Today’s Miles: 21.6
Total Miles: 134.2
Camp 10 (Seven Lakes Basin) to Mazama Village (Crater Lake Campground)
I knew it was imperative to get an early start today. The plan was to hike nearly 22 miles – something I’ve never done before in my life, and I wanted to give myself as much time as I could. Catch was on the trail by 6:30 a.m., (and I would later find out arrived to Mazama Village around 3:30 p.m.) – those thru-hikers are so speedy!
There was zero water on the trail today, except for the first couple of miles. I filtered and drank a bunch, then filled my bottles to the brim. I was on the trail by 6:50 a.m., my earliest start yet. I felt really strong, and excited about my big day. I knew I would be incredibly proud of myself for hiking a 20+ mile day, now I just had to do it. Thankfully, my ankle seemed to be all better. There was just a slight hint of tenderness, but barely noticeable.
I was swarmed with mosquitoes the first several miles, but I was in good spirits and didn’t let them get the better of me. Walking by all the other camps in the area along the creek, the spot I chose last night was the best by far. I was so happy with my decision.
Early in my day, I passed a massive tree trunk with three trees coming up out of it. I envisioned hugging my two children, and smiled.
I got passed by a few thru-hikers today. They typically had their heads down, and were hiking so fast, I don’t know how they saw anything. Rather than enjoying the journey, it seemed like they just had to get the miles in.
I wanted to soak in the experience. I looked at the ground a lot so I didn’t trip, but I also stopped frequently to take in my surroundings, look in every direction, and see the sights. I guess it’s just different approaches, but I preferred my way.
I went through the Lonesome Fire Complex – a 2008 fire. It was one of the coolest sections to hike. It looked like a Dr. Seuss book; I loved it.
According to my book, that fire section turned into forest with a pleasant shady walk the rest of the leg, but that was not the case. Another fire swept through in the last year or two, not accounted for in my book, and it made for a very hot, exposed, and dusty day of hiking.
I originally planned on taking a side trail to Stuart Falls in order to have a water source, and camp near a waterfall (sounded pretty epic), then I would only have 8.7 miles to hike up to Mazama Village the next day. However, that’s the day I decided to cut out to get to Mazama Village in one day instead of two.
I never noticed the side trail to the falls, I’m not sure it’s a thing anymore because of the fire, so my decision worked out, phew! I found this to be the case through all of Oregon – it always worked out...
I made it to mile 10 around 1:30 p.m. and felt great at this point, but the second half of the day was more challenging. My feet got really achy. I changed my socks three times trying to find the sweet spot. I didn’t have any blisters or sores, they just ached, and I became physically and mentally tired. I took a long break around mile 13 with cell service. I checked in with all my usual people. My GPS was showing me at Hyatt Lake still, so I fiddled with it and got it going again. Apparently it was turned off – oops!
In one section of the recovering forest, I saw a type of fungus on every tree. I wish I could remember my forest ecology lessons with more confidence, but I believe fungus is one of the first signs of a rejuvenating forest. I saw several woodpeckers in this section too.
I powered through the rest of the day, but those final miles were tough. I just wanted to be there. Seeing the Crater Lake National Park sign gave me a boost of energy.
I decided to take a shortcut my book described. It only shaved a mile off, but saved me 600 ft. of unnecessary elevation gain, and a mile is a mile. My goal of this journey was to walk across all of Oregon; how I did it mattered less to me, so leaving the PCT wasn’t a big deal in my mind. When I arrived to the Pumice Flat Trail junction, I signed the PCT trail registry, and took the aptly named trail.
This trail lifted my spirits even more; I was almost there! I found a few pumice rocks to give my 4-year old. Magic floating rocks would prove to be a fun science experiment in a few days. I also found an interesting skull – it was so pristine, like it was placed there by a person.
I was running low on food. I underestimated the amount of snacks I would need through the day, so it was good I eliminated a full day and night of hiking. I began to daydream about the restaurant at Mazama Village. Toward the end of Pumice Flat Trail I heard cars zooming down the highway, it was a welcome noise today!
The final 3 miles were up the highway to the campground. I underestimated how unpleasant this would be. It’s a busy road with no shoulder or bike path. Some cars pulled way over to make me feel safe, while others seemed to veer toward me. Not everyone likes backpackers.
The asphalt was hard on my feet. I questioned if the shortcut was worth it…lessons learned. About halfway up, a pullout provided a view of pinnacles. I stopped and enjoyed the scene and gave my feet a rest.
Every step moving forward was accompanied with my mental mantras of, “Almost there, just one foot in front of the other, almost there…almost there…almost there…you got this!” When I finally saw the sign for Mazama Village I was overjoyed – yay, I did it! Now I just had to figure out where to go.
It was immediate culture shock, there were a ton of people. I saw lines out of buildings, everyone wearing masks and keeping a 6 ft. distance. The real world came rushing back to me. It’s strange to be alone all day then dumped into hundreds of people, especially during the pandemic.
I spotted some of the backpackers from yesterday huddled behind bushes next to the general store sharing a huge pizza and drinking beer; they looked really funny. I wished I could keep up with them, but I was SO looking forward to my zero day tomorrow. My body hurt. I couldn’t imagine hiking 25+ miles every single day.
I asked them where the backpackers camping area was, and they loosely described an area in the campground. I wanted to set my pack down, change into comfy shoes, and clean up a bit before hitting the restaurant. I wandered around the campground, but it was huge, and totally pointless without knowing where I was going exactly. It was a pretty silly choice on my tired feet, and I was getting cranky. Tired and famished is a tough combo.
I stopped at the restroom and thoroughly appreciated the running water. I washed my hands and splashed my face, then headed to the Annie Creek restaurant.
There was a line out the door, and I nearly decided “forget it,” but I used my pack to keep my place in line while I sat in one of the famous Crater Lake rocking chairs – heaven. I told myself to be patient. I was worried I was filthy and smelly, and bothering everyone around me, but I don’t think I was that bad.
The line actually went fast, it was just COVID stuff – not that the restaurant was busy. Patrons ordered as soon as they entered the doors, but they didn’t have a menu outside for people to scan and decide what they wanted before getting to the cash register, this would have been WAY more efficient, but…
I wanted a pizza, but they only had one size, and it was huge. I ordered the Beyond Burger with a side salad and a grapefruit Hard seltzer, then headed to a table outside, where there was plenty of room. There were a handful of backpackers in the corner, some I met yesterday. They were heading up to the rim with a plan to catch the sunrise over Crater Lake in the morning.
Catch from Hong Kong was there too! He was staying in the Mazama Lodge Campground, and joined me while I ate my dinner. We had a great conversation. He has a wife of 6 years back home, so we shared sentiments on how amazing our partners are to support us in this adventure. Of course, he was going to be away from home far longer than me.
He explained that he got to San Diego the day before the U.S. shutdown, and spent 10 days in his hotel room trying to figure out what to do. He couldn’t go anywhere, nothing was open – talk about a bizarre experience. He finally decided to get going, and simply hike. He had to skip a section in California (about 100 miles) because of weather. He hoped to return to that section after tagging the Canadian border if he had time. I guess I’ll never know if he did.
Catch walked me to the backpacking camp. It was pretty deep into the campground, about as far away as it could be, and I was REALLY sore after sitting down for an hour. Good thing I had a day of rest tomorrow! I saw a few other tents and bicycles. I wouldn’t be alone tonight. I found a place for my tent, found the nearest bathroom, got my food in the convenient bear box provided, and was asleep fast.
Did you miss the beginning of my Oregon Pacific Crest Trail Journey? You can access it: HERE