Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Crater Lake, Mile 1829, Aug 12

Rim of Crater Lake - It was a hectic re-supply in Ashland and the consequence of it all was that we didn't get the journal posted. Part of the problem was that we had Dert and Seaweed Sally driving us around which made us feel pressured to be quick about things and not keep them waiting too long. We have found that while hitching a ride into trail towns from the trailhead is not hard, it is much more difficult to go in the other direction, therefore we didn't want to pass up a sure thing and then leave ourselves at the mercy of strangers. Dert and Seaweed Sally had plans of their own and certain time restrictions so we found ourselves rushing through things and trying not to be any more of an inconvenience to them than we had already been. One of our readers, Lloyd from San Diego, had responded to our plea for any local dial up access numbers for many of our upcoming re-supply towns so all we were looking for was a place from which to make he connection. We finished doing the journal while doing our laundry and then we ha d hoped to pop next door to the Library and see if we could get connected there, but the Dert and Seaweed Sally returned from their shopping and were waiting to take us back to Callahan's so we decided to skip the library and try from Callahan's.

As you have probably gathered, we weren't able to gain access from Callahan's. They allowed us to use a telephone line, but their phone system used an internal exchange. Not only did the system require that we dial 9 to get an outside line, but it also required that we select a line once we picked up the receiver, which our little computer didn't know how to do. So here we were, at Callahan's, 6 miles from any other telephone and we couldn't get connected to the internet. It was a big let down for us and we left Callahan's for the trail head feeling a little glum. We put so much energy into writing the journal and maintaining the web site that it is really important to us that we get our stuff posted, but it just wasn't meant to be in Ashland. Hopefully one of the next towns we will get connected. So, after all of that, we arrived at the trailhead at about 1:30 PM all ready to venture off towards Crater Lake. We bid Dert and Seaweed Sally farewell and thank them very much for being our trail angels and then we started up the trail.

The introduction to Section B in the Oregon-Washington guidebook (from I-5 to Highway 140 -- the first 54 miles of this leg) is described in the guidebook as being the least scenic of all the sections in Oregon and Washington. It is low in elevation, often hot, and relatively waterless for extended stretches; all things that can contribute to unpleasant hiking. After that ringing endorsement, we started up the trail, thoughts of turning back and heading for the bus depot running through our mind, but we resisted the temptation and kept on plodding along.

As usual, we had a climb away from the road and back up towards the crest, slowly gaining elevation. Pilot Rock, a large volcanic nipple, had been in our sights for the last 20 miles towards the I-5 and we were now making a direct approach towards it. It was great to be able to use it as a gauge to see how much headway we were making, but unfortunately that headway was in a south-easterly direction. It wasn't until we rounded the base of the rock that our course turned north-east and we felt like we were moving towards the correct border.

Once past Pilot Rock the terrain seemed to change a little as we were making our way through a number of open meadows intermittently separated by thick Douglas-fir forests. Cows occupied the meadows, curiously watching us walk by from a safe distance, or running for cover in the thickets of trees if they felt they were too close. The dust in those open meadows was bad and had been made worse by the cows tearing up the trail with their heavy footfalls. As a consequence the dust filled the air around us as we made our way though those sections of the trail, eager to get back under the cover of trees where there would be duff underfoot.

After a dry 9 miles of hiking we arrived at a fenced in spring (to keep the cattle from polluting it), complete with cistern and spigot. We made our way through the thick and tall grasses over to the cistern where we dropped our packs and filled our quart bottles at the spigot. Within a minute or two of arriving, T showed up with another hiker named Slim Tim. To celebrate the reunion and to add to the moment, T pulled an orange out of his pack and gave it to us as a present. When we quartered the orange so that we could all share in it's juiciness he pulled out a second so that we could have half an orange each. (Fresh fruit on the trail is a real treat, and something that is usually consumed relatively soon after leaving trail towns because of their water content.) Not long after we finished off both oranges, a fifth hiker, North, arrived. We had met North very briefly in the Callahan's parking lot and were surprised to see him so close behind us when he had said that he was going to have lunch a t Callahan's before returning to the trail (just another testament to the fact that we are not the fastest hikers on the trail).

We left the enclosed spring behind, with North and T exchanging news on the whereabouts of mutual acquaintances, and we marked on to the next spring 2 miles up the trail. Our plan was to gather water there and then start looking for a camp. We climbed a little further and then saw the small spring fed pond and ventured down the spur trail to find the spring-fed tub from which we would get our water. Well, you guessed it, the tub was dry. The pipe was running out of the ground and hanging over this tub that had a rusted out bottom, and there was no water coming from the end of the pipe. Rachel immediately groaned. What were we going to do? Going back two miles to the last water source was not a desirable option, but this spring was the last trailside water for another 8 miles, and we still had to have dinner and such. As we were standing there with Rachel bemoaning the lack of water, Scott was quietly listening. He heard water running through the pipe, it was just a matter of figuring out where it was running to. He looked around at likely places and then looked at the pond: it was full so the water had to be coming from somewhere. He wandered down to the pond side and found the end of the hose draining into the pond. He had found it!

With full bladder bags we ventured back onto the trail to find a good campsite. Our quest took us a couple of miles further along the trail to a forested saddle. Up until that point we had been traversing along the hillside through cow habituated meadows. When we arrived at the saddle we eagerly started scanning the area for a level spot free of fallen branches, but we didn't find anything suitable. We kept walking a little further and came out onto a grassy knoll. We thought that we would be sure to find something there, but as we looked closer, we noticed that the ground was covered with volcanic rocks and boulders. There didn't seem to be a place large enough for our tent that was level and free of rocks. WE dropped our packs and scoured around, climbing to the top of the knoll before returning to our packs figuring that we would have to keep walking. But, as we walked the last few feet to our packs we both looked at one spot and figured that it would do despite being only a few feet from the t rail. So we pitched the tent and had to put the fly on too as Scott was feeling a little chilled in the cool evening breeze.

We slept well and didn't stir until 5:55 AM. The shortening of the days has started to become really noticeable as the sun is rising later and later, and so are we, which is especially exasperated when we sleep with the fly on the tent and it is that much darker inside. As if getting up late wasn't enough to impact our start time, we had a spat while packing up the camp and we sat there for an extra fifteen minutes working through it before we actually started hiking a couple of minutes past 7 AM.

The morning began with a gentle descent through Oregon oaks down to the crossing of Highway 66. We had covered the four miles to that point quite quickly and when we got there we were presented with the decision of whether or not to take a series of shortcuts that went along a logging road rather than sticking to the trail which meandered its way around crossing the road a couple of times. At last we decided to take the road for the first little bit until it was crossed by the trail and then we stuck with the trail the rest of the round about route.

At last our route brought us back to the road and Little Hyatt Reservoir with its rushing creek. Once we reached that point we felt like we were making progress in the right direction and it was only another couple of miles further before we were standing at the road junction to Hyatt Lake Resort. Very briefly we contemplated the idea of heading down the road to the resort and having lunch, but it was a miles walk out of the way which meant a two mile addition to our daily mileage; all of a sudden a cafe lunch didn't sound so great after all.

Leaving the road junction we undulated around the east side of the lake and then began making our way over towards the next large reservoir lake, Howard Prairie Lake. We stopped of lunch along the way and had to satisfy ourselves with peanut butter on bagels, a chunk of cheese and some cookies. While it wasn't as tasty as a greasy burger would have been, Scott was quite pleased with the JIF peanut butter and chocolate mix that he had picked up in Ashland.

We rounded the southern tip of Howard Prairie Lake and then made our way across a series of old and new logging roads up towards the major trans Cascade route of Keno Access Road. Throughout this area there was the constant evidence that large parts had been logged in days gone by, but fortunately it was long enough ago that some new growth has developed providing us with both shade and some semblance of a wilderness feeling.

A little ways after Keno Access Road we had stopped on another logging road to take a break and just as we were getting ready to move on North came hiking up the trail behind us. He decided that we had picked a good spot for a break and took of his pack to rest up for a while and chat with us. We were surprised to see him behind us as we had expected that both he and T were miles ahead. As it turns out, North had re-supplied at Hyatt Lake Resort and had had to take the detour to get there, and T had gone into the resort for lunch. We stayed and chatted for a few minutes but then loaded our packs on and moved up the trail as North was preparing himself a peanut butter sandwich.

The trail began a steady climb away from the old logging road and we were marching up it at a pretty good pace. Knowing that North was just behind us gave us some added incentive to make good time up the hill. In comparison to North, (actually in comparison to everybody we have met on the trail) we travel very heavy and we didn't want the size and weight of our packs to appear to be a major burden.

As we climbed the hill we were both tooting away, as usual after lunch (hiking seems to speed up the digestive system and farting is a regular occurrence, especially after lunch), but then all of a sudden Scott veered off the trail and into the bushes. He said that he had been having gas pains as we had been climbing the hill, but then he realized that he had more than just gas. Fortunately we had thought to bring the remainder of the Imodium tablets that Rachel had used in Seiad Valley with us and so when Scott returned from the bushes he took two pills as directed and hoped that that would do it. For the rest of the night Scott's stomach gurgled and churned, but either the Imodium did the trick or it was a one off thing because he hasn't had any more incidents since.

Within another mile we arrived at the next spring which flowed into a pond. By that time it was nearing 6 PM, we had already hiked 23 miles, and being that Scott was not feeling too great we decided to make our camp in the small clearing under the trees just across the old logging road from the pond. It was a very comfortable camp with nice duff underfoot, but for the first couple of hours we couldn't help but look across the road and up at the trail every few minutes. We were wondering if North, T or Restless Wind (who has apparently met up with T and they are hiking together) were going to come down the trail and decide to camp with us. As it turned out, not only did none of them want to camp with us, but for all of our glancing up at the trail, we didn't even see any of them pass by.

Because we had been in camp relatively early, it meant that we were able to get to sleep at a reasonable time. While it was dark by the time we finished rubbing each others feet (Rachel acquired some foot lotion as a birthday present and it had significantly enhanced our foot rubs in the evenings) it wasn't as late as we have been finishing up recently. We were hopeful that by getting to sleep at a decent hour we would be able to get up earlier than we have been lately. Rachel even set the alarm on her watch for 5:05 AM. While it is still dark at that time we were thinking that it would buy us a little time to lounge in bed, snuggle, and then get up around 5:30 as daylight is starting to break. Well, it sounded good in principle, but despite the early time to bed and the alarm going off, we still didn't get moving until 6:05 AM. Perhaps we are destined to get a later start.

Off and running, we started our day with a 2 mile traverse across the hillside before we finally left BLM land and back into National Forest. Not that there is a huge difference in the two, but knowing that we are in National Forest give us the sense that the scenery and terrain might be slightly better, even if it is only in our imaginations. The next five miles we hiked through the forest, with no views, gently descending and traversing across some flat lands until we finally reached Dead Indian Road.

At the road we had breakfast and considered our route options. The guidebook presents and alternative route along the road to Lake of the Woods Resort. While the route is about 2 miles shorter than the official PCT, the first 9.3 miles of it are along the road, at which point it reaches the end of Section B and then starts the second part of the alternate route in Section C. While the part in Section C is arguably preferable to the official route, (and shorter again, by another 3+ miles) as it passes by a couple of lakes, the idea of doing 9.3 miles along the road first was certainly distasteful. We knew that if we started along that route we would do about 4 miles of it and then scrummed to temptation and hitch the remaining 5 miles. After considering all of the relevant factors we decided to be good little hikers and take the official PCT route.

On the other side of the road the route started out real nice, in the trees, on flat ground, and a well groomed trail that is apparently used as a cross-country ski trail in the winter time. At that point we felt good about our decision, but then after four miles of pleasant and fast walking things changed: we started around Brown Mountain, an old volcano with extensive lava fields all the way around it. We started hiking across the fields and the going was hard. A trail had been build through the lava rocks, but it was covered with smaller lava rocks, the size used in landscaping, and it was very difficult on our feet, knees and ankles. We had to slow our pace significantly and watch every step so that we didn't turn an ankle. After a mile or so of this torturous hiking we stopped and looked at the map and were disheartened to read that we had another 5.8 miles of it before we reached Highway 140 and the end of the section. 5.8 miles we thought to ourselves, this was going to be horrible and take for ever. So as not to be longer about the circumnavigation than necessary we started hiking again, but after a little while we were pleased to find that the going was significantly easier. The size of the bedding rocks on the trail was reduced and most of the time we were walking on gravel sized rocks. At first we were afraid to comment on how good the going was, but then after a few miles our confidence that this was the way it was going to be increased and we admitted to each other that we were actually enjoying the hike. The lava fields were quite beautiful in their own way and the contrasts between the color of the trees, the lava fields and the path were great. As we rounded the northwest side of the mountain Mount McLoughlin, the jewel of Southern Oregon, was looming above us. What we found out a little later was that we were going to be hiking on the flanks of Mt. McLoughlin that very afternoon.

At last we reached the trail junction where we veered away from Brown Mountain and the lava fields and we almost immediately crossed Highway 140 and brought Section B to an end. We took a short break half a mile into Section C, along the banks of the nearly overflowing Cascade Canal. We were trying to muster up the energy to face the 1000 foot, 4 mile climb across open slopes in the heat of the mid afternoon. Once we got going we started climbing through forested terrain, waiting for the trees to give way to the open slopes and the heat. We kept hiking and kept waiting, but before we knew it we were at the junction four miles up the trail and we had yet to be exposed to the full heat of the afternoon sun.

We stopped for another break at the trail junction as we wanted to rest up and review the map to figure out where we could get water and where we were going to camp. We knew that water was a problem in Section B, but now that we were in Section C, with it's multitude of lakes, we didn't think it would be a problem. Oh boy were we wrong again. One would have thought that by now we would have figured out that it is in the very nature of a "crest" trail to have a shortage of water. While the trail passes through the Sky Lakes Wilderness and there is an abundance of lakes, they are all below the PCT on a series of alternate routes. We reviewed the map and determined that we had two options: hike another 9 miles to the next on-route water, or hike 4.1 miles and then go off trail by half a mile to a nearby lake. We chose the later option as we had already done 22 miles and another 9 was beyond our limits.

By the time we reached the turn off junction to Summit Lake, our destination for the evening, we were dragging our feet. We started down the trail towards the lake and the 0.4 mile seemed to go on for an eternity. The guidebook had mentioned that there were small campsite available, but as traversed around the lake and didn't find anything we began to loose faith. We reached the end of the lake and still hadn't found any campsite clearings in the bushes, but then as we were just starting to feel defeated we came across a nice clearing and we made our camp. Shortly after we got set up another couple of hikers came plodding down the trail, looking just as tired and defeated as we had felt; we sure were glad that we got there before they did because they ended up having to take a far inferior site a little ways off.

The following morning we woke up to the sound of the watch alarm going off at 5:05 AM. As with the previous morning, we didn't spring out of our sleeping bags eager to face the day, but we groaned, rolled over, and took a little more time to rest (my, how things have changed since the beginning of the hike when Scott used to be awake in the pre-dawn light trying to get Rachel moving). We cuddled in our sleeping bags for a while longer and then finally got up and moving. Although we are not sure what time it was that we actually did get up, it felt like it was earlier than we have been doing (a minor success which justifies the rude awakening to the alarm) but funny enough, we didn't actually get on the trail any earlier than usual. It wasn't until 6:45 AM that we had done packed up, retrieved and treated more water, and then actually left camp.

Once again the mileage was coming easily that morning. The terrain was flat and smooth, (but very dusty -- Scott's been wearing his plastic bags again these last few days and we actually noticed that another hiker has done the same). As Scott says, "you can't beat Oregon for easy walking", but while it was "easy walking", it was relatively unrewarding (other than the mileage) as we were walking along through forests with no views in any direction. At some points the forest was so thick that we couldn't see much more than 50 feet through the trees on either side.

The morning passed quickly. The miles had come and gone and by the time we stopped for a snack break it was about noon. We rested in the shade of a large fir tree on the ridge near Devil's Peak, and then as we were getting ready to set off again we heard voices a few yards down the trail. We walked on and encountered two hikers, one southbound and one northbound, only about 30 yards from where we had rested. The north-bounder, Zhon - a section hiker, was plugging the south-bounder for information on water availability up ahead. We stuck around to hear the news that Honeymoon Creek was flowing well, which would save us a 0.9 mile detour off trail for water. With that news we happily trucked on for another four or five miles until we stopped for lunch. Zhon caught up to us as we were finishing up and we then spent the next half hour sitting by the side of the trail chatting away with him. What a fascinating guy he was, having moved her from China to do his PhD in Chemistry he is now living in Corvallis working for Hewitt Packer. At last we got up and figured that we had better get a couple more miles in before the day completely got away from us so we trucked on ahead of Zhon.

As we dropped off the crest and down into the Seven Lakes basin we were treated to some wonderful views of the cliffs and volcanic rocks above us. For a little while there we could almost convince ourselves that we were back in the High Sierra, but the feeling didn't last that long as we dropped back down into the trees.

After a few miles we crossed a creek, the first one we had seen in a while, and then we passed a second and a third. Knowing, however that Honeymoon Creek was flowing we passed them by so as not to prematurely heavy our load. It wasn't much further though before we reached the creek and we stopped to refill our bladders and treat the water. Once again, Zhon caught up to us as we were finishing up and we chatted again while preparing to pull out and hike another couple of miles. We said goodbye to Zhon and that we hoped to see him a little further on, where ever we stopped to camp.

Once we left the creek we faced a couple of miles uphill climb. The grade was not bad, but at the end of our long day and loaded down with enough water for camp and to see us the 17 miles out in the morning, we were feeling it. After a couple of miles we passed by the turn off for Ranger Spring, which we had planned on taking before we heard about Honeymoon Creek, and we kept on going. Up hill some more, we were shooting for a grassy saddle another mile ahead. As we climbed we tired and then Rachel started to scan the hillside for any possible place to camp. That last mile was seeming like an eternity, and she rationalized the desire to stop short as a means by which to avoid mosquitoes in the meadow.

About three-quarters of the way up the grade began to lessen and we found a perfect flat spot right by the trail. We put up the tent, crawled inside and immediately felt like we had come home. It is funny how our tent provides us with that sense of comfort and relief. No matter where we are, as long as we are in our tent, things are alright. Many of the other thru-hikers tease us about the size and weight of our tent, but when split between the two of us it is no worse than a solo hiker carrying a Sierra Designs tent. Our tent is roomy and comfortable and everything has its place in it. It's home.

When the alarm when off the next morning, we rolled over and cuddled for a while before we started moving. We were out of our sleeping bags by about 5:40 (a full 35 minutes after the alarm had gone off) but we were packed up and out of camp by 6:15 AM. We had a little extra motivation to get moving as we knew that we were only about 17 miles from reaching Crater Lake Mazama Village.

We quickly finished off the climb up to the grassy meadow and when we got there we were glad that we hadn't pushed on to reach it because the camping opportunities were inferior to what we had had a little further down. Again the morning was going well and the miles were coming quickly (what everyone had said about southern Oregon certainly seems to be true). We hiked about 4 miles down along the flats and then began a long drawn out climb back up to the crest where we stopped for breakfast. As we reached the crest we were a little disappointed to find that the smoke had thickened as we must be approaching another forest fire somewhere. Since the day into Ashland we have not had a lot of smoke, but all morning we had been smelling it and seeing it in the rays of sunshine penetrating the forest ceiling. The south-bounder whom we had met the previous day had mentioned that he had been unable to see Crater Lake when walking along the rim because of all the smoke, and we were really hoping that it would not be that bad when we got there. It sure would be a shame to have hiked all the way to one of the most beautiful lakes in the country and then not even be able to see it.

After our breakfast stop we continued our push to reach Crater Lake The remaining 7.5 miles didn't come quiet as easily. Perhaps it was the anticipation of what was to come that make those last few drag so. We slowly made our way through the forests that were showing the signs of an incredible storm having blown through sometime in the last few years. Huge trees were downed all over the place and most of them looked like they had been very healthy at the time as they were uprooted rather than having broken off half way up.

At last we reached Highway 62 a couple miles west of the entrance gate and we began our walk towards Mazama village. The guidebook spoke of an alternate route into the village so that we didn't have to walk the whole way along the highway, but we had a hard time finding the trail. We were supposed to follow the old highway, but it was completely overgrown with trees. We thought about going back to the new highway, but as there was no shoulder and a couple of the RV's had not given us any room we decided to stick with the old one and whack our way through the bushes. After a little while we reached a much better "road" and we decided to follow that rather than continue to bush-whack along the old highway. A quarter of a mile further the gravel road brought us down to the new highway just past the park entrance kiosk and the turn off to Mazama Village. We walked along the highway to the village turn off and soon found our way to the building housing the Laundromat, showers, and store. As we walked up t o the picnic tables outside we saw Flutterby, Fancy and North all sitting there going through their re-supply boxes and figuring out their game plan for the rest of the day. The ironic thing was that we had hustled into town, hoping to meet up with a friend from Vancouver, but in the very real likelihood that she didn't come down then we would grab our re-supply, launder, shower and then hit the trail again, but the big factor that we had forgotten to take into consideration was the day of the week. It was Sunday and the Post Office would not be open until 10 AM the following day. Flutterby and Fancy had gotten smart and thought to mail their box to the store which is open everyday. We could stand to learn a thing or two from those girls.

While we were unable to grab our supply box, we were able to shower and do our laundry. Fancy and Flutterby were all dialed in on which shower didn't require 25 cents every two minutes and which dryer would start without depositing any money at all, so we kept that knowledge in mind and took care of our chores. As we were preparing to do our chores, those three left to head the 7 miles up the road to the rim of the lake, but within twenty minutes of them leaving, others started to arrive. We were soon joined by a couple whom we had not previously met, Greg and Jenny, and then on their tail came Blackhawk, Strawberry Girl and Restless Wind (who we had also not previously met, T and finally Bug. All in all, we made quite the bunch hanging out in front of the store, doing laundry going through boxes (those of us who were smart enough to mail to the store), showering and catching up on news of the trail.

Once we were finished with our chores we caught a ride up to the rim as well. We had heard that it was a clear day for seeing the lake, that the smoke was hardly infringing upon the views at all, but when we arrived on the rim shortly after 5 PM the smoke had settled in so thick that you couldn't see anything but white. We were disappointed but one of the park employees told us that it would probably be clearer in the morning. We checked out the gift shop that was swarming with tourists, and then we went up to the buffet for dinner. We ate well, but as is often the case with a buffet, we ate too much. As we were about half way through our meal the rest of the motley crew wandered in and grabbed a large table nearby. Once we were finished we joined them all for some good laughs and a few more morsels of food. By the time we were leaving the buffet Rachel was so full that she was uncomfortable, while Scott had managed to keep his eating within reason so that he didn't surfer that discomfort. It is st range, but it seems as though our appetites have lessened these last few weeks. It is even possible that we are eating less than we did before we started the trail. It has not been uncommon lately for us to have too much dinner in front of us although the portions are the same size as they have always been.

The rest of the hikers were all planning on heading over to Lightning Spring to camp. T had reserved a site there so everyone was eager to go and avoid the $15 fee at Mazama campground. We, on the other hand, were all set to go until we had finished eating, by which point we were so full that the thought of walking along the road for three miles and then down the trail for three quarters of a mile was not appealing at all. We walked out of the buffet, down towards the road and then looked at the rolling hill diving down into the forest just below the road. We looked at each other and agreed to head down into the trees for a stealth camp spot. We didn't have to go far before we were out of sight of the roads and then we found a nice level spot sand pitched the tent. We were sorry not to be with the rest of the pack, but we were nice and close to the lodge so we would be able to have breakfast in the morning without worrying about returning the four miles. We also have to hit the post office when it o pens at 10 AM and we are closer for that too.

We have just finished our breakfast and we are ready to head over to the lodge. The Assistant Manager there has agreed to try and get us connected to the internet, so with any luck there will be a journal update on the net later on this morning. In order to get that done, we had better get running. Until next time....