1810 Crater Lake of Tears

The morning is freezing, but thankfully clear. All my hiking clothes are soaked, except one pair of socks, so I put plastic bags over my feet between my last bit of dry and my cold wet shoes. Toward Crater Lake I go, toward showers and laundry, and hopefully company. It is so quiet in the woods, dampness rising from the land, but no longer falling from the sky.DSC06724When I arrive at Mazama Village, I learn that Speed had hiked out only a few minutes earlier. I have no way to contact my hiking friends, their info locked away in my broken phone. I am laying out my out my things to dry in the sun (SUN!), when a man on a bike says it looks like I had a rough day. Out pours my story in an unstoppable torrent of words. He too is a hiker, when not biking, of trail name Dr. John and we end up sharing beer (a pot full for me without a cup) at the hiker-biker campsite that evening.

I spend the afternoon working out whether my phone is fixable, and how to continue without it. There are miles and miles of trail ahead near Mount Thielsen that are completely buried in snow. Still shaken from yesterday, I absolutely do not want to cross it alone without my phone GPS as back up. But do I quit because of a broken phone? People used to do this all the time without. Am I really so dependent on the device, even or especially out here? Jessica very generously gives me her watch so I will know what time it is (she can use her phone). I scrounge a pen and some scrap paper for ‘blogging,’ and make sure my camera is charged for photos. I have paper maps, there will be other people on trail. I can do this, I think.

The next morning, I get up early, pack my bag and head toward the Rim. My pack feels heavier than ever, the trail impossibly steep. And I will need to add four liters of water, more than eight more pounds at the top. Reluctantly, I drag myself upward, wishing for music I cannot play, thinking about blog posts I cannot write. In this moment, stripped of phone and friends, there is nothing left but the walking. Just my feet on the dirt, me in my own head. And I have had enough.

I see the lake, impossibly blue circle of wonder that it is, and promptly burst into tears. All the feelings from the past few days, the fear, and pain, and loneliness all welling up at once. Enough to fill the crater to the brim.DSC06735A kind couple asks if I am OK. I share my tale of the snow and broken phone, and they offer me a ride to a town on the I5. I accept and meet them back at the lodge. I am done, I say sadly to Stephen, crying on the phone in the lodge lobby. I would rather do something else with this time, spend it with you and Onyx.

We stop for a short hike on the way out, our impromptu trio – Julie, Herb, and myself. I feel so light without my pack, without the burden of making miles. Already I am having fun again, boot skiing with abandon down snow patches, the lake view properly astounding again.DSC06736The kind couple drops me off at the Roseburg library (so many thank yous!) where Stephen and Onyx find me reading Backpacker magazine and drive me back to Portland. But before we even arrive, I am scheming to get back on trail, southbound perhaps, from Timberline or Cascade Locks.

July 11-12, 2016
Miles: 10 + 4
Total: 408
PCT: 1820


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