John Fertig led several Central Oregon Nordic Club members on a backcountry ski tour to the Pumice Desert in conjunction with a weekend club trip to Crater Lake National Park.
The Pumice Desert is a large flat section in the northern part of the park, covered by pumice and ash more than 200 feet deep in places, according to the Crater Lake Institute, which is a nonprofit “partner” with the park. Due to a lack of organic matter, few trees or plants are growing in this part of the park, giving it the appearance of a desert when not covered with snow.
John is a CONC member and trail volunteer who knows Crater Lake National Park well as a ski patrolman there. He offered to lead a trip of skiers to Pumice Desert on Friday, March 2.
“Four intrepid skiers conquered the early-morning ice-skating rink off Highway 97 to start skiing into the Pumice Desert from the north entrance of Crater Lake National Park at 10:00.
“We skied along the road, which is usually groomed for snowmobiles but had about 18 inches of fresh snow and no snowmobile use. With all four skiers rotating on trail breaking, we made good progress to the Pumice Desert. Temperature at the start was 23o F and extra blue kick wax was working good. The sun was in and out of the clouds with a moderate breeze.
“When we skied out onto the Pumice Desert, the wind had picked up but had firmed up the snow, which made trail breaking easier. We skied for two miles across the opening and had lunch in the trees that mostly protected us from the wind. We turned around at 12:45 and returned on our broken trail. There was one brief glimpse of Mt. Thielsen but was otherwise cloudy.”
The group connected with two more CONC skiers when heading back to the road, returning to their cars just after 2 p.m.
(Photos by John Fertig)