Saturday, September 14, 2013

Crater Lake Rim

Crater Lake is awesome! Unfortunately, the lake's beauty attracts hordes of visitors and is busy with both foot and tour bus traffic, it's not the place to seek wilderness solitude. However, it is possible to find quiet places around the lake without requiring winter and snowshoes. Mid-September is a good time as summer vacations are all done with and everybody has gone back home, for the most part. As an aside, in July the park teems with both mosquitoes and tourists and you get to hear  the phrase "&$%!  mosquitoes!" in 3,476 different languages. Anyway, the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club enjoyed some recent peace and relaxation on a moderate hike along Crater Lake's rim.  

Camera moment, en masse
Beginning at Rim Village, we quickly left all the hustle and bustle associated with the souvenir store and restaurant, heading instead to the paved walkway on the rim. And just like that, the air was filled with clicking and whirring as about a dozen cameras were whipped out and put to use. The view is impressive with the lake's water colored a deep and profound sapphire blue. The lake is ringed with cliffs and peaks colored tan, red, black, and every shade in between. And of course, Wizard Island, permanently bobs in the Crater Lake stewpot. Fantastic view and we had walked maybe 50 yards!

Up and down, all day long
Fortunately, another 50 yards or so took us off the sidewalk and we were doing what we do:  hiking on a genuine bona fide trail with rocks and real dirt.  The rim trail hugs the lake rim and goes up and down and is never level.  Since we were at altitude, hanging around 7,000 feet or so, all of us were breathing hard after minimal exertion.  It made the steep uphill sections seem steeper and uphiller, if there is such a word.

The Watchman and Hillman Peak

The basic pattern of this hike, as previously  stated, was up and down all day long. But no complaining allowed because there were frequent viewpoints of the lake, and the slight smoke haze was not thick enough to detract from the wondrous beauty of the cratered jewel that is Crater Lake.

Lunch tastes better with a view
After several miles, we plopped down and ate lunch at one of the many viewpoints and nut bars just taste better with a Wizard Island in front of them. After the lunch 'n laze, we gathered ourselves up and tackled the ups and downs on wobbly legs and heaving lungs. As we continued north along the lake, a large mountain loomed ahead of us as we broke out of the shady forest rimming the lake: that would be The Watchman, the next stop on our itinerary.

The old road section of the trail
Because The Watchman was inconveniently in the way, the trail left the lake and contoured up and around the prominent peak. No longer a footpath, the trail followed the old roadbed of the historical Rim Drive. Large boulders lay in the middle of the path, delivered courtesy of The Watchman who probably gets a kick watching hikers run from boulders. Hiking on the treeless roadbed, we were really feeling the heat when puffy white clouds formed overhead. We were grateful for the shade they provided as they obscured the hot sun.

Hillman Peak
All the way around the mountain by now, most of us grabbed the trail to The Watchman's summit and we enjoyed the uphill trail as it switchbacked to and fro. Stone benches were at most of the switchbacks and there was some resting on the benches, which incidentally had great views of the lake and surrounding countryside.

The Watchman's lookout
At the top, a stone staircase took us to the parapets below the lookout. It was not staffed on this day as we are hopefully getting past fire season. The lake in all its iridescent glory was spread out below us with superb views of Mount Scott and the east-side rim reflecting nicely upon the lake's surface. Jagged Hillman Peak, and the imposing cliff of Llao Rock were nearby as cloud shadows danced on the slopes. Behind Hillman Peak rose the pointy point of Mount Thielsen and we could see as far north as Diamond Peak. The southern view was partly occluded by haze but we could make out Union Peak and Mount McLaughlin. A fun time was had by all on The Watchman.

Devil's Backbone
The difference between a 5 mile hike and a 10 mile hike is the return leg which was eliminated by shuttle vehicles. So this hike wound up being relatively easy and it was unusual (for me, at least) to arrive back in Roseburg in broad daylight.

A zen moment on Crater Lake
For more pictures of the magnificence that is Crater Lake, please visit the Flickr album.

View from The Watchman

No comments :

Post a Comment