I got up at 5:30 to cool weather, and a plan for a long day today, wanting to get as close to Crater Lake as possible.
Before I took down my tent, I went to get water from Christi’s Spring to filter. Because filtering takes so much more time than fetching water, I really should have done that last night so I’d have plenty of water ready this morning. Since I didn’t, that delayed my departure a bit; I didn’t start hiking until almost 7 am.
Smoke continued to fill the sky and forest, obscuring views and adding the smell of campfire to the air.
There were lots of fallen trees on the trail, even before the trail went through a burn area. Once though the burn area, the forest continued, though not as dense as it as before. While there was some tree cover, there wasn’t a whole lot. At one point, some mountains poked out from the smoke.
I crossed the 1800 mile marker today around 12:40. True to form, there were two markers on the trail.
Shortly after the second marker, I stopped for dinner at a campsite just past a small creek. The creek was inhabited by a lot of small frogs, and I had to make sure I wasn’t stepping on them when I was collecting water. The creek was pretty shallow, with no drops, so I had to scoop water into my water bag, so collecting water took longer than usual. Doubly so since I spilled two liters while trying to take a photo of some frogs. I wound up having to make a second trip to get more water because I lost another liter or two when my water bag fell off the branch I hung it on.
The next creek crossing was populated by even more frogs, so much so that I didn’t recognize them as frogs (I thought the rocks were just that splotchy) until they all started to hop around as I got close. There really were so many that if I actually really wanted to step on a frog, it would not have been difficult to do so.
The trail crossed another burn area that was starting to recover nicely from a fire last year: the ground was nearly completely covered by new pine trees.
After a brief break from burnt forest, the trail went through yet another burn area, but this one felt different. This felt like one of the most desolate landscapes I’d ever walked through. Trees were burnt to the point of being nothing but blackened misshapen char sticking up from the ground. There was virtually no new ground cover that had started to grow. The ground wasn’t dirt; it was ash. Every footstep sent up a small cloud of dead tree.
By six, 24 miles in, I’d easily met whatever minimum distance goal I might have had for the day, and with several campsites roughly spaced a mile apart, and the trail being pretty easy to hike, I went from campsite to campsite, checking the time and distance at each one to consider whether that was enough, or if I should go further.
I reached a campsite 26.0 miles from where I started this morning around 6:40. Had this been any other day, I’d probably have called that far enough, but with yesterday’s almost-30 mile day, I didn’t want to have an almost-marathon day today: I wanted two marathons in a row. So I kept hiking, charging uphill with great speed. I knew there were some people ahead, and that space at the campsite I was aiming for was going to be tight, especially if there was anyone else already there.
It turned out, I was so focused on going up the hill that I completely missed the campsite I was aiming for. Instead going another half-mile further, I hiked almost two miles, bringing the day to 27.8 miles! (Though, that was probably a good thing: the campsite I was going for was in the middle of a burn area, and the one I wound up at was near the top of a hill, and not completely full of dead trees.) I actually caught up with the group that was in front of me, and because I was pushing uphill as hard as I could, was able to get a slightly better campsite because I got there before all of them.
Tomorrow: Crater Lake, which I’ve been looking forward ever since I learned an alternate trail goes along the rim of the caldera the lake is in.