Saturday, August 20, 2016

Black Crater

Black Crater owed me one. Last year, I had hiked to the summit in what basically was a winter storm, minus the snow. Gray clouds covered the summit, an arctic wind froze the snot dripping from my nose, and the view was akin to sticking your head inside an old pillowcase. Somewhat disappointed, I vowed to hit Black Crater again on a sunny and very warm day. Unfortunately, on my latest visit, wildfire smoke really impinged the views so while the temperature was an improvement, my head still remained inside a metaphorical pillowcase. 

Broken Top and the Three Sisters
And now a word about the warm weather: The night before, I had "stealth camped" by parking my car on a forest road and walking into the forest where I hung my hammock between two trees. The temperature was plenty warm so I slept in board shorts and no T-shirt. This was my first time using my new hammock and I learned that unlike sleeping on the ground, you are completely surrounded by air as you dangle between two trees. So, when you go to bed and it's near 90 degrees but in the night it drops to 44 degrees, you wake up in the middle of the night with teeth chattering. Where's a heat wave when you want one?

Ugh! Uphill in the warm sun
Anyway, after I thawed out, the hike to Black Crater began in the early morning. Didn't take long to get warmed up because this is one steep trail, gaining 2,200 feet in just over 3 miles. Dripping with sweat and removing layers, I yearned for the 44 degree nighttime temperature. There is just no pleasing some hikers!

Trail through the forest
My legs were feeling the prior day's hike up to Four-In-One Cone so I adjusted my pace to a slow and steady trudge up the trail. There really isn't much to report about the first couple of miles as the trail switchbacked to and fro through a viewless forest. However, with about a mile to go the forest thinned out, the trail rounded the mountain to the east, and the stunning views opened up.

Sisters and Redmond, hidden in the haze

Well, I imagine under optimum conditions they could possibly be stunning views. However, on this day wildfire smoke really made it hard to see any distance, particularly to the east. On my cloudbound hike the year prior, as bad as visibility was, I could see the towns of Sisters and Redmond. On this sunny and cloudless day, the two towns remained hidden under the smoky haze. I should open up a gas mask store in Bend, I'd probably make a killing.

A bee photobombs an Indian Paintbrush
The open slopes were covered in aster and Indian paintbrush blooms and I made steady progress since there were no smokeless views to distract me. After several uphill switchbacks, the trail leveled out and yay, I was on top of the crater rim. Black Crater is more red than black, and the lava cinders crunched noisily under my feet as I walked to the summit, a small pile of rocks on the rim. And even though the haze limited visibility, the 360 degree panorama was still nothing short of stunning.

Black Crater is more red than black
To the north were the usual Cascade Range suspects normally visible from the McKenzie Pass area: Belknap Crater, Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood. To the south and much closer, were snow-flecked North and South Sister, with Middle Sister's peak just barely visible behind North Sister. To the left of the Sisters and all by itself, was Broken Top.

Mount Jefferson, from Black Crater
Much photography abounded and many oranges were eaten as I lazed on the summit perch. The slopes of Black Crater dropped dramatically away and one does want to watch their step near the edge. At least, this "one" does. Directly below and to the northwest was the actual crater of Black Crater. And oddly enough, ladybugs swarmed all over me on the summit, dubiously making me a lady's man of sorts.

Black Crater's crater

It had warmed up quite a bit by this point, so it was a slow tired trudge down to the trailhead and by the time I reached the parking lot, I was pretty well drenched with sweat even thought the return leg was all downhill. The idea of freezing again while hanging between two trees and whiffing my man funk trapped inside an enclosed sleeping bag was not very appealing so I cut the trip short a day and headed back to warm and funky Roseburg. I think Black Crater, while improving upon last year's trip, still owes me.

Trail on the rim
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. At least this year you got some views! I think you need to try it again. :) Loved the comment about the "lady's man."