Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been off the trail for a few weeks after making it to Crater Lake and meeting up with my parents and sister. I spent a lovely few days in Boise with them, then journeyed home to my much missed family. The tale of the reintegration and handling of domestic and professional affairs shall come soon. The short version is that I will not be attempting the thru-hike, due to a combination of timing, physical condition, a change in focus, and other considerations. I’ll be altering the blog to reflect this in the coming days.
However, I wanted to catch up on the days when I was still on the trail, though out of contact internet-wise. This is the first part of the trek from Fish Lake to Crater Lake. The second installment will follow soon.
After I left Fish Lake on that fateful Thursday, I entered the true wilderness as defined by the fact that I couldn’t get cell service at any point.
The rain had tapered off when I left, but it was still quite wet, so I packed up ready for water. All the vegetation was soaked, and soon, so was I. The temperature was pleasantly cool and the cloud cover was nice, but it was a very damp day. Every time my shoes and socks had warmed up with walking, another sluicing wash of cold water would sop down my legs.
It was also my first day of mosquito madness. Even covered in DEET (thank you, modern chemicals!), they came nosing around in clouds any time I stopped. Thankfully, the poison worked and I thought I had come through unscathed (though I had to put on my head net to set up my tent, then had to throw my pack and myself inside, and then had to relentlessly hunt down the infiltrators that came in with me). Checking later, though, I found a great many bites on my arms, legs, and torso, inflicted by the sneaky beasties by either making their way in though gaps between the buttons or attacking directly through the fabric.
The forests in the mist were primeval, with huge garlands of hanging moss on dark, close-packed branches. Many a tree was down across the trail, and one of these gave me my first fall of the trip. (God watches out for children and fools, though, and I managed to land on soft, damp ground.) Much of the hike for those days was nearly silent, with little birdsong and only the occasional breeze through the trees.
The next day was meant to be warmer, but if it was it was imperceptibly so. Clouds soared across the sky before gusting winds all day. I stopped a few times when the sun would peep through, trying to spread out my gear to dry, but the cursed daystar would then immediately go into hiding again.
I made my way past Shale Butte, then the ominously named Lucifer and the Devil’s Peak as evening was falling. (O, strange pioneers, with your penchant for naming any anomalous geographic feature after the devil! He didn’t really play a part in sculpting the landscape, you know.)
And here’s where the adventures really began. The north slope of Devil’s Peak was covered in snow, too deeply and steeply to cross. Clearly some folks had glissaded down the slope sitting down, but in the evening light, it was more than I wanted to risk. The wind was a cold gale on the ridge, and the fog was blowing in and out, so I couldn’t hunker down and wait for the next day (at least not nearby). I explored further down the ridge, looking for a clear patch to descend, my heart pounding as I scrambled along, holding on to leaning trees and loose stones. But no way offered.
Feeling defeated, I climbed back to the trail and retraced my route, hoping to catch the 7 Lakes Trail, which would add a few miles but would circle around to meet up with the PCT eventually.
I found the side trail and started down.
Then I found that it, too, was snowed in. The slope was steep and made up of jagged, loose rocks, varying from sub-compact to fist sized. Darkness was descending, so, feeling no small amount of trepidation, so did I. I climbed about halfway down the slope before it grew too dim to continue. I found a small island of soil and trees amidst the scree, pitched my tent on a flat-ish slope, and curled up for the night.
To be continued…