01 Aug Crater Lake and Skeeter Strike
Right before leaving Crater Lake, I learned Birdman had gotten sick. He had just been a mile or so behind me with a stomach bug and decided to play it safe. With no way to communicate, I had no clue. He was able to connect with my friends Jesse and Claire and get a lift off the trail. Back to Ashland he went for antibiotics. I, obliviously pushed on thinking he was birding a few miles behind.
I felt terrible once I found out. But, as Birdman is oft to say: don’t be a hero, go on without me. I know that guy’ll be just fine and charging down the trail like the stallion he is.
Hiking up towards Crater Lake, smoke covered the sky. I reached the rim and filled up water at the store there. It’d be 27 miles without water on the trail.
Pushing out of the store, the sun was quickly setting. As it did, the smoke sitting over the lake began to lift revealing the grand steep drop to the water below and islands shrouded in smog. An amazing and unique view of Crater Lake. I walked the rim with dimming light and bright orange sunset lighting up the lifting smoke. I set up camp on the rim and was quickly out.
Alarm vibrating on my wristwatch and I was up before the sun. I was tired but looking to push through the waterless stretch before it got hot. I was in luck because as I finished the rim walk the sunrise was even more remarkable than the sunset the night before. The peaks of southern Oregon poking above the smoke stuck in the valley floors with yellow light stretching across them. It was a great morning to push and so I did. By 1300, I had reached the water at Theilsen Creek. It was delicious fresh spring and snowmelt. Hard to chug it was so cold. I chugged anyway. And filled up again. From there it would be another 16 miles to suspect off trail water. I talked briefly with a section hiker name Mango. He’s been hiking sections of the trail since 2010. It was a short convo because I was off.
Up the hill, I hiked until 18:30 and couldn’t wait to read more of my book so stopped to make camp. In the morning I’d have between 6 and 12 miles to water depending on the source I wanted. I’d let the trail decide that.
I awoke to the sound I dread most. Not a bear sniffing my gear, not a mountain lion growling hungrily, not the sound of rain. But that distinct buzzing of mosquitoes. Opening my eyes at 4:30, I could see 20 of them just resting on my tent, waiting to ravage me as soon as I stepped out. I groaned and then cussed. Then I hit my tent to watch them buzz away before la find back down again. Shit. Well, it would be a quick departure.
I packed up what I could inside before preparing for the mad leg slapping chaos of packing my tent up. Once I was out, it was a furious battle. The battle lasted for miles and hours. I just kept moving and nearly running at times. These were the Navy Seals of skeeters. The could infiltrate my defenses without me hearing them. The back of my knees, my neck, my calves, all covered with itchy welts before the sun really started shining. I pushed past two possible water sources with my head down running from the buggers. I filled up quickly at a horrible looking lake but didn’t care. Just kept going, slapping at the bugs, swearing at them, for hours still. In early afternoon, I reached Summit Lake, and finally surrounded by tons of water, the skeeters died down. I decided to take a break and maybe my first deep breath since starting out in the morning.
I itched at my legs until they bled. I didn’t care. I read my book and laid on a picnic table. Then it rumbled. And rumbled again. And then I felt a drop. Then lightening lit the sky with a loud crack.
Just my luck. I water proofed my kit. Trash bag wrapped around my gear, rain bag wrapped over my backpack. I picked my pack back up as the rains started to fall harder and lightening cracked again. If I was going to be cold and wet, I’d rather be moving. I trekked back into the forest as the rain fell. As soon as I was back on the trail, the skeeters came back. The rain didn’t even deter them.
I was climbing though. I thought to myself that I’d risk getting stuck by lightening if getting to the top of this ridge meant no mosquitoes. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. The storm was quick moving and headed off as the sun broke through above me.
I climbed higher and finally the mosquitoes died down. I hooted and hollered at the mountain as, for the first time today I could finally just relax and take it all in. What a relief. I slowed my pace and strolled to a wonderful spring and drank the amazing water. I dumped the lake water I had been carrying and filled my bladder and water bottle with this crystal clear ice cold stuff pouring out of rock. Above me, the smoke was clearing revealing some sweet looking jagged lava mountain tops and ridge lines.
From there, with my delicious water, no skeeters, and a new lease on the day, I just cruised. Cruised until I felt like stopping.
At 1930, I set up camp and finished my book. I wrote a bit in my journal and planned my next day into shelter cove RV park. I looked at the clearing sky and decided the storm was passed. With that, I went to bed.
Of course, I’d wake up hours later as water dropped in my face through my tent netting. Damn. I let the drops fall and laid there. It’ll stop. It’ll let up. I laid there. It didn’t stop and didn’t let up.
Begrudgingly, I got up and threw my rain fly on upside down. Said screw it all and went back to sleep.
This morning, I rolled into Shelter Cove around 8. I had been zonking energy wise so wanted to make sure I got some good calories. I immediately ordered two pizzas and scarfed one and a half down. I’ll eat a bit more and head out soon.
Big Lake Youth Camp in a couple days.
Cascade Locks isn’t too far off.
Almost half way through Oregon.
Fingers still crossed I stay North of fires and out of bad weather. Otherwise I’m gonna keep on keeping on.