PCT Hike – Crater Lake National Park

From September 6th until September 22nd, I went on an adventure – solo hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail from Crater Lake National Park to Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood. In the upcoming blog posts I will share with you this adventure from a daily perspective so you can get an idea of where I was and what I was doing (I mean, besides stepping North with a very heavy backpack).

The planning part of the adventure had been happening all summer long with increasingly difficult elevation and distance hikes, along with weighing down a backpack which would begin to build the strength and endurance I would need for the just over two week and 250+ mile trek I would be doing along the PCT. I prepped and packed my own dehydrated meals (which were quite tasty), though they take a little more fuel to cook and weigh a bit more than the pre-packaged meals you can purchase.

The PCTA.org website was extremely useful and full of information about hiking along the PCT.  Along with their many useful tidbits, they have a map section which you can download and print for the sections of the PCT you will be hiking along.

The 2014 season of hiking had already earned me well over 175 miles trekked with more than 50k in elevation gain overall.  Though in comparison to the 16 day journey I had on the PCT, those miles now seem small.

DSCN3079

The adventure began with a 2.5 day exploration of Crater Lake National Park. I had never been. If you have never been, put it on your bucket list. I imagine that in the heat of summer it would probably be a busy place to explore. However, as we arrived just after Labor Day weekend, it was not very packed at all. We camped at Lost Creek Campground which is on the South side of the park. It was a quaint campground, with plenty of camping spots, a creek and a flushing toilet. The camp spots were loaded with firewood from all of the diseased trees they were taking down.

Getting to the campground was an adventure in itself as we arrived through the North gate of the park and decided to take the western route to the campground road which was on the Southern side of the park. Well, just one mile before the campground road there was a “Road Closed” sign, so we had to turn around and drive all the way around the entire crater to get to the campground road that was just beyond the closed part of the road. One might think that those who make smart people decisions would let people who don’t know any better know about these things long before they get to these places. Just sayin.

Tim packed a world of tasty delights for us to indulge in for the few days we were there which was great to have before getting on trail. Homemade salsa from the summer’s harvest of garden vegetables, fresh eggs, arnold palmers, s’mores and more!  I did manage to gain a whole 1.5 lbs (a huge accomplishment itself) prior to leaving for the trip while on the “Fat-Boy Program” I created for myself that included a lot of donuts, pasta, ice cream and beer.

Blue TreesCrater Lake is stunning. A huge volcanic shell that was filled up with rainwater. To say that the water in the lake looks “blue” would be an understatement. It IS the color blue. Water so clear and so deep that it reflects the bluest part of the sky. Every time I got a glimpse of the lake, more so when it was framed by the color green of a tree, I would be in awe at the depth of the blue I was seeing.

Wizard Island

We took the $40 boat ride to Wizard Island (how could we not), which is a volcano inside of a lake, inside of a volcano! We were allowed three whole hours on the island. We got to climb to the top of the volcano and down into the cinder cone. It took us about a half hour to summit.

After playing around inside of the volcano (we didn’t get to sacrifice Tim), we went down to the shoreline and found a little lagoon. Tim got his feet wet, but I totally jumped in. The water was SO cold that I had to exit immediately with a lot of gasping and bellowing. Tim said I was crawling out of the water like Gollum. It was my pre-hike cleansing of many layers, and little did I know, it would be the cleanest I would be in days!

D - Gollum

One of the most prophetic things I heard at Crater Lake was after we had climbed up to the top of Garfield Peak and were gazing over the amazingness of blue before us. A young man of about 18 was telling his friend that he heard the crater was formed when Mazama (the mountain) blew up and caved in on itself, then the rains came and filled up the crater, which was about 7,700 years ago. A fact which he found extremely interesting as he knows that “the Earth was only created about 6,000 years ago.”  (O.o)  Say what? I’m going to have to do some history of the Earth investigating now, or maybe just re-watch Mel Brook’s – A History of the World.

Friday night was spent around the campfire eating more wonderful foods like corn on the cob and garden burgers. I got out my journal and my maps of Section One and calculated a rough average of 16 miles/day needed in order to get to my first Cache stop at Elk Lake Resort in a week’s time before running out of food. That was my first section of three – Crater Lake to Elk Lake. I figured that with a full pack and unknown terrain, I would be averaging about 2 miles/hour which would put me into an 8 hour day for hiking. Sounded good to me!

TrailheadOn Saturday morning after a delicious breakfast, we packed up camp and Tim drove me to my trailhead which was just North of Crater Lake Park off of Highway 138. Leaving what I knew behind, along with my comforts and my security, I said my goodbyes to Tim (which he admitted that it felt strange to go camping with someone, then just leave them in the middle of the woods and drive away) and at 11:44, I trekked my first 1/2 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail mile marker 1852.

 

Trail Walk

I had no expectations of what lay ahead, and really no direction except I knew that I would be on the PCT heading North. I had my maps and compass, and I was a like child in the mode of discovery on an epic adventure of a lifetime.

Happy Trails!

Denny

Coming soon: PCT – Day 1

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