When we left the campground at Crater Lake, we hadn’t actually seen the lake yet. We had to resupply, shower, do laundry, and eat at the restaurant (three times) before we could hike the 5 miles up to the rim. After breakfast, we plodded up the steep trail to the Rim Village. There, we chugged a couple liters of water each, as there would be no on-trail water for 27 miles, which also meant carrying 4+ liters of heavy water with us down the trail. When we finally stepped out toward the rim of the crater, we were stunned by the beauty of the lake.
Crater Lake was a huge volcano that erupted around 7,700 years ago. It left a huge crater that eventually filled with snow melt and rain water, creating an amazing lake. There stands a gorgeous island near the west side of the lake called (awesomely) Wizard Island, which was created by volcanic activity after the volcano blew its top. The water in the lake is some of the bluest I have ever seen. It is ridiculously gorgeous, like something out of a fantasy.
It took us longer to hike the rim than expected, due to our need to stop every 50 yards to take photos and gape at the beauty. Eventually we left the rim with reluctance and hiked until dark in an effort to make up some miles.
On the third day out from Crater Lake, we left the official PCT and took the Oregon Skyline Trail alternate. We heard the OST was more scenic, had more water, less elevation gain, and was slightly shorter. We are not “purists,” meaning that we are okay with not walking every single step on the official PCT; we just want to walk a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada (no skipping), which we have succeeded in doing so far. We stopped and swam in the beautiful Crescent Lake, then camped at the equally lovely Diamond View Lake, where we had a wonderful view of the sun setting over the Diamond Peaks. In the morning, we hiked to Shelter Cove Resort and had a pizza for breakfast before joining back up with the PCT.
We decided to do a lazy 19-mile day out of Shelter Cove and planned to make up for it with big miles the next day. From our campsite that night, it was 36.5 miles to Elk Lake Resort, our next resupply. Before bed, Shedder, Ashe, and I decided it was crazy to try for Elk Lake; we would sleep in a bit instead and just get close to the resort. But the next morning, we went back and forth trying to decide if we wanted to go for it. After 18 miles, we decided to do it. At mile 30, we learned that the restaurant at the resort would close at 7pm (not 8pm, as thought), so we pushed hard for the last 6.5 miles to arrive at 6:40pm. We had done 36.5 miles in 12 hours, the last 5.5 hours without a break through thunder storms. We ate up a burger and salad joyfully and exhausted. In an amazing act of kindness, the resort staff offered to let a dozen of us sleep out on the back porch so that we wouldn’t have to set up camp in the rain.
We’ve made it to Central Oregon and are heading into Bend soon for a quick break. Then we are off to Timberline Lodge and Mt. Hood. It feels like Oregon is flying by.