Ashland to Crater Lake
Mile 1715 – Mile 1820
Ashland from eastern ridge
I arrived mid afternoon at Callahan’s Lodge, a hiker friendly establishment several miles south of Ashland on Interstate 5. In addition to a coupon for a free beer, a modest fee availed me laundry facilities and a hot shower complete with towel and white robe. “Such luxury!” I thought to myself as my phone dinged with a new text message: “We are here and having a drink on the back patio” My extraordinary friends from Seattle, Chris and Shannon, had driven down to meet up and show me Ashland, their unofficial home away from home. Shannon came looking for me and knew she was getting close when she saw “a bunch of bearded skinny dudes walking around in white robes.”
Chris and Shannon rockin’ the campground
I made sure to redeem my coupon before we headed off to Wellsprings, a hippy hot springs just north of town where Chris and Shannon had camped. It was such a perfect place for my fourth zero day with friends, chill camping, and several rejuvenating soaks in healing hot water. Chris lived in Ashland some 20 years ago and since they visit often, I enjoyed a ‘best of’ tour that included delicious restaurants, juice bar, bakery, and even a round of golf. I tried to tell them I lacked proper golf attire but they said “Oh, you’ll fit right in. You look local!” I was refreshed in all the best ways. Thanks Shannon and Chris!
Chris drove me back to Callahan’s the next day where, unfortunately, the PCT remained closed for ~15 miles due to the wildfire. Chris’ local knowledge helped me plan a road walk around the closure to a place called Green Springs Summit. I should have realized that any detour from a ‘crest’ trail necessarily implies walking down and then back up. What followed was a fairly agonizing slog along two paved highways made better by the four unsolicited offers of rides, one bit of route advice, and a can of ice cold Mountain Dew. I can only conclude I must have appeared most pitiable in the hot sun as I stubbornly held to my conviction of ‘walking my way home.’
Two thirds home!
Volcanic trail with red pumice
I reconnected with the PCT at the northern end of the closure with a newfound appreciation for that 24” dirt path through the forest’s shade. I spent that night at Hyatt Lake Campground lured by the promise of running water but alas it was not to be. Some vaguely described problem had cut off all water and to make matters worse, the lake level was a good ten feet below the bottom of the boat launch. I collected some odd looks as I tromped out to the dregs armed with my trusty water filter. Though it was a pain, I had seen (and collected) water from sources far more suspect than Hyatt Lake.
Dawn’s early light
The Oregon PCT’s reputation for being a ‘green tunnel’ asserted itself over the next two days. There was not much to see and the forest became a bit monotonous save for the added excitement of mosquitoes, fierce and persistent. I had just been thinking that bugs had not been much of a nuisance and the ever present trail gods must have taken note. I have yet to break out the Deet repellent but the head net preserved my sanity. It didn’t matter how fast I walked, the pesky suckers had no problem matching my speed by the swarm full.
Last year’s burn
Entering Crater Lake National Park
Eliminating the desirability of rest stops, a silver lining emerged in that I made faster progress than expected. My long time friend Michael was spending the week in Bend and had asked when I might arrive at Crater Lake. When he inquired the timing seemed like it wouldn’t work out but add some mosquito incentive and et voila, midday Saturday became the answer. Even with late notice, Michael made the drive to meet me. What a guy! He treated me to lunch and even supplied some additional hydration in the form of Makers Mark. Thanks Michael!
Longtime friend Michael
After Michael had left and I had completed my laundry, shower, and resupply, I wandered back to the restaurant for an early dinner. I’m sure my scraggly appearance and bulky backpack had nothing to do with it but a kindly couple from Medford pegged me as a thru hiker. Eugene and Linda(?) were just returning from a trip to the Grand Tetons and we enjoyed a nice chat. They also surprised me by buying my dinner! What have I said about the kindness of strangers? Thanks Eugene and Linda!
The kindness of strangers
While I can’t recommend the PCT stretch between Ashland and Crater Lake as particularly scenic, as with real life, the addition of good friends make all the difference. I am happy, content, and getting closer to home every day. I woke up early, walked the west rim of Crater Lake, and renewed my sense of wonder for all natural beauty that defines the PCT. The past days’ investment paid off and then some. Spectacular!
Bottomless mirror of Crater Lake