Crater Lake

July 2, 2018

Yesterday, I ran a gauntlet of winged, bloodthirsty adversaries to fetch cold, crystal clear water from Christi’s Spring. Today our watering hole was an unnamed pond near Jack’s Spring.

The forest around the pond was patchily burned, giving the breeze room to maneuver and blow away many of the mosquitoes. Sitting next to the lily pads, we drained the last drops from our water bottles.

Holding empty bottles, I slowly sidled onto a fallen log, scooping water several yards from the shore.

The water was a discouraging yellow color, but we went ahead and treated it with Aquamira drops, hoping it would taste okay.

Thirty minutes later, when the Aquamira had taken effect, I took a careful swallow. Fresh green taste permeated my mouth – reminiscent of a kale and spinach smoothie with no sugar. The last pond had tasted of fermented alfalfa (aka the smell of horse manure), so I was encouraged by the relative fresh taste of this pond. Jay and I put tea bags in our water bottles anyway. If I’m going to drink yellow water, I’d just as soon drink tea flavor!

Flowers mixed with mushrooms and burned areas gave us endless variety in the day.

Much of the forest we hiked through today was intermittently burned, with blackened tree trunks and little undergrowth, but green needles in the treetops. However, one area had been seared so badly, even the dirt was charred.

Sixteen PCT miles plus one mile of road walk brought us to Mazama Campground at Crater Lake in the late afternoon. We carefully threaded our way through a large parking lot, blessedly mosquito free, though busily full of moving cars. Jay agreed to guard our packs outside the campground store while I joined the line to register for a campsite.

I relaxed as I stood in the long, slow moving line, enjoying the opportunity to listen, trying to identify people’s origins from their accents. At the registration window, I heard a lady tell two well-dressed women before me, “I believe we have one or two campsites left.”

The second registrar beckoned me over. I grinned at him. “My husband and I are PCT hikers. We would like to camp here tonight if it’s possible?”

“Oh sure,” the young man smiled back. “It will cost $5.00 to camp at the ‘Hike In’ site. There are already several PCT hikers down there. Let me take your name and print a permit for you to attach to your tent.”

The other registrar interrupted. “Did you just give her the last empty campsite?”

From the other window, a chorus of “Oh, nooooo!” sounded from the two women, who looked slightly desperate.

“No,” my registrar reassured. “She’s a PCT hiker.”

“Yeah, he put me with all the other hiker trash,” I laughed. The two registrars snickered.

“What does that mean, hiker trash?” One woman looked puzzled.

“Oh, well,” I paused in thought. “We’re all on the trail for so long, and we get so dirty … and by the time we’re finished, our gear and clothes are ragged and done for. ‘Hiker trash’ seems a good description.”

“Oh, I see. It’s a term of endearment for your colleagues,” she nodded. I giggled as I looked down at my stained and ragged shirt. What a way to describe us!

With tent permit in hand, Jay and I bought six days of food from the camp store, treated ourselves to a delicious hot meal at the restaurant, then moseyed downhill to the campground. Jay set up our tent in the deepening dusk among other quiet PCT hiker tents. I happily stowed our heavy food bags in the bear box provided, then skipped off to the campground bathhouse for a wonderful shower!

July 3, 2018

Colors glowed with the appearance of light in the sky. We rose, silently breaking camp, trying not to waken occupants of the many tents nearby. Even in the predawn coolness, sweat beaded across my face as we climbed 1.5 miles up the steep trail from the Mazama Campground back to the PCT. From there, it was 3.5 miles to Crater Lake Lodge, still mostly uphill. Breakfast was a treat after such a workout!

How to describe the next 10 miles as we hiked alongside Crater Lake? The water glowed, a mixture of deep royal and sapphire sky blue. A breeze swept over the lake, effectively vanquishing mosquitoes as it cooled my face. Next to the lodge, the trail looked deceptively inviting, wide and flat. Soon it began a series of steep ups and downs, giving my legs a workout, but rewarding my soul with stunning vista after vista. We climbed Watchman’s Tower, and could see all the way from Mount Shasta in the south to the Three Sisters in the north!

The Klamath tribe of Native Americans have an oral history of ancestors witnessing the collapse of gigantic Mount Mazama. Geologists estimate the event happened about 7,700 years ago, with the mountain blowing out 12 cubic miles of volcanic rock, creating a caldera 5 miles in diameter. Once the insides of the exploded mountain cooled, water began collecting from rainfall and snow melt, creating the incredible beauty of Crater Lake.

Infant to the Earth

Blue abyss enclosed in rock

Ancient to mankind

(Haiku by Jay)


Words cannot do this place justice. Perhaps this quote from one of my very favorite books helps to illustrate that sense of being transported to a place of mystery as we hiked, seeing the lake again and again this day.

“All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

From Snow and Skeeters to Ticks and Toxins

June 11, 2018

We spent the stormy weekend (June 9-10) writing blog posts, watching water pour out of the sky, and laughing at Clementine, the cat, whenever she expressed her disgust at the wet weather. I felt cosseted, getting rescued by Jay’s parents and enjoying their hospitality.

However, the PCT continued to sing its siren song. Since the snow was too deep in the Cascades, we decided to spend a week hiking from Seiad Valley to Ashland, giving the snow more time to melt.

The trail began by ascending out of the Klamath River drainage. Poison oak grew abundantly, reaching across the trail, climbing shoulder high, caressing our legs and packs. Toiling uphill, I suddenly felt something crawling along my neck, just at the hair line. I reached up … and raked out a tick!

“Oh, yuck!” I exclaimed.

“Looks like we’ve traded snow and mosquitoes for ticks and poison oak,” Jay observed. “Maybe you’d better check my back and neck.”

We camped on a flat shelf 1,000 feet above the Klamath River. The sinking sun sent light between the tree trunks to illuminate our tent.

June 12, 2018

I’ve become accustomed to 1,000 foot climbs on the PCT. But I have to admit, it’s been a while since we’ve had a really big climb. This morning the trail took us 3,500 feet above last night’s airy campsite.

What’s it like, gaining that much altitude in a morning? Our hike goes a bit like this:

Begin hiking. Stop to negotiate a downed tree. Continue climbing.

Stop to watch the last two feet of a black snake disappear into the bushes. Keep climbing.

Notice that the ceanothus is outcompeting the poison oak. Cheer, and keep climbing.

Stop to admire a view of the Klamath River winding through the Seiad Valley. Keep climbing.

Stop to watch a quarter-sized toad hop up the bank. Keep climbing.

Notice your water bottle is almost empty. Keep climbing.

See a tiny sign, “H2O”. Gladly turn off the trail to get water from an ice cold spring. Enjoy the break while the water bottles slowly fill. Then keep climbing.

Stop while another snake slithers across the trail. Admire its bright scales in rectangular patterns. Keep climbing.

Stop to photograph a whole slew of wild flowers. Keep climbing.

(From top to bottom, unknown purple wildflower, Indian paintbrush, yellow leaf iris, plumed Solomon’s seal, penstemon.)

Listen to a spotted towhee exuberantly fill the morning with it’s flat “tweeee” song. Keep climbing.

Find a shady tree for lunch. Discover a flower beneath the tree, pink with white picotee edging. Look it up and learn its name – cliff maids. Keep climbing.

About two hours after lunch, finally reach the top of the climb! More wildflowers, a rattlesnake, and fabulous views are the reward.

(blue star tulip, bear grass, spreading phlox)

Indian paintbrush in the foreground, Mt Shasta in the background!

Near the end of the day, we hiked through a section of burned forest. This was one of the many fire damaged sections of the PCT closed last year. We were glad to see it open, thanks to the hard work of trail crews.

June 13, 2018

The lovely thing about a huge climb is being on top. The spine of the Siskiyou Mtns holds our path today. Flowers galore! Bird songs everywhere! Sunshine, cool breeze, blue sky, tall evergreens! The world is a wondrous place, and today I am devoutly thankful to be here, surrounded by nature!

(bleeding hearts, Columbia windflower, cliff maids, larkspur, arrowleaf balsamroot, unknown flowers bordering the path, burned lodgepole pine, currant)

Fabulous views!

(I must give Jay credit for the alliterative title and many of the wildflower names.)