Friday, May 10, 2013

A Mountain Fit for a King!


View Kings Mountain in a larger map.
This is, roughly speaking, the route
we followed up Kings Mountain.
For experienced hikers only!

The day Leora and I finished snowshoeing around Crater Lake, we headed back to her place in the Coast Range west of Portland. I had a day to kill before my train ride back to Seattle, and Leora offered a few hiking options to choose from. One of which she described as a little off-trail adventure up Kings Mountain.

 

I’ve been up Kings Mountain once before, but I used a decidedly on-trail option when I did that hike. Leora has done it countless times since she lives near the trailhead, but had never tried this particular off-trail option and wanted to do it with a hiking partner. And she knows I’m a hiker, and that I’m not at all inhibited by the idea of going off trail with nothing more than my wits and a topo map. =)

 

We parked at the regular trailhead for Kings Mountain, then followed the trail off to Elk Mountain. But no, we weren’t headed to Elk Mountain. We only followed that trail about halfway to the Elk Mountain trailhead. At which point we intersected a small creek without a bridge. That was our landmark to head off trail.

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Leora leads us up our first off-trail landmark: this small creek.

 

The directions Leora had included an old, overgrown road, but we quickly lost that and scrambled upstream, trying to avoid all the plants with sharp thorns that seem so prevalent in the Pacific Northwest. We found the old road again further upstream, having realized that parts of it had fallen into the creek over the years. The going was quick on the old road—at least when there was an old road to follow. Quick, being a relative term, as compared the speed of crawling on one’s hands and knees, which was probably our average speed when we got of the road.

 

Eventually, we passed an old log sticking up over the creek, and I joked that Leora should go out to the end of it and pretend to ride it like a horse for a dramatic photo. It would have been a dramatic photo, I thought, but I was just joking. Crawling out to the end of the log would have been needlessly dangerous! But Leora took the challenge a little too seriously and immediately beat a path through the brush to it.

 

“I was just kidding,” I told her. “I really don’t think you should be doing this!”

 

But no, she kept going, and when she was sitting out at the end of it, I went a head a took a few photos. May as well! After she got back off, safely (thank goodness!), I said that I would have never even joked about the idea if I realized that she was going to take it so seriously. I learned a valuable lesson, though—don’t joke around Leora about bad ideas. =)

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I made the mistake of joking that Leora should pose on this log.
She did… against my own advice!

 

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Fortunately, she didn’t fall off and the log didn’t snap under her weight!

 

We bushwhacked further up the creek, looking for a junction with another creek, finding a bunch of trash in some rather surprising places. Like an old homeless encampment. And another bunch of trash like some kids threw a party. But they had to do some seriously work to get out here!

 

We started up one particular slope—far steeper than anything else we had done before, and I started getting the feeling we were going the wrong way. That gut instinct that had my spidey sense on high alert. Part of my concern was the fact that the creek was a lot smaller than when we first started following it. I didn’t remember seeing a fork in the river, but maybe we missed it through all the brush? And if we did miss it, then we were going the wrong direction. And the slope just felt wrong to me. Too steep, too sketchy. We stopped and looked at our topo map, but deep in the valley, we really couldn’t see much to confirm our position or not. But I still felt we were headed in the wrong direction and convinced Leora to backtrack a bit.

 

We did so, and it was a good decision because we found the fork in the creek. We actually did see the fork before, but we thought it was one of those places where the creek split into two channels and would reconnect behind the “island”—but it never did.

 

We followed the other branch a short ways, then started veering up a steep hill directly away from the creek following some old game paths. The going was slow, mostly due to the steepness of the terrain rather than the brush. Once we got away from the creek, the brush wasn’t nearly as thick and the thorny bushes were largely left behind. But the route was steep. Very steep.

 

We took a break at a small landing to catch our breaths and admire the view, then kept pushing ever on and ever higher. We occasionally consulted the map, but it wasn’t particularly useful anymore. Basically, we just had to head ever upwards. The topo map showed a ridge with two towering cliffs on each side, and we were to follow up the side of the ridge all the way to the top of Kings Mountain. As long as we didn’t end up on the sides of the ridge, we’d be fine…

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Can you spot the snake in this photo? Watch your step! =)

 

As the air became more rarified, though, our ridgeline became narrower and narrower, the cliffs becoming steeper and longer, and I started growing a bit more concerned about how safe this route actually was. At this point, tripping or slipping could prove to be quite painful and lead to injuries. The going got slower again as we picked routes ever upwards. Leora and I didn’t always follow the same routes upwards. I tended to follow less steep trails when available while Leora would tend towards the ones that went straight up. So I’d switchback away from her, then switchback towards her.

 

Sometimes we’d find a relatively good game trail that would be easy to walk on and we’d shout out to each other to let each other know it was there and follow it as long as we could. Then it would peter out and we’d slowly pick our way up the mountain again.

 

Then the trail came out to a particularly narrow ridgetop with a towering thousand-foot cliff on one side and an extremely steep slope on the other—a catwalk that looked more than a little dangerous to cross. The views were wonderful, but I didn’t feel at all comfortable with the idea of crossing it. I realized now that Leora was trying to kill me!

 

Leora had no problem going out onto the catwalk, but I was leery. In fact, I could probably get across it just fine. But there was no coming back if you tripped or stumbled along this section. You’d be dead before you hit the bottom of the cliff! Even if I could safely cross the catwalk safely 999 times out of 1000, those odds weren’t good enough for me. Nope. I wanted to know that if I should happen to slip or trip, I could survive it!

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The fearless Leora crosses the catwalk… You can’t really see it
well in this photo, but that’s a good 1000-foot cliff on her left! Not quite
so bad on the right, but it would still be a bad fall either way! I backtracked
and went around on the steep slope on the right hanging onto branches
and roots the entire way. *nodding*

 

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Yeah, this would definitely be a bad place to slip and fall!

 

So I wound up scrambling down the right side of the ridge and slowly navigated around a steep slope that was more vertical than horizontal, grabbing into branches and brush to prevent myself from falling down the slope. If I did slip or fall, I could certainly suffer from some pretty bad injuries and probably need to be rescued, but at least it wouldn’t be a fatality!

 

Leora made better progress than I did along this section—it was a lot easier to navigate the catwalk than trying to navigate around it. And I was using my hands to get around as much as I was using my feet. Which was exhausting—I walk a lot, but I have absolutely no upper-body strength!

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The views really were spectacular—clear all the way to Mount Hood far in the distance!

 

We took more breaks as natural landings presented themselves. Leora reminded me that she told me it was going to be a rough, off-trail trek, but I insisted that she did not. Well, okay, technically, she did say that, but a lot of people say a trail or route is “difficult” and it turns out to be no big deal at all. I’m conditioned to not believe people who claim a route will be difficult! So even if she said that, it didn’t matter because she didn’t tell me that she meant what she was saying! It’s an important distinction. *nodding*

 

After nearly five hours, we finally spilled out onto an established trail at the the top of Kings Mountain. In all, we probably covered… what? Two miles? I tried creating the route in Google so you can see the terrain it follows.

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The top of Kings Mountain, and a box for a register that hikers can sign.

 

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I’m signing the register on Kings Mountain.

 

There’s a register at the top of the mountain, which I signed. Then Leora signed it. Then I signed it again. Then Leora signed it again. And… we’ll, I’ll let you read the details. =)

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There was a “heated” exchange in the register between Leora and myself….

 

Then we walked back down the established trail, which took us less than an hour. Nearly five hours to get up to the top, and less than an hour back down to the car. Not an easy hike, but—sheesh, it was more difficult than snowshoeing around Crater Lake! And it doesn’t help that Leora is FEARLESS! Completely FEARLESS! =)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 4: Avalanches!

When I woke in the morning, I sat up and looked out over Crater Lake. The lake was a bit blurry, and I rubbed my eyes trying to get that sleep out of them, and looked at the lake again… and I was a little slow to realize that the blurriness of the lake wasn’t my eyes, but rather the lake itself. Ice had formed on it during the night! This was a genuine shock to me since I had read that Crater Lake had only frozen over twice in recorded history, and the last time was 1949. Deep bodies of water with a relatively small surface area tend not to freeze very easily.

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Is that what it appears to be? The waters of Crater Lake… with ice forming on it?!

 

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Ice formed all over Crater Lake, all the way out to the other size near Wizard Island,
even if there were pockets that hadn’t frozen over in places that reflected the
mountains behind it like a mirror.

 

But here I was, looking at Crater Lake frozen over! Now, to be fair, there were clearly spots that had not frozen over which reflected the mountains behind it perfectly as a mirror. And I very much doubted the ice was thick enough to actually walk on had one been so inclined. So somehow, I doubt this is going to count as a new “freeze over.”

 

The other reason I found this surprising was that according to my little weather forecast, the low overnight was supposed to be 36 degrees—not only the warmest low of our trip, but not even below freezing! And yet… the lake froze during the night but not the other two nights. Very surprising…

 

But it was a delight to see, regardless! Another shade of Crater Lake that few people ever get to see. I suspected what little ice there was on the lake likely wouldn’t last long and melt in the morning sun.

 

Loera and I packed up camp, and made a special point of checking our avalanche transceivers since we’d be going through three, yes, three particularly problematic avalanche zones according to our maps. We went through two small areas on our first day, and none on our second or third days. But today we would not only pass through three different avalanche zones, but they’d also be the longest avalanche zones.

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The sign marking the avalanche bypass—which kind of looks like it’s already been hit by an avalanche! We ignored it, though, and continued directly through the avalanche zone. =)

 

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Dutton Cliffs marks the first of the day’s avalanche zones.

 

And immediately upon leaving camp, we would hit the first avalanche zone by Dutton Cliffs where the Rim Road was blasted out of near-vertical cliff. Leora didn’t think that avalanches would be problematic today for several reasons—no new snow, it was early in the morning when avalanche dangers were at their least, and no unusually high temperatures after following some cold ones. But you can never be too careful, so Leora suggested that we should cross the avalanche paths separately so in the unlikely event that there was one, it wouldn’t sweep both of us off our feet at the same time.

 

Leora took the lead, and I held back to watch. When she reached a safe location, I followed. The towering cliffs on my right were intimidating, and evidence of rock slides were readily apparent. In fact, I could hear small ones happening even as I crossed the avalanche zone. They were rocks the size of a finger—hardly lethal projectiles. But I didn’t like what they represented—the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

 

But the biggest mistake I did was to look down the cliffs! Far down below, I could see an avalanche bypass, which was partially covered with an avalanche. Even the bypasses weren’t immune from avalanches! And in a couple of small sections of the road that were covered with heaps of snow, I felt that the biggest danger of all was slipping on the snow and sliding off the Rim Road down the cliffs on my left. So I ended up walking a lot slower than I thought I would through the avalanche zone, taking each step carefully, and making sure my MicroSpikes had a good, solid grip in the snow before taking the next step. At least I had the MicroSpikes, though. Leora didn’t even have those!

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Leora passes under Dutton Cliffs, where the risk from falling rocks can be as great as the risk from avalanches!

 

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Not exactly an avalanche, but falling snow could be a danger too!

 

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This particular section probably scared me more than any other.
Although you can’t really see it in the photo, there’s a very
large drop-off on the right side, and the old avalanche I’m
crossing over did not make for even, steady footsteps!

 

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Don’t worry, though—I do make is across safely! =)

 

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I called this the Icicle Cliffs, which is essentially a frozen waterfall.

 

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Looking down, you can see the edge of the Rim Road lined with stone.
Below that, you can see an old avalanche. Which, if you notice,
actually runs right over one of the avalanche bypasses!

 

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The end of the avalanche zone—SAFE!

 

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Yep, nothing to see here…. Keep moving! =)

 

We safely made it to the far side of the avalanche zone, though, and continued onward.

 

Crater Lake itself we couldn’t see, but as we neared a summit, I wanted to head up to it to see the view again. Leora gamely followed me, and we pushed to the top of the ridge where a view that seemed to stretch out for a hundred miles in every direction opened up… and there was absolutely no sign of Crater Lake.

 

I got a little ahead of Leora, and when Leora caught up, I asked, “Okay, so what happened to the lake? I was sure the lake would be right below us!”

 

She pointed down the ridge, to a bunch of trees in a valley. “It should be right there!” she exclaimed with equal surprise.

 

“Well,” I told her, “that’s one place where we definitely know it’s not located!” =)

 

We took a closer look at the terrain around us, and it looked like there could have been a rim for Crater Lake off to the right, perhaps a mile away, and perhaps the lake itself was hidden behind it. But it was a little unnerving to get up on that ridge and realize we had misplaced the entire lake!

 

We looked at our maps to get our bearings, and decided that that was definitely where Crater Lake must have been located, and that we were overlooking the valley that led up to Sun Notch.

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What am I doing, you ask? I’m taking a photo! This is Leora’s photo taking a picture of me taking the next photo….

 

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I just love these V-shaped ski tracks as skiers scramble to get up even the smallest of slopes. =)

 

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Leora follows me up to what we believe is Crater Lake’s rim….

 

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It certainly looks like a rim, don’t you think?

 

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But this is what we actually saw from the “rim.” Where the heck did Crater Lake go?!

 

We continued onward… or rather, we backtracked back to the road that we left to head up to the top of the ridge where we now stood. We passed some old ski tracks along the way, also heading up to the ridge, and we were in a relatively flat area with few trees making the road difficult to find. Usually, the road was obvious since it left an obvious cut through the trees or it would largely follow the contours of the ground, but there were no trees and no contours to follow.

 

We walked to the far side of the clearing having never found any trace of the road. We might not be able to see the road in the clearing, but surely we’ll see it where it cuts through the trees on the edge of the clearing, so we followed our way around the parameter of the clearing looking for signs of a road.

 

While the clearing was mostly flat, that wasn’t the same as completely flat, and I stopped and studied the terrain carefully. If I were building a road, where would I put it through? And I saw an ever so slight dip between two barely discernable hills, and I thought, “That’s it. That’s gotta be it. Right through that gap. They wouldn’t build a road over those five-foot-tall hills on each side, they’d build a road right through that gap.”

 

So I started heading towards that point, encouraging Leora to follow me. Perhaps suggesting that I was more confident than I really felt about my gut instinct. =) If the road really wasn’t over there, though, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We’d just have to continue the “perimeter sweep” that we had started and I was now short-cutting. The road had to exit this clearing somewhere!

 

We once again crossed over the old ski tracks we had seen earlier—ski tracks I dismissed as people who wanted to see the “crater rim” like we did—but in hindsight, I now realized that they were actually following the road.

 

And we saw a cut through the trees. We found the exit!

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We’ve finally found the Rim Road again… if only we followed the ski tracks, we’d have found it a lot quicker than we otherwise did! Leora looks out in the direction of Sun Notch. We can’t actually see the lake from this viewpoint, but the rim of the caldera is quite obvious.

 

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Rockslides were prevalent on this stretch of the Rim Road, even if avalanches were not!

 

Then it was a relatively quick march down to Sun Notch. This section didn’t show any danger from avalanches on our map, but the road was littered with countless road slides from the broken rocks above the road. Several times I heard rocks careening down the cliffs, and I’d look up for them to judge their size and location and if I needed to dodge them, but I didn’t. I veered over to the left side of the road, staying away from the cliffs on the right.

 

At Sun Notch, we got off the road again, climbing perhaps a 1/10th of a mile to Crater Lake’s rim with yet another view of Crater Lake. I also noticed a snow structure near the rim and headed towards it to check it out. It looks like someone camped here at some point, but it was abandoned now.

 

Between the sun and reflected snow, it was growing surprisingly warm, so we found a place to rest in the shade and eat lunch.

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I veered towards this snow structure I saw on the rim.

 

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Somebody certainly put some effort into creating this structure at Sun Notch!

 

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Phantom Ship, as seen from Sun Notch.

 

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Much of the ice in the lake has already melted, but there’s still quite a bit in places!

 

And after that quick break, we finally put on our snowshoes for the day. The snow was growing too mushy in the morning sun to keep walking without them. And almost immediately, we were in avalanche zone #2 for the day—the slopes of Applegate Peak. This zone didn’t scare me quite so much because I didn’t get that sense of vertigo from a steep cliff on the left side of the road and the slope on the right just above us wasn’t raining down rocks like that first zone was doing. And this zone was probably half as long as that first one. That first avalanche zone did seem like the worst of the bunch, so this one went quickly.

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Leora heads towards the second avalanche zone of the day—the slopes under Applegate Peak.

 

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More avalanche bypasses that we decide to ignore. =)

 

And a half hour after that, we reached the third avalanche zone by Vidae Ridge—even shorter and less scary than the second one. By this point, Leora and I were both eager to reach the end of the trail, which was now just a few miles away. Leora seemed to be having a tougher time of things today, though, getting tired a lot easier than before. The sun seemed warmer and reflected off the large expanses of snow without any tree cover, and it was taking its toll on me as well. Today was positively hot compared to previous days, even if the expected high was only 49 degrees. If felt a heck of a lot warmer than that! The highs for the previous two days were actually higher, but we had a wind chill factor the last two days helping us keep our cool. The wind today was absolutely breathless, though, and it felt so much warmer.

 

After a couple of short rest breaks, we finally reached the first sign of civilization we’d seen since the day we started our trek—and shortly thereafter arrived back at the park’s visitor center from where we started. Woo-who!

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Civilization! We’re getting close to the end of our journey! =)

 

We left our packs at her car, and I took our permit inside to let the rangers know we made it back. I walked into the empty visitor center where two rangers were at the counter, and I exclaimed, “Good news! You can call off the search and rescue parties! We made it out alive!” as I waved the permit around in the air. =) They thanked me but didn’t seem to have much else to say, so I bought a few postcards, purchased some stamps at the post office next door, and made liberal use of the restrooms because, hey, flushing toilets! AWESOME! =)

 

Once all that was settled, we started the long drive back towards Portland…

 

Is that the end of this adventure? Not quite…. there’s a postscript I’ll be writing soon which explains the title of my first post about Leora—the woman who tried to kill me. =) She waited until after we were safe and sound and off Crater Lake before she tried pulling that stunt. ;o)

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We can see the administration building now! Which is right next to the visitor center and the end of our hike!

 

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Our first plowed road since leaving the road plows behind us on our first day.

 

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Back at the Visitor Center, where the snow doesn’t
look like it’s melted at all since we left three days earlier!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Day 3: The Day of Detours

We woke up, once again, to a beautiful morning. Both Leora and I slept a lot better than that first night on the rim where we had been exposed to such strong wind gusts, but we both stayed tucked into our sleeping bags waiting for the sunlight to reach over the trees and actively start warming us.

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That caterpillar thing next to the pack is Leora trying to stay warm. =)

 

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Leora is trying to squish out the air from her air matress. I saw her doing this and
quickly said, “Don’t move! I need a photo of this!” So she held this position for a
minute or two for me to get this photo. =)

 

I started the day again with my MicroSpikes while Leora simply went without any traction devices for her feet at all. I didn’t use the MicroSpikes for very long, though—the air definitely seemed a lot warmer this afternoon and the snow started to soften a lot earlier in the morning than it did the day before. At least on those stretches that had snow. For the first part of the morning, there were still some relatively large sections that were completely free of snow.

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Installing the MicroSpikes on my feet again this morning.

 

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The black bag I’m carrying contains my snowshoes. They’re kind of a hassle to carry when they weren’t in use, but it would have been even more of a hassle to walk around with them on when it wasn’t necessary! I took off my MicroSpikes since there wasn’t even snow on this section, which is what is that red thing dangling from my hand.

 

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Someone spent a little effort creating this little snow shelter along the road!

 

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Cracks in the Rim Road! These roads certainly do take a beating every year!

 

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I’m a little amazed that pieces of the Rim Road can be seen through the
snow like this, and several feet away there are snow drifts 10+ feet in height.
The Rim Road might be relatively flat, but you couldn’t always say that
about the path we followed!

 

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Love the cornices…

 

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View from Skell Head with Mount Thielsen in the background. (That’s the
sharp, pointy mountain the right. I’m not sure what the one on the left is.)

 

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I love the image on this sign about the legends Native Americans have
about Crater Lake. =)

 

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Leora trekking along the Rim Road.

 

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Mini-avalanches!

 

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Mount Scott rises before us…

 

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Leora with Mount Thielsen as a backdrop.

 

As we worked our way onto the east side of Crater Lake, the snow thickened once again and we lost sight of the Rim Road more-or-less for good. Late in the morning, we reached a point where three roads intersected, which we identified because one, small section of it had melted free of the snowpack. One small island oasis in a sea of snow. The three roads didn’t intersect at one point either—they intersected at three points, forming a triangle in the middle. Two of the directions were the Rim Road north and the Rim Road south. The third road veered westward to a viewpoint of Crater Lake.

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Our island oasis from the snow!

 

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Leora makes her way up Cloudcap Mountain. That’s Scott Mountain in the background,
and you can see our little “island oasis” between Leora and Mount Scott.

 

Looking at our maps, though, it didn’t make any sense. Our sense of direction was perfect—it was a clear day and Mount Scott (the highest point in the park) loomed over us like an overbearing parent which made it really easy orient our map. Except it had the road facing the wrong the way. We scratched our heads over this oddity. It wasn’t really all that important, all things considered, and Leora didn’t worry too much about it, but it bothered me how this tiny section of road that we could see seemed to be facing in an entirely incorrect direction. Our maps had been pretty accurate thus far, and it seemed wildly out of character for it to off by so much. It was tempting to write off the anomaly as being in a section so small that the map couldn’t accurately portray it, but it nagged at me.

 

I kept looking at the map, confused, when it finally clicked—we weren’t where we thought we were! The roads intersected at three different points, and we assumed we were at the first intersection of roads that we would have hit by following the Rim Road. But we weren’t at that intersection. No… We accidentally cut off one of the Rim Road’s switchbacks and were at the one intersection that we hadn’t expected to pass over at all! As soon as I figured that out, everything on the map lined up perfectly.

 

The mistake was pretty minor—it put us perhaps 50 yards from where we thought we were. Certainly not more than 100 yards away. We might not have realized where we were, but that’s not to say we were lost either! =) But I do get a little uneasy when things on the map don’t match up with the terrain that I’m looking at, so I was relieved to finally figure out the discrepancy. =)

 

With that figured out, it was time to do a little sightseeing. Leora wanted to try to summit Mount Scott, which I was all in favor of doing. By this point, I already decided that I wanted to add Crater Lake to the list of available hikes in http://www.Walking4Fun.com, but it was such a short hike, I would have been willing to take just about any detour in order to lengthen the walk! As a result, I also wanted to follow the third road out to the viewpoint of Crater Lake. Since we were at that intersection of roads, that’s where we headed first. We left our packs behind on the dry asphalt since we’d be going out and back—no sense carrying our heavy packs around with us!

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“Leora,” I said, “I have this idea for a photo… What if I pretended to ski using my snowshoes? What if pretended to be a really awesome skier that does jumps and backflips? Except I’ll do them on snowshoes…?” =)

 

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Panoramic view from Cloudcap Mountain that I stitched together from three different photos.

 

We didn’t get far, though, before we turned a corner and see a towering wall of snow ahead. I’m not exactly an expert on avalanche safety, but the path the road followed seemed rather dangerous for us to follow. That did not mean we gave up, though. Nope. It looked like we could follow the ridge up to Cloudtop mountain and go around the particularly steep and dangerous-looking snow, so that’s what we did.

 

As it turned out, this little detour was perhaps my favorite section of trail of the entire hike. We weren’t following other people’s tracks anymore. We weren’t even following a well-graded road. And we weren’t carrying our heavy packs! We did spy some ski tracks along the way, but we didn’t necessarily follow them either. It probably took us a half hour or so before we reached the summit of Cloudcap with incredible views overlooking the whole of Crater Lake. Wow!

 

We took photos—a heck of a lot of photos—and I hoped that my camera’s batteries wouldn’t choose to die at this moment since my spare batteries were still in my pack that we left behind. =) We could see the overlook for Crater Lake, the end of the road we initially wanted to follow ahead, but it seemed pointless to continue on to it—we were already at the top of the world with the best overlook of all at the summit of Cloudcap. And we both still wanted to climb up Mount Scott as well, so we turned around here and headed back.

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Back at our island oasis, I lay down and rest. But being too lazy
to take off my snowshoes, I just left them in the snow. =)

 

After a quick lunch break with our packs, I wanted to carry our packs to the trailhead for Mount Scott, but Leora wanted to leave them at their current position since they would be sitting on a dry, snow-free road. I didn’t put up much of a fuss, though—it was a good place to leave our packs, and it’s not like the trailhead was miles away. It was probably 100 yards away at best. Not exactly a huge distance we’d have to backtrack. So once again, we left our packs behind and continued on to the Mount Scott Trailhead.

 

We found the trailhead easily enough. Although the signage for the trail was long gone (it appears that the park service removes all road signs at the end of the summer season so the snow pack doesn’t damage them during the winter), we could see the posts that would have normally marked the trailhead. Then we followed a ridge of small cornices towards Mount Scott. We knew the trail went in this direction from our maps, but we could find absolutely no trace of the trail itself.

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The park service seems to remove all road signs during the winter months. You can clearly see that a sign used to be here, but we can only imagine what it says! In this case, I imagine it says, “Mount Scott Trailhead.” =)

 

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Following a ridge of cornices to Mount Scott.

 

We followed the ridge into some thick trees, still looking for a sign of the trail, but we saw nothing. We knew approximately where the trail would go and could make some reasonable educated guesses about the trail, but the hillside was growing ever steeper and more difficult to navigate. The trail should move towards a south-facing slope which we hoped would be largely clear of snow and allow up to get to the top not unlike our hike down on the Cleetwood Cove Trail the day before, but the snow did not seem to thin at all and we finally bagged the idea. Too steep and too much snow. We actually weren’t concerned about avalanches here—in such a thick group of trees, it was obviously that the slope wasn’t particularly prone to avalanches. Trees do help keep the snow in place! But we were counting on the trail being mostly snow-free and easy to follow, and this was clearly not happening.

 

Less than an hour after we left our packs, we were reunited once again with them. And this time, we would have to carry them. No more side trips…

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Another panoramic photos that I stitched together from multiple photos.
This time, near the Pumice Castle Overlook.

 

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First good view of Phantom Ship—the name of that little island in the lake.
(This was not taken from where we camped, though!)

 

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Leora checks our position on a map.

 

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Sometimes, rock slides were of a greater concern and avalanches!

 

The Rim Road led us to a few more amazing overlooks of Crater Lake, then turned away from the lake a bit before returning at the Phantom Ship Overlook. Leora remembered there being a clear patch of road, free from snow, when she traveled around the lake the month before, so we continued just past the overlook to where the Dutton Cliffs avalanche bypass started and found… nothing. Just lots and lots of snow. No bare patch of ground anywhere.

 

We turned back and set up camp at the Phantom Ship Overlook. Leora still isn’t sure what happened to the bare patch of ground that she remembers seeing, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere in view around these parts. I didn’t mind camping our third night on the rim of Crater Lake again. =) This time, we were even in the trees which would largely block my view of the stars during the night, but I could still see the lake from camp. Leora also wanted to stop before Dutton Cliffs—a notorious avalanche zone—so we could do that section in the morning when the chances of avalanches were less. Not that she was particularly worried to begin with—there had been absolutely no new snow for at least three days, and temperatures hadn’t been usually warm after being unusually cold. But even though there was no reason to believe there was a high avalanche danger, there’s no reason not to stack the deck in one’s favor either! =)

 

So we set up camp at the Phantom Ship Overlook. Right in the parking lot where, in the summer months, the lot would probably have been packed bumper-to-bumper with cars. It felt like we had the whole lake to ourselves at this time, though!

 

The one dry spot to sit down was the edge of the parking lot, on a rock wall built to keep people and cars from driving over the edge and into the lake. It stuck up just high enough to be out of the snow, so I sat down on the stone wall and made myself comfortable. I wouldn’t sleep on this wall—heaven forbid, it would have been a very miserable night indeed if I tried to roll over in the middle of the night and went over the cliff into Crater Lake! No, I’d have to sleep on the snow in the parking lot, but at least I could sit on the rock wall now where it was dry, make dinner, and read my book.

 

And that’s what I did. Near sunset, I threw out a groundsheet, blew up my Thermarest, and setup camp in the parking lot for the night. Another beautiful campsite! =)

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View from the Phantom Ship Overlook…. and our campsite for the night. =)

 

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Leora likes to raise awareness and money for the Cure JM Foundation.

 

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My campsite in the Phantom Ship Overlook parking lot. =)

 

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Sunset from Phantom Ship Overlook.

 

A short video of our camp at the Phantom Ship Overlook