Mile 1809 to Mazama Village mile 1829; Rim Village mile 1834 to Mt. Thielsen Wilderness mile 1854
The last few days were tough - yesterday morning feels like FOREVER ago. We only had 20 miles to get to Crater Lake and hoped to get there early enough to take the afternoon off. We made it by 4 and had a chance to get burgers and beer and then spent the rest of the day at picnic tables set up outside the store with other thru-hikers (including Busted, Man in Black, Sierra Bum, Apache, Gone Slow, Shady Acres, Sweet Tooth, and Pants Off Dance Off). It was fun to be around so many other hikers - it's been a while! What made it even better was that we caught up to them...feels good to be gaining ground.
While the original plan was to hike 5 miles out that evening to the rim of Crater Lake (we were in the National Park but a few miles away from the actual lake still), my foot pains had reached new levels on the way in and there was no way I was going to hike one more mile that evening. Unfortunately, the campground was completely full, so we decided to stealth camp at the edge of the official campground near a trail. I didn't sleep well because I was paranoid about getting busted - the rangers at Crater Lake National Park are pretty strict about things that us dirty thru-hikers typically spend our day doing - hitchhiking, camping in un-designated campsites, etc. Earlier in the evening, I'd heard that a ranger had spotted a backpacker camping in between the road and the rim using an infrared scope and issued him a $600 dollar ticket a few weeks prior. With nowhere else to go, we reluctantly camped at the edge of the campground...but I spent the night paranoid a ranger would spot us and give us a hard time. (Side note - I have no problems following rules and am usually totally risk averse and hate breaking them! But it was pretty frustrating to be in a place that enforced rules without providing reasonable alternatives. e.g. absolutely no hitchhiking allowed, but no walking trails into the village and store/restaurant, thereby forcing a mile long road walk alongside a highway with NO shoulder. Dangerous?! I think yes!)
The following morning we hopped aboard the trolley up to the Rim Village. The first one didn't leave til 9am, and let me tell you - it was a luxury sleeping in, especially on a dreary morning after it had rained all night. As soon as we stepped off the trolley, the skies opened up...greaaaatttt. Hustled over to the cafe for coffee and spent the morning lounging, writing postcards, and waiting for the worst rain to pass. We thought that had happened when we got on the trail around 11:30, but not a mile in, the real storm started. A major thunderstorm (flashes of Sonora Pass! agh) and here we are hiking along the rim of Crater Lake. The gusts of wind were intense, it was freezing, then the hail started. I was absolutely miserable! We literally couldn't even see the lake that we were walking around. (The rain kilt I've been carrying since Mexico finally made its debut, however. So chic.) Ironically enough, all this was at the start of a 27 mile "dry stretch", so we were also carrying 7 liters of water. Water was literally everywhere, but we had to carry over 15 pounds of the stuff. Add to that the 7 days worth of food and we had some heavy packs...it was a rough day. Ultimately, we got a few nice views of the lake and were able to push for 20 miles by days end which put us in decent position to make it to Santiam Pass to meet Slosh's former roommate Chris on Saturday.
Of all places on the entire trail, Crater Lake was near the top of my list on places I was excited to see and visit. I lived in Portland for a year after college and always wanted to visit but never made it down to see the famous blue lake. I was so excited to arrive, but the bottom line was that Crater Lake was not very hiker friendly. I always feel slightly self conscious going into town after being on the trail for a while - being more or less homeless, stinky, and vagrant is a new way of life for me. However, usually people are fantastic and pretend like we're not even in need of a shower as badly as I know we certainly are. Who would have thought it would be in a National Park that people would make you feel the most awkward? Upon leaving, Slosh deemed Crater Lake the Hater Lake. What a shame for the place I was most looking forward to on the whole trail!
Alas, now I can say I've seen Crater Lake! I can also say I'm not all that eager to come back anytime too soon, I don't care how beautiful it was!