The sound of thunder woke us up at the Mazama Village campground. It wasn’t raining, so we packed up as quietly as possible and left camp before 7am.
I’m not sure anyone actually hikes the official PCT near Crater Lake. The PCT follows a forested route below the lake. We took the more popular Crater Lake Rim Alternate. We climbed from Mazama Village up to the Rim Village Visitor Center. Everything was socked in clouds.
We started down the trail, hoping the weather would clear. After about 10 minutes I realized we had forgotten to fill our water bottles! The Rim Village is the start of a 26 mile dry stretch. We turned around and headed back to the cafe and gift shop. In addition to filling our water bottles, we bought sandwiches (for second breakfast) and hot beverages. A half hour later, we were ready for our second attempt at the Rim Trail.
The clouds mostly cleared out as we hiked. Crater Lake is amazing! Even though there were a ton of people driving through the park and stopping at every vista point, we had the Rim Trail mostly to ourselves.
The miles around Crater Lake flew by quickly. Soon we dropped back down into the forest and rejoined the PCT. We stayed within Crater Lake National Park for quite a while. The number of downed trees on the trail really surprised us – we both thought the NPS might have the resources to clear them.
We reached the park boundary at Highway 138 sometime in the evening. Two cars were pulled over on a very small shoulder. Rob assumed one of them was having car trouble, but the driver of the first car rolled down his window and asked if we needed anything. We said no, but then he offered us bug spray. The mosquitoes have been insane and we were indeed running really low on bug spray. We happily accepted a bottle of DEET. A woman got out of the second car and asked if we wanted bananas. Rob, who hates bananas in normal life, immediately said yes. Fresh fruit is so good on the trail! She brought us the bananas and an avocado! I was really excited about the avocado. They explained that they were the trail support for three guys who are running the Oregon section of the PCT (455.2 miles) in 8 days!
We continued another mile or so before setting up camp. The avocado was added to our mac & cheese – one of our best trail dinners so far! The following day we hiked through the Mount Thielsen Wilderness. Mount Thielsen (9184′) is a dramatic and pointy peak, just east of the PCT. We hit quite a few snow patches and a few more downed trees, but the trail was generally easy in this section.
After camping high up on a ridge, just past the Mount Thielsen Wilderness boundary, we hiked 20-something miles to Shelter Cove Resort. We opted to take the Oregon Skyline Trail (OST), another popular alternate to the PCT. The OST parallels the PCT, but goes directly to Shelter Cove.
A number of other hikers were at Shelter Cove when we arrived, including Wing-it! We hadn’t seen him since Kennedy Meadows (way back around mile 702). It’s strange to see the same people in Oregon that we met months ago in Southern California, but that’s one great thing about thru-hiking.
We bought beers to share, picked up our resupply box, and got a pizza for dinner before the store closed. We set up camp in the “hiker campsite” amongst all the massive RV’s.