Day 45 – 47 (Crescent Lake to Stuart Falls Trail south of Crater Lake)
Miles hiked this section: 69
PCT hiked so far: mile 2660 – 1824
Total miles hiked so far including blue blazing etc: 835
Leaving this RV labyrinth in the morning is as difficult as arriving was. We think there is a faster path back to the trail, but are thwarted by limited signage and end up using compass navigation to find the trail, about a half mile away through sparse, managed forest.
We lunch near Six Horse Spring, 15 miles into our day, and load up for our first long waterless stretch in Southern Oregon. I calculate how much I want to carry based on my average uses over the last few weeks. This week we will have stretches from 16 miles to 27 miles without water, starting today. My formula ends up as such: always drink about a liter at a water source. Then if it’s less than 10 miles, carry 2 liters. Less than 16 miles, carry 3 liters. Less than 25 carry 4 liters.
The body starts to complain and ache from these long hot days. Knees, shins, Achilles and blisters. My neck and shoulder tweaked in my sleep a few days ago and carrying the pack grows painful as we add more water weight. After some yoga at lunch, we hike out still sore and tired. We meet a new SOBO named Soaked and talk about his work as a seasonal forest ranger in New Zealand and the US. Sounds pretty rad.
Around 8pm we get to a sign that says we are at the Washington/Oregon high point around 7560 feet elevation. We could press on a few miles, but we are striking distance – just 25 miles – from the famed Crater Lake Rim. The most poetic way to approach the Crater will be to hike it at dawn in 2 days, so we camp early tonight to pace it out right.
Thru hiking is a painful and beautiful process of breaking up with one’s self. Today in our long waterless stretches, I feel I am ascending thru the stages of grief. Reliving embarrassing remembrances of who I have been. What I did or felt or said in human interactions i haven’t thought about for years or decades. I feel despair, but than acceptance that all of these choices and foibles have led to this moment
There is no return to who I was. Something new must emerge…
Passing so many NOBOs now. Question of the day… Why do almost all hiker beards end up red?
The day is long but passes nicely because we take lots of breaks. There is no rush today since we are only going 20 miles. I become friends with ants at lunch letting them drink miso soup from my tuperware lid.
We reach grouse hill camp before 6 — just a few miles from the Rim Trail. Tomorrow we will wake early to reach the lake before sunrise.
Wake at 3:30 and hit Crater Lake by 5 am, and the horizon is already seeping orange. We hike a mile to find a nice spot to sit and eat oatmeal until we are too chilly and hike on. We take a .4 detour to the watchman lookout where professionals scope out wildfires.
As light grows so do our run ins with folks waking at the lodge and wandering out for morning nature experiences. We reach the lodge at the Rim Village at 8 am and get free coffees which we enjoy on the terrace overlooking the lake in rocking chairs. Life is super sweet.
After an hour or so, we hike 5 more miles to Mazama Village around noon. Laundry is only 1.75 and a 4 minute shower is .75 but it doesn’t matter cause we get quarters from other hikers and clean ourselves up. We drink beers and eat chips and charge devices and get our resupply box which my folks mailed. (thanks folks!) Then we enjoy a veggie burger at the restaurant and hike out.
After 6 miles Groucho spies a rocky outcropping about 300 feet east of the trail that looks flat on top with some sparce trees. We check it out and set up cowboy style watching the sunset pinken the mountains, as the almost full moon rises like a spotlight in the east.