Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 111-Birthday on the Rim

From Rim Village at Crater Lake at mile 1834 to mile 1847

I hoped the alarm that woke me wasn't mine, but Three Bears' who was camped nearby. It was mine and it was 5 o'clock in the morning mine.  Time to get up. Except it wasn't. It was five in the morning on my birthday and I had been sick for the past three days and I knew I didn't have to do anything I didn't want too.

I did want to see the sunrise over Crater Lake though. Plans were changed from wake up, pack up, and catch the sunrise to stay cozy in sleeping bags until ten minutes before the sun came up and scurry to the rim.

I bundled up like it was late autumn instead of August. Portrait brought his sleeping pad for us to sit on. He brought his giant DSLR camera and I brought my little point and shoot.  And we were ready.

I felt much better-not all better because I still had a headache and a few other aches-watching the rocks turn from gray to pink to rocks as red as the painted desert.  The calm blue waters seemed to deepen with the golden light.  I had spent the last three days at Crater Lake, but was only now able to see how beautiful it was. When the sun popped up it was blocked by a clump of trees.  We went in search of some of the new gold light for warmth and for pictures.

We didn't get going very early. After sunrise we packed up camp, than ate breakfast on the stonewall at the top of the rim. Then slowly started gathering water for the 27 miles, making sure I had gotten ride of all my trash, and anything else I could to procrastinate departure time (including calling home) but finally it was time to put on the pack, pick up my polls, and hike.

The trail stayed a paved sidewalk for five minutes then turned into a nice dirt path-total tourist pathway. It was great for looking at the lake and Wizard Island, which, much to my surprise, was not in the middle of the lake, but on the west side of the lake (closest to where the trail was).

The lake kept bringing me to a standstill to look and take pictures. It was so beautiful and the perspective kept changing-showing me a new gem that I had to stop and admire. Stopping to take in the beauty was also a good excuse for my slow pace. I half wished I was still in my sleeping bag sipping water and napping. The path turned into a more familiar trail with ups and downs and each up nearly defeated me. I did feel like once I started the 27 mile dry stretch I had to make it at least halfway to the water.

Around lunch time Portrait and I made it to the side trail leading up to Watchman Tower-the highest point left on the hike. I made painstakingly slow progress the .4 miles of trail so gentle and debris free uphill to the tower. It was hard enough that I thought about telling Portrait I'd wait for him at the bottom, but I really didn't want to miss out. Once I made it to the top I sat in the shade under the stairs leading to the modern fire look out. I need a few minutes leaning against my pack not moving.

It was a great view when I got up to see it. To the north I could see the peaks the PCT was going to flirt with, bringing us so close to their peaks before taking us away. To the south we could only see a few days of trail before it was lost in a smokey haze. On a clear day we would have been able to see Shasta. Right below was Crater Lake and Wizard Island. I could almost see into the crater on top of Wizard Island. We walked around, taking pictures and reading the information provided about the views. We had a snack and then hiked back to the PCT.

Wizard Island from the Watchman Tower
The trail took us through the parking area for the tower. So many people and it seemed like not a one of them had a snack. There didn't seem to be any yogi'ing opportunities. It was a huge disappointment for a sick girl on her birthday who just wanted a piece of fruit.  We hiked on thinking about our own lunches in a few miles.

The trail kept to the rim and shade seemed to be nonexistent, but I kept my hopes up anyway-it was my birthday, after all. Around 2 p.m. we found a five star lunch place (although the food selection was lacking). It was right on the rim and had the perfect arrangement of trees so we wouldn't loose the shade minutes into our meal. Again, I rested before I could think about doing anything. After eating and talking to my brother (the rim has also cell service) I slept. I fell asleep with my pack as my pillow almost as soon as I closed my eyes. I woke, probably twenty minutes later feeling much more rested, much more ready to take on the day. 

Much to my surprise (and probably to Portrait's relief) I was hiking much faster. We were still hiking along the rim until suddenly we came to a high bluff and the trail vanished. Somewhere we had missed a turn. From our high vantage point we could see that the trail had crossed a road and we could see it in a field. It took minutes of following other confused footsteps to get back to the trail. I didn't know it then, but we just left the rim and the lake behind.

Forest was before us. Oregon has some scraggly forest-more dead pole trees than alive ones in some places. And it had views of Mount Thiesin-a beautiful stone peak. Thiesin looked so far away, but our next water wasn't until after the trail passed the mountain.

My hiking pace stayed at a good speed and we seemed to be making decent time for the first time in days. We got to the junction that lead to the water cache earlier than expected. There wasn't much water left. Portrait and I both took a liter and a half for just in case purposes. That brought me to just over three liters of water. When we were leaving the cache we met a man who had heard about the cache and wanted to help the hikers. We helped him transfer 4 liters of water to the cache. With the amount of hikers behind us the cache will be dry before the day is out I imagine.

About an hour after leaving the cache and hiking through the standing dead forest my speed fizzled out. I was feeling spent. I pushed for another 45 minutes, but there were a lot of downed trees and I just didn't seem to be making enough progress to warrant exhausting myself. So at 7:15 we called it a night. I was too tired to even eat dinner, but Portrait insisted I eat something. I ended up having a wrap with honey on it.  Portrait hag given me a chocolate bar for my birthday and before I bite into it he light a stick for a candle, sang Happy Birthday, I made a wish and blew out the flame.

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