August 11th, Monday
1782.4 to 1807ish
|Zach was also getting eaten alive |
by mosquitoes. As usual.
We got an early start the next morning, and, grabbing a handful of huckleberries to go, booked it along the trail. We were entering a long stretch of trail without water, and soon we found out why: the trail was skirting a mountain ridge without any springs.
The ridge was fairly dry and rocky, spattered with occasional trees. As we hiked along in patchy shade under stark sunlight, we saw a familiar sight in the distance off to our left: smoke. We had heard that there was one last fire shortly before Crater Lake that had been burning for several weeks now, and were curious to see what this one was like. It was nothing too alarming— the sky above was still blue.
It turns out that we would get closer to this fire than any other on the whole trail. We were now on top of the ridge, and the fire was a mile away from us in the valley. We could see it clearly, belching orangish-white smoke into the sky.
For the first time in this whole crazy adventure, we saw the actual fire, not just the smoke— fire that leaped up as tall as the trees they were consuming. We stared at a tree and watched it go up in a torrent of flames, scattering sparks into the sky.
“Whoa,” I said.
“Whoa,” Zach said.
I took some pictures. I was fascinated. I was very glad that we were way up here on the ridge.
After staring for a few minutes, we hiked on. Soon the mountain ridge rose to a peak on our left, obscuring our sight of the fire, and at last we came to a spot where the peak sharply cut down, and we could clearly see the scenery both to our right and left.
To our left was Oregon. A wide mound of mountains stretched out, cloaked in green, with jagged gray tips of mountain peaks sticking out hither and thither. Zach actually smiled as he looked out on the landscape of his home state. “I’m so glad to finally be in Oregon!” he said.
To our right, we looked out and saw more mountains of similar kind stretching out behind us. Then Zach, squinting through the haze of distance, said, “Wait, do you see that mountain just on the edge of sight?”
I strained my eyes, barely making out the silhouette in the distance. “Yeah. I wonder what—” Then I stopped. “It’s Mount Shasta.”
“Holy cow, it’s still Mount Shasta!” Mount Shasta, which we had first seen at mile 1382, and now were seeing again at mile 1797. Four hundred miles of viewing one mountain!
After lingering to admire the scenery for quite a while, we left the ridge and plunged down into the opposite valley, heading down switchbacks into lower ground. Here springs began to pop up, and along with them a cheerful plague of tiny frogs— they were gathered in the hundreds around the springs, and it was nearly impossible to keep from stepping on them.
Zach and I at last stopped at a spring to refill our water, and found a couple there as well. The woman had a blue long-sleeved shirt, a serious but friendly face, dark eyes, and a single blonde braid down her back. Her partner was a very chipper guy in his thirties, with black hair, sharp glasses, and a short beard. “Hey guys!” he said as we walked up. “Did you see that plague of frogs back there? And how about that view? Isn’t this gorgeous?”
We chatted with him for a minute before asking their names.
“I’m Butterfly,” the woman said with a small smile.
“And I’m Happy Nomad.”
Zach and I did a double take. “I remember you!” I said. “You gave us trail magic back in California!” Back then, he had seemed somber, listless, and downright depressed. Now, however, Happy Nomad really lived up to his name.
He was glad to see us again, and told us how his injury had (mostly) healed, allowing him to rejoin Butterfly on trail. We all sat and snacked together. I learned that Butterfly was actually from my hometown of St. Charles, and grew up a few miles from where I did!
After talking for quite a while, we bid them goodbye and kept hiking. We wound through the woods for a while, then got up on a higher plateau and started heading into a massive burned area.
I don’t know why I expected Oregon to remain unscathed by the fire ecosystem, but I had. Seeing the thousands upon thousands of acres ahead that looked like clusters of gray toothpicks, I felt a bit disheartened. However, I kept my eyes focused on the goal: we were hoping to get to Crater Lake National Park tomorrow, somewhere I’d wanted to go my whole life! Hopefully it wouldn’t be burned.
We flew along the trail into the burned woods, trying to pack in miles. I was hoping for a thirty-mile day, but when we realized that we had miscalculated our mileage, I realized that wasn’t feasible. So when we found a huge perfectly-flat area to camp in, I didn’t say no. All the trees were dead, but there wasn’t any wind tonight so we weren’t too afraid of them crashing down on us. We walked a bit off-trail and camped between the gray trunks.
It rained a little as we sat in our tent and snacked. Zach’s stomach was hurting him that night, but there was nothing to do but go to sleep and hope he felt better in the morning for our trek to Crater Lake.