CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Activity: Back Country Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Date: August 30 – September 1, 2019
Duration: 6 miles round trip each day; 770’ elevation change, 2.5 hours, trail is rated Moderate
I spent three days at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon over the Labor Day holiday, a very busy time to be there. I arrived early the first morning to beat as much of the crowd as possible and to secure my back country permit. I greatly prefer backcountry camping to a campground. The nature, the solitude, and the roughing it aspect verses lots of people around, other campers music, noise, campfire smoke, and activities. It is a good thing that is what I was looking for because I am pretty sure that the National Park Camp Grounds were all full on this the last big hoorah to Summer.
I made sure I was in line right when the Ranger Station opened. There was a group checking in the same time as I was and I overheard a lot of what the Ranger was explaining. There were two choices left as far as wilderness camping, as they only allow a certain amount into a given area. He informed the group ahead of me that the first choice has a puma problem, as a brazen cougar has been hanging around and had been sighted multiple times in recent days. As their group of 8 decided he let them know that they would probably be fine as any time they have had an issue it was with lone backpackers of lesser stature, (Great…). When it was my turn I picked the area without the bold mountain lion appearances. But the reality of the situation is the bears are very active and both of these predators have large territories that they cover so that same lion could easily end up at my camp.
I camped on the Union Peak Trail close to where it intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail. My plan was I would camp in the wilderness, but hike back to civilization each day to do the popular hikes overlooking the gorgeous Crater Lake. I had been to Crater Lake once as a teen with my family, but just to stand on the side of the crater and peer into it’s incredible beauty. This time I wanted to take full advantage of the Crater Lake experience.
I had some difficulty finding the trailhead, as it was really just a pullout, that wasn’t really marked, outside of the West Entrance of Crater Lake National Park. But once on the trail I was treated to backpacking through old growth forest with towering firs that cannot be found in many places. Viewing these gentle giants that have been there since before the Civil War, I sauntered past a sapling and thought that it will still be here a hundred years after I am gone. So peaceful, so quiet, so wonderful.
I found a good camp spot, set up my tent, fired up my backpacking stove, chowed some backpacking food: Jamaican Style Jerk Chicken with Rice and Beans. Then I took anything and everything that would have any scent to it especially any food item, but also toothpaste, away from my tent and raised it ten feet in the air from a tree branch.
During my hikes in and out of the area each day I ran into some of the PCT’ers. The Pacific Crest Trail is almost 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada. Early in the year, while backpacking in the Angeles National Forest, I had talked to some brave intrepid souls that were making the quest and found them talkative and eager despite that Southern California had more snow and longer into the season than normal, which had made the start of the travel more difficult. They were a couple of weeks into their journey and spoke about how everyone suffers with blisters and sores on their feet the first week or so until their feet become trail worthy enough to withstand the incredible amount of miles they put in each day. The person I spoke to was in the hospital a couple days when his feet became infected. Also they informed me they had seen massive rattle snakes near the spot we were at.
Now fast forward to late Summer where the PCT through hikers are pushing hard to get to Canada before the snow and they take on a much different persona. Of these adventurers, I ran across a dozen or more and they varied from young and fit heavily bearded, to older and limping, and a young lone female that was cute in an athletic trail sort of way. But they were trail harden by now after 4 months of hiking. They had purpose and intent in their quick stride, grit and determination. Barely a hello, eyes remained fixed on the trail, no time for pleasantries or idle chit chat. They were no longer friendly, not discourteous mind you, just more to the task, perhaps a bit worn and weary. The many miles had taken a toll and yet still far to go.
Then conversely, I met a young man, trail name “Peak Freak” and his three compadres. I had to quicken my pace if I was to carry on a conversation, as all of these hikers move along with a fast gait. I discovered why this troop was different, more open and friendly. They were heading the opposite way, South. They had been hiking for two months and had another three to go, so they were not nearly as haggard. “Peak Freak” took a moment and showed me his PCT APP “Gut Hook”. It had a plethora of good information that would be most helpful for those taking on such an undertaking. It was interesting to talk with him, but I will say that one might want to stand upwind of them.
While walking around my tent the following morning I found a couple pretty good sized prints that were not clear enough for me to identify. I was then taken aback to find, a half dozen paces or so from my tent, bear scat. Okay… Pursuing Balance Through Adventure…
Thanks for checking out Crater Lake National Park Back Country Camping. There is more to come regarding this magnificent national treasure known as Crater Lake, so I beseech you SHARE, LIKE, FOLLOW, and COMMENT.
Roger Jenkins, Pursuing Balance Through Adventure
3 thoughts on “Back Country Camping”
I particularly liked your blog on CRATER LAKE as it brought back such amazing memories of when I hiked the PCTthrough there in 2014. Our trail name was a joint one, Sisters Got Blisters, so I can vouch for what you are saying:)
Beautiful area, thank u for sharing
LikeLiked by 1 person
Jean, ‘Sister Got Blisters’, that is awesome I love it! So you hiked with sorority sisters?