Sunrises over Crater Lake are always dramatic, but when the smoke from nearby wildfires obscured the sun during my visit there in September of 2015, I was treated to this remarkable scene across the lake. As damaging and dangerous as wildfires can be, I love the way they impact the light of the rising and setting sun.
It was a surreal experience driving through the fire crews and the heavy smoke to get to the park. I remember the smell of it, even along the rim, some 20 miles south of the actual fire, the haze it created over everything in the northern sky. When I climbed the short trail to Watchman Overlook in the predawn hours, I could feel the effect of the smoke on my breathing, and could imagine how bad it must have been earlier in the summer, when the fires were at their worst, and the north end of the park was entirely closed.
Wildfires are, of course, a critical part of the natural management of wilderness areas, and despite all the destruction they cause, scenes like this remind me of their necessity, and importance. There’s great beauty in the destruction, and life in the death caused by any fire, and though they must be controlled so they don’t get out of hand, it’s important to understand the positive benefits they bring to any ecosystem.