Hours on Trail: 11.5
Mile Marker: 1,848
We awoke to a smokey morning. My mind interpreted the smoke as fog, which I wasn’t upset about in the slightest. We packed up in the red light and left our camp spot. Walking through the parking lot of the Mazamas Campground office, we headed towards the Annie Springs trail which would take us back to the PCT. The connecting trail was a morning climb for certain. It was already setting up to be a warm day and we were both sweating by the time we met the PCT. Turning left towards Crater Lake, we walked for a little ways before meeting the Dutton Creek trail.
Since the official PCT is closed due to the forest fire last year, we would take the Crater Lake Rim Alternate around the closure. Keith and I had gone back and forth about walking up to the rim of Crater Lake in general, but the closure made the decision for us. Walking onto the Dutton Creek trail was the beginning of this little alternate. The trail took us right up to Rim Village. The climb was sweaty and buggy. We both had already sprayed Deet on at the campground and were glad as the mosquitos flew around us. We took the climb fast and were dripping sweat by the time we reached Rim Village just around 8:30am.
Keith walked towards the bathrooms while I walked straight to the lookout over Crater Lake. The lake was smoked over, giving it an incredibly eerie feeling. I loved this new look to the lake, especially since I had already been here before. I walked back to find Keith and use the bathrooms myself. Keith and I walked around looking for the small water fountain of which would be our last water source for the day. I eventually found it, torn down. I’m guessing they disabled it for the season due to a “low water/drought season” sign I saw at Mazamas Campground. We shrugged and decided to just use the sinks in the bathrooms. Sitting our packs down outside, we took turns going in and filling up our water bottles. I shook up coffee and we drank it there before filling up that bottle with water for the rest of the day too.
By now it was nearly 9am and we set down towards the Discovery Point trail. Walking along the edge of the rim was a wonderful way to spend the morning. Not too far into the trail, we spotted a nice little area for second breakfast. We sat our packs down and watched the ferry on the lake below. The smoke was thick enough to not see the water, thus the ferry appeared to be flying among the clouds. Wizard Island looked haunting and lonely among the smoke and lake around it. We enjoyed the view greatly as we ate, taking our time and eating our cookies. We chatted and laughed our break away and were soon packing up and heading back out along the rim.
We climbed short but steep hills as the trail followed the edge of the rim. I looked to my right often, gazing upon Wizard Island and watching the ferries go back and forth. The day was warm and we were thankful for every occasional breeze which passed. Day hikers, section hikers, and an occasional thru hiker passed us both ways, all saying hi. We scampered up and around rock faces, going into the trees and popping back out from them. Turning a corner we could see the Watchmen lookout above us. We were both glad we had been here once before, as it would have been rather tempting to take a side trip to the top. Instead, we passed it by, each remembering our last trip when we had climbed to the lookout. Keith told his stories of his time here and I shared mine too as we walked passed the trailhead to the top of the lookout. We dropped down to the parking lot before climbing up and around to meet up with the Rim trail again. It is odd returning to a place you road tripped to before, now contained to the speed of your feet. I thought of how little I had thought of water on that road trip, especially compared to my obsession with it now. It’s amazing how important the little things in life quickly become.
Turning the edge of another ridge, we caught a glimpse down to the lake again. We knew we were nearing where we would leave the rim, so we decided to take an early lunch. I climbed up a little side trail to the peak of the ridge, overlooking Wizard Island and the lake. Keith soon joined me and we hid in the shade, trying to cool down from the heat of the sun. We skipped the coffee portion of the break to save water, and ate our cookies and burritos instead. Keith’s phone had service, so we checked up on the Timber Crater 6 fire and the upcoming weather. We ended up hanging out at our little spot for just about an hour before packing up. Neither of us wanted to the leave the view of the lake, but we still had a decent day ahead of us and we couldn’t stay here forever. So, we packed up and made our way down the hill and crossed the roads, headed down to meet up with the PCT again.
The downhill got into my knees and I tried not to limp and I hiked behind Keith. I’m truly learning that uphill climbs are a gift and downhill descents are a curse. But we make it through no matter what and Keith cheered me up with a bit of conversation. Soon we met up with the PCT and headed north on the trail. The trail brought us into an interesting section of trees. They were skinny and tall, some dead from disease but most were simply sickly. Among them we found a spot for our afternoon break. I sat on the ground, leaning against my pack and stretching my legs out. Keith sat on a log nearby and we passed the cookie bag and electrolyte mix back and forth. The day was hotter than we had guessed, making us wish we had packed out just a bit more water. Not that we were dehydrated, but more for optimal hydration. We talked about possible campspots for the night as we still had little to no idea where we would end up. We settled on a couple different options, but decided to see how the afternoon went.
By 4pm we were packing up our stuff again and headed to the trail. Our pace quickened throughout the day as we edged closer to the national park boarder. Whether it was the sun, random shade from the trees, or just the idea to continue on, we zoomed through the remainder of our day. Conversation arose between us and we laughed most of our way through the day. Occasional sets of silence fell between us and we hiked through the trees in silence. In our conversation, we agreed that we would pick up water from the road if there happened to be a cache. Neither of us had heard about any sort of water cache remotely in the area, but even a few gallon cache we would take advantage of. Soon we reached the highway and found two gallon bottles, empty. We shrugged, not worried about our water level, but realized we would have to continue conserving throughout the evening.
We continued hiking through the woods. I had wanted to go about a half mile past the highway, which I thought was halfway between the highway and another dirt road. But as we hiked we noticed the dirt road through the trees. Apparently the dirt road was a half mile in and I wasn’t complaining a bit. That’s when we saw the most beautiful sight in the world. Keith saw it before I, but I mentioned it first. Water! Hundreds of gallons of water sat beside the trail, it was one of the larger caches we had seen and we couldn’t have been happier to see it. We dropped our packs and I thanked the Lord for the water surprise. We filtered water into our bottles and promptly chugged a liter each before hiking out to find a camp spot down the trail.
With an extra skip to our steps, we made our way down the trail. Keith spotted a flat spot deep in the trees and ventured in. We set up tent and continued talking about how exciting it was to find random water by the dirt road. A little after 6:30pm, we had everything set up and Keith was making Creamy Mash. I decrusted and hopped into the tent, soon joined by Keith. We were both quite tired from the long day, but we’re very excited for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will pass by Lightning Boy, or better known as Mt. Thielsen. He will be our first major craggy, Oregon Cascade volcano mountain and I’m very excited to see him up close. Hopefully the day will be a bit cooler than today, but either way, I’m sure it’ll be fun. For now, we head to bed with smiles on our faces, thankful for random surprises of water.