This morning Jedi treated herself to a waffle and I indulged in delicious diner hash browns. After breakfast, the hiker friendly "Resort" hotel arranged a ride for us back to the trailhead and by 10:20am we were hiking towards Crater Lake National Park.
I've been excited to enter this National Park, and for a while I thought I wouldn't be able to because of fires, but it recently reopened.
We spent most of the day hiking along the popular Rim Trail alternate. The Pacific Crest Trail skirts around Crater Lake, while the Rim Trail affords seven miles of hiking along the volcanic rim of the lake.
After 2 miles on the alternate I arrived at the rim of Crater Lake. On my way to the scenic overlook I met Jack and his dad who were curious about my Pacific Crest Trail experience. We chatted for a bit, Jack's dad said that one day he would like to hike the trail, and Jack gave me a special token.
At 7:00pm we set up camp at the juncture of Annie Spring Trail. I saw that the Annie Creek Restaurant might be open until 8:00pm so I convinced Cosmo to run the mile down to Mazama Village with me. When we got there it was dark outside and inside the buildings were empty, with signs stating "Closed For the Season".
With my tail between my legs we turned around to hike back to camp. On our walk a couple in a huge RV stopped, rolled down their window, and asked if I was a ranger. I giggled and said, "Nope, just a hungry PCT hiker." We chatted for a few minutes more and then they handed Cosmo a 4lb bag of trail mix. We thanked the couple and hiked along back up to camp where we reunited with Jedi.
This morning we made it 1.2 miles before we were met by an unexpected trail closure on the southern end of Crater Lake. We knew that the next section, Sky Lake Wilderness, has recently opened but these last seven miles of the closed national park were not on our radar.
The three of us stood at the trailhead in disbelief and disappointment before deciding to head back to Highway 62 and stick out our thumbs.
Luckily, we were quickly picked up by a couple from Michigan out on a road trip vacation. We could not have asked for a better ride! The couple drove us to the nearest ranger station and waited with us until we got the information we needed to continue hiking.
The park rangers were about as informed as we were and just reiterated what we already knew - if there is a closure sign, the trail is closed.
Eventually, one of the rangers put together an alternate plan to get us back to trail. We would have to skip 17 miles and take a forest road to Seven Mile Trail which would connect us back to the PCT.
The Michiganders offered to drive us to the trailhead without hesitation. By noon we were back on the PCT.
The hike was beautiful.
We climbed rocky switchbacks and gazed out at waves of mountain peaks. At one point we caught a faint glimpse of Mt. Shasta...our finish line!
The three of us have mixed feelings about seeing our end point, a bittersweet sight .
In the meantime, from the top of a climb we enjoyed a ridge line hike. The skies were clear but the air was cool and windy.
As the sun began to set, we set up camp and once again continued our conversations but from within the warmth of our sleeping bags.
This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland.
As we were laying in our tents a group of backpackers passed by and excitedly yelled, "thru hikers!". They were another group of north bounders who ended up flipping and flopping around. It was reassuring to know we also aren't totally alone out here.
Feeling frigid we didn't start walking until about 9:00am still crunching on freshly fallen snow.
Luckily, the sky was clear and the sun was out all day, and by mid afternoon my feet finally felt like they had thawed out.
We had a 26.3 mile goal to get to a shelter this evening so we limited our breaks and hiked into the dark.
By 7:30pm we were all in the South Brown Mountain Shelter having a cozy sleepover with our own wood burning stove.
Despite having a "shelter" we woke up freezing and had a difficult time getting out of our sleeping bags. It was 8:30am by the time we made it to trail.
We hiked into the Rogue River Wilderness and again caught a glimpse of our finish line, Mt. Shasta.
With achey feet, swollen hands, and a mean hiker stench, I spent much of the day daydreaming about our next stop, Callahan's Lodge. The lodge is hiker friendly and has a whirlpool and fireplace in every room! Just 23 more miles...
Today we hiked the last 23 miles before getting to town. We could see smoke fill the air in the distance, a reminder that there are still plenty of active fires around. Fortunately, I just got word from the Klamath Ranger that the trail has reopened from Ashland to Shasta! Our decision to flip north once again seems to have paid off.
By 6:30pm we finally made it to Callahan's...well worth the stop! We hung out next to a fireplace in the lounge drinking our free beer, eating all-you-can eat pasta, and listening to a local musician play classic acoustic covers. Life is good.