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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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