When we finally reached Highway 209, where the trail would split into the standard PCT and the Crater Lake alternate route (which most of the hikers I met along the trail would take because it's pretty epic), Blue and I stopped for a sit before I headed off to Chemult and he continued on for a few more miles.
A very kind couple who was packing up their car came to chat with us briefly, and offered us some of the biggest, freshest peaches I had ever seen. They were juicy and amazing, especially in the heat of the day.
Easily the best peach I've ever had
My partner showed up a little while later, and we headed to Chemult. I was hoping I'd catch up with Blue at some point later. The motel we stayed at felt like a small AirBnb and was very cozy. It was time to get some real sleep after a long few days, and prepare for seeing Crater Lake for the first time the following day.
The first 11 miles of the day were the Crater Lake Rim Trail.
Trail register upon reaching Crater Lake
For some reason, I expected something called a Rim Trail to be flat. I don't know why I thought that, because a rim doesn't imply flat, but I was 100% incorrect. The Rim Trail was most certainly not flat.
The Rim Trail wasn't what I expected
Crater Lake was insanely huge, and the water was an intense blue. It was cool to walk around it and get to see it up close and personal like that.
A large family saw me as I was walking by and asked if I had camped in the park. I explained that I was hiking the PCT, and they were surprised to hear that this was a thing people did. It was actually kind of a refreshing conversation because as a thru-hiker, you really start to exist in a bubble of only thru-hikers. They asked me a few questions, like how long I had been out and how long I'd expect to take, and as someone who never tires of talking about the trail, I was happy to stop and chat for a while.
As beautiful as Crater Lake was, I admit I didn't love it as much as I thought I did. I assume a big part of that was that this was probably some of the steepest trail I had encountered in Oregon thus far, and I had a relatively heavy resupply to get myself to Ashland.
What an incredible shade of blue
It was an extremely dry, hot, and exposed day with no water until after the Rim Trail. The only water I came across was at the end of the Rim Trail, and there wasn't going to be any more water for another 20 miles. I ate dinner and cameled up there, drinking as much water as I could before I left.
I camped alone that night. The entire area was a burn zone, so I could hear trees creaking all through the night. The possibility a branch could fall off a tree and hit my tent crossed my mind.
A lot of precarious-sounding dead trees
The next day, I entered mosquito hell, advanced level. It was by far the worst mosquitoes I had encountered. I set up camp that night early because it was that bad. In fact, I didn't even pull out my head net all day because I knew that if I stopped, they would get to me. It was a terrible campsite, in the middle of the worst of the mosquitoes, but I just couldn't bring myself to walk anymore. I set up my tent while walking in circles.
Not only was I hearing the most terrible buzzing of mosquitoes all night, knowing they were just waiting for me, but I could hear bears barking in the distance throughout the night too. I barely got any sleep. I camped alone, too, so the bears made me particularly nervous.
Oh hey, Shasta
The next morning, as I was preparing to exit the safety of my tent and start packing up camp, Blue walked by. I called him over, and I was really excited to see him again. Our paths just kept crossing!