July 22, 2018: Finally, Crater Lake!

At Grouse Hill Camp, Mile 11.0 (Crater Lake Rim Trail Alternate)

My hike is finally here! I wasn’t sure how this year’s hike would play out. My chronic fatigue syndrome is somewhat improved, although my health is certainly not where it was in prior years. But we’re making it work, and I’m really excited!

Steve and I got up at 4:00 this morning for my 7:00 flight to Medford. It’s a lot faster than the train, which would have required a drive from Eugene and then on up the hill, far south of where I’d started before. But I definitely missed seeing Robin and Mary Beth this year!

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I had the pleasure of a ride with Devilfish, who angels up and down the trail. It was great to meet him. We dropped off our other passenger, an Israeli hiker named Alon, at Mazama Village, which is the lower southern part of Crater Lake National Park. I got my bearings quickly, as I’ll be back in a few days.

Devilfish gave me a quick tour as we drove north to Hwy 138, the northern end of Section C. The smoke was moderately heavy; the Timber Crater Fire in the northeast corner of the park was really kicking in. It was too far to be a particular danger, but the smoke was a challenge.

Finally, my starting point! The astute reader will remember that I had to get off trail at Hwy 138 last year, due to the Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake Fires in August and September 2017. I will be hiking through a lot of new burn, but at least I’ll be on trail, and will hopefully finish Section C.

The trail winds along a flatter-than-a-pancake section, for nine miles. It was a good warmup, and I started getting acclimated to the smoke and elevation. Crater Lake itself runs about 7,000 feet, and the lake itself is far below the rim. People, certainly me, aren’t expecting this, so it was a surprise. But the lake itself wouldn’t be visible until tomorrow.

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After the nine miles, I reached a trail junction. This is where the “official” PCT diverges from the Rim Trail. It’s rather odd, that the PCT itself doesn’t come within sight of the lake. Virtually every hiker takes the Rim Trail Alternate. And it’s actually mandatory right now; the Spruce Lake fire closed the PCT for the foreseeable future.

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Next to the junction was a tiny spur up to the highway, which deadended in a trailhead parking lot. And in that lot was a bear box. And in that bear box was a water cache! And that water cache is regularly supplied by Devilfish! He fills three separate caches (two of which I used last year), via the Diamond Lake Resort. Without these caches, there would be dry stretches of 25-30 miles. Needless to say, his efforts are heroic and change the game for a lot of us.

I had a friend drop off a gallon with my name on it, but there was so much water that it was redundant. Hikers taking care of each other.

Once I refilled my water, with enough for tonight and tomorrow, I continued down the Rim Trail to Grouse Camp. Crater Lake National Park only has a few approved campsites, and I planned to use two of them.

I tossed down my tent, and met a girl named Linnea, who is on her very first section. As soon as we said hello, she asked me for my top five tips for new backpackers. It was a great conversation starter.

The smoke was getting thicker, as the day wound to a close. But as always, it makes for a great sunset.

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Tomorrow, the lake!

3 thoughts on “July 22, 2018: Finally, Crater Lake!

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