Although seeing Crater Lake was a highlight of my PCT hike so far, my stay in the national park was a bit disappointing. I was dismayed to see how poorly the facilities here were managed.
Aramark took over as concessionaire of the lodge, campground, gift shop, boat tours, and restaurants less than a year ago. From what I’ve seen, they have a few things to fix.
|Date||Thursday, August 22, 2019|
|Weather||Partly cloudy with a high temperature in the upper 60s|
|Trail Conditions||A few short steep sections, but otherwise not difficult |
Employees appeared to be bored and lacked interest in helping customers. The facilities needed basic repairs and maintenance.
Thru-hikers like me are a small minority of the park’s visitors, but we seemed to be a neglected constituency. It was a good thing the camp store accepted and held packages for us because most of the food sold there was unsuitable for backpacking.
A section of the campground that is normally used by thru-hikers was closed because of tree removal, but no other area was set aside. If it weren't for a reservation cancellation, we would have had no place to camp.
Those were just a few of my complaints. Thankfully, though, the food at the Mazama Village restaurant was good. Bluejay, Dave, Sunkist, and I were the first customers for breakfast at 7 a.m. so we could get on the trail as soon as possible.
After finishing our meal, I returned to the camp store, where I had left my backup battery to charge. I left it there as long as possible but it wasn’t fully charged. Only a single power strip was provided for several hikers to charge their devices.
I will have to limit the use of my phone and other devices to be sure I don't run out of battery power before we reach Ashland.
With all of the rain that fell much of yesterday afternoon, we were glad to see a mostly-clear sky this morning.
We were all ready to return to the trail by 8:20 a.m. As we left the campground, Sunkist discovered a shortcut trail that shortened some of the distance we'd have to walk on the road leading to the PCT.
Once we were back on the PCT, the trail began as a flat and easy path in a forest of tall trees. Water vapor rose where sunlight filtered through the trees and hit wet grass and tree branches.
Before long, the trail began to climb but it wasn’t difficult. For the remainder of the day, the elevation was up and down in short stretches and only a few of these were steep.
Despite the easy terrain, I was feeling sluggish. Everyone else but Bluejay complained of the same problem. Our lack of energy may have been because of the big breakfast we ate this morning, but whatever the reason, it lasted for much of the morning.
At the upper parts of the climb, the trail entered a burn area. This was the result of the 2017 Blanket Creek Fire. More than 8,000 acres burned.
Dwarf fireweed, also called red willowherb, appeared next to the trail. This was a sign that the area was trying to regrow after the wildfire.
Some distant views were available to the west of the burn area. The mountains in this part of Oregon weren't nearly as tall as other areas. Standing at 7,709 feet, Union Peak was a notable exception. The eroded volcanic mountain was less than three miles away.
Continuing south, the trail left the boundary of Crater Lake National Park and entered Sky Lakes Wilderness, a protected unit of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
A study of acid rain conditions conducted in the 1980s and '90s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the lakes in this region held some of the most chemically pure water of all lakes in the world.
Though we didn’t walk closely together, Sunkist, Dave, Bluejay, and I remained consistently near enough to each other that we took our breaks together. That made the day more fun.
When a large open field appeared next to the trail, we stopped for lunch. This was a good spot to spread out our tents and sleeping bags to dry out after yesterday’s rain.
Soon after resuming our hike, the trail entered another burn area. The forest was especially devastated. There weren't even wildflowers here.
I can’t imagine how many years it will take before this forest is able to restore itself.
In the burn area, the trail passed three small mountains named Ruth, Ethel, and Maude. They were given these names by a Forest Service employee in the 1930s, who named them for his wife and two daughters.
The last 2.5 miles of the day were on a mostly-flat section of trail that included one short and steep climb.
Honeymoon Creek was the first opportunity to get water in the last seven miles. When I reached the creek, Sunkist and Dave were already there and refilling their water bottles. Bluejay apparently still had plenty of energy because she had gone ahead.
The campsite we selected for tonight was dry but it was only six-tenths of a mile away from the creek. It was located at the junction of the PCT with the Seven Lakes Trail. Flat spots were available for all of our tents.
Our days together in Oregon are winding down. Dave, Bluejay, Sunkist, and I have roughly 80 miles to go before we reach Ashland. This could be one of the last nights together for our little tramily.
Bluejay and Sunkist are thinking about taking a short detour and staying overnight tomorrow at Fish Lake. Dave might be going off trail a couple of days from now to meet a trail angel who had reached out to him.
From Ashland, Dave will continue hiking south, while the rest of us rent a car and skip ahead to Truckee, California. That will be where we begin our hike south to the Sierra.
There are still many miles to go in my thru-hike attempt, with no way to predict how it will end. What I do know, however, is that these three people have helped me enjoy every day on the trail. Each day has felt like a new adventure.
If it weren't for their friendship, I'm not sure how motivated and focused I would have remained for completing this long journey.