Day 126: Crater Lake, and Back On the Trail

It’s amazing sometimes how fast things change: last night we were asleep in a giant, comfy bed in a hotel, and tonight we’re back out under the stars. We’re camped tonight only about a half-mile away from the rim of Crater Lake, about as close as you can get, and have plans to get up incredibly early, at 3:00 AM. Why? Because, in the span of just a couple of hours, we’ll get to see two things: a meteor shower, and the sun slowly rising directly over Crater Lake.

This is a particular treat because it’s actually quite difficult to do. Camping on the rim of Crater Lake itself is illegal, and they’re very serious: not only is it a $500 fine, but apparently rangers have heat-detection equipment to discover violators. There’s an incredibly expensive lodge up here, too, but, for most people, it involves some difficult logistics to be up here at sunrise. Fortunately, our PCT permit allows us to camp just a half-mile off the rim at a backcountry campground. Although 3:00 AM is going to come way, way too early, I think it’s worth it for the potential to see the meteor shower and the sunrise in such a beautiful place in short succession. (This does mean we’re likely to take a significant nap in the middle of the day sometime tomorrow, though!)

The morning today was spent in town, and it was, as these days often are, far, far too busy. We slept in and managed to have a great, enormous breakfast, including what might have been the single largest cinnamon roll I’ve seen or eaten in my entire life, at Nibbley’s Café in Klamath Falls. After that, though, we had far too much to do.

We sorted through our resupply box and packed up and checked out of our hotel, which is normal. But then we had more running around to do: since starting to do our long, 23-mile days on the trail, I’ve discovered that the amount of food in our resupply boxes is increasingly insufficient. I packed 4,500 calories per day for myself, but I’m clearly burning more like 5,500 or 6,000, because I’m hungry still if I just eat what’s in the resupply box. So far, I’ve been supplementing this with food I’ll buy at a convenience store in town…but our next few resupply stops are in locations that don’t have even a convenience store, so there’s no place to buy extra food at all. Instead, this morning we stopped at several different stores to load up on high-calorie food (read: junk food), and then divide it into shipments to our remaining resupply locations in Oregon. Fortunately, my parents offered to take care of actually getting it sent off, which makes a big difference, too.

Another huge advantage of having my parents here: after leaving here, there’s a 26-mile dry stretch on the trail, with no water at all. With memories of the only other dry stretch of that length still in our heads — mostly involving incredibly heavy packs — we were not remotely eager to repeat that. Fortunately, the PCT intersects two roads in that stretch…and my parents have a car! So, we bought large containers of water from a local grocery store, and they’re off tonight stashing it at those intersections for us to use tomorrow. This cuts our 26-mile dry stretch into pieces of 11 miles or less each, and that’s just a tremendous help in reducing the load on our backs — particularly since our packs are plenty heavy with food, since this was a resupply point, too. It makes an enormous difference.

The last errand we ran this morning was a trip back to The Ledge, the local outfitters, where Mike was once again a wonderful human being. Bucket has needed to replace the tips on her Gossamer Gear hiking poles for hundreds of miles now, and actually bought and received the appropriate tips hundreds of miles ago…but getting them off her poles is incredibly difficult. Mike happily performed the task for no charge at all, helping her out and making our lives a lot better. A huge thanks to him again for being so great to us!

(Oh, and I forgot to mention: we also both got new shoes in this resupply, too. This marks pair #5 for both of us, and we’ll probably have one more set of new shoes before we finish this trail. When we’re hiking 23-mile days, it’s kind of amazing to me how fast we go through shoes — it’s only three weeks per pair, maybe four weeks if we’re lucky.)

Finally, after getting all of that done, we were able to make the hour-long drive back up to Crater Lake to pick up where we left off. The plan was for Bucket and me to make the trek from Mazama Village up to the lake’s rim — a steep climb — while my parents drove up there, to meet at the top at the small café there, and then hike together for a few miles before they headed back.

And we did exactly that, but not before meeting Treeman and Hedgehog, who we saw standing out in front of the Mazama Village store! I’m so happy that we’re roughly even with them again and keep bumping into them, and hope it’ll continue. Tonight we’re back to being a little bit ahead of them, since they’re staying in Mazama Village at the campground, but it’s only by single-digit miles…and so I have high hopes that we’ll see them again soon. We also saw Morningstar and Cookie Monster there, who’re starting to be good friends of ours, too, and it was great to see them again also.

Yet our hike still didn’t quite start, because, when we headed to the Mazama Village store to drop off a few things at the hiker box, who did we see but…Cashmere and Physio! We’d been hearing they were only a day or so behind us on the trail for the last week or so, and were really excited to see them, because it’s easily been over a thousand miles since we saw them last — we hadn’t seen them since the Southern California desert. (They’re considerably faster than us, but took almost a week off to go to a wedding, which is the only reason they aren’t hundreds of miles ahead of us right now.)

It was wonderful to see them, if only for much too short a time. This is one of the painful, hard things about the PCT, particularly once you hit Northern California and have to worry about making plenty of progress every day: you never feel like you can spend the time you’d like to spend with friends, because you can’t spare the time to hang back if they catch up. We’d have absolutely loved to spend the evening back at Mazama Village with Treeman, Hedgehog, Cashmere, and Physio, but we feel like we have to keep making miles…so onwards we go. (Today in particular we had no choice at all, since my parents had already headed up towards our meeting point, and there’s no cell-phone service around here at all.) Sigh. I really, really wish it were possible to spend the time I want with all these people, because I like so many of them so much.

Instead, we headed out and climbed up to the Crater Lake rim. On the way up, we ran into some northbounders we knew heading the other way — south — on the trail. This is called flip-flopping — hiking a section of the trail in the other direction. It was probably a smart move for them, since it meant they got to do that stretch downhill, rather than the very steep uphill we had…but I’m still proud in many ways that we’ve maintained a completely continuous footpath, heading north the entire time, since we began. At least the hike was made easier because we left all of the food we’d carry in my parents’ car…no point in hauling that up to the rim when their car can do the job so much easier!

It was late in the afternoon when we finally got to the top of the rim and saw the lake for the first time. I’ll put off talking about the lake itself for a while, because I expect to see it in better light at sunrise tomorrow, but it really is spectacular. We ate an early dinner at the café and headed out, hiking with my parents along the Rim Trail for a few miles. To anybody who comes here, I highly, highly recommend getting out of your car and hiking this trail instead: even though it’s often only a hundred feet away from the road, the views are absolutely amazing, and you get just far enough away from other people and the road to make it feel much more like the outdoors. It’s really a beautiful hike, and most of it’s quite easy, too.

One additional thing that bears mentioning: at the top of the rim, in the parking lot of the café, was…the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. What?!? I have absolutely no explanation. There was nobody in it, nothing going on with it…just parked among all of the SUVs and rental cars from all the tourists up at the top of the rim, there’s a giant hot dog car. Of course I had to get a picture with it.

For now, though, it’s time for me to sleep, for far too short a time, since we’ll be waking up in the middle of the night to see meteors and a sunrise. It’ll be early…but I’m very much looking forward to it!

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2 responses to “Day 126: Crater Lake, and Back On the Trail”

  1. […] like the Wienermobile, a fishing tournament is not exactly something I expected to see on this trail. Yet there we were […]

  2. […] second fascinating thing I saw was something called Little Crater Lake. Compared to its big brother, it was easily one-one-thousandth as big across — maybe thirty or forty feet — and probably a […]

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