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Posts Tagged ‘Crater Lake’

After all the beauty of Crater Lake, the PCT through Oregon followed a line of volcanoes and the tall mountains which

Crater Lake

conveniently went in a northward line.  We could see the first one ahead from the rim, Mt. Thielson.  A trend emerged as the PCT methodologically traveled northward; we would climb to a certain point on the westward side of each mountain, just enough to get a few good views, then contour around it until we went steadily down, back into the trees.

Surprisingly, I did not want to walk locked into a green tunnel, despite the exposed and super hot California because Oregon had turned cold and my body had not yet adapted to near freezing temperatures at night yet.

I caught Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget warming in the sun where a side trail split off to go to the top of Thielson.  None of us were convinced the summit wasn’t technical, but we could only see part of the trail up.  What we could see was mostly scree, which is fine going down, but going up is a bitch and a half.  We opted to continue down the PCT toward Thielson Creek to eat lunch.  My motivation had not yet recuperated from the cold by lunch which had begun to worry me.

Right as we left, the three of us ran into a guy hugging a tree and taking a MySpace photo of himself in a spot that didn’t seem unique to any of us.  As soon as he told his story, we understood.  His name was Scarecrow from Long Island.  He had almost completed his thru-hike last year, in 2011, but the snow slowed him down and he had to miss a chunk of trail from the spot where we found him until Bend, and then from Skykomish, WA to the Canadian border.  He told us about his restless nights and inability to sleep well at night because he hadn’t finished.  He had completed the stretch sobo from Bend to Thielson Creek and was about to head up to Skykomish to finish.

He helped my motivation significantly, not only from his excitement, but because he confidently said we were going to make it to the border and I was getting sick of people asking us if we’d make it since so many other hikers had already gone through.

We passed through a section of trail that had recently opened four days earlier after the Butte Fire damaged the area significantly and crossed the trail for about a quarter mile.

We passed the Oregon/Washington high point afterwards and continued until we camped for the night in a saddle that offered comfortable pine needles to sleep on.  By that time, Hop-a-long was getting seriously worried about itchy bites that were beginning to cover both of her arms, hands and neck.  I gave her some anti-itch cream, but that only goes so far when a person has so many bites.

By late morning, we reached Windigo Pass which offered an alternate trail which would bypass about 9 miles of PCT and rejoin at Willamette Pass near a ski resort.  A note posted at the trailhead gave information for a local trail angel based out of Bend named Lloyd Gust.  Hop-a-long called him and asked if he knew anything about bed bug, chigger, or flea bites since we couldn’t quite determine which ones were biting her.

“Do you have bites in threes?” Lloyd asked her on the phone.

“Yes.”

“They’re bed bugs.  We don’t have many, if any at all, chiggers around here,” he replied.

Seeing an RV park and a road close on the alternate route, she went that way to find a hot shower and laundry to blast the bed bugs out of her clothes and sleeping bag on high heat.  She even found spray rubbing alcohol to add to the bed bug death mix.  Inspector Gadget and I kept going on the main PCT and expected to meet her at Willamette Pass.

The next morning,the temperature went down to about 27 degrees and frost covered our tents.  Trying to simultaneously ignore my alarm and convince myself I needed to get up and hike somewhere, I laid in my sleeping bag staring at the frost above.

THUNK

I bolted into sitting position, still in my sleeping bag thinking a damn bear was right outside my tent.  Then I saw a headlamp.  It was 6am.  Who the hell is walking already packed up at 6am in this cold?

“Who is it?” I asked.

“WHAAAAAA!!!!” the person startled, “oh shit, I didn’t see you guys there!  It’s Splinter.”

“Shit man, it’s Gadget and Veg!” Inspector laughed.

“Hey guys!” Splinter gasped seemingly delirious, “I’ve already done 48 miles! 12 to go until Shelter Cove Resort and I’ll have 60 miles in 24 hours!”

“You’re fucking crazy,” I muttered still waking up.  “Why did you want to do that?”

“I needed to catch up!  And I wanted to see what I could do for a long day.  When I had 30 miles done in the first 12 hours and I wasn’t tired, I figured I’d go for it,” Splinter laughed.

“Dude,” Gadget started, obviously shivering, “come hang out with us at Willamette Pass after you pick up your resupply and eat pizza.”

“It’s only open on the weekends though, it’s Friday,” Splinter said.

“It’s Saturday,” I said.  “It was Friday when you started hiking this crazy mileage.”

We went up near Diamond Peak, contoured around, then headed down through a throng of day hikers who did not seem to understand headphones blasting as a don’t-talk-to-me sign.

“How far up is the lake,” one asked in a whiny voice.

“Which lake?” I asked in return.

“Uhhhh…the lake…” he responded looking confused.

“Dude, I passed at least twenty damn lakes this morning, I don’t know which lake you want,” and I continued on while he looked perplexed.  I had decided not to eat trail lunch since fresh salad, pizza, and beer would be at the ski resort in about four miles.  This, however, increased my annoyance with day hikers who wanted to ask the usual mess of questions.  Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch, but I’m starving and there is food that is not in my pack right ahead, probably where you parked your car.

The ski resort was not busy in the slightest, so we took over a table and several outlets to charge all of our electronics while we ate several rounds of food and drank some beer.  Hop-a-long had just gotten there and regaled us about blasting the bed bugs out of her stuff and the bites seeming to stall, or at least not get worse.  Splinter caught up with us and decided just to start drinking instead of taking a nap to not mess up his sleep schedule.  Always a great plan.  He had managed 60 miles in 24 hours and then started drinking beer.  Props.

That evening, we hiked out a few miles to the Madison Ski Hut which was a ski shelter shaped like an octagon for backcountry skiers.  We spent the night reading the register and figuring out how to booby trap our food from the scurrying mice that also inhabited the shelter.

The Oregon Hiker Highway with the super cool moss.

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Delirious from 36 miles and tipsy from the beer, I stumbled down the road to a user trail spawned by Yogi down into the Mazama Village of Crater Lake.  According to the Yogi guidebook, if you walked the road into the Village, you would have to pay at the entry booth and the proper side trail was extra miles.  She claimed that you could bushwhack down when you see a guard rail on the curve of the road straight down to Mazama.

When I got there, I found Scooter in the store buying beer.  He took me over to campsite E17 where Dead Animal had set up camp complete with Coleman stove and grill.  He had just gone to see if I was at the trailhead, but Hop-a-long, Scooter, and Tahoe showed me where everything was.  I barely managed to sit down when a beer maneuvered its way into my hand and Hop-a-long filled a plate with soy chorizo, peppers, and onions.  We sat around a fire talking, cooking, and having a few brews.  Dead Animal filled me another plate of potato product fried and covered in ketchup.  Apparently, I need to eat.  It’s actually true.

Everything went grand until some gun totting park rangers came by with their flashlights up by their heads looking all serious and such rolled up.

“We got a few noise complaints for over here, you guys need to keep it down,” one said in his best cop-like voice.

I looked at my watch…it wasn’t even 10pm yet!  Quite hours were from 10pm-7am.  We had no music playing and we weren’t even talking loudly or drinking outrageously.

“What’s in the bag?!” one said with his flashlight beaming over on the picnic table which was covered with food, stoves, bags of all sorts.

I was closest, so I answered, “which bag?”

“The bag by the phone.”

“What phone?”  There was no phone on the table, probably because there was no cell service to speak of down there.

“The bag by the phone,” the guy started to sound more irritated.

“Oh, the MP3 player?” I asked and picked up the bag that had a garlic clove in it before we used it all.  “It had garlic in it.”  I picked it up and smelled it.  It smelled strongly of fresh garlic.  “Here, you smell it,” and I shoved it in the woman’s face.

Sniff sniff.  “hmm, yeah, garlic.”

Damn rangers.  Get out of here.  Go find some teenagers to bust for underage drinking or maybe the people who couldn’t stand 35 degree nighttime temperatures across from us who sat in their car with the heat on from 4 am on…thats between quite hours and a car engine running is not exactly quite.

Gadget rolled up around 11pm, right as I was going to bed and chilled out.

None of us got up early in the morning, besides Gadget who went to get a long early breakfast at the restaurant near the store.  Eventually, we made some breakfast, got our packages and formulated a plan which turned out to be somewhat of a cluster fuck.  For starters, the PCT split so an equestrian PCT separated from a hiker PCT for about 13 miles.

Scooter and Tahoe decided to slack pack 14 miles to where the trail came back together.  While Dead Animal shuttled them to the trailhead, Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I bummed the camp showers and walked to the store to do laundry.  In the meantime, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk showed up and joined our plan to slack pack a whopping 5 miles up to Crater Lake Rim.  After stuffing our faces full of food from the store, we grabbed some beer and got shuttled by Dead up to the trailhead.

Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk took off first and stayed ahead of us the whole time.  Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, and I started chatting and drinking beer on the first two miles since it was flat.  We knew we were moving slowly since each of us had a beer in hand, but we also knew we were supposed to shoot upward when the trail split.  Almost an hour and a half in, we knew something was wrong because the trail was still flat.  We definitely weren’t going 3mph, but we weren’t going a mile and a half per hour either.  Gadget checked the GPS which showed us on the trail, but upon second glance, we realized that the GPS only had the equestrian trail marked and we had gone about two miles past the junction.

We hurried back moving faster than 3mph until we saw the junction.  Looking at the sign, the top had “Dutton Creek Trail” underlined and only on the third line down said “Crater lake Rim Trail – PCT.”  None of us looked past the top line and dismissed it as a side trail.  Underneath the sign, a piece of paper taped up said, “Horseys <–, Hikers –> Don’t be a Dumbass like Us.”  Great.  Didn’t even manage to see that.

Scurrying as fast as we could, we tried to race to the rim.  The trail, however, had other plans for us.  It shot straight up, pulling an AT number and we soon realized why the equestrians went around and not up.  Eventually, we hit the road that ran around the rim for all the yuppies and we walked to the cafe since the sky threatened rain and Dead Animal had gone to drop off Scooter and Tahoe’s stuff further on.  We warmed up there since the wind was fierce out near the lake until Dead Animal came and we formulated a plan of where to stealth camp so we didn’t have to pay for a pricy campsite again.

Right as we were going to bed, some music came bombing out of the woods, in the form of Magellan.  We gave him some chips, salsa, and beer since the store had already closed and he stealthed there with us.

The cold morning gave us a late start and we slack packed the 9 miles to where the hiker PCT and the equestrian PCT rejoined.  We took our time as the trail shot up and down to every viewpoint imaginable.  We dodged tourists, took pictures, and drank some beer while we hiked.  Dead Animal cooked us a good large meal of epic portions and we drank as much beer as we could fit into our ever shrinking stomachs.  The extra beers we left by the trail with a note to pack a can out for the other thru-hikers who we knew were not more than a day behind.

Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget got a head start on me and landed about a mile ahead of me that night, but I caught them in the morning.  I would have caught them sooner, but we had one of the coldest nights on trail up until that point and it zapped my motivation to move apart from my sleeping bag.

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The Standing Stone Brewery, where we ended up at in Ashland, was excellent and I ate copious amounts of food with good beer.  When we realized that the hostel was full, we had to hitch three miles back to the interstate, where all the cheap places to stay were located.  In the process, we encountered the local squatter population which seemed to want to take us in as their own since we were dirty, had backpacks, and therefore must not have any money to stay anywhere or buy our own food.

“Hey! You look like me!” one guy said walking by with a non hiking backpack.  Hmmm….how do I say this…no.

“Hey!  You know, the best squatting is down by the bridge!” Another one said.

“Thanks, but we’ll take a cheap motel instead,” Hop-a-long said.

We ended up having to call a taxi since everyone kept confusing us for the squatters begging for food near us, one of which had a sign that read, “Divorced Bigfoot…anything helps.”

Once we got there, Hop-a-long, Trooper and I split a room in the cheapest motel, the Relax Inn where we were put in the very end room, right smack next to the interstate.  The room reminded me of my freshman dorm room at college complete with concrete blocks and the owner dude watering the same flower bed for 30 minutes to watch us air our sleeping bags and put sink laundry out to dry.

After resupplying the next day, we somehow managed to spend most of the day eating, sleeping, and sending food places.  All in all, it turned into an inadvertent zero day.  We did not realize that until we found ourselves wanting food and noticed it was dinner time. Handily, a decently priced Mexican restaurant was located behind the motel, so we went there and ended up finding Splinter and Scooter who had hitched back to Shasta to climb it, then hitched back to Ashland, then Spins and Baboon.

Hop-a-long and I managed to get back on trail by noon the next day while Trooper waited for Funk to show up, who had gotten a day behind.  We also saw Tahoe and Taka at the trailhead and we leapfrogged them for the rest of the day.
At that point, Oregon did not seem too different from California: smokey from the nearby fire, dry, some sand, and a big fat rattlesnake.  Hop-a-long had boogied right by and it slithered out of the way to my right without rattling, but still managed to make me jump back, then ease closer to get a better look and see if I could get a good picture of it.  The thing must have been three and a half feet long!  Crazy!  I hadn’t seen a rattler in a while, just lame little garter snakes.

All four of us took a break by a spring that had a spigot.  Distrustful of random spigots in the middle of absolutely nowhere, we all treated it, and why not…the sawyer squeeze filter is so easy!

That night, Hop and I made it a little past a small highway and set up our tents in the most flat patch we could find, which wasn’t that great, but I slept fantastically anyway because the extra warmth of the tent blocked the breeze.  I reveled in having the extra two or two and a half pounds that my MSR Hubba offered.  I could definitely notice the weight change though.  Bye bye tarp!

I saw Tahoe in the morning as he packed up and we chatted for a wee bit as we took the newly rerouted PCT which seemed to add half a mile to go around the west side of a large hill instead of the east side.  Hop-a-long decided to cut off two miles by walking the dirt road instead, so I did not see her until lunch, where we also found Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk.

At the next water, I sat down to filter it when none other than Little Brown walked up heading sobo.  I had met him at the 501 shelter in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail.  He had major knee surgery and the doctor told him not to thru-hike this year, so he decided to section hike.  Good spirit!  His knees seemed to hold up well and he told Tahoe and I a few stories with emphatic gestures.  He also gave us the important information that the last spring on the way into Crater Lake Mazama Village was dry.

We passed many small roads the whole day until we came upon Dead Animal with his blue Neon, a cooler of beer, and a five gallon bag of box wine.  We promptly sat down, drank a beer, and complained about how our feet hurt.  All three of us checked out the map and realized that the Brown Mountain Shelter (super weird to have a shelter on the PCT) was less than three trail miles away and .2 from another paved side/back road.  At the end of 26 miles, we hoped in the car and went the 2.8 miles up to the next road, then walked south to the shelter with arms full of food, beer and boxed wine.

The only person there was Little Steps, who had given us rides to and from the trail at the Anderson’s Casa de Luna (mile 478).  She was super excited to camp with other thru-hikers since she hadn’t in a bit.

Hop-a-long and I annihilated a large box of lettuce, some cookies, and any other food we could find, while entertaining ourselves with a trail register.  Her, Dead Animal, Tahoe, Little Steps and I began a game of “Slap the Bag” in which one person holds the five gallon wine bag for someone to slap and drink from above them.  Little Steps even joined in our little shenanigans…and she’s 60!

After dark, Scooter rolled in and before he could even get his pack off, we made him chug some delicious box wine, then stuck a beer in his hand.  He had a grin from ear to ear.  A wee bit later, Inspector Gadget rolled in and got the same treatment.  This went on until the five gallons was gone and we blew the bag back up with air to use as a pillow.

The morning was a little rough, but we managed to make it back to Dead Animal’s car where he cooked us all breakfast while we hovered in the little sunlight that poked through the trees.  It seemed as though fall had begun to set in since the nights became significantly colder and the days got significantly shorter.  Dead took all our stuff up to the road 10 miles later to Fish Lake so we could slackpack across the lava.

Despite the lava, the trail actually had such amazing construction that a great amount of dirt had been brought it so as not to roll your ankles with every step over sharp lava rocks.  The miles whizzed 0n by and we were back at Dead’s car before we knew it.  There,  we cooked lunch and Hop-a-long whipped up an amazing sautéed vegetable, soy chorizo mix to cram into a tortilla for easy mass calorie intake.  The boys cooked bratwurst.

Unfortunately, no roads crossed the trail in the next 51 miles to Crater Lake, so we had to take all our stuff there where Dead Animal said he’d be the following day.  Inspector Gadget set off first on the challenge at 2pm, then Splinter at 3pm, and finally I left at 3:30pm.  Hop-a-long was battling a giant brain crushing headache combined with an obnoxious back rash from her pack, so she hopped up to Crater.

Twelve miles up trail, after scaring some day walkers, I found Gadget at the first water where we cooked dinner.  I had surprised myself flying up that first climb when I was so un-motivated.  We only managed two more miles or so after that and crashed out on a  side trail thinking no one else would hike that.

I was pretty determined the following day to make it to Crater Lake despite it being 36.3 miles away.  I went for it.  Up by 4:30am, hiking by 5:15am, and in almost all my layers because I walked all over a windy ridge.  The morning miles flew by pretty well, until I hit the 1800 mile mark and plopped down in the sun to grab a snack.
The only notable feature of the day was Devil’s something or other which had these sweet rock features going all over the place.  Why is anything crazy awesome have “devil” in the name?

On the way down, about 15 miles in, I ran into Scooter right after he finished digging a cat hole.  That was the only time I saw him that day until Crater.  From there, I went in six mile-ish segments all the way to Crater Lake.  I had begun to get tired, so I chugged some Crystal Light Energy (aka crack).  My feet had also begun to hurt for no apparent reason, so I took my socks off and that seemed to help significantly.

I hit the road at 7:50pm, found a tall boy beer Dead Animal had left, chugged it and walked deliriously into “town,”  ready for an entertaining evening.
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