Ashland to Mazama (Crater Lake)

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 118 (Continued)

So as we were saying in the last post, we were a bit late in leaving Callahan’s Lodge to return to the trail. We didn’t feel particularly bad though as unlike most of our hiker friends, we hadn’t gone to the hiker vortex/cool town of Ashland. It probably would have been cool to check out but we were trying to save on money and time. This probably turned out to be a very good thing too because apparently all of the smoke we had been seeing was settling in the Ashland Valley so the air quality was particularly bad there.

It turned out the smoke would remain bad for the first couple of days of this section. In addition, the yellow jackets (wasps) were bad which was really annoying as we had both been stung in recent weeks so would get really scared whenever they would buzz around us.

As we started away from the lodge and up the road we saw three deer who appeared to be posing for us.

Can you spot the three deer in a line?

They ran away as we approached
and soon we re-entered the bush. The views were not particularly impressive on the first day of this section due to the landscape but also the limited visibility associated with the smoke, but we did pass Pilot Rock which was kind of cool.

Pilot Rock (I think)

We also met some friends of Sparrow’s though we haven’t seen them since that day.

Then we had the most amazing experience. We came upon a brand new long drop! It was built only weeks earlier, was well-stocked with toilet paper, and it still smelled of fresh paint. You better believe we made our best efforts to utilise this facility.

Best sight on the trail ever - a brand new 'long-drop'!
Nothing quite like the smell of fresh paint!

We weren’t super hungry for much of the day because of our huge pancake breakfast but we did stop for dinner at one stage and then walk a bit more afterward. The track was straight and flat and we were thinking Oregon might just be the easy breeze we had heard it was. As darkness approached we found a great little campsite tucked into some trees on flat ground.

Oregon, so flat.

Day 119

We awoke after a night with strong enough smoke smells that when we awoke for a pee we became concerned that a fire was very near. However, we hadn’t seen anything suspicious so had simply gone back to sleep.

We had breakfast and started walking. We had our eyes set on the creek that is the lake outlet to Little Hyatt Lake to wash some clothes and get some drinking water. For some reason the creek smelled kind of fishy though, so we were happy to be filtering the water.

After the weird stinky lake outlet, we soon passed under high voltage power lines. We can’t really explain why but for some reason we now looove high voltage power lines and walking under them. There is really no good reason.

Oh my god...we love high voltage power lines!

We passed near a campground and someone had put some trail magic beer in a cooler nearby. Unfortunately it was a weird time of day to drink beer and they weren’t a kind we particularly like (PBR) so we decided to leave them for other, more appreciative hikers. We had morning tea by a unique random water fountain where we filled up some more water. There were swarms of yellow jackets getting involved with the spigot and freaking us out. There were also lots of cute birds using the overflow as a bird bath.

For some reason we really didn’t feel like walking this day. Maybe it was the smokey conditions or lack of views as we were under trees? We don’t know but sometimes this happens to one or both of us, but the reality is that we just walk anyway. How else will we ever get to Canada?

The afternoon of hiking was fairly uneventful. As we hiked into the evening and approached the Brown Mountain Shelter (our camp for the night), we saw something a little weird. A dog appeared out of nowhere and sort of walked with us/ahead of us down the track. The dog didn’t bark or seem to want to be pat. Initially Physio wondered whether he was hallucinating because of exhaustion. When Cashmere confirmed she could see the dog too we concluded the dog must have got lost.

We lost the mysterious dog when we turned off the PCT at the junction to the hut. When we reached the hut we asked around if anyone had a dog that was missing. Apparently most of the people camping around the hut were through hikers, and thought we were crazy. Most of them were also in bed already.

We found a spot to set up our tent but we really wanted to wash ourselves. There was an old fashioned hand-pumped well near the hut so we used that to wash. The well pump was a bit squeaky and Cashmere had a lot of trouble using it without causing a racket. She felt bad since there were lots of people trying to sleep near by. Physio had to do most of the water pumping, or he would find himself cringing. Also the well water was freezing. It was a very strange hiker trash wash party. Once suitably cold and wet we put on our dry clothes, hopped into bed to warm up, and went to sleep.

Day 120

Because we had arrived at camp as it was getting dark the previous night, we didn’t really know who was camping there. In the morning we realised we knew many of the people.

There was Barista who we first met on Day 1 at mile 1 and had seen off and on a bit lately. There was an older lady named GG who we had heard of. There were a few hikers who left after us or before us that we later learned we knew, and, we were most excited to see a German couple named Treeman and Hedgehog. We had known we weren’t too far behind them from log books but we hadn’t seen them since near Big Bear City. To be honest, we hadn’t known them all that well but we liked them nonetheless. We talked to them a little, then Hedgehog set off, followed by Physio. Cashmere set off a little later – as usual she was spending too much time reading the hiker log book that lived at the hut.

Cashmere soon discovered that the berry situation was getting better and better. She got distracted picking huckleberries on the side of the track and Treeman soon caught up and was happy to learn about picking and eating berries too. They walked together for awhile catching up and talking about random things.  It was a nice time. Then they reached the lava rocks where Hedgehog had been waiting for Treeman to eat some snacks and Cashmere was reunited with Physio. We decided to press on a little longer before morning tea.

Lava fields

The lava rocks were related to the volcanic activity around the area. We were by a relatively big volcano named Mt McLaughlin but it was still so smokey we only just saw the outline of it at this stage. Apparently it is a cool mountain to climb but we saw little point with all the smoke around. We encountered a southbounder soon. Physio was ahead and talked to him but Cashmere just said hi. Then Physio mentioned something to Cashmere about how we were going to get burgers soon. “So you do want to go the few miles off the trail for burgers at the Fish Lake Resort then?” she asked.

“No oh you didn’t talk to the sobo did you? He said there are trail magic burgers at mile 1776” Physio replied. The odd thing was there were no roads of any sort around mile 1776. We thought the south-bounder must have made a mistake, and maybe the burgers were actually somewhere else.

We tried to contain our excitement but it wasn’t easy. We decided that we definitely wouldn’t go to Fish Lake Resort for burgers if there was the prospect of closer, free burgers on trail. As we got to Mile 1776 we didn’t see any trail magic or smell burgers. What’s more the trail was benched into a steep slope – not exactly a prime location to grill burgers. What if the sobo had made the whole thing up? We started to think maybe he was a sociopath. We kept on walking, thinking maybe it would be just another half a mile or so. Suddenly the steep slope gave way to flatter ground, and a woman emerged from beside the trail to greet us excitedly. “Do you want burgers? I’ve got sodas, chocolate bars, and some fresh fruit too!”. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Trail Magic Hiker-Trash Convention

Jackie and her man Josh had actually hiked-in, carrying camp chairs, a habachi grill, fuel canisters, soda, candy bars and burgers to an on-trail location to do trail magic! What a heavy load and what legends! When we quizzed them on why they carried all the stuff into the woods they offered a very simple explanation. “Trail Magic should be magical!”. We can’t agree more.

Jackie and Josh really want to do the PCT but are waiting for their kids to grow up, they think it will be 10 more years. To get themselves pumped up Josh and Jackey have been following a PCT hiker’s blog. They read about the particular hiker craving Mountain Dew. They decided to try to meet him to give him the Dew that he craved. Sadly that hiker got off the trail, possibly because he lost so much weight he stopped feeling hungry and could not hike anymore. Luckily for us it still put the idea in their heads, they came and did trail magic anyway. They were only there for two days so we were very lucky to get to visit them.

They immediately instructed us to sit down and relax; they wanted to take care of us. Cashmere, always wanting to help, found this to be a somewhat difficult prospect but managed to relax, and enjoyed it too. They asked how many burgers we wanted and emphasised that we could have as many as we like. In the knowledge there were some lovely hikers behind us who would enjoy burgers too, we limited ourselves to two each and shared a soda. The burgers were very plain and yet they tasted like the best burgers we had ever had. Thank you Jackie and Josh!

When the other hikers arrived, there was a slight moment when we though we got too greedy (even though we were instructed to) and started to feel bad, but alas more patties were found and our internal crises were alieved. Phew. We split another soda and had a few candy bars and after a little more chilling (camp chairs are just so comfortable!), we set off.

Maybe it was the prevalence of berries on trail, or the prospect of, and then enjoyment of, burgers, but we were feeling it this day. We very easily walked 26.5 miles (~42km) that day. To be fair, the track also lived up to Oregon’s reputation and was easy and under trees all day.

Physio enjoying Berrymania

When we finally decided to set up camp, there were also many good campsites to choose from. Ah Oregon!

Day 121

The next day we weren’t as great at walking, Cashmere in particular was dragging the chain. Again the smoke was quite heavy so our views were limited. We both had to poop lots and Cashmere was a bottomless pit of hunger for some reason. Our speed was slower and after only four miles (~6.5km) she demanded that we stop for snacks. Usually we try to spread our breaks out by around 7-9 miles (~11.5km – 15km). There was also a big waterless stretch which isn’t fun for anyone.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, with some smoke inhibited views.

This is for you Fabrice!

We also passed Devil’s Peak.


Despite Cashmere’s lack of enthusiasm she could not stop us from passing the 1800 mile mark!


...and the miniature version

As we hiked into the evening we passed through large tracts of burnt forest. Physio was amazed by the stark evidence of regeneration, particularly when compared to burnt forests we passed in Southern California.

Thousands of baby pine trees!

We even set up camp early enough to take a photo of our campsite.

A typically flat and spacious Oregon PCT campsite

Day 122

We often run out of things to think about on the trail. In fact, we’ve been thinking about all of you readers and people in our lives more than we’ve made the effort to tell you! We also pass the time by strategising, this week we had been plotting our Crater Lake National Park strategy.

Crater Lake here we come!

When we reached Mazama village we needed to sort out our resupply, wanted to eat delicious food and wanted to time ourselves to hit the crater rim at dawn the following day, before it got too busy.

Our dream was to get to Mazama Village in time for breakfast – but sadly we got there half an hour too late. During our hike there we came across a cool trail side arrangements.

This may also be for Fabrice...

We decided to pass the time until the one restaurant started serving lunch by doing all of our hiker trash chores and return to the restaurant in time for lunch. This strategy worked well – by the time lunch rolled around we had collected and sorted out our resupply and our battery pack was plugged into the wall charging. Hiker trash love taking over outlets and charging their gadgets.

To be honest, the lunch was overpriced and mediocre but luckily pizza was at least involved. Really good pizza is amazing but even mediocre pizza is okay we’ve found. We paid $10 to use the WiFi in the village, but mostly to upload a blog post to you!

We ate it all, so it can't have been that bad...

After lunch, our sanity slowly started to deteriorate. The sun crept up on our picnic table making it hot. Yellow jackets buzzed around threatening more wasp stings. We had the phone charging on a short cord with Cashmere hunched over, picking blog photos, trying to let the battery charge in the hot laundry room. Her neck was getting sore and the heat exhausted her. Meanwhile Physio attended to some of our other hiker trash chores out on the sunny picnic table. The sun seemed to be everywhere, unavoidable.

Most hikers seem to get packages sent to Mazama Village rather than resupply at the store. This was understandable since the store had a limited, overpriced selection. As a result the hiker box, where hikers throw their excess food and other excess stuff (often including old shoes) was out of control with awesomeness. We already had too much food for the next section and yet we kept wanting to have a peek. The weight of our food bags grew.

We had decided that our rim strategy would be to rest while we waited for the sun to subside and then head out around 4:00pm or so, walk around five miles and then be relatively close to the start of the rim.

As a side note, walking along Crater Lake Rim is now technically not part of the PCT, but rather an alternate. The rim trail used to be PCT signposted and was the ‘hiker PCT’, while the ‘stock PCT’ (for horses) went through forests inland from the rim trail. For whatever reason last year all PCT signs were removed from the rim trail. However, one would have to be a little crazy to be so close to Crater Lake and then opt to follow the now true PCT and miss the rim (as you will soon find out in the next post). There was a fire raging near the now true, inland PCT, so some rangers also advised us to walk the rim trail. Luckily we were planning to do this anyway.

So back to Mazama Village…We had showered, done our laundry, and eventually did get that blog post up, despite the heat and sore neck Cashmere was developing. Physio’s shower was pretty weird though. The $1.50 (for three minutes) Cashmere had budgeted for Physio’s shower left him standing there covered in soap with shampoo running in his eyes. With no more quarters and no prospect of more shower water arriving Physio stumbled blindly to an adjoining shower where he had heard a small dribble of water on his way in. It turns out washing off hiker filth with a tiny dribble of water is very time consuming. Physio thanked God for the tiny dribble none the less!

We also had a package that hadn’t arrived and were sort of hanging around hoping it would. A lovely lady, the mother of ‘Clutch’ (another PCT hiker) told us she would be doing trail magic at her campsite, and let us know where it was. By this stage a number of hikers had come and gone, and we (especially Physio), were getting a little antsy. The tail magic sounded like a dangerous hiker vortex that would ensure we would never leave.

We needed to increase our water capacity as the rim trail posed a 26 mile waterless stretch. Usually we increase our water capacity by purchasing 1 litre Powerade bottles. However, oddly, the Mazama store only had diet Powerade in one litre capacities and seriously no other options for that size other than not-able-to-seal milk cartons. Ugh. We hate artificial sweeteners. From everything we’ve read they tend to be seriously bad news for you. We don’t tend to like things too sweet anyway but would choose real sugar and its bad effects on your health over artificial sweeteners anyday. What a conundrum. So we bought the diet Powerade bottles to increase our water capacity. We were also too cheap to pour the diet Powerade juice out like we definitely should have. It was creepily over sweet and ended up giving us both really crampy, upset tummies. We started calling it AIDS juice for this effect, even though that is really un-politically correct.

Around 5:00pm Physio started getting really really antsy. He may have unknowingly, had hiker hanger growing. We needed to leave. We did one last check for our remaining package, including accosting a UPS driver who didn’t have it, and finally set off. I will leave our journey from there for the next blog post. Thanks again for reading!