Winter Wonderland

Sunski Explorer Elisabeth Brentano decided to unplug and explore Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. She came back with some stunning imagery of this “Ultimate Winter Wonderland”.

Last winter I did something so atypical, even my steadfastly supportive family had concerns that I was on the verge of losing my mind. I drove 400 miles to a remote town in central Oregon, rented a cabin and spent Christmas alone. I didn’t have phone service or wifi, and it was pitch black by 6pm every evening. Crater Lake National Park was set to get blasted with nearly two feet of snow while I was there, and the timing just happened to coincide with the holidays, so why not embark on a solo adventure that focused on magnificent scenery and self-discovery? 

As much as I dislike being cold, winter might still be my favorite season. I grew up in Massachusetts and moved to California when I was 15, and I suppose all the palm trees and sunny days I’ve seen over the last two decades have made me miss the snow. Whether it’s sparkling, drifting or falling fresh from the sky, I’ve always been entranced by ice crystals — and the way they transform a landscape. 

I snowshoed back and forth between Rim Village and the base of the Watchman several times during my stay, and I thoroughly debated camping out there for a sunrise. While the overnight lows were a bit beyond my comfort zone (and sleeping bag rating), they did provide some extraordinary conditions in the surrounding areas. The combination of extreme cold and moisture in the air resulted in a thick coating of hoarfrost all over every single branch, fence and tree, and it was unlike anything I had ever seen.  

The first storm hit on Christmas Eve, a day later than expected. Since it also happened to fall on a Saturday, the road to Rim Village didn’t open back up for another two days. During those 48 hours, I had plenty of time to sleep, think and toast my toes by the fireplace. Life without wifi or cell service was a bit maddening at first, but after a few days, it proved to be a relief. I wasn’t distracted, and I really felt like I could do what I came to do: Work on myself and write. In fact, a number of times since then I’ve wished I could go back to my favorite little cabin in Oregon and unplug, because I’ve desperately needed it. 

While I didn’t catch sunrise from the Watchman, I did make it to Discovery Point one morning, and it did not disappoint. Just a few steps from the parking lot, I watched as splashes of peach and purple light dripped down the face of Hillman Peak, and everything was covered in a thick blanket of white thanks to another dusting of snow. After the alpenglow was gone, I strapped on my snowshoes and went for a trek around the area.  

There is nothing more satisfying than the crunch of fresh snow under your feet, and when you don’t have a phone or other people to distract you, it makes the experience all the more enjoyable. I spend a lot of time traveling by myself, but given how addicted I am to my mobile devices, I’m very rarely alone — or fully present. And let’s face it, I am addicted to technology, as are most other people my age. There is always an email to read, a text to answer or a notification to check, and it pulls us away from the important things. All the time we spend connecting with people via technology actually disconnects us from real experiences, and I wanted to pull myself away from that. 

When I explained the purpose of this trip to my mom and dad, they mostly seemed to understand my mission. I suppose my bigger concern was more of what others might think. Spending the holidays alone is not “normal,” but then again, what is these days? And since when did I let others influence my decisions? That’s when I knew this was exactly where I needed to go, and I came back from the adventure refreshed and ready for the new year. It’s amazing how such an uncomfortable situation can inject balance and truth into your life, and show you patterns you might have previously missed. 

This trip wasn’t the answer, but it certainly gave me a push in the right direction, and it helped me realize a few things. Despite having a Type A personality and needing to know the answer to everything immediately, I am capable of being patient. And despite being snowed in for two straight days, I didn’t self-destruct. I actually had an amazing time, and I think my images reflect that. I kept catching myself walking around this winter wonderland with a stupid smile on my face, silently reciting my favorite Roald Dahl quote, which seemed especially relevant: 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it…” 

Follow @elisabethontheroad on more of her adventures!