Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Cascade Summit, Mile 1907, Aug 16

Shelter Cove Resort - Crater Lake is one huge lake, but with all the millions of gallons of water in it, there was hardly a drop to be had 600 feet above on the rim. We had been hoping that by the time we got to Crater Lake water would stop being an issue, but if anything it is getting worse. Ah, but once again we are ahead of ourselves. Lets back up the bus to when we finished breakfast at the Crater Lake cafe...

The mere fact that the journal got posted from Crater Lake should be a pretty good indication that we got connected to the internet from there. We had spoken to Dwayne, the manager at the buffet, the previous night and he had put us in contact with Katie, the manager of the Lodge, who enabled us to get access to a computer. We wandered over to the Lodge after finishing our breakfast and the front desk clerk let us into Katie's office so we could use her computer. We were in there for about half an hour getting everything sent off and checking on a couple of things. We owe a big "Thank you" to both Dwayne and Katie for their assistance.

With the computer stuff taken care of it was time to head back down the road three miles to the Post Office. We walked back to the road junction, stuck out our thumbs and within minutes Dwayne and a buddy drove by, stopped to pick us up, and took us down to the P.O.. By the time we got there it was 10:30 AM and we were still to claim and sort through our boxes. We collected our packages, and Rachel received another three birthday cards that had been forwarded ahead or mailed here, and then we went off to find a shady spot to sort through all our stuff.

Once we had repacked our packs with the next legs supplies and mailed our float box two stops ahead, it was almost noon and time to think about getting back to the trail. Rachel sat down with the map to determine how much water we needed to carry and what she saw was not good news. We were about to enter another water alert section, this one lasting for about 25 miles between Lighting Spring just off the Crater Lake Rim Trail (2.3 miles into the days hike) all the way to Thielsen Creek Camp. We are very capable of hiking that distance in one day, but in order to do so we need the whole day. As we were going to be starting well into the afternoon we had a problem on our hands. The way we figured it, we had three options: wait until the following morning and start bright and early; carry a full load of water to see us through the 25 mile hike and a night's camp; or, hike the Rim Trail for 6.1 miles to where the trail diverges away from Crater Lake and heads for Hwy 138, hitch the remaining 11.5 miles to the highway where we would pick up the PCT as it started into Section D, 8.4 miles from the water at Thielsen Creek. Before we made our decision we consulted with a Backcountry Ranger to confirm that there were no other alternative water sources between Lightning Spring and Thielsen Creek, and then we went about debating the pro's and con's of each option. At last we figured that the most strategic option for us at this point was to take the third option and hitch the 11.5 miles from the Rim Road to Highway 138.

Over the last few weeks we have made a number of decisions that have resulted in us missing small segments of the trail. At the beginning of this hike we were of the option that to take any shortcuts or to hitch any "trail" segments would be to compromise our goal of "thru-hiking the PCT". More recently, we have re-evaluated that perspective and we have come to the understanding that this is our hike and that hiking the PCT is something different for each individual on the trail. With that understanding in mind, we have loosened up a little about hiking every single mile and have decided that we are going to enjoy the journey rather than stress over it.

With our decision made, we said goodbye to North who was still sorting though his supply box and we walked across the parking lot back to the road. We stood there for about five minutes waiting for a ride when we were picked up by a lady who has been traveling with the Joan Baez tour. She drove us back up the hill to the Rim Village where we began our spectacular hike along the Discovery Point Trail along the rim of the lake. By the time we were actually make headway into our day it was about 1 PM.

We were so incredibly thankful that the smoke had cleared away from the lake overnight. Earlier in the morning it had been a little hazy in spots, but by the time we returned to the rim from the Post Office it was perfectly clear. We began walking along the dusty trail, stopping every two minutes or so to admire the incredible beauty of the lake from all the possible perspectives. We marveled at the incredible force that it must have taken to move such a huge mound of rock in one swift blow, that the lake (which is the deepest in America) was been filled only by snow and rainfall, and that all of this happened only 6000 years ago which is relatively recent in geologic terms. At last we realized that we were going to have to do a little more hiking and a little less gawking if we expected to make it to Thielsen Creek that night and concentrated more on hiking. We were right in the heat of the day as we made our way around the rim, up and across each of the saddles and around The Watchman and Hillman Peaks. Despite the breeze coming up from the lake we were frying in the heat and dust, but after a couple of hours we made it to the last overlook before the road heading down towards the highway turned away.

We stood at the road junction with our thumbs out for about 25 minutes before we got a ride. The people who picked us up initially gave us the impression that they were only going as far as Pumice Flats, still a few miles from the highway, but after we jumped in the back of the truck and we cruised by Pumice Flats we realized that we were getting a ride the whole way to the highway. At the highway we were asked which way we were going, when we told them that we wanted to head east for about a mile or two and they were going that way too, we got a lift right to where the PCT crossed the highway. We were dropped off on the gravel road to North Crater Trailhead parking area, and after a good conversation with the kind people who gave us the lift we were headed up the trail.

The beginning of Section D was very similar to the beginning of Section C, with a long climb up to the nearby peak. Right off the bat we faced a 5 mile climb up towards Mt. Thielsen. Like our climb up towards Mt. McLoughlin the grade was good and steady and we never came across the open slopes that we had been warned about. Even though we were not out in the open sunlight, it was a long climb through thee trees. Every now and then we would come to a clearing and we would be able to look behind us and see the smoke rolling in around Crater Lake. As we had been walking along the rim we had seen it approaching from the west and by the time that we were up on the flanks of Mt. Thielsen we could see that it was spilling over the west rim of the lake. It was quite incredible.

By about 7 PM we finally reached the trail junction on the western ridge of Mt. Thielsen. If we had wanted to scramble to the top of the magnificent Matterhorn-like peak we would have started upward from that point, but instead we began the steady descent down the northern slopes of the mountain towards Thielsen creek. It was another 2 miles to the creek and when we arrived there we found T, Restless Wind, North (who had hitched to the highway from the Post Office), Greg and Jenny. Everyone except North had hiked the whole 25 miles from Lightning Spring and they were all bemoaning about what a horrible, unrewarding 10 miles it had been between the rim and the road. After catching up with them for a few minutes we pressed on the 0.1 mile to the campsite across the creek and went about setting up our tent and preparing our dinner. While we had only hiked about 14 miles that day it had been a long day as it had been so busy in the morning.

The following morning we got moving a little earlier than usual. After the alarm went off at 5:05 AM we lounged in bed for a bit but we started to pack up our gear at about 5:30. It was still dark out when we started, but before we were ready to head out on the trail at 6:15 AM daylight was upon us. T was out of camp about 10 minutes before us and there were barely any signs of life from any of the others.

It was a beautiful morning to hike. The air was clear and smokeless and there was a brisk cool wind blowing through. The wind kept us cool and refreshed while it helped in invigorate our spirits as we climbed the hills to gain the crest and then reach the highest point on the PCT in the states of Oregon and Washington (7560 feet). We caught up with T who was stopped for a snack a little before the high point and then he came up behind us and joined us for our breakfast break a mile or so on the other side. We stopped for our break 6 miles into the morning at a point overlooking the valleys to the east and as we were starting to think about moving on Greg and Jenny joined us. The five of us sat around a little longer, chatting, before we finally decided that we had better get moving again. Leaving the other three hikers behind, we made our way down the trail through the cover of Douglas-fir forests. A couple of miles later we were passed by the other three hikers while taking a pee break, and then w e caught up to them again another mile down the trail. From that point forward the five of us hiked together for the rest of the day, sometimes breaking up into smaller groups, but always reconvening at selected points.

Our lunch stop was at the Tolo Camp trail junction. It was 16 miles into the day and it was the first water access point that we had come across that day. The water was 0.3 miles off trail and T was the first to go and check it out. We was gone for quite some time while the rest of us prepared and ate our lunches, and when he returned re reported that not only was it switchbacks all the way down to the water, but that the water itself was a little stagnant. With that information the rest of us decided to pass on the detour for water and ration the little that we had left for the next 7 miles to the next water source.

It was a longer 7 miles as we were now in the heat of the day and rationing our water supplies. We each left the lunch spot with only about a quart each and while it was more than enough to keep us going the psychological impact of knowing that we were short was enough to make us really thirsty. We hiked through the open forest with the sun penetrating through the sparse trees gaining a couple of saddles before beginning the drop down along the north east slopes of Windigo Butte to Windigo Pass and the crossing of Cascade Lakes Road 60.

At the road we had a decision to make. The guidebook proposed and recommended an alternate route along the old Oregon Skyline Trail. This alternate route would diverge away from the crest, remain about 1000 feet lower than the PCT and pass by many more lakes and ponds and for the latter portion it would follow a river drainage directly into Shelter Cove Resort, our next re-supply locale. Aside from the route being more watered, it had the definite bonus of being a full 7 miles shorter than the official PCT crest route.

As we were sitting there contemplating which route to take, Greg and Jenny came up behind us. We told them about the decision to be made and when they heard about the benefits of doing the alternate route they were all for it. Minutes after we finished explaining the options to them, T came wandering along and we repeated the facts again. T, similarly was all for the alternate route so the decision was made: the five of us were going to take the alternate route and stop at Nip and Tuck Lakes another 3 miles down the trail. Before we could gather ourselves together and move on, Dairy Queen (a.k.a. Siesta - a hiker we met at Crater Lake) came along, followed closely by Restless Wind. The two new comers thought that our plan sounded like a good one and the seven of us set off down the trail together.

Within the hour we arrived at Nip and Tuck Lake, en mass. While everyone else went about getting water, we divided our duties and Scott when to get water while Rachel set up the tent. We were situated nicely in the trees on the peninsula between the two lakes and once everyone else finished collecting water they all convened in the grassy meadow between the two lakes. While we were cooking dinner and going through our usual evening routine we listened to the conversations of the rest of the group drifting towards us. As the evening progressed the dialogues followed the rules of conversation: from intelligent to asinine and then after a pause, back to intelligent again. We lay there in our tent listening, but not partaking (because of the distance) in the conversations, laughing at the appropriate points and groaning at others. It was nearing 10 PM before the group was saying good night and silence finally settled in around the camp.

The following morning we were up at about 5:40 AM and going through the process of packing up our camp. T was gone before we ventured into the meadow and past all of the other slumbering hikers. We ventured out on the trail knowing that we only had 19 miles before we reached Shelter Cover and that was enough in itself to speed us along. We hiked 8 miles before stopping for breakfast at Whitefish Horse Camp where there was piped in water and pit toilet. We dawdled about breakfast for a little while before setting off to finish the remaining 11 miles into town.

As we started up the trail into the Diamond Peak Wilderness we came across a lady on horseback with another horse tethered behind her. She told us that she had been up in the hills looking for her nephew who was developmentally challenged and had wandered off out of camp that morning. She gave us a brief description of him and the situation and we told her that we would keep an eye out for him and if we saw him we would send him on home.

Four miles further up the trail, at the watershed divide between Whitefish and Trapper Creeks we reached a trail junction and there was a note from T. He had bumped into Kate, the lost individual's cousin at the same time as they had both bumped into Bob. Bob was tired and hungry after his five mile hike and T was attending to him with his cousin. We gave them some extra snacks to see them through the remaining 6 miles back to Shelter Cover and then hurried on down to the resort so that we could alert Bob's family that he had been found and was being taken care of.

We left the trail junction with about 5.5 miles to go before we reached town and now that we had a purpose for getting there, other than just to drink beer, relax, and eat, we blasted ahead. We didn't stop despite our growing fatigue and hunger and what would have felt like nothing at the beginning of the day felt like a marathon by the time we were finished. At last we reached the trail junction at the bottom of the descent and we turned towards the road and Shelter Cove Resort.

We walked onto the resort grounds, through the forested RV sites and then out across the lawn in front of the marina and store. As we were making our way across the lawn a gentleman approached us, asked if we had just come off the trail and started to ask if we had seen his nephew Bob. Before he could finish his question we were happy to relay the news that Bob had been located, that he was with his cousin and T, that he had been fed and given water and that they would be coming down into the resort within a couple of hours. Dave, Bob's uncle, was so relieved and when the sheriffs showed up to get more information from Dave he directed them towards us telling them that we had found Dave and all was alright.

While waiting for the rest of the group to make there way into the Resort we took the opportunity to get our laundry done and go through our supply box. We were just finishing up with both tasks as the group, en mass, came walking across the parking lot with Bob in the lead and his cousin bringing up the rear (she hadn't expected to be doing a 10.5 mile hike that day). The reunion was a good one and everyone was glad that all worked out. T was the big hero of the day and Bob thanked him for all of his assistance, as did Dave and Kate.

As everyone started milling around, going through their supply boxes, eating ice-cream sandwiches and drinking beer, T went to inquire about the reservation that he had made on a cabin. The cabin was incredible. It had two bedrooms each with a double bed in it, a loft with four single beds, a double bed pull out cot, a full kitchen equipped with all the necessities to cook, a front porch with five chairs, a huge picnic table out front and a great view of the lake that was thirty yards off. We all gathered together our belongings and made our way over to the cabin and then took turns having showers and each drying off with a clean terry towel (what luxury that is!). Once everyone was clean it was time to think about dinner so T and Greg went to the store and returned with the fixings for burgers. What a feast we had, but by the time we were eating it was about 8:30 at night and most of us were feeling no pain after having consumed a few beers.

After dinner Scott dozed off on the cot which we had pulled out into the living room while everyone else sat around on the porch chatting and drinking some more. As the evening progressed and the others were showing no signs of slowing down Rachel began to think that sleeping on the cot in the living room was going to be difficult, so around 10 PM she grabbed her pack and pitched the tent in he trees at the waters edge. She tried to stir Scott awake, but he was sleeping pretty soundly so as everyone else was heading indoors to continue on the party Rachel retired to bed outside. Shortly after the party moved indoors Scott woke up and went looking for Rachel. He found her outside in the tent and went back indoors to gather his belongings and join her there. In hindsight it was a good move for us not to sleep in the cabin as some members of the group apparently stayed up and partied until about 2 AM.

We awoke to the sound of the alarm going off the following morning at the usual time. We lay there for a while wishing that we had gotten more sleep as it had been almost midnight by the time we finally settled into dreamland. As dawn was breaking we started to make motions of getting up and before we were done T had emerged from the cabin to tell us that he was thinking of taking a zero day (not hiking), renting a boat so that they could all go swimming etc out on the lake, and then staying on a second night. He invited us to join in with the continued activities, but we declined his very generous offer, explaining that we were eager to get moving on and head towards home (when we finish the hike we are planning on cycling back down the coast to San Francisco and then inland and back up to Scott's parents place to collect our vehicles, therefore, we are eager to finish a little earlier than originally projected so that we can beat the change in the weather). T was most understanding of our decision and we bid him a farewell before finally heading out to the trail at about 8 AM.