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.

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


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.

Installing the MicroSpikes on my feet again this morning.



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.


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


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


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!


Love the cornices…


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.)


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


Leora trekking along the Rim Road.








Mount Scott rises before us…


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.

Our island oasis from the snow!


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, 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!

“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…?” =)


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.

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.

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.” =)


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…

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




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


Leora checks our position on a map.




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! =)

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


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


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


Sunset from Phantom Ship Overlook.


A short video of our camp at the Phantom Ship Overlook


Anonymous said...

In the second last photo you kind of look like you are kayaking.

Vicky said...

What a great adventure Ryan. Your photos tell a great story. That is a gorgeous place .Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

that is a long walk ryan. the place you camped at was majestic.
thanks for sharing