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Authors: Kathryn Meyer Griffith

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Dinosaur Lake

BOOK: Dinosaur Lake
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Dinosaur Lake

By Kathryn Meyer Griffith

 

Dinosaur Lake

by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

(a romantic science fiction horror novel)

 

Cover art by: Dawné Dominique

Copyright 2012 Kathryn Meyer Griffith

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be

reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form,

including digital and electronic or mechanical,

including photocopying, recording, or by any

information storage and retrieval system, without

the prior written consent of the author, except for

brief quotes for use in reviews.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names,

places and incidents either are the product of the

author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any

resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead,

events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1

“Ma’am, please watch your step,” Henry Shore, Chief Park Ranger for Crater Lake said, cautioning the woman as she inched closer towards the caldera rim overlooking the lake. A leather holster holding the ranger’s gun squeaked as he moved.

The ranger was tall and wore a flat-brimmed Smokey the bear hat which often hid his intense blue eyes and shaded a handsome face. It was a movie star’s face, his wife, Ann, always said, set off by long dark hair that curled down around his strong neck; hair longer than park regulations allowed, and his one eccentricity. He’d worn it that way since he’d left the New York police force.

His wife maintained he was pining for his hippie youth and perhaps that’s why he’d lost so much weight the last few years; he was as slim as the day she’d married him. He looked really good in his dark green and gray uniform.

When he realized the woman hadn’t heard him, Henry instinctively reached out and took her pudgy arm, pulling her away from the edge. Visitors (that’s what they called the tourists who flowed into the park) rarely listened. They traipsed all over the place never looking where they put their feet, lollygagging along. Always feeding the animals, though they’d been warned not to because it was against park rules. Some of the wildlife could be dangerous, especially the bears. They weren’t like the stuffed teddy bears one could buy in the Rim Village toy shop, cute and cuddly–the real ones could bite. At least once a year some naive park visitor was mauled or bitten by an animal because they hadn’t heeded the rangers’ advice. But park visitors and their money, Henry knew, were what kept the park open and the paychecks coming.

“It’s dangerous to get too close,” Henry warned the careless woman. “The rim is composed of loose rocks and dirt combined with patches of snow.” It was not unusual to have snow on the ground until July. “It’s very unstable. Doesn’t take much to go sliding over the edge or to start an avalanche.”

He didn’t tell her about the dog which had escaped from its mistress last week and chased a squirrel right over the edge and all they recovered was the poor dog’s dead, broken body. It would only scare her. In most spots, nothing could climb up or down from the rim to the lake. Nothing.

“It’s a straight plummet of nearly five hundred feet in some places, and in others as far down as two thousand, to the water. Right here it’s about fifteen-hundred.”

The woman caught her breath, met Henry’s eyes, and nodded gratefully. She clutched her purse closer to her coated side and obediently stepped back. So did some of the others who’d inched too close to the precipice. They were already winded from toiling uphill a quarter of a mile through the close-set trees, slipping on the remaining patches of snow and hunks of lava rock and powdery pumice, weighed down with all the junk park visitors inevitably seemed to drag along: video and regular cameras, cell phones and enough food to last a week.

In the park it was chilly, even though it was mid-June. The summer season lasted barely two months until early September. Then the white stuff would begin to fall and continue falling until early June. There were heavy traces of snow dotting the landscape around them and crusted up along parts of the rim. Last winter the park had had over seventy inches. From December to March, Henry and his wife had holed up in their little stone house after their work days, before the roaring fire, like hibernating bears.

“You say the lake was once a volcano?” the woman covered her earlier indiscretion by asking politely, her eyes studying the blue lake shimmering so far below, a huge sapphire embedded in a setting of multicolored rocks and lush evergreens.

“Yes, ma’am,” Henry replied, going into the well-rehearsed spiel he’d learned when he’d first signed on as a lowly park ranger. It was the same speech, the same tour he’d given, in one form or another, at least a thousand times. He could recite it in his sleep, even if he didn’t do it daily any longer.

“Ages ago Crater Lake was a volcano called Mount Mazama, part of the Cascade mountain range that stretched from Mount Garibaldie in what is now British Columbia to Lassen Peak in northern California. Geologists estimate it erupted about seven thousand years ago. Fiery magna, ash, cinder, and pumice spewed out in avalanches, some of them coming from underground beneath the base of the mountain. The escaping lava streams left a vast cavity that caused the twelve-thousand foot peak to collapse and form this breathtaking caldera.

“Over the centuries the caldera accumulated water from rain and snow and created the lake you see below. Evaporation and seepage, balanced with precipitation, keep the water level fairly constant; there are no inlets or outlets that we know of. The lava cooled over time and now the water’s pretty cold, fifty-five degrees at the surface in high summer; much colder at the lower depths. Right now the surface water is around thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.”

Henry frowned slightly. But, according to George Redcrow, one of his park rangers and a good friend, the water was steadily warming. George thought it had started with the earthquake they’d had a few years ago.

Henry continued with the rest of his speech.

“The pure water supports little life, except for aquatic moss, which, by the way, is found at extreme depths in this particular lake. Originally the caldera contained no fish due to the lack of adequate food and spawning grounds; but over the years we’ve stocked it and now there’s rainbow and brown trout, and Kokanee salmon in it. No fishing license is required.”

Henry didn’t notice the women attempting to snag his attention. He was looking in the other direction, still talking.

“Later, additional volcanic activity within the caldera produced the cinder cone, a volcano within a volcano, which you see below to your right.” He pointed at a diminutive island that rose out of the water and was covered with evergreens. “The island is known as Wizard Island–which, by the way, is as high as Niagara Falls and covers several acres. The island also holds three or four boat houses where some of the tour boats are kept. There are also two smaller cones in the lake, but both are below water level.”

Someone asked, “You don’t have any major volcanic activity these days, though, do you?”

Henry recognized the nervousness in the man’s voice. Standing there, vulnerable as they were, he could sympathize with the man. Even a tiny earthquake sounded threatening to someone already on steep ground.

“No, sir, that all stopped thousands of years ago,” Henry tossed back the standard answer he was supposed to give, though he disliked lying. The key word in the man’s question had been
major.
No, no major earthquakes. But he remembered the earthquake they’d had a few years ago. It hadn’t done much damage above ground, but no telling, as George had pointed out, what it had done to the magna underneath the caldera and beneath the park’s land.

Yet no need to frighten the visitors.

“Over there, you can see Phantom Ship, the only other above-water cone island in the lake.” The Chief Ranger directed their attention back to the landscape around them, and the people craned their necks searching for it. “There. That miniature island covered in wildflowers, trees, and topped-off with columns of volcanic rock, which gives it its unique silhouette and thus its name.”

“Yes,” someone muttered, “it does look like a ship, doesn’t it?” A chorus of agreement followed.

“I suggest that, if you have the time, you take one of the day cruises to visit both islands. They’re well worth the ticket and the trip. But be prepared for a wait as the boats fill up quickly.”

He paused. Beneath his boots he thought he felt a slight tremor. Then nothing. “No private boats are allowed in Crater Lake, only the park run concessionaires’ tour boats. I’ll warn you all now, in order to preserve the purity of the water, no one is allowed to swim in the lake, either.” Yet people regularly snuck into the water, as cold as it was, for a quick swim anyway, just to say they’d done it.

Henry watched what appeared to be two water bugs across the lake leaving Cleetwood Dock. They were really sixty-foot boats heading towards Wizard Island. Probably the last tour of the day and running late.

Below were more people with other tours walking along the crater’s rim. Sometimes their voices could be heard drifting on the wind, snatches of conversations or soft laughter that played in whispers around Henry’s head.

He acknowledged, with a smile or a tip of his hat, the people in the tour group working their way past them up the two-and-a-half miles from Rim Drive to the fire tower at the summit of Mount Scott. Mount Scott was the highest point in the park at 8,926 feet. It had a wonderful view of the surrounding lands, including the second highest mountain in the park, Cloudcap, and was popular with the visitors.

Henry nodded to the park ranger in charge, Matthew Kiley, returning the other man’s grin of amusement, and continued his presentation without a hitch. His men still got a kick out of seeing him with the visitors, especially since his recent promotion to Chief Ranger. They all knew that Henry hated his office and shiny desk. He missed being their friend, their colleague and detested having to boss them.

Henry enjoyed being outside, damn the waiting paperwork, the telephones, the computers, the meetings and the politics of his new position, and grabbed every chance he could to be out in the park. He told everyone that being short-handed as they were, with the budget-cuts and the federal shut-downs, filling in on guiding the tours was the least he could do to help his over-worked men. Truth was, he just plain enjoyed it.

He was disgusted with the way the Federal Government had cut funding to the park and how they’d refused to replace Ranger Griffen, who’d retired last month. His men might have to accept temporary pay cuts, if he wanted to keep everyone on the payroll. Money was tight. If it weren’t for the park visitors and their generous donations, the park would have to close.

“To your left,” Henry forced himself to smile for the people in spite of his gloomy thoughts, inhaling fresh air into his lungs, “is Cleetwood Cove. You can’t see it clearly because it’s five miles away, but it’s the only entrance or trail down to the water, weather permitting. Boat tours leave every two hours.”

One of the children pestered a grownup to let them go on the boat tour and got a resigned, but weary nod.

“There are only six lakes in the world,” Henry resumed in a resonant voice, “deeper than Crater Lake, which, at its greatest depth, has been measured at 1,932 feet. In the western hemisphere, only Great Slave Lake in Canada is deeper, and only by eighty-three feet.”

He stared out over the circle of water below, still able to appreciate the beauty of the place after all the years he’d been there. It was a sight he wanted to look upon every day for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, though trained as an E.M.T, a firefighter, commissioned as a gun-carrying law enforcement officer, and a park ranger, he’d eventually be forced to resign someday. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone. He and Ann had already decided to relocate after his retirement somewhere in the area, perhaps around Klamath Falls.

Somehow the land, the park, had captured Henry’s heart and soul. He’d never felt such a passion for a place before. Ann was always amazed at the love her husband had for their home.

A young woman with fiery red hair peered over the edge, tossing a small rock into the abyss. She was about to toss a shiny piece of quartz, but decided to pocket it instead. Looking up guiltily, the woman pretended to pay more attention to Henry’s speech.

“Crater Lake is approximately 25 miles in diameter and the rim that we’re standing on is formed of varicolored lava rocks,” Henry told the group.

“The water is so incredibly blue,” one of them, a short man with a wild-looking beard commented, unintentionally interrupting him. The visitors always noticed the vivid blue color. It was one of the first things they commented on.

“I’ve never seen such a brilliant blue,” said another guy, further back in the crowd, supporting the observation. He was holding the hand of a young girl, about ten years old, with braces that glittered in the sun every time she smiled.

Henry explained. “That’s because the water is so crystalline and unpolluted it acts as a prism for the sun’s rays, reflecting them to the surface. When it’s overcast or cloudy the blue isn’t quite as intense.”

The water below, a mirror, cast back everything around it in hauntingly muted colors. A hawk swooped down over their heads and with a dip of its wings soared into the billowy clouds above.

It was getting late. Time to wind up the tour and get the people back down to their RVs, or lodge rooms, safe and snug, before the night fell. The park could get very dark after the sun went down.

He sped up the program, shivering with the first arrival of the cold evening air. “The lake was discovered in June 1853, by a party of prospectors led by John W. Hillman as he was searching for the ‘Lost Cabin’ gold mine. He never found the mine, but while climbing up the slopes of Mount Mazama to get a better view of the area, he and his mule nearly stumbled over the precipice here. Which would have been a really bad step.”

A couple of chuckles.

“Though Hillman never found the lost gold mine, discovering the lake was almost as good. I believe this is the most beautiful lake in the world–but, then, I guess I could be biased because I live and work in the park. Well,” Henry declared, “it’s time to return to the lodge.”

Out of nowhere, the red-haired woman blurted out, “Have you ever seen the creature in the lake, Ranger Shore?” She was snacking on a big bag of M&M’s and between her words she crunched on the candies.

BOOK: Dinosaur Lake
4.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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