PCT Day 111, Double Flip and a Flop, Day 30

August 1

Mile 1810 to mile 1820.9 and mile 1823 to mile 1821.7, 12.2 PCT miles + 2.4 miles on an official PCT alternative and .8 miles on an official Matt and Ali Alternative, 15.4 PCT miles + 1.1 miles to get to campground, 16.5 miles total. (Woof, that’s a mouthful! I’ll explain…)

PCT miles (including official alternative): 1039.6
Running total: 1152.5
Our alarms started going off again around 5am, and yet again we decided that we would rather sleep in than face the chilly air. Screw the 10 before 10 challenge! We snoozed the alarms until 0630- since we only had 10.9 miles to go to get to our day’s destination, we didn’t feel rushed.
Sometimes these short days are the hardest to hike! Compared to a normal day, 10 miles seems so short! but in reality it still takes a few hours, which I always get frustrated about!
We started the morning hiking through the rest of the burn scar.

We had a 700 foot climb in about 2 miles, which was pretty uneventful, and then we cruised up and down for a few miles before one last, short climb before the final descent to our destination: Crater Lake!!!!
The official PCT does NOT actually go near the lake. There is, however, an official PCT alternate on the Rim Trail, which follows the rim around the lake for about 6 miles. Most people chose to take the alternate because the lake is just too stunning to miss, but as it turns out, the official PCT trail closed a few days before we arrived due to high mountain lion activity, so we had no choice but to take the beautiful alternative.

Going Northbound, before coming to the lake, the trail passes by a junction to Mazama Village, which has a restaurant, camp store, cabins, and a campground where most PCTers, including us, plan to spend the night.
There are two junctions off of the PCT that lead to the campground, and being tired and hungry we chose to take the first junction at mile 1820.9 (vs 1821.7) hiking 0.8 miles off-trail to the campground but skipping 0.8miles of the PCT- I think Desert Ali and Matt were more purist and would have never skipped an official PCT section, but PNW Ali and Matt, tired of being an all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitos, don’t give a shit.

As we neared the campground we passed Danger Poles- he had arrived first thing in the AM for breakfast, hung out for a bit, and was already on his way north. Danger Poles is Canadian and has a visa deadline of Sept. 2, hence his crazy long days and few days off. He told us the night before, “I just can’t wait for this to be over.” -it’s a shame that for many, the PCT becomes a job nobody enjoys- no breaks, no fun, only walking, day and night, just to finish. It’s a huge reason Matt doesn’t like the idea of thru-hiking anymore, and something I’m going to try to avoid- we need to enjoy these miles, not dread them! And if that means less of the trail gets done this year then oh well!

We entered the village and headed straight for the restaurant. We both had ceasar salads and burgers (a beyond burger for me) with salty, greasy, delicious fries.
From Mazama Village there is a fairly steep climb to Crater Lake via the Rim Trail. Matt had the genius idea of setting up camp and slack-packing those 3 miles of hell without our packs, then getting a ride back down to Mazama Village- I built off of that idea and thought, “heck, why go up 3 miles of hell when we can go DOWN?” (Yes I complain about steep descents and hate them, but I’m tired!!!) We decided to set up camp, hitch up to the rim, slack-pack back down, then get a ride the next morning to the rim to continue our hike.
After lunch I ran over to the Camp Store to figure out camping for the night and to pick up our four packages (2 boxes of food +2 new shoes!!)- I was very pleased that they only let me pick up the three boxes with my name on them- there are horror stories of having boxes stolen because IDs weren’t checked. When Matt ran over to pick up his new shoes, at my request he inquired about the cabins- somehow there was still one available and you better believe that I jumped all over it!
We brought our stuff into the cabin, switched out our shoes, admired my dirty legs, then headed out to the parking lot to see if we could beg for a ride up to the rim.
Matt thinks it’s hilarious that I have dirt in my knee creases…but he thinks it’s even more hilarious that I have knee creases.

Nobody we spoke in the parking lot was headed to the rim, so we walked out to the road to hitch. The first minivan that passed pulled over- it’s never been so easy!! I ran up to the passenger window to say hi and I totally startled the poor lady! It turns out she and her husband had pulled over to look at a map, but when she realized that we were headed in the same direction that they were trying to get to, she unlocked the doors for us and we hopped in.

{Funny side story: months ago, Yaara told us a story of a similar hitch she had in Isreal- she had been hitchhiking and a car passed, slowed, then stopped. Yaara jumped into the backseat just as the driver said into his phone, “and APPARENTLY I’m picking up a hitchhiker now, too!” – he had pulled over to talk on the phone! Yaara said they had a stare-off for a few minutes – she wasn’t giving up, and eventually he agreed to drive her.)
This was one of our favorite hitches- we got to cuddle Lisa the service dog!!! Lisa went through all of the training to be a service dog but unfortunately could not be utilized due to an underlying heart condition- poor baby! She now serves as an ambassador dog for Warrior Canine Connection and is a great companion for her two humans!

Once arriving to the rim, we thanked our drivers, gave Lisa one last pet goodbye, hopped out, and headed over to admire the lake. We ran into another hiker who had told us that the 3 mile climb from the camp was TERRIBLE, made worse by mosquitos, but he said everyone he passed going downhill was all smiles- I think Matt & I made the right choice!

We decided to stop by the Crater Lake Lodge to enjoy some drinks and appetizers on the rim.

There we realized that the trail back to camp was really 5 miles, NOT the 3 we were expecting- we needed to take the Rim Trail (the PCT alternate) to the real PCT to the spur trail to Mazama Village- oops!! We quickly paid the bill and started our trek down.

Holy. Fuck. Mosquito. Hell. It was miserable! The worst 5 miles ever. We both agreed that had we known just how bad the mosquitos were, we would have been okay skipping those 3 miles of the PCT- I’m kinda glad that we didn’t know, because I would like to continue to make a continuous footpath whether it be on the real PCT or alternate trails- but omg we were NOT happy!
We made it back to Mazama Village by 7:45, which meant that we were averaging a little more than 18 min miles! I was SO freaking itchy it was driving me mad. We quickly showered (the body wash dispenser in the shower was empty- grrr!!), grabbed a pre-dinner ice cream, threw in a load of laundry, then scarfed down dinner.
We didn’t get to bed until after midnight- shit!
Happiness is: scoring a last minute cabin (private bathroom, shelter we didn’t have to set up or take down in the AM, a real bed & no bugs!!)

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