Our last post left off right before we started our day of hiking at Crater Lake National Park. We headed up to the lodge to take a look around, and hopefully warm ourselves up a bit after a very, very cold night camping in below freezing temperatures. You can spend the night in the lodge, but apparently the place books up for the entire summer by early February, so we didn’t even attempt that. Still, non-guests can walk around the lower level, dine in the dining hall, and take a look at the little history exhibit.
But even if you don’t go inside, you have to sit in a rocking chair on the back porch and take in the gorgeous view of Crater Lake. We were there around 7 am, and the view was incredible. The water looked so thick and blue. Since we woke up so early, we got to see the lake for about 12 hours, and it looked so different throughout the day. I think I liked it best in the late morning. It was so reflective. I guess that’s why they nicknamed it Mirror Lake.
Since we arrived so early in the tourist season, part of the park was still closed off, which really limited the hikes we could do. There is a boat that runs to Wizard Island (the big, cone shaped island that you see in all of these photos), but it doesn’t run until later in the season. So we ended up with 3 hikes for the day: Garfield Peak (3.4 miles, and a 1,010 foot elevation gain), Discovery Point (2.2 miles, and a 100 foot elevation gain), and Watchman Peak (1.6 miles, and a 420 feet elevation gain). Of course, all of these mileages are a little sketchy, since the trails weren’t incredibly clear due to snow.
This hike started near the lodge, and rather than consulting our guide to remind ourselves how long the hike would be, we decided to just head out without our packs, thinking that it was a pretty short, easy hike (we had read a lot of information and clearly weren’t great at keeping it all straight). So we started this hike in all of our layers (wool socks, leggings, pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a pullover, winter jacket, mittens, and a winter hat for me). At this point, I was laughing at myself for optimistically tossing a tank top in my bag before we left on our trip. It was cold, folks.
We didn’t make it all the way to the top of Garfield Peak. After a bit of hiking through the snow, we saw that the final portion of the hike was a really steep climb up a snow-covered peak. I felt pretty confident we could make it to the top, but I saw no safe way to get down. And after our last snowy mountain hiking adventure, I thought it best we play it safe. But while we were standing at the bottom, deliberating the climb, we saw a guy in a tank top practically jumping down the mountain. When he reached the bottom, he told us he was climbing Mt. Rainier this week, and he just wanted to get in a little exercise beforehand. I think it’s safe to say he’s in better shape than we will ever be.
By the time we got back to the lodge, we were both crazy hungry and thirsty (a result of accidentally not taking anything on our hike), which gave us a good opportunity to return to the rocking chairs at the lodge and indulge in way too much trail mix (a mixture of almonds, pistachios, Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chips, golden raisins, and honey nut toasty o’s that I compiled myself). Delicious. And incredibly messy since the chocolate melted in the warmth of the car. Whoops.
The Discovery Point hike led us to the place where gold prospector John Wesley Hillman first spotted Crater Lake in 1853. This hike was really beautiful because it pretty much followed the rim of the lake, so every view was amazing.
We’re not sure whether or not we reached the end of the Discovery Point trail. We were hoping to connect this hike to the next one, but we eventually reached a point where everything was covered in snow or dropped off a cliff. So we ended up doubling back, which was fine because the hike was so beautiful. We kept talking about how it looked like you could just jump off the edge of a cliff and fly forever because everything looked like the sky. That’s how reflective this lake is, folks.
Our final hike of the day ended up being pretty awesome. Watchman Peak has a fire lookout at the top that was built in 1932. We could see the fire lookout all day from various points in our hikes, and we read that it had some of the best views in the park. For some reason, I assumed that a trail with awesome views would be pretty well marked and heavily traveled. That was not the case. We weren’t even certain where the trail began because everything was covered in snow. But we saw a line of footprints that we assumed would lead us in the right direction. It seems that trekking uncertainly through snow is becoming a trend on our hikes…
As we got started on this snowy ledge, we saw two guys hiking straight up the hill, carrying skis with them. And soon enough, they were skiing down the hill. Seeing two men skiing straight down at us was one of the more terrifying moments of my life. As we were struggling to keep our footing on the snowy slope, we saw that these two fellas weren’t quite the young bucks we were expecting. They were definitely two 60-ish-year-old men in Hawaiian shirts. Skiing down a slope that drops off onto a busy road. And they told us they had done it 14 times that day. What? I was pretty sure we were about to witness their deaths. But they made it down for the 15th time just fine.
We followed tracks in the snow for a while, trying not to look down the mountain at the busy road below. Eventually, we made it to a clear trail that we were able to follow up to the fire lookout. And holy cow. What a view.
Once we finished our hikes for the day, we checked the weather report and saw that thunderstorms were on the way. So rather than spend another night freezing in our tent (and having to pack up wet stuff in the morning), we decided to head home a little early. Of course, we roasted some hot dogs over a fire at the campsite before packing up (what’s the point in camping if you don’t eat a hot dog?) and had a few final s’mores.
Basically, it was a ridiculously awesome weekend. God made some pretty cool stuff.