Today’s Miles: 14.8 miles
Total Miles: 389.3
Warm Springs Camp to Little Crater Lake Campground (.4 miles off the PCT)
With the faint white noise of the gurgling river nearby, I slept much better than usual last night. After the morning routine, we headed out – looking forward to another easy day of hiking ahead of us, with mostly flat trail.
The area became more and more familiar with each passing mile. I was getting close to home!
Large pinecones, and evidence of squirrel meals occupied our curiosity. Huge powerlines were part of the early day, and we crossed into the Mt. Hood National Forest at some point.
Michelle wanted to do a little detour taking Miller Trail to Clackamas Lake Campground (the lake has since been replaced by a meadow).
This was a meaningful location for her family, and she wanted to pay tribute to her dear animal companions she lost earlier in the summer. It was an easy side trail to an empty campground. (I believe it was closed for repairs.)
I had never been to this area, so we explored a little, stopping at a picnic table near the Clackamas Lake Historic Ranger station for lunch. We took our shoes and socks off, and enjoyed an extended break.
We wandered through the Joe Graham Horse Camp, exploring abandoned, run-down buildings, and eventually found our way back to the PCT.
The iconic Pacific Crest Trail sign is definitely picture worthy! Here at the trailhead, a group of hikers, just completing their backpacking trip, tried really hard to give us food (i.e. Oreos and such), but we respectfully declined.
Wanting to avoid filtering water from Timothy Lake (with motor boats), we stopped along the Oak Grove Fork Clackamas River. A man joined us, also hiking all of Oregon, but SOBO – he was just getting started. He hiked the PCT in 2017, but missed many sections of Oregon because of the fires, so he was doing it over to see the parts he missed.
It reminded me of how extremely fortunate I was this year – every inch of the PCT through Oregon was accessible. Often times, the trail is diverted because of fires, or unsafe trail conditions (as it will be in 2021), from previous fire seasons.
Not long after filtering water, we got our first glimpse of Timothy Lake. I was giddy. Home was only 90 minutes away by car, and we camped here just last summer, so it felt cozy in familiarity.
All the car campgrounds were completely full, so we knew we would backcountry camp along the PCT skirting Timothy Lake. The very first site we came to was available, but it lacked the wow factor, and people were swimming at the shore, so we opted to keep going, assuming better spots were ahead.
But, it was a Friday, and Timothy Lake’s close proximity to the Metro area makes it BUSY. Plus, these “backcountry” spots, were very accessible to a road, as we saw people carrying large coolers, floaties, and camp chairs along the trail.
We hiked the whole 3 mile section, and every spot was taken. I wished for a designated PCT camp that the weekenders couldn’t use. I was feeling a little defeated, and annoyed by the time we arrived at the huge campsite at the end of the lake. This space could accommodate 30 thru-hikers, but one family already claimed it.
Deciding to shift gears, Michelle had the great idea to camp at Little Crater Lake Campground, just a mile ahead. She knew the campground was closed for the season, so we would have an excellent shot at hiking in and grabbing a spot, plus it was only .4 miles off the trail.
With that plan in place, we decided to enjoy the shore of Timothy Lake for a couple of hours, and celebrate. We had a little beach all to ourselves, and went swimming (day 10 with no shower), and drank whiskey vitamin C drinks. We ate my packet of olives I brought for a “special occasion.” It was truly one of the best afternoons on the trail.
We laughed, lounged in the sun, and enjoyed our private beach till nearly 7 p.m. It didn’t take long to get to the turnoff for Little Crater Lake after walking across bridges and boardwalks – the kids would have loved this little trail.
The lake was crystal clear, gorgeous, and tiny. It maintains a 34(F) temperature because of the underground springs. The reflection this evening was pretty spectacular as well.
Best news of all, there were plenty of campsites complete with amenities! We grabbed #10 arbitrarily, and set up tents, followed by dinner in the dark.
Wanting to stargaze, we walked back to the lake. The stars were magnificent, which felt like an appropriate grand finale for Michelle’s last night with me. I think she was looking forward to heading home the next day, and I definitely did a little daydreaming about riding home as well.
With the fire ban still in place, we crawled into sleeping bags not long after stargazing. A group of ladies camped a couple spots down from us. I felt very safe, content, and completely at ease on this particular night.
Did you miss the beginning of my Oregon PCT journey? Begin with Day 1: Here