July 23, 2018: Exploring Crater Lake

At Lightning Springs Camp, Mile 4.6 (Crater Lake Rim Trail Alternate)

After such an early start yesterday, I was slow getting out of camp. But I had planned for today to be slow, with low mileage, and extra time to see the lake.

Once out of Grouse Hill, the trail went up 2.5 miles to the rim. It was just enough elevation gain for me to notice, as the smoke grew thicker. The trail grew closer to Rim Drive, until they both converged at the first viewpoint, on the northwest corner of the lake.

Even though it was smoky, it was still a great view. I took my time, taking pictures and the like.

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I chatted up a family doing the same thing, and the dad asked me how it was going. I replied that it was going great, although there was a 22 mile stretch with no water. He offered me a liter, straight from the fridge in their RV. Boom! For the curious, or for new readers, to Yogi means to finagle food or water from a willing tourist. In the heat and the smoke, ice water was really appreciated! The fact that I was accessing water caches remained unmentioned; extra water is always welcome even on shorter days.

After that wonderful encounter, I headed south along the Rim Trail. It was more meandering than hiking, but with all the views it was pretty cool.

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I spent some time chatting with a 70 year old hiker named Unchained. It’s always fun meeting people who are older than the average hiker. I gave him some tips about the northern end of the trail, including a drool-worthy description of the cinnamon rolls in Stehekin.

Because my actual mileage was very low, I took a side trip up the Watchman. It’s a 1.2 mile round trip, 600 feet gain trail, up to the fire lookout, which is at 8025 feet. It’s not officially part of the PCT, but it’s the highest point in Washington and Oregon. I plodded along, nursing my asthma, but the view was worth it. The lookout is periodically staffed, and of course there was a guy up there today, watching the progress of the Timber Crater Fire. Also, the smoke cleared a bit in the late afternoon, so that I got to see a bit of the lake’s incredibly deep blue.

After I got down the Watchman trail, I met a couple who were sitting still and watching pikas! It was so nice to see and hear the pikas…it’s been a long time. With climate change, their habitat is shrinking.

I reached the Lightning Springs Camp junction, and headed down the 0.8 mile trail. Almost immediately, I met a guy who was one of the CLNP wildfire fighters. I thanked him profusely. Other than homeowners, nobody thanks firefighters like hikers. I was almost misty.

Once I reached the camp, I filled up with six liters at the spring. That will save me the time of getting water in the morning, and will give me my desired two liters for camp, plus the chance to camel up before I leave (camel up = pound a liter of water while at a water source).

Tomorrow will be finishing the Rim Trail Alternate, and heading downhill to Mazama Village.

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