The blue-est lake I’ve ever seen!
PCT alternate – Rim Trail
Miles hiked: ~1 mile back up to PCT via Annie Springs Trail, 1 mile on PCT, 11.3 miles on alternate — 13.3 miles total plus walking at Crater Rim Village
Sand, sun, and wind – plus amazing views. Steep trails and ongoing problems sleeping and coughing make for a very tired Pathfinder tonight. The last 3 miles seemed to take forever – such a marked contrast to the beginning of the day. Add in aching arches on my feet and I’ve come to the realization that I need a zero day to recuperate and hopefully nip this cough in the bud before it turns to bronchitis again.
I was up and out by 7am, and boy was it chilly. However I was determined to get breakfast at the Crater Lodge, up at Rim Village. Knowing I had a 1000+ climb over a short distance, which is difficult for me, I tried to be as consistent with my pacing as possible. I got to the Rim right before 10, so not bad all things considered! I played tourist for a bit reading the interpretive signs and taking photos, but made my way to the Lodge. Very luckily, I got there just in the nick of time before they stopped taking folks for breakfast. While I got a lot of food, it was very reasonably priced and in a superlative setting. I do so love the various National Park lodges!
Plus, brunch lasted me all day! Granted, I should’ve dug out my food bag mid to late afternoon when my energy started to flag. But, I wasn’t consciously hungry until the last mile or so – so I’m thinking it’s more the lack of sleep that’s the issue at this point versus lack of calories.
After brunch, I tried to make some calls, but cell service kept dropping out. I wonder how big and heavy those cell signal boosters are – ehh, probably not worth it for backpacking. I sat on the back patio of the gift shop, and was soon joined by Soup. I had thought he was far ahead by now, but he took a zero yesterday in the park so he could pick up his resupply box. We chatted for a bit while I aired out my tent fly from condensation over night and looked at maps – one of my favorite things to do, of course ;). I gave him the 2 year old paper copies of the Oregon Skyline Trail alternate maps, as I have them cached on my phone. A tourist then came by and was absolutely amazed by our packs, and Soup’s thru hike attempt.
My goal was to get going on the afternoon 8 miles by around noon. I took off at 12:15, thinking that was pretty good. All in all, an excellent 2+ hour break! Soup stayed behind to continue charging his phone, but said he’d at least drop by where I was planning to camp.
Oh, the sights of Crater Lake – truly gorgeous! The steep trails gave me the excuse to stop and linger, taking photos. The trail itself is all sand, which is NOT my preferred substance of choice to walk on. Especially on the steep sections, both up (annoying sliding backwards) and down (Sliding forwards feeling out of control). At one point I twisted my right knee very awkwardly so hopefully nothing comes from that.
The trail led me away from the lake around Watchman mountain (instead of climbing the extra several hundred feet to the tippy top) which was appreciated. The sun was fierce – and the elevation above 7000 feet seemed that the trees and other shade producing plants were more scarce. Shade to shade hiking wins again! Happily, there was a consistent breeze most of the afternoon in proximity to the lake. As I started the descending portion of the afternoon (yay!) on the north side of Watchman, I was suddenly thrust back into civilization – there is a major Rim Road construction project going on which stops traffic periodically. The beeping of backing-up equipment, the exhaust from all the vehicles, the somewhat petty satisfaction that I was moving faster on my 2 legs than all the folks in their cars were….and then there was the human corral at the Watchman parking trailhead! Once there I was happy to see a pit toilet, and what looked like new fencing for the overlook so the public won’t fall down the rim. What really amused me though is that the fencing completely enclosed the area – while the Rim Trail was outside of it, there was a very firm message being sent to the majority of folks – stay in this area! From a distance up the slope, it really looked like a human corral. LOL
At one point, where the trail met back up with the construction zone of the Rim Road, I actually had to walk through it, ughh. Now, I felt like an animal in the zoo – everyone in the cars patiently or not so patiently waiting for their turn staring at me as the only interesting thing happening.
Steep ups and downs: while the elevation gain today was about average at 2,458 feet of climbing, many of the segments weren’t gradual – more AT-esque in climbing straight up. I was surprised as these are national park trails. However, at all of the parking areas, I only encountered folks within a tenth of a mile of the road, unless they were fellow backpackers. I did chat with a pair of older gentlemen who had been up to Watchman’s peak and came down the long way – good for them! So so many people visiting, but barely anyone actually walking. Sigh, a sad testament for me at least. I felt like telling everyone – if this curvy lady carrying a heavy (lots of water being hauled in this dry section) pack can get up those hills, give it a try!
Camped with: Soup and 3 Birds, plus lots of mosquitos – was surprised to see them again this “late” in the year, but I sprayed myself down and they left me alone. Can’t say as much for the various bees, but I haven’t gotten stung again after that time last week – knock on wood! I was shocked no NOBOs passed me during my looooong time on the trail this afternoon, but perhaps they got ahead when I took the 2 hour break at the Rim Village. I know Tracie left before me, and I followed her footsteps the entire way – one benefit of the trail being sand or dust – ones footprint impressions are left behind for others to follow.