Crater Lake National Park
You often take off on a trip and expect one thing to happen, but little do you know everything is going to go in a completely different direction. This story starts with myself and my group taking off for Crater Lake National Park from Cincinnati, Ohio on a Friday evening with 12 of us, packed to the gills in a passenger van with a long ride ahead and no idea what we had signed up for.
The drive was long but easy; I had previously traveled with my cousin Nathan and my buddy Alex and knew they would be able to pull through the long night shifts. I figured the others could too, but I wanted to play it safe on the way out there. After 34 hours on the road we finally arrived in Klamath Falls, Oregon to collect our snowshoes and head up the road to Crater. We met the owner of a local shop who we rented shoes from and he told us what to expect up at Crater Lake, he also proceeded to tell us about wolves, bears and mountain lions and I could see some of my group member’s eyes widen.
It was a foggy day in town as we headed up Mt. Mazama (the long extinct volcano that holds Crater Lake in its teeth) but as we got closer the fog cleared and we could see the snowcapped peaks around the rim. After a short time, we gathered our permits drove up to the rim, got everything situated (including the car that had to be left 3 miles back, 1,200’ down at the visitor’s center in case the road up to the rim closed due to high snow, PS thanks for the rides up and down Craig and Sharron) and we were off. Our goal was to circumnavigate the entire caldera in 4 days and 3 nights, close to 30 miles all the way around. In the summer this would be a pleasant and nice trip, with very little elevation change and beautiful views, but in the winter, you strap on snowshoes and sometimes posthole deep into the 7’ snowpack making the hike a whole different challenge.
For most of the day everyone was getting used to the bulky snowshoes, we were enjoying the views and for those of us who didn’t already know each other, we were becoming friends. As the day went on I could feel myself start to wear out, having only slept for 5 hours out of 48 will do that too you… I really wanted to get into camp and knew we were getting close, after about 5 hours on the trail we had covered close to 7 miles, not bad for snowshoe pace. We made our goal for the day which was a good sign since I had already doubted our chances for success earlier in the day after seeing the upcoming forecast of snow later in the week. Once we got in, we stamped the snow, setup tents and dug out a pretty rugged snow kitchen. I was so exhausted from the past several days I collapsed into a deep nap waking up almost an hour later feeling much better.
Apparently during my nap though the group had gotten to talking, several of them felt that we wouldn’t be able to complete the loop the way we were going and wanted to figure out a plan B. The way I saw it we had three options, split the group up and half goes on and half goes back then we rendezvous in a few days, we all go back and spend another night in the snow with a sunset summit of Watchman Peak or we could book it out in the morning, get the snowshoes back, get some money back and make the best of what we have for the rest of the trip. We decided on the latter. In the morning, we packed up and headed out the way we came. I had a lot on my mind that morning, it was a beautiful hike, but I was going the wrong way. I knew if we went the rest of the way we’d have an extremely difficult few days ahead of us and what I wanted more was for everyone to have an amazing spring break. We arrived back at the car, dropped off the shoes and I did a little impromptu trip planning in the parking lot.
It was an amazing trip, with amazing sights. We sat in hot springs in the desert, swam in the Pacific, hiked among the Red Woods and wandered the Salt Flats. It shook a little of the urge to run off from me but made me hungry for a long trip out in the backcountry. I made great new friends and figured out that I’m pretty damn good at solving my problems (especially when I-80 closed and we had to detour through the back roads of Wyoming). I look forward to my next adventure, I couldn’t have been happier with this one and I’ll keep dreaming of more.
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The Hopeless Wanderer