This past summer I was able to visit Crater Lake National Park with a program called Partners in the Park sponsored through the National Collegiate Honors Council.

Partners in the Park allows honors students from across the country to spend a week fully immersed in one national park.

When I first heard about the program through the EKU Honors Program, I knew that I wanted to participate.

The EKU Honors Program has grants available for honors students to attend Partners in the Parks. I applied for a Trailblazer Grant in the late fall and fortunately, I received one and was on my way to Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is located in southern Oregon and was formed as a result of the eruption of Mount Mazama. After the eruption, precipitation and mountain runoff filled the volcano which created Crater Lake.

One of the most mesmerizing aspects of Crater Lake is the pure blue water. The water is obtained solely from run off from snow and rain. When I first started looking into participating in this program, the bright blue water caught my attention immediately and I knew I had to go. I had never seen water so blue before and I felt numb when I came face-to-face with it on the first day.

My group was able to take a boat tour around the lake led by a park ranger. This tour gave me the best perspective of Crater Lake. From up on the mountain, many of the rock structures appeared small but, being eye-level with the water, I realized that I was the one that was small. I couldn’t comprehend the enormity of it all.

There were many activities planned for me to participate in while at Crater Lake, including plenty of hiking all week long.

I was able to hike through a wildflower garden and look at plants and vegetation that survive in the alpine climate. I walked around the former park superintendent’s house and learned about the many ways the park copes with 40 feet of annual snowfall. I climbed several peaks including Mt. Scott which was nearly 9,000 feet in elevation and is the highest point in the park.

Lastly, I was able to hike down from the top of the old volcano towards the water. At that time, I was truly able to capture how clear the water was and how large Mount Mazama was. I even drank some water since it was so pure.

Although some of these hikes were difficult, I was glad to have been surrounded with such encouraging peers as I challenged my limits.

I was also able to learn about the long history of Crater Lake. Often times, it is easy to forget about the history of natural places because we are so enamored with their beauty in that moment.

Many rangers and historians spoke about Crater Lake as a sacred place and how the indigenous people used Crater Lake for religious aspects. I also spent time looking at the different rock formations and the evidence of an active volcano.

Overall, this trip pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to connect with people and nature in a new and fascinating way. Though there were times where I felt physically and mentally tired, I was able to grow with my peers and bond through our new connections to Crater Lake. In the end, my weaknesses made me stronger and I was truly able to appreciate this natural wonder.

Everyone should take time to visit at least one National Park in their lifetime because there are many lessons to be learned, and the deep connection that we all share to nature can be felt.

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