Crater Lake is pretty.
It’s also geologically fascinating. Crater Lake uniquely has no rivers leading in or out, and as a result, the water is astonishingly blue and clear - it’s estimated you can see to a depth of over 100 feet. The lake is also the deepest in the United States, and has the third-highest average depth in the world.
Crater Lake was formed as a result of a volcanic explosion; it’s essentially the top of an extinct volcano. At one time, Mount Mazama was nearly twice as tall, and then it exploded in a way that would make Mount Saint Helens look weak.
If you get there in the morning, when there’s no wind, the surface is smooth as glass and looks like air.
The PCT officially travels around Crater Lake, never within sight of it. Instead, most hikers take a detour in order to visit the lake. Part of the rim trail was still closed, which was remedied by doing about an hour of road walking.
Once on the north side of Crater Lake, Oregon got easy. For the next few days, hardly any climbing at all, resulting in two of my three longest days of the hike (by distance). Unfortunately, this also marked the point at which Oregon’s famous mosquitos began to appear in earnest. It wasn’t too bad as long as you kept moving, but anytime you stopped - particularly at a water source, it got bad.
Many hikers start routinely cranking out 30-mile days in Oregon, and some even try to get through the whole state in two weeks. 455 miles in 14 days comes to an average of 32.5 miles/day. And that’s on average, meaning half the time, they hike more. It’s possible though, in large part because of the easy going, but also because after three months of hiking, most are in great shape. I still wasn’t, thanks to taking two weeks off in Etna, followed by 2.5 days each in Ashland and Crater Lake. I probably hadn’t lost any weight, either.
In order to get to Shelter Cove, I had two options - take the old PCT, which was straight, flat, and in a dry area, or take the new PCT, which went into the hills, where the snow was neck-deep and the trail was hidden underneath. Primarily in the interest of not spending the entire day guessing where the trail is, I took the old PCT.
The trail was sandy, and the afternoon proved warm, but it was still a pleasant hike. It was simply an unfortunate circumstance that during most of the afternoon, the sun was precisely behind me, which meant sunlight was able to sneak in the gap the trail made between the trees. If the sun had been at any other angle, the trail would be in the shade.
Shelter Cove is a locally popular spot for camping, boating, and fishing, but there’s not much else there. There’s a restaurant where you can buy a meal, but no store where you can buy food. But there’s a hiker box, and once again, I was able to resupply with more food than I could possibly need. A few hikers had taken the day off, and they were upset that the restaurant had been closed the day before, leaving them unable to spend $15 on a cheeseburger.
I managed to catch up to Sherpa at Shelter Cove, as he’d taken a day off-trail. After I’d taken an extra day off in Ashland, and another two at Crater Lake, I figured I’d never see him again. He spent not a little time singing the praises of the fried chicken he’d enjoyed the night before, and he made it sound good. Maybe fried chicken should be my first meal when I get back home.
from PCT North