Oregon C

June 22, Wed.–27 miles–Oregon C

Wed. June 22   Miles today: 27      Total so far: 706.5      Oregon section C, begin D

Today we crossed the 700 mile mark!  Less than 2,000 miles left to go!  Many cheers and thanks to the Lord for helping us get this far!

Sunrise glow in the mist at Crater Lake

Sunrise glow in the mist at Crater Lake

Last night in our camp above Crater Lake, the wind howled in the trees, and it rained, and was very cold, but we were snug and safe, and wondering if we’d wake up to fresh snow this morning.  But the predawn light showed us 40 degrees, and a stiff wind.  Brrrr!  Crater Lake was hidden in mist, and we were actually IN the cloud.  We tried to keep on up the hiker trail, but did not get far–it was soon buried in snow that sloped WAAAAAY down to the Lake.  So we retreated to Rim Drive, which also had plenty of snow, but had recently been plowed.  Only the road itself was plowed, though–not the turnouts or viewpoints.  I felt sorry for any tourists who come up here today–they won’t be able to see much, and will have nowhere to park.

Bill studies maps

Bill studies maps

Finally the rising sun began to color the mist above the lake a beautiful pink and gold–the mist lifted just a little, and I could see the shimmering water of the lake far below.  Bill and I were still walking in a  cloud, and being blown around by the wind.   We found a somewhat sheltered place among some rocks by Rim Drive where we could eat breakfast (gobble, gobble quickly!) and Bill could study the maps.   He wanted to take a turn doing this; usually it’s me trying to figure things out.  The PCT guidebook has lots of detail–so much that sometimes it’s hard to sort it all out and decide which way to go.  There are often alternate routes that sound very appealing.  The PCT stays pretty true to the “Crest” part of its name, and the crest is often not the nicest trail.  We are not PCT purists.  If the alternate route sounds better, we will take it!  All we care about is walking all the way to Canada.

After breakfast, we resumed walking Rim Drive.  No worries about traffic at 7:00 am!  A little while later, another thru-hiker named Cat’s Pa caught up with us.  He stayed with the rangers last night and got a ride up to the Rim this morning.  He’s VERY tall, with LONG legs that carry him very quickly along the trail (or road).  Turned out he’s 63, and his grandchildren gave him his trail name.  He had originally planned to hike the PCT with his wife, but sadly, she died less than a year ago, so he is hiking alone.  He was very friendly, and we found out that the HUGE footprints we’d been following in the snow above Sky Lakes were his footprints!  When he went through, there was lots of snow, but he could see landmarks because it wasn’t actually SNOWING, so he made it through.  After a bit more conversation, he was off again on his long legs.

As I walked along, it was nice not to constantly have to watch my footing, so instead I could look at other things, and I noticed some pretty white flowers growing in the pumice along the road, right by a snowbank.  It was very cold, and the wind was freezing.  Those flowers were tough little beauties!   Finally the clouds lifted enough for a view of Wizard Island.  The farther we went, the more snow there was.  At one point it looked as if the whole world had turned white–all I could see was white snow, and the white cloud we were walking in. 

Snow on the lava fields north of Crater Lake

Snow on the lava fields north of Crater Lake

 But finally we reached the North Access Road and began our 10 mile downhill.  It didn’t take long till we were OUT of the cloud and the views began.  We could see vast pumice fileds and mountains.  Finally we could even see sharp-pointed Mt. Thielsen, which we’d be hiking to if we stayed on the PCT.  But our views last night from up top at Crater Lake, plus warnings from the ranges had convinced us to hike AROUND Mt. Thielsen,  on what used to be the “old” route of the PCT. 

Mt. Thielsen in sunshine!

Mt. Thielsen in sunshine!

We ate lunch at the boundary of Crater Lake National Park.  The sun was shining, and it was warm!  It felt so good to put our feet up and rest and soak up some rays, after being so cold this morning!  Then a bit more walking took us to Highway 138, and the end of “Oregon Section C” in the guidebook.

OREGON SECTION D

Shortly after we crossed the highway, at 1:00 pm precisely (which meant 12 noon in standard time), Bill stopped to check his compass and declination, by using the sun and a stick.  And it was SO GOOD to be on a TRAIL again after 16 miles of roadwalking so far today.  The only bummer was the mosquitoes, which were numerous enough that we had to wear headnets.  And  this part of the trail is a Nordic ski trail in the winter, so not only is it well-marked, but any time it makes a sharp turn, even the TURN is marked!  Again, we could only conclude that the Forest Service cares more about skiers than hikers!

Diamond Lake

Diamond Lake

The pleasant alternate route eventually landed us at beautiful Diamond Lake with snowclad Mt. Bailey behind it.  We followed the hiker/biker trail along the lakeshore, enjoying great views.  There’s a campground on the shore, with plenty of great campsites–“We should come camp here someday,” we told each other. 

A string of wooden fish!

A string of wooden fish!

We stopped at a little store that had cute fish carvings out front, then on to the Forest Service information center, where we ended up talking to THE Ranger himself, instead of just an underling.  He showed us where the heavy snow areas were, so we’d know what to avoid.  We bought a map (which later turned out to be VERY helpful).  We also bugged the ranger about the poorly marked PCT, and he admitted it was true–the ski trails are well-marked, but as for hikers–they are ignored.  We told him very firmly that something ought to be done about it!

Then we headed to the Diamond Lake Resort for an early (4:30 pm) dinner, and who should show up but Cat’s Pa!  He is staying at the resort tonight.  All of us were really enjoying the food at the resort cafe.  “Hiker hunger” is very real!  Cat’s Pa urged us to stay at the resort, too (I think he wanted someone to talk to and hang out with), but we declined and went off to fill our water bottles and push on along Highway 138.  After a couple of miles, we went into the woods to look for a campsite and discovered TERRRRIBLE mosquitoes!  There were just clouds of them–the worst I have ever seen.  So we tried another place, but no matter where we looked, it was the same.  Arrrgh!  So we finally just sighed, set up our net tent and hustled into it for some peace from the whining hordes.  We were very tired, but glad to have managed so many miles today.

June 21, Tues.–16.2 miles Oregon C Crater Lake

Tues. June 21    PCT miles today: 16.2 (plus other miles)     Total miles: 679.5     Oregon Section C

We woke up early this morning and just lay there listening to the roar of Stuart Falls, till we realized that there were NO mosquitoes up yet!  So WE got up quickly, though I was still very tired from being up late last night (past “hiker midnight”) trying to figure out our mileage.

At first the trail was OK, then we were back into the snow.  At a snow-free place on top of some rocks, we stopped for breakfast–delicious cinnamon rolls made by Mark at the General Store in Fort Klamath.  Wow, a taste of home!  We were just brushing our teeth when Brian and Carol came by.  They were thru-hikers, doing Oregon and Washington on the PCT.  Actually, they had intended to complete the whole PCT last year, but Carol fell during a river crossing in the High Sierra and broke her leg.  It was only a hairline fracture of the tibia, and after 6 weeks in a leg brace, determined Carol was back on the PCT, but she and Brian were only able to make it as far as Ashland before the October snows arrived.  Now they were back hiking again!  We cheered for them as they headed on their way, and shortly afterwards, we were on the trail, too.

At last, we reached the junction with the PCT (hooray!) and happily started off thinking, “Crater Lake, here we come!”  But then we hit trouble.  It seems that last year, they redid the PCT route in this section.  It used to be an old road, but now it’s a TRAIL, and it artsily winds and curves all over the forest.  Very pretty in summer, I’m sure, but a total nightmare when covered with snow.  We were reduced once again to searching for cut logs and snipped branches, and our pace slowed to a crawl.  Sometimes it took 15 or 20 minutes of Bill and I both fanned out searching for “trail signs” and shouting to each other.  Grrrr! 

Yahoo!  We FINALLY know where we are!

Yahoo! We FINALLY know where we are!

 But each time, we were able to find the trail again, and finally reached a trail junction SIGN!  It was the “Union Peak” trail.  Now we knew for sure where we were, and we fervently thanked God for helping us get there.  Then we looked around for someplace we could sit down and rest a bit and eat some trail snacks before facing the snow again.  “Rats!” we said.  ” We skipped up to Oregon to avoid the 200% of normal snow in the Sierras, and look at us!  We have been wrassling with snow for days!  Oh well, at least we are not having to deal with roaring snowmelt runoff!”

When we started off into the snow again, we’d only gone a little way, when lo, and behold–blue diamonds nailed to the trees, AND “groomed” crosscountry ski tracks.  No more searching for the trail, even with all the snow!  What a relief!  Now all we had to do was slip and slide and posthole our way till we reached the road.  Looking at the time, we groaned.  It had taken us almost 5 hours to cover just 7.7 miles. 

 Then it was nice easy walking along the road to Mazama Village.  At one point, a ranger lady pulled up alongside us.  She  somewhat anxiously asked us if we were PCT hikers.  “Yes,” we told her.  “Oh good, we need your help, then,” she said.  “There is a missing hiker, and we wonder if you’ve seen him.”  Then she gave us a description of the missing man, who was planning to hike the PCT and climb Mt. McLoughlin.   He had not come in to work yesterday, and was not at his house.  His family and friends were very worried.  But we had not seen anyone to match that description.  Apparently he’d been caught in the same snowstorm that drove us down to Fort Klamath.  After the ranger lady left, Bill and I speculated about what might have happened.  (We found out much later that the man had indeed died on Mt. McLoughlin.  Apparently when the snowstorm hit, he tried to get down the mountain fast, and fell to his death.)  It was a sobering reminder of the dangers one can face on the trail.

A little more walking, and we were at Mazama Village Store, where we found Tinker with his gear, shoes and socks all spread out to dry in the sun.  We wasted no time doing the same!  Our shoes were specially gross–soaking wet from days in the snow, and phew-stinky.  Soon a whole row of shoes and insoles were lined up on the sidewalk.  Tinker told us that he’d also had a terrible time in the snow, and had arrived only shortly before we did.  He also saw Carol and Brian, and said they’d rented a cabin and were planning to rest up a bit.

While Bill went off to hitch-hike the 4 miles up to the post office to get our resupply box, I collected all our wet, stinky socks and stinky shirts and put them in the washing machine at the Store.  Then I bought a large tub of yogurt and ate half of it.  My plan was to eat yogurt and do journal-writing, but there was a steady stream of people old and young who saw us with all our gear and wanted to ask questions.  Several were folks who want to do the PCT someday. 

 Bill returned from the post office with not one, but TWO boxes, and one of them ws my next pair of shoes!  What a relief!  Nice, dry, clean, non-stinky shoes on my feet!  And with our now clean, dry socks, it felt great!  Bill ate the other half of the yogurt tub, then we collected more food for lunch, sat, ate, and discussed our options.

Bill said the rangers  by the post office told him that even the lower elevation “Equestrian PCT” was full of snow.  Bill told them what he thought of the many poorly-marked, hard-to-follow trails we’ve been contending with, and the rangers agreed.  They recommended that we walk the road (7 miles) up to Crater Lake Rim Drive and then walk the Rim Drive (5.8 miles) which parallels the PCT rim trail.  (Needless to say, the Rim Trail was DEEP in snow!)  That’s an awful lot of roadwalking, but what else could we do?  Some of the hikers were planning to hitch up to the Rim, rather than walk, but we consider that cheating.  One of the ranger ladies kindly offered us a place to stay tonight–at a house she shares with 2 other ranger ladies.  Most of the thru-hikers had already accepted her offer!  But even though the chance of sleeping in a warm house and hanging out with other hikers was very tempting, Bill was concerned that we’d lost so much time already that it would be better to press on.

Roadwalking up to Crater Lake

Roadwalking up to Crater Lake

So we loaded our packs with clean, dry gear and started chugging up the hill.  It took us till 7:00 pm to reach the Rim, and of course we went straight over to look at the beautiful lake.  I’ve seen it many times, but this is the first time I’d seen it in SNOW!   Gorgeous! 

Beautiful, beautiful Crater Lake

Beautiful, beautiful Crater Lake

 Tinker was there, too, but he looked very unhappy.  He’d been planning to eat at the famous (among hungry thru-hikers) Rim Village Cafeteria, only to discover it was closed for remodelling!  He said he would hitch down to the ranger ladies’ house and spend the night.  (We heard later that 7 thru-hikers were there that night, and the Rangers gave them a great dinner!) 

 Bill and I bundled up and looked for someplace to eat our bread & cheese & dried fruit supper.  It was very cold, the wind was blowing hard, and dark, menacing clouds filled the sky.  We found a picnic table, and ate fast, then looked for a water faucet where we could fill our Platypuses.  But the only faucet around was in the bathrooms, so Bill and I each took a cup, and our own “Platy”, and used the cups to collect water from the bathroom faucet, then poured it into our Platys.  Tedious! 

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Then we talked about where to spend the night.  Rim Lodge is very elegant and expensive, and we figured it was probably full up.  So we simply started walking up the hiker trail around the Rim.  Only a short distance from the parking lot, we found a perfect cozy campsite–a “V” between two huge logs. It had a beautiful view of Crater lake, and was well-sheltered in a grove of trees.  We set up our tarp, put away our gear, and just as we were getting into our sleeping bags, it began to rain.   It was very cold, and we were well-bundled up, even inside our sleeping bags, but stayed warm and comfortable all night.  That makes two nights in a row with BEAUTIFUL campsites, first at a waterfall, then at a lake!