Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crater Lake to Willamette Pass

We left the Crater Lake Rim Village Lodge overcaffeinated and overweighted: 6 days worth of food and 4 l. of water each. The Trail took us along the rim for about a quarter of the lake's circumference, so with it being Sunday, there were lots of tourists to talk to at some of the overlooks we walked by. Also, the dozens and dozens of vistas occupied our time, snapping scenery pics and looking for that perfect setting for our upcoming Christmas card (oops, I spilled the beans). By midafternoon the Trail veered northwest and we said goodbye to this beautiful body of water, and vowed to come back another day. Some quick facts:

Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902. The lake rests inside a caldera formed over 7,000 years ago when Mt. Mazama collapsed after it erupted. It is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet and is considered to be the cleanest body of water in the world. Its water comes from rain and snow only (no rivers or streams), and because its rate of evaporation is almost equal to precipitation amounts annually, the lake's water level basically remains the same. Its intense blue color is a sight to be seen.

Shortly after leaving the park, we entered Mt. Thielsen Wilderness and continued to follow the apparent elk tracks we'd been seeing on the trail the last 100 miles or so. Why would an elk be walking the PCT? Dense pine forests and a well-graded undulating single track made for pleasant hiking. Mt. Thielsen, known as the "lightning rod" of the Cascades, tempted us but we stayed on the PCT and finally figured out the tracks. They were 2 llamas! They were being used as pack animals for two section hikers from Trout Lake, WA, one of the trail towns further north. After talking with them for a bit and taking some pictures, we moved on. We met 2 more southbounders (hiking from Canada to Mexico) which makes 7 now. One girl, trail named The Tortoise, was low on food, so I gave her some extra stuff I was carrying: 2 hiker staples - Snicker bars and Ramen. Later, although the mosquitoes became thicker, and the blowdowns more abundant, we were rewarded with a sun-soaked cove of Summit Lake, a perfect spot for a swim/bath. Shortly after, some unexpected trail magic in the form of food and drinks by a 2008 thru-hiker further brightened our day. The remaining 20 miles of this section were in Diamond Peak Wilderness, traversing the foothills of the massive Diamond Peak, and Mt. Yoran, and ending at Willamette Pass. There, our friends, Neil and Andrea, pulled us off the trail for a 1/2 day of pampering at their relatives' vacation home. Back on the trail tomorrow, but first some history of the PCT through Oregon.

The very first link in the PCT was actually here in Oregon. Before the idea for the PCT even came about, there existed a trail from MT. Hood to Crater Lake, named the Oregon Skyline Trail. It was built by the U.S. Forest Service and finished by 1920. In the early 1930's, it was extended at both ends, and in 1937 PCT trail markers were designed and posted from the Canadian border to the California border. ( In Washington, the Cascade Crest Trail was used). Since then, mainly beginning in the 1960's the trail through Oregon has gone through some changes. New trails were blazed to get it off roads, move it closer to the actual crest of the Cascade Mountains, and make it less steep by way of switchbacks. It now extends 457 miles across the state. -Sunfish

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