Easiest hiking day on the PCT!
PCT Mileage Marker 2079.1, camped at Miller Trail Junction (near Clackamas Lake)
Miles hiked today: 18.8 + side trails to Crater Lake, Horse Camp, and Clackamas Lake – probably at least 1 more mile
Wow, today was a virtual stroll through the autumn woods – for nearly 20 miles. In perfect weather – sunny and bright blue skies, a breeze at times, and otherwise hiking in the shaded forest anyhow. No wonder thru hikers do 30 miles per day through Oregon, we meandered to see some awesome lakes, and lollygagged, took long breaks, and still made it to camp by 5:30pm. The elevation change was minimal (about 1500 feet of climbing and around 2200 descending) and was so gradual, with rolling hills, that it really feels we were hiking flat trail all day. In fact, we had lots of actual flat trail too – and wide, park-like trail versus the normal PCT grade.
Anxiety strikes again at 1am – awoken by a coughing fit, I’m lying here worried about and scrutinizing every sound I’m hearing from the nearby roads. Who is up at this hour? Do they mean us harm if they find us? Feeing vulnerable, blind in my tent in the dark, I burrow in my quilt to use the light from my phone as I don’t want to be visible. I can’t hear anything now, my heart slowly starts to slow down. Sleep? Not possible quite yet. It turns out that trucks sped by on the nearby highway, using engine brake to go around mountain curves, all night long. Don’t truckers sleep?
Despite the less than optimal sleeping conditions, Hemlock and I got going at our normal 7am start time. No real sunrise overlook today, but it was so interesting seeing the sunlight try to penetrate the deep pine forest to where we were. We lucked out big time with our break spots today – a picnic table at a major road crossing, then Little Crater Lake for lunch, and Timothy Lake in the afternoon.
There was another ladder-like structure at the road crossing, and even taller than the one we camped by last night. We were perplexed – what was it for?? Again no explanatory signage, and so our imaginations went wild making up scenarios. They included: go-go dancing structure; a place for the folks who walk on stilts and hang the blue diamonds for the winter skiing paths to rest; an alien ship landing pad; a Pokemon Go location; and my personal favorite (Hemlock’s idea) permanent loom demonstration sites where little old ladies re-enact the Timberline Lodge WPA ladies making the rugs and draperies out of old CCC uniforms like back in the day! 2 silly hikers are we – there must be a logical (and apparently obvious?) explanation.
Hemlock, adventurous gal that she is, actually swam in 34 degree Little Crater Lake! She came here as a kid, and family legend had her dad swimming across the lake – so of course she had to do the same. I was posed to take pictures and in the back of my mind be ready for a possible rescue which thankfully wasn’t needed. At 45 feet deep, it’s an amazing blue aquamarine color, and while much much smaller, a great cousin to Crater Lake. Certainly it was less crowded! Plus it had a bench!! It’s the simple things out here :).
Hiking around one side of Timothy Lake, I was delighted by the glimpses of the lake and the rapidly turning foliage of the undergrowth. It smelled like fall! My favorite season. We spent a long time at our break spot just looking at the lake and listening to the water lap on shore (and trying to ignore the construction vehicle sounds echoing across the lake from the National Forest campgrounds).
Frankly, the only disappointment of the day was that the Horse Camp we were aiming for was essentially shut down for the season – we were able to use the pit toilets but water wasn’t on and no one was in evidence. However, the trail junction to Clackamas Lake was less than a mile further, and we easily found a social trail down to the lake to get water. That spot even had a spring inlet so water was flowing (always preferred, less floaties).
For the second night in a row, it was warm enough for us to stay out of our shelters/sleeping bags until 7:30pm, chatting and laughing. You can’t say we didn’t make the most of the wonderful weather today!
Hikers spotted: 16, which was closer to Hemlock’s guess of 20 to mine of 10. 5 of which were backpackers – a couple I think I met one evening before the Elk Lake Lodge turnoff (which they went on to) and Puck! I met Puck at Maiden Peak Ski Shelter the day I hiked out of Shelter Cove. It was the day I was suffering the worst with the blisters, and he was so encouraging. I hope I was encouraging to him today, he looked so tired and kinda done in. Otherwise, we met day hikers at Little Crater Lake and around Timothy Lake.
Gear Minutiae: one of my toe socks now has a hole :(. I don’t actually want to sew it as I think it’ll chafe.
Health update: have I mentioned with the increased temps since the weekend that it has equaled mosquitos again? Of course, they’ve been chomping on me. Mosquito buffet here. A few of the bites are getting to the super itchy stage. Otherwise, cough is about the same – a bit worse with the renewed dusty trail, but nothing horrific. Some chafing still going on – nothing horrible, just annoying. Even after the long day, feet and legs are feeling good, a little achy but that’s par for the course.