PCT 2019: Day 106, Mt. Thielsen Trail to Grouse Hill Camp

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

A mule deer walks along the Pacific Crest Trail

A nero (or nearo) is what thru-hikers call a day of near-zero hiking miles. There’s no set number of miles to qualify as a nero, but I usually view any day of under ten miles as a nero.

Nero days often occur when hiking to or from a town. This allows extra time for in-town chores like laundry and shopping for food.

DateTuesday, August 20, 2019
WeatherLightly overcast with a high temperature in the low 70s
Trail ConditionsEasy and smooth
Today's Miles14.3
Trip Miles1550.0

That said, I would submit that today was a nero day. It involved more than fourteen miles of hiking and didn’t include a town stay, yet the day was too easy to call a regular hiking day.

The entire day was spent on a trail that was either gently descending or flat. And if we tried, we could have arrived in camp much sooner than we did.

Dave and I had the luxury of this lazy day because we wanted to give Bluejay and Sunkist time to catch up after their detour last night to Diamond Lake.

Dave leaves camp

Dave and I began hiking at 7 a.m., a little later than normal.

The first six miles were an easy glide down from the slopes of Mt. Thielsen, dropping a total of 1,500 feet in that stretch.

A view of Diamond Lake from Mt. Thielsen

While still at the higher part of that descent, we were able to get a nice view of Diamond Lake.

We could also see from the slope of Mt. Thielsen the 8,368-foot high Mt. Bailey. It was about seven miles away.

The mountain was originally called "Old Baldy,” but a cartographer allegedly misread a surveyor’s notes and renamed it “Old Bailey.”

A view of Crater Lake's rim

Continuing down Mt. Thielsen, we soon began to see the rim of Crater Lake. We weren’t close enough to see the lake, but we could see the near and far ridges of the volcanic crater that form the lake.

We will be walking past the lake tomorrow.

A sign warning of a trail closure in Crater Lake National Park

At the bottom of the six-mile descent, the trail crossed Oregon Highway 138. The road was the northern boundary of Crater Lake National Park.

A sign posted at the road warned that a section of the PCT ahead was closed due to mountain lion activity. This was not a concern for us because we weren’t planning to hike that section. In fact, PCT hikers rarely do.

The reason for this is because an alternate is the preferred route. Unlike the official route, the alternate goes past the lake.

It seems odd that the PCT would bypass one of the most scenic parts of Oregon, but now this was of no consequence. We were directed by the National Park Service to take the alternate.

A water cache was also located at the road crossing, so Dave and I refilled our water bottles. We also discussed plans for reconnecting with Bluejay and Sunkist.

Looking at the trail and our available time, we then confirmed a decision we had considered earlier. We would stop at a hiker-only campsite located in the park at the base of Grouse Hill. This would make it easy for Bluejay and Sunkist to reach us today.

There was no water available at the campsite, but another water cache was located nearby. I sent a text message to Bluejay to tell her and Sunkist about our plan and remind them about the cache.

Our plan seemed solid except for one concern. We were uncertain about the status of the next water cache. It could be dry.

PCT hikers are constantly reminded to not rely on water caches, but right now, we didn’t have a lot of choice about this.

The PCT becomes flat in Crater Lake National Park

Before long, however, that concern was put to an end. Some northbound hikers told me there was plenty of water at the cache.

After resuming our hike, Dave and I continued to take short breaks along the way. We did this mostly because we had the time to do so. We weren't tired, just lazy.

More flat trail on the PCT

The trail through this section of the national park was about as flat as any section of the PCT could be. Although there was a gradual ascent, it was barely noticeable. The climb was less than 1,000 feet in 8.7 miles.

A mule deer feeds near the PCT

There were no scenic views to stop and enjoy, but I did have to pause briefly when I saw a mule deer. She was grazing on the trail and didn’t seem to care if I might want to walk by.

I patiently waited for her to leave before continuing.

The junction of the PCT and Crater Rim alternate

I reached the junction with the alternate trail at a few minutes after 2 p.m. From there, the PCT went about one-tenth of a mile to Oregon Highway 209.

Although this was the section of trail that was closed farther ahead, I followed it to reach the water cache.

Water cache in Crater Lake National Park

The cache was located in a hiker parking lot. I found plenty of water stashed in a bear box, just as the northbound hikers had reported.

From the way the box was organized, I could tell the trail angel restocked it recently. A lot of effort was put into providing this water and it was much appreciated.

After filling my water bottles with enough for tonight and part of tomorrow, I doubled back to the alternate trail, then followed that four-tenths of a mile to Grouse Hill Camp. Dave was already there when I arrived at 2:30.

Arriving in camp so early in the day allowed time for an uncommon luxury. I took a nap.

Sunkist and Bluejay rejoined us at 5:15 p.m. Though they had only been away from us since yesterday morning, it felt good to have them back. We shared many laughs together while eating dinner.

Today was an enjoyable, lazy day, but soon we will need to get serious. We only have about a week remaining before finishing the trail in Oregon. Bluejay, Sunkist, and I will then skip down to California to hike through the Sierra.

Though we still want Dave to join us, he says he remains committed to continuing south alone.

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.