PCT Day 127 – Friday August 18
Crater Lake Rim Alternate Trail Mile 2.3 to Grouse Hill Camp Mile 11
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 0
Crater Lake Rim Alternate Trail Miles Hiked: 8.7 + 2 miles Road Walk
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1351.6
Feet Ascended Today: don’t know
Feet Descended Today: don’t know
Current Elevation: 6617
I awoke and enjoyed the feel of cotton sheets and fluffy pillows against my clean skin. Ahhh. I think I have a limit of 10 – 14 days of backcountry camping, after which I need at least one night in a bed (preferably in a room by myself) or else I start to go a little nutty.
I felt well rested and relaxed and started planning out the next leg of my trip. My stomach was still a little gurgley but not as bad as yesterday, so that was encouraging. I realized I was almost out of one of my medications. I had just enough to get me to the next big town with a pharmacy. I would have to stick to a tight schedule and hope nothing happened to slow me down. Ug. Hiking with these medications is annoying. But I keep reminding myself that the alternative is much, much worse.
I enjoyed my room until check-out time at 11:00 am, and then headed over to the store which had a better wifi signal. I planned to spend a couple of hours working on my blog and head out in the afternoon. I wasn’t in a big hurry today. My plan was to hike to the Rim and find a campsite up there so I could watch the sunset and sunrise over Crater Lake, and then to hike the rest of the Rim Trail tomorrow. I had heard from another hiker that camping wasn’t allowed along the Rim, but that there was a backcountry Campground off of the Lightening Spring trail which was only a half mile from the Rim. This Campground also had the advantage of being located near a spring which was good as the rest of the Rim Trail was dry.
I noticed the air was much less smoky this morning. A ranger told the hikers sitting on the picnic tables by the store that the fires tended to get worse in the evenings but were less smoky in the mornings. I was glad I’d be up by the lake tomorrow morning when visibility would be clearer.
I headed out around 2:00 pm. The air was already starting to get noticeably worse as I walked out of Mazama Village. I wanted to hike to the Rim Village and looked for a trail. Both the PCT and the Dutton Creek trails were closed, which are the routes that folks typically take to hike to the Rim. It looked on the map like other trails to the Rim were available but I couldn’t find any. I wish I had consulted with a ranger. I must have read the map wrong. The only option I could see was to walk the along the South Entrance Road all the way to the top. Ug. I hate road walking.
Cars roared by as I walked on the road’s minimal shoulder. I pictured tourists in enormous rented motor homes careening around hairpin curves at 100 miles per hour. I walked for a couple of miles and then my resolve to walk to the top gave out. I really didn’t want to get hit by a car. And what was the point, really? I knew I’d be coming back anyway to walk the 16.7 miles that I had skipped due to the fire closure at the southern boundary. I might as well re-hike these miles too when the trails opened again. So I stuck out my thumb and got a ride 20 minutes later. Thankfully no rangers drove by as I learned later that hitchhiking is illegal in National Parks. Whoops.
I spent some time in Rim Village and then started hiking the Rim Trail around 5:00 pm. It was only a 2-mile walk to Lightening Spring Trail so I took my time, meandering along and taking photos. Crater Lake was almost completely enveloped in smoke. I could kindof see Wizard Island poking out from the haze but it was hard to see. It was very ethereal and mystical.
Around 6:00 pm I met a Park Ranger on the trail who asked where I planned to camp. When I told her I was heading to Lightening Spring, she informed me that the trail was closed. Ruh roh. She suggested that I continue along to the next camp at Grouse Hill. I consulted my map. That was 7 miles away. I had better get a move on.
She also asked if I had a permit and I told her I had one in my pack. That’s the first time a ranger has ever asked about my permit in my 4 months hiking the PCT so far! I wish she would have asked to see it. That would have been really exciting.
So, I started hiking faster. I was a little bummed because the Grouse Hill Campground is 3 miles north of the last vista overlooking Crater Lake. I would not be able to see the Lake in the morning when it wasn’t shrouded in smoke as I certainly wasn’t going to turn around and retrace my steps. Once again, I vowed to come back. Next time, I would bring Daniel and we could enjoy the park and take our time.
The Rim Trail was sandy and went up and down a surprising number of small hills. I powered on, watching as the sun dipped lower on the horizon. The sun turned an orange-red color as the smoke from forest fires wafted in front of it. The wind whipped sand from the trail into my eyes as I walked. It got even windier and I had to stop and put on my puffy jacket. The sky was streaked with smoke and the glow from the sunset looked eerie. It was pretty cool, actually. It was not the experience I planned to have, but I wasn’t unhappy. And I’d be back.
Around 8:00 pm, I finally left the crest of the Rim and started heading north into the forest. The wind wasn’t as fierce among the trees. I got out my headlamp as it was getting too dark to see the trail.
I rolled into Grouse Hill camp around 9:30 pm. I was worried I’d wake other hikers but it was a big site and I was able to set up camp away from the others. I was a little short on water as I hadn’t been able to fill up at Lightening Springs Trail as I had hoped, so I ate snacks for dinner instead of cooking to save on water, and soon fell asleep.