PCT OR Section F

Day 83: Crater Creek Spring

Moments after I turned the lights out the previous night, a headlamp light came darting across my tent. The wearer wandered around the area for a while but was very quiet and respectful, and I ended up getting quiet, peaceful night’s sleep. When I came out of my tent the following morning, I found out that that headlamp belonged to Shitshow, who was camped the other side of the trail. He was another sobo putting in 25 mile days, looking to head all the way past Breitenbush Lake that morning. I took a selfie and headed on to let him get to his busy day.

The first couple of miles was a climb, and while it wasn’t a particularly difficult climb, it did get the heart pumping. I started walking a bit after 8, and once I was at the highest point along Summit Butte an hour later, I knew I had an easy day ahead. The trail was mostly clear and rock-free. It was either downhill or level for the next 12 miles.

Three miles later, I left the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and a mile and a half later, I came to NF Road 42. Just before reaching it, I surprised an old man in a flannel shirt with a pack of cigarettes in his breast pocket, grumbling “What’s going on out here? Hiking?” with exactly the precise enunciation you’d expect of Sylvester Stallone. At the road, a woman sat alone in a blue Crown Vic, apparently uninterested in joining him on a walk in the woods.

Just down the road was the Lou Graham Horse Camp, a stock campground that had closed for the winter a couple of weeks back. That just meant the toilets were locked and the water to the spigots cut off. But it was lunch time, and I was looking to eat lunch at a shady picnic table like a civilized person, so I went on over there. I had a nice leisurely lunch, and when I returned to the trail, the woman was still sitting alone in the passenger seat of the same blue car.

The next 7 miles were a stroll along the creek feeding Timothy Lake and around the shore of the lake itself. It felt a bit like walking the back side of Venable Lake at Stone Mountain, but bigger and with more fishing boats and construction across the way. When the trail came close to the shore, I flirted with the idea of taking a swim, but I really wanted to reach a specific campsite by dark and couldn’t take the time. I looked for big fish near the shore but they weren’t around. After wetting my shirt and hat, I walked on past the lake.

A few miles later, I came to the side trail to Little Crater Lake, and I couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s an incredible blue pool, about twenty feet both wide and deep, formed by the dissolution of limestone by an Artesian spring. No swimming allowed, of course.

I took another break back at the trail to stew in my own stink and energize for the remains of the day. It was another 4 miles, including one last 700 foot climb.

Throughout the week, I had been sending messages from my Garmin, and as I checked for replies throughout the day, it became clear they hadn’t been getting through. I must have suspended service during the brief window I was home at the beginning of August and forgotten. Anyway, at the first road crossing after the climb, I had a bar of cell service and used up 7% of my battery to send and receive a scant handful of texts over the course of a minute regarding my extraction and logistics for the following days. Maybe one day they’ll invent a cell radio that doesn’t use more power than every other component in a phone combined.

It was a quarter to 7 and almost dark when I reached the campsite with its little spring. I got some water started filtering and set up my tent. I was just starting cooking dinner when another hiker arrived. He was another solo sobo named Jake the Snake. He was looking for water (when he should have been listening instead), to camp for the night, and a new tramily. We chatted for 10 minutes before I went back to eat and he started his own cooking and setting up process. I was in bed and headed off to sleep by the time he settled down.

Trail miles: 18.1

Distance to Frog Lake: 3.8 miles

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