Day 102: mile 1820.9 – mile 1848.4
Elevation gain: 2,222 ft
Elevation loss: 2,470 ft
Crater Lake was another spectacular site that we had both been looking forward to so much before we started this journey! So we thought, why not watch the sunrise over crater Lake…that would probably be stunning! Unfortunately, we had 6 miles between us, in the campground, and our beautiful destination. So we decided to set our alarm for 3 AM… Yes, 3 AM! We had other hikers staying in the campground with us so we tried to be as quiet as possible and were walking by 3:45.
We still had some Pringles left over from yesterday afternoon so we chomped on those while we walked which was a lovely morning snack. The entire 6 miles was on a paved road and we weren’t opposed to being picked up by one of the 6 cars that passed us, but no one stopped. I don’t blame them…who would stop for 2 crazy people walking in the pitch black darkness?? So we were walking at our fastest pace which was working really well for the first mile while it was flat. But then we started climbing, and climbing…this made it much harder to keep the pace we needed in order to get to the Lake by our planned time of 5:30. The sun was rising at 6:05, but we knew the best colors would be at 5:30. There was a full moon which made walking without our headlamps possible, but it was still pretty cloudy. So we would have the bright moon spotlight on us with moon shadows, and then total darkness…on and off, on and off. We did have small clearings here and there which allowed us to see a few shooting stars which was super cool. Before we knew it, it was 4:45 and still had quite a distance to go. So we picked up the pace even more. It just seemed like it was taking forever and I could see the east horizon getting brighter by 5am. Ugh…if we miss this sunrise by just 10-15 minutes it’s going to be such a bummer after waking up at 3am! Then a car would drive by and I would wave and put on my biggest smile while Link had his thumb out…but no luck. We would totally make it if just one person would pick us up, COME ON! 5:15am and we are now walking as fast as we possibly can, but it’s just so hard…uphill, full resupply in our packs, legs protesting, and now we are sweating. 5:26, and now I know it’s not possible to make our goal. It was time to walk the last section, cross country for the final mile but all in soft sand. Is this a dream…a nightmare?? The lake is literally right at the top of this last hill, but it’s all deep sand…REALLY? Head down, one foot in front of the other, go, go, GO…and finally, we were there! 5:45, and the colors were still spectacular, the lake was magnificent. Seriously everything I had imagined it would be, absolutely majestic…I was speechless.
As soon as we made it to the lake we realized it was COLD! Wow, we hadn’t been cold or even chilly in quite some time. Both of us being sweaty definitely didn’t help matters, so we quickly put on multiple layers. We had to dig deep into our packs for jackets and beanies since those hadn’t been worn in weeks! We could see our breath, the temps were definitely in the 30’s. So we found a spot along the rim of the lake to make our coffees and have our breakfast. BEST breakfast view of the whole trip by far!
It’s funny, in all the pictures I’ve seen, Wizard Island has always been in the middle so it looks like it’s about half the size of the lake. But that’s not the case at all…it’s tiny compared to the entire lake! We had known it was the deepest Alpine lake in the world, but we found out some super cool other facts as well.
We were awe-struck by this Lake, to put it mildly. We ended up sitting there and appreciating it’s beauty for 3.5 hours! Since our packs were sitting next to us along the rim where a lot of people walked by, we ended up being asked a million questions from multiple people. We didn’t mind this a bit…I love it when people are interested in this journey and we love sharing our experiences with them. We have met a TON of really cool people along the trail this way! As the sun got higher in the sky, the color of the water got more and more deep blue. This is a shade of blue we have never seen in any other Alpine lake we have come across before. It didn’t even look real at times!
As we were finally packing our stuff up to continue our walk along the rest of the rim, the clouds started to roll in.
We had about 5 miles to walk along the rim and I just couldn’t believe that each new view could be more amazing than the last, but they were!(I know I have a load of pix here, but I wanted to make sure I had them all in years to come down the road. Feel free to scroll through quickly if it becomes too much 😜)
It didn’t take long for the sky to become completely socked in with clouds which really decreased the vibrant blue of the water.
When we reached the end of the rim trail, it meant we had to say goodbye to this spectacular lake. So we decided to stop for lunch to enjoy one last moment with this amazing site. We sat on a stone ledge so we could let our feet dangle while we ate some jerky, nuts, tuna packet and dark chocolate m&m’s. There were 2 VERY bold chipmunks who kept coming over to us every 10 seconds. We would shoo them away, but they would immediately come right back. One of them even jumped up onto the wall literally right next to Link at one point! There are A LOT of spots along the rim of the lake where people can pull over their car to look at the views. This rock wall was right along one of the spots to pull over, so there were a ton of people stopping to check it out. At one point, a dad says to his kids, “come here, kids…look at this”, and proceeds to hand feed one of the chipmunks a Cheeto. He then tells them to hold Cheetos out for the chipmunk as well…erggg…DON’T FEED THE WILDLIFE! And now those kids will think it’s okay to do this in the future as well 😡 Anyhoo…Crater Lake was definitely phenomenal, and something I will never forget! But we needed to make our way back to the PCT. The official PCT doesn’t even go by Crater Lake…can you imagine missing this unbelievable spectacle?? So we had been on an alternate route all morning (most hikers choose this alternate as well) and needed to get back on track. Even though the sky looked increasingly gray and the wind had really picked up, there was no rain in the forecast.
We had gone about 19 miles for the day when we finally found our way back to the PCT. The trail then picked up right where it left off yesterday…in the middle of a forest with no views.
This went on for the remainder of the day, 8 miles. But nothing could dampen our spirits today…we had just been completely inspired by Crater Lake! At one point, we did hear a loud CRACK! And within a second after that, a very loud CRASH!! Either a tree or a snag fell somewhere in the near distance but both of us were surprised with how quickly the crash was after the initial break. I always imagined that when a tree fell, there would be a little more time in between…a creaking noise to warn you to get out of the way. Not the case with this one, at least, which was a little disconcerting since we are walking amongst burned/dead trees almost daily! 😳
The water sources continue to be difficult these days so we are so extremely thankful to a couple trail angels who left water caches for us. When we were just 30 yards from the second water cache, there was a can of Coors just sitting in the middle of the trail with a circle drawn around it in the dirt…TRAIL MAGIC! What a perfect end to a great day. Sure wish we could’ve thanked the angel who left it…it definitely made Link’s day even better, that’s for sure!
We filled up our bottles at the cache and then saw there were flat spots to camp, so we decided to call it a day at 5:15 since we had such an early wake up call this morning.
Link always uses a rock to hammer in the tent stakes, but EVERY single rock around this campsite was as light as a feather and super fragile. They felt and looked a lot like pumice stone. He would hammer in a stake and the rock would either fall apart or the stake would make a huge hole in the rock! I am now lying in the tent and it is the coldest it’s been in quite some time! Link and I are both sleeping with our beanies and wool socks AND we both have our vestibules closed which hasn’t happened in weeks! What a super day…hopefully Oregon continues to amaze us everyday! Thanks for reading, guys. Double Down