7000 feet. Second, the SNOW! It’s June and they’re still using snow plows and hand shoveling to clear roads and dig out cabins. They had about 45 feet of snow this year and in some places it drifted to about 70 feet. The huge volume of snow still laying around is amazing.

Third, the mosquitoes! It’s so strange that there’s snow everywhere, and the mosquitoes are thick and thirsty. I opened the car door and five flew in!  luckily they’re big, easy to see, and you can slap them away before to much damage is done.

We stayed in the National Park Lodge for Crater Lake last night. It’s been in operation for 101 years, so it was a bit rustic. The food was good, and we even needed reservations! It was also a bit creepy and I later learned that parts of it were used to film The Shining. That explained it.

I have to say, there isn’t much to do at Crater Lake in early June. They haven’t finished clearing the snow from the road around the lake and boats won’t be on the lake until at least June 24th. All we could really do was go to the one overlook that was open. They also had a short video about the lake at the Visitor’s Center.

It’s kind of a cool story. There used to be a 12,000 foot mountain with a pool of magma deep beneath it. Eventually, the pressures on the magma pool were too great and several vents to the surface opened. They circled the mountain and caused cracks that went from vent to vent. Eventually, the magma pool emptied, but that meant the underpinnings of the mountain were compromised. Over the course of a couple hours, the entire mountain fell deep into the earth and filled the magma chamber.

Over centuries, rain and the run-off from the snow melt eventually filled the hole with water. The lake as no streams or rivers that feed it, so the water is crystal clear. From 1880 to about the 1940s, the lake was stocked with fish, so there are still fish in the lake today.

Here are a few pictures.


The lake is known for its amazing blue color and its crystal clear water. It’s not unusual to be able to see more than 100 feet down.


When the mountain collapsed, it left sheer cliff walls. There is only one place to access the water level without scaling a 1000 foot cliff.


These guys were literally digging this cabin out by hand.


Another view of the lake from the back of the Lodge.


This is the Lodge.


Hey, there! It’s just me … and lots of snow!  I haven’t seen snow like this since we lived in South Dakota.


I forgot to mention that we drove past Mt. Shasta yesterday on the way to Crater Lake.

Pompeii and Vesuvius

Today was the whirlwind tour of Pompeii and Vesuvius.  I’ve wanted to visit Pompeii since I was a kid, so I was excited about this tour.  Unfortunately, it was a little disappointing because I didn’t know that most of the relics and elaborate wall frescoes found in the homes and public buildings were moved to a museum in Naples.  I wish the museum had been near the Pompeii site so we could have visited both.  So, a word of advice, if you’re interested in visiting Pompeii, plan some time in Naples to visit the museum, too.

Pompeii was a port city of about 18,000 people when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Many people escaped the city when the mountain started erupting, but not all.  Most of those who died were asphyxiated by the gasses from the volcano.  Many people were overcome in their homes or on the street trying to escape.  When they died, they were quickly covered by falling ash (about 14 feet of the stuff fell in a matter of hours, with much more to come).  Over time, their bodies deteriorated naturally, but the original space they occupied was preserved by the ash.  Archeologists poured plaster into these holes and made casts of each person’s original shape.  Some are quite moving and I have several pictures below.

As for the city itself today, there are parts that are very well preserved, especially the wall frescoes and the floor decorations.  Most of the buildings are just walls with no roof, but many, many clues exist to tell us quite a bit about the lives of the people who lived here.

For example, there were 13 different laundries and there were over 100 fast food restaurants.  Apparently, Pompeii was a big “take away” city.  This was probably because of all the soldiers in port and the fact that many of the poorer homes didn’t have kitchen facilities.  There are also signs supporting candidates for the upcoming election and, my favorite, the “Cave Canem” sign:  Beware of Dog.

As for Vesuvius, its a volcano.  We’ve seen several over the years, and while they sound really interesting, the crater of a volcano is pretty boring.  However, climbing to the top was quite an adventure and the views were spectacular.  I’m pretty sure the entrance to the trail was run by the mafia.  Take a look at the pictures below and I’ll tell you the story.


This is a view of Naples from the beginning of the trail leading to the top of Vesuvius.


The mountain has erupted many times and was actually 3 times taller in 79 A.D. when the eruption that ended Pompeii happened.  It is an unpredictable volcano because sometimes when it erupts, it is mostly ash, like when Pompeii was destroyed.  Other times, it spews lava.  No one knows what to expect.

In the picture above, you can see that trail to the top is actually inside the crater of an older eruption.  The jagged peaks in the distance are really the craggy rim of the crater.  The part that looks like a landing strip at the foot of those crags is an old lava flow.



The trail up was probably about ¾ a mile, but it was very steep.  I needed many stops to catch my breath.  I had to admire the couple above who braved the climb with their portable oxygen.

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See what I mean?  The crater of a volcano is surprisingly boring.  Little to no vegetation, no interesting colors, not usually any interesting shape.  Kinda boring.  In this case, the sheer cliff walls were a little interesting.  Unfortunately, it was so windy at the top, it was hard to even stand.


Okay, here’s the ticket booth.  It’s a terrible picture, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.  The entrance to the trail to the top was blocked and all traffic was diverted through this little shack.  Inside was a guy in really nice clothes sitting at a picnic table. In front of him were large stacks of Euros just piled on the table.  He didn’t have a cash register and there were no receipts or tickets. Beside him were two really big, middle-aged, enforcer types who never said a word and looked sullen and intimidating.  It was like these guys threw up some flimsy barricades and just took over the trail entrance and demanded payment.

We asked the tour guide about it later and she said we were right, it is mafia run, but at least they have a “license” from the government to do so.  However, the license doesn’t require them to pay any of the proceeds back to the government and it doesn’t require them to improve the property in any way.  It’s 100% profit. Hmmm . . .


I included this picture because we’ve seen a few stray cats and dogs everywhere we’ve visited.  This guy was enjoying a good nap.  I asked Aldo about it yesterday and he said the strays are looked after by everyone and treated with affection.  I have to say, they all looked pretty healthy and happy to me.


Here’s another picture I included to remind me of something.  Here, the ticket taker is smoking a cigarette while he does his job.  As a rule, there are smokers all over Italy, especially among the young people.  It was almost impossible to avoid the smoke walking the streets of Rome.  Also, in keeping with the Italian’s attitude toward rules, people completely ignored the no smoking signs in the train station in Rome.


Okay, now we’re in Pompeii.  This is a public courtyard that served as the main entrance to two theaters, one bigger and one smaller.  About 20 years before Vesuvius erupted there was an earthquake that damaged the place where the gladiators lived, so they moved here.  This is where they lived and practiced their art.  Archeologists found lots of their paraphernalia during the excavations.



These are the two theaters behind the courtyard.  The larger one has been updated and seats about 6000 people.  It’s still used for performances today and is scheduled for a run of Mama Mia in a couple of weeks.  I would love to see that!


The streets of Pompeii all run downhill because the city got lots of rainfall.  This design allowed them to drain.  The larger stones across the road allowed people to cross when they were flooded and they acted as speed bumps.  You can see the groves made by the chariot wheels between the stones.


This is one of the frescoes in the entrance to the house of a very rich family.  Directly behind the entrance room is the courtyard below.


All around this courtyard is the colonnade and behind the columns are the rooms the family lived in.  These include bedrooms and a dining room.


This is the room in the back corner.  It still has quite a bit of color on the walls.  Also, several people were found in this room and their bones have been preserved here.



This isn’t what you might think.  It’s a 2000 year-old McDonalds.  The rims are the tops of amphoras (you can see the side of one in the break in the wall in the second picture).  The amphoras were filled with water and a fire was lit under them.  A bowl was placed inside the rim and the food was placed in the bowl where it cooked over the hot water.  As I said above, there were many of these fast food places in Pompeii.


In Rome, and other places, like here in Pompeii, there are public fountains with drinking water.  When I first heard that the water fountains of Rome contained drinkable water, I thought they must be nuts.  But they weren’t talking about the decorative fountains.  They were talking about the fountains that look something like the one above.  In Rome, there were no spigots, they ran freely because they were often natural springs.  Also, the water was ice cold.  We refilled our bottles several times on the day we visited the Colosseum and that cold water was really refreshing. Above, Bob refills our bottle.


The state of many of the buildings in Pompeii is a lot like this.



If you have a low threshold for the randier side of life, don’t look too closely at the pictures above.  These were taken in the brothel and the frescoes were meant to be sort of a picture menu of the available services.  Below the frescoes were tiny little rooms with a stone “bed” in which the deals were sealed.


Again, don’t look too closely if you’re easily offended!  This carving was on the street and it “directed” the sailors who were walking into town from the port in the right direction for the “services” they were seeking.


Here are some of the artifacts found in Pompeii.


And now we get to the plaster casts.  Above is a dog in clear agony.  The dog was chained so that is mostly the reason for his position.  But asphyxiation is a slow and horrifying way to die and this dog proves that.


Another heartbreaking story with this young man.  They believe he’s about 14 years old.  He must have sat for a moment to catch his breath during his escape and he never got up again.



Here’s the front of the city, the part that would have faced the sea.  In fact, much of the vegetation in front of the wall would have been under water.  Today, mostly because of earthquakes in the area, the shoreline is several miles away.

Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave

What a fun place to visit! It’s an area owned by the same family for several generations and they are battling with the National Park Service for control of the site. I can see why the Park Service wants it, it is a treasure.

The first thing we noticed when we drove into the parking lot was the dead dog stretched out in the middle of the parking lot. It was a shocking and upsetting thing to see. It was also weird because ours was the only car in the lot. We weren’t sure if the site was open or if there was something wrong. With the dog, we wondered if this was the beginning of a horror movie.

Bob swerved so he wouldn’t hit the dog and it raised its head and yawned at us. What a relief! No horror movie–just a supremely lazy dog.  After we parked, I approached the dog carefully to see if it was ok. When I was about 10 feet away, she rolled onto her back and presented her belly for a good scratch.  As soon as I started scratching, she sighed deeply, flopped her head back down and didn’t move again.  She was a riot!  Apparently she is the owners pet and she takes it upon herself to patrol the grounds at night and keep all wildlife away.  During the day, she is comatose.

Anyway, after a chat with the owners, we learned about their battle with the National Park Service. The land has been in their family for generations. They’ve always operated it as a tourist attraction. Now they’re struggling to keep it in the face of much pressure from the National Park Service which wants to take over the operation. We also discovered we were a little early in the season for tourists. We had the place to ourselves!

We headed up the path to the Bandera Volcano. The whole area was covered in rough volcanic rock and the path was black from crushed lava rock.  The trail circled up the outside of the volcano until it reached the side where the the cone had collapsed and the lava flowed out.  It was a very windy day and the path was steep–probably the most strenuous thing we’ve done on this trip so far–but it was worth seeing. I’ve never been inside a volcano before. It was black and barren. Hardly anything grew inside. Eerie and other worldly.

After lots of pictures (and a mad dash by Bob to retrieve my new Solar Observatory hat when the wind blew it off), we returned to the little store and began the journey down the other path to the ice cave. Even in the middle of a burning New Mexico summer, the 20 foot thick ice sheet in this cave never melts. The cave is actually a collapsed lave tube where water naturally collected. Because of the prevailing winds, the shape of the cave, and the insulating properties of the lava, the cave never gets above 31 degrees, no matter how hot it is only 20 feet away.  We had to walk down an old wooden staircase to see the ice cave and that was an adventure in itself.  Of course, my healing calves weren’t happy, but what’s a vacation without sore legs?

You can see all our pictures here.