Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Meet Leora—the woman who tried to kill me!

Dscn7655bI used to work with Leora back in my Intel days, and last month, I read about her skiing trip around Crater Lake on her Leora Lore blog. I was a little jealous because I’ve always thought it would be so incredible to snowshoe around Crater Lake, and I wrote her an email saying as much. I’ve never done it myself mostly because I feared that I wouldn’t know enough about what I was doing. Could I survive in the outdoors in weather colder than anything I ever experienced before? Could I recognize avalanche dangers so I didn’t become a statistic? Could I actually set up camp on snow-covered ground and live to tell the tale? I’ve done a lot of hiking in my day, and I’ve even had a lot of practice hiking through snow when I traveled through the High Sierras on my Pacific Crest Trail hike, but this was a whole new level of skill sets that I wasn’t sure I could do on my own. So I never really pursued my idea to snowshoe around Crater Lake.

But then Leora replied saying, “Okay, let’s do it. When is good for you?” (Okay, that may not be an exact quote, but you get the point.)

I was stunned—I certainly hadn’t expected an offer to take me around Crater Lake! I had so many things I was working on and wanted to get done and my knee-jerk reaction was to push it off—I don’t have time for that! But then again, this was Crater Lake we were talking about! Something I’ve dreamed of doing for years! When would another opportunity like this happen? So obviously, of course I had to go!

We selected some dates, and I started doing a bit of research. I learned, for instance, that the average high temperature at Crater Lake in April was 43 F (6 C), and the average low temperature was 23 F (-5 C). That wasn’t so bad at all…. I certainly learned to survive in temperatures that cold when I did the High Sierras a few years back. The average snowfall in April was 20 inches (114 cm), and the average snow depth was 112 inches (284 cm). The numbers might even be more in my favorite—we’d be doing our trek closer to the end of the month than the beginning of it!

My campsite outside of Crater Lake National Park. One thing you might notice for people who are
familiar with the gear I usually carry—there’s a Thermarest in this photo. I’ve never carried a Therarest
on any of my thru-hikes, but since I knew I’d be camping IN snow, I figured it was finally time to buy one.
It was still a relatively small, light-weight “summer” Thermarest and Leora didn’t think it would be
enough for me, but I was going to make it work! I didn’t really need to use the Thermarest on
this ground (no snow!), but I figured since I had it, I may as well use it…. *shrug*
The black bag on the left has my snowshoes in it—another piece of gear that nobody would
likely recognize!
Crater Lake is a jewel of a lake, and it gets about half a million visitors per year. Practically all of them visit during the summer months, however, and all of the lake’s viewpoints can be packed with tourists and noisy cars. Almost nobody, however, travels around the lake when the Rim Road is closed. According to their little newsletter, a mere 70 people skied around the lake last winter, and only 20 people snowshoers made the trek. Less than 100 people in the world do this trip every year! Even the PCT gets more action than that!

Which is how, about a week ago, I took a train from Seattle to Portland where Leora picked me up and we immediately started driving down to Crater Lake.

The train trip was uneventful, but Leora noticed a gravel road on her map and decided to use it as a shortcut. For the most part, that was uneventful—except one small section where her small, low-clearance, 2WD vehicle got stuck in the snow. Not a big deal, all things considered, since Leora brought shovels for our winter camping expedition. Nothing a little sweat couldn’t dig us out of! But in hindsight, the shortcut wasn’t as short as it otherwise could have been. =)

We set up camp off to the side of the shortcut for the night, which we figured was about a half hour drive away from the park’s headquarters. We planned to get an early start on the trail the next day!

As for the “woman to tried to kill me” part of this post, I’m getting a little ahead of the story. I’ll get to that in another post, though… =)

I’m reading my Kindle, nice and warm in my sleeping bag. =)

Getting stuck in the snow!

Digging out from the snow!

Getting out from the snow!