Annie Springs campground is a seasonal late-bloomer because winter stretches into summer at this altitude. Bill Miller photo

Annie Springs campground

Hibernating bears are stretching forelimbs and rubbing eyes after a long and not-so-cold winter's sleep. They range through the woods near Crater Lake with visions of breakfast in their heads.

Although they occasionally get that jolt of nutrition from careless campers at the Annie Springs campground, it hasn't been open for the season yet, and these skinny mammals have had to look elsewhere.

But now, there's good news for that bear who could throw on a believable disguise and ask questions of the reservation staff. Campers should begin pulling in this weekend. It all depends on weather.

"We plan to open June 16," said a clerk who didn't want to be identified. "That's more than a month before last year's mid-July opening."

The clerk was still a bit hesitant, mentioning that another weather system was predicted for the weekend, which, depending on snow, could put everything on hold for another week or two.

Fortunately, bear and human confrontations are rare these days, but caution is important. Food should be stored in the brown steel lockers provided at each site and not in tents or camper shells. Remember too that bears carry their own "jaws of life," and to avoid having your car or truck look like it was opened by a can opener, keep ice chests stowed away and not on the seat.

For those who would rather walk through nature's door rather than down the aisles of a gift shop, the Annie Springs Nature Trail offers a relatively easy stroll through an alpine meadow along a stream fed by springs that remain at a constant 35 degrees.

With wildflowers popping their colorful blossoms through the moist soil, springtime has finally arrived in the meadow and the birds dig into the mossy banks or dive into the stream, looking for a tasty meal.

The springs were named for Annie Gaines, sister-in-law of Capt. William Rinehart, commander at Fort Klamath in 1865.

That summer, the chaperoned 19-year old accompanied Rinehart and his troopers on one of the earliest explorations of Crater Lake. Climbing down a thousand feet of the caldera's vertical cliffs, she was the first white woman to touch the ice blue water of the lake.

A year later, she returned to Salem where she married a printer, Augustus Schwatka and died in 1876, just a few days after giving birth to her second child.

Earlier this month, the snow had just about cleared from the trail and Nick Campbell, a summer worker on the Crater Lake boat crew, was preparing for a hike in the meadow.

"I can't believe how little snow there is this year," he said. "This is my third year back and I don't want to leave."

Campbell hopes to be hired for the Lake's winter crew and perhaps extend his stay another year or so.

"You wouldn't believe how much I like this place," he said. "Whenever I'm not working, you'll find me hiking and exploring. You just don't find many places that are this special."

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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