Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 2: The North Side of Crater Lake

Sunrise over Crater Lake.
The wind picked up during the night, but in hindsight, that shouldn’t have been a big surprise. The weather forecast predicted “Clear, with a low around 25. Breezy, with an east wind 16 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph.” I know that prediction with such precision because the ranger at the visitor center gave us their sheet with the week’s weather predictions and I saved it. =)

My campsite in the morning.
I figured Leora would probably be protected from the worst of it in the little gulch she set up camp in, but the small berms around my campsite seemed to do absolutely nothing to break the wind and I felt every gust blowing against my sleeping bag. I stayed warm, wrapped in my fleece and in my warm sleeping bag, but I could sense that I was reaching my limits. If the temperature dropped much more, I’d have been on the wrong side of uncomfortably cold. The temperature wasn’t the problem, though—it was the wind chill that was causing problems!

Sunrise at Crater Lake. Sorry you can’t hear me very well. Apparently, the wind was talking louder than I was! But I didn’t really have much to say anyhow. =)

I couldn’t see Leora’s tent down in the gully, but I could see the tree she was next to shaking violently with every wind gust and wondered how she was doing. She was worried about being too exposed and too cold, and I’d hate to be responsible for her having a miserable night in the woods.

The stars were absolutely beautiful, although a nearly full moon blotted out all but the brightest stars. They must have also blotted out the meteor shower that peaked overnight, because I didn’t see any shooting stars until just before sunrise when the moon was just about to set and the sun just about to rise.

For the frozen snow, I preferred to use MicroSpikes rather than my snowshoes. For those who are fascinated by my use of regular, cheap walking shoes through just about every type of terrain imaginable, I did “upgrade” to actual boots for this hike. Both to help keep my feet warm and dry, and because snow can really rip up regular shoes at a ferocious rate!

And when the sun did come up, I didn’t immediately rise with it. It was COLD outside of my sleeping bag! One good thing about being on an exposed location, however, was that some of the morning’s first sunlight washed over me which helped considerably. =)

I just loved the view of Mount Thielsen from Crater Lake!

Eventually I heard Leora stirring in her tent—she probably suffered the same problem I did. Not wanting to leave the protective warmth of the sleeping bag, but having to leave it in order to pee. =) She told me that she barely slept at all last night because of the wind—a miserable night all around for her. I felt a bit bad about this, but there wasn’t much I could do about that at that point.

We ate breakfast and headed off. This early in the morning, the snow was frozen solid, so we didn’t put our snowshoes on. We walked with the snowshoes on our packs. Actually, mine were in a bag that I carried separately around my neck and shoulders. I also carried MicroSpikes, however, and did put those on my feet. These were the same MicroSpikes I used in the High Sierras on my PCT thru-hike, and they’re absolutely wonderful when used on frozen snow. Leora didn’t use any special gear at all, though—just her normal hiking shoes.

Leora takes in the views of Crater Lake with Mount Scott in the background.

We walked like this for an hour or two before the snow started to soften and our feet started sinking in with each step, which point we stopped to put on our snowshoes. I quickly had to stop again to add some moleskin to the back of one of my feet where it was rubbing me raw. For a snowshoeing trip, I figured something a bit more sturdy and warm than my usual walking shoes would be in order, so I wore “hiking boots” that weren’t all that comfortable. Between it and my snowshoes, they were really ripping up the back of one of my feet.

A short while after that, I had to stop again and saw that the moleskin had completely shifted to be under my foot, so I used some athletic tape from Leora to tape the moleskin in place where it was needed which solved that problem for good. Or at least for the rest of the day. =)

I do a little first aid on the back of my foot.

As we turned around the north side of the lake, the snow levels fell considerably. These slopes faced southward, exposed to the sun, and increasingly large chunks of the Rim Road were fully exposed. At one point, for about a quarter of a mile, I even took off my snowshoes and just walked on the bare asphalt.

Holding Wizard Island in the palm of my hand….

I take a rest at a pullout built for cars. =)

Then we reached the parking area for the Cleetwood Cove Trail. It was obviously a parking lot—a huge, empty clearing filled with snow, unnaturally rectangular in shape, and bathrooms surrounded to nearly to tops of their doors in snow. Which meant that there was a trail down to the lake’s surface on the other side of the road…. That was not obvious at first—a trail is much smaller and less noticeable than a giant parking lot. =) But we found the trail quickly enough and decided to head down it. Although the parking lot was filled with several feet of snow, the south-facing Cleetwood Cove Trail was almost completely bare of it. We left our packs at the top of the trail—no reason to carry them all the way down the steep trail just to carry them all the way back up again! And there was obviously nobody around to steal the packs in any case—except pine martens and such.

Leora soaks in the views!

The Cleetwood Cove Trail was a mess. The fact that the winter had treated it quite harshly was plain to see—branches and twigs littered the trail like a tornado had blown through. A large tree had fallen across it, and signs of multiple rock slides of various sizes littered the trail. Leora and I cleared the trail of much of the smaller debris, but it was still going to need a lot more work before they opened the trail to summer visitors! The rock slides were a reminder that we probably shouldn’t hang around the steep, crumbling cliffs for very long!

Parking lot for the Cleetwood Cove Trail. That’s the restroom buried in snow!

At the bottom, we reached the waters of Crater Lake. We drank some of the water—how can you not? And we admired the deep blue waters of the lake, amazingly clear water. Without a single person around as far as the eye could see. It was wonderful, and only then did it occur to us that this would have been a wonderful place to camp. No snow on the ground, plenty of fresh water available that didn’t require the melting of snow, and well protected from the blustery winds found along the rim. There was even a composting toilet here which, I checked—the door for one of them was unlocked and stuffed with a giant roll of toilet paper. The proper way to dispose of human waste, the ranger at the visitor center told us, was simply just to bury it in the snow. (Used toilet paper, however, should be burned or carried out. That should not be buried in the snow!)

You can see the boat dock near the bottom center of this photo.

It might have been a bit early in the day to quit and set up camp, but wow—what a wonderful place to camp! Except in our thoughtless haste to lighten our loads, we both left our packs at the top of the rim. Shoot.

Tree on the trail! Tree on the trail!

Rockslide on the trail!

Retaining walls on the trail!

After taking a boat-load of photos, we eventually headed back up the trail again and reclaimed our possessions. We took a break at one of the benches near the top to snack and rest, then put on our snowshoes again and headed off in search of our second campsite.

If only we carried oars… maybe we could have paddled out on the lake! =) We think the one boat that’s on the ground was originally tied up like the other one but fell down during the winter at some point.

The boat dock.

Solar-powered composting toilets—LOVE IT! =)

Shadow games….

The beautiful waters of Crater Lake!

On a lark, I threw a rock into the water. I’ve never seen ripples flow out so far from their source before! They probably went out at least a quarter of a mile before I couldn’t see them rippling anymore….

The Rim Road, even when it was melted of snow, was quite a wreck—not unlike the Cleetwood Cove Trail. Dirt, rocks, and other debris littered the trail, and large cracks crisscrossed the road all over the place. The edges of the road also suffered badly from erosion. The snowplows might get through this section without much snow quickly, but there was still a lot of work left to do on the road before it was opened again for cars!

The Rim Road was in rough shape—even in the spots where the snow has already melted!

Yep, the Rim Road was a real mess…

I got tired of walking, so I started floating over Crater Lake instead. Oh, wait, I’m not supposed to talk about that. No, I sat down on a guard rail and stuck my feet out when I took this photo. Yeah, that’s what happened. =)

I take a nap on Crater Lake’s rim. =)

Leora stopped at viewpoint of Crater Lake, a pullout usually meant for cars, and suggested we camp there for the night. A small, stone wall that marked the edge of the pullout—so cars didn’t plunge into Crater Lake—provided a small wind break, although the wind wasn’t bad at all at this particular point to begin with. So that’s what we did, once again setting up camp right on the crater’s rim. We didn’t have to camp on the snow this time either! But we had plenty of snow surrounding the parking area to melt for water.

The predicted weather tonight wouldn’t be quite as harsh as predicted for the night before. My forecast read, “Clear, with a low around 29. East northeast wind 9 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.” Four degrees warmer with wind gusts 9 mph lower. I’d take that. *nodding* =)

Hamburger Helper for dinner tonight!

Camping at the roadside pullout. (My camp is on the right, Leora’s is the one on the left.)

Sunset over Crater Lake

1 comment:

Okie Dog said...

Gorgeous pictures, Ryan. That water really is clear. What? About 25' out on that one picture still able to see the bottom, amazing!Food looks good. lol