"If you are planning to go back to the trail right now you might want to wait. There is a fire north on the trail. They just posted this sign," she indicated the bulletin board outside the store, "and they are trying to get more information about it." I stared at the woman, another PCT hiker, in disbelief, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I started toward the store, then stopped. They didn't have any information yet. Why wait around and waste half the day when we could hike the PCT to the rim and get more information there?
The trail to the rim was forested, crossing several streams and creeks lined with wildflowers. We climbed steeply, leveling out only to climb again. Finally we saw sunlight through the trees and heard the roar of cars. We had arrived: the Crater Lake Rim.
The steep volcanic walls of the crater seemed to slope down into an endless, empty pit until I realized that a part of what I thought were the crater's "walls" was actually a reflection on the smooth, glassy surface of the water. Moving closer, the vast expanse of deep blue water came into view. Educational signs explained that the deep blue color was also caused by reflections, but whatever the cause, the effect was breathtaking.
We soon melted into the throngs of people admiring the lake from the combined PCT and Rim Trail. We definitely stood out in the crowd. Most visitors to Crater Lake never travel more than a few hundred feet from their cars. In between the frequent highway pullouts, we had the trail to ourselves. Near the pullouts, our pace slowed as we stopped to read the educational signs and to talk to curious visitors. One kind family shared their fresh strawberries with us.
By late afternoon we left the Crater Lake Rim and were back in the forest again. We stopped for dinner at a water cache, and were soon joined by Cheetah. After dinner, the three of us hiked on together.
Although we only planned to hike a short time, darkness came sooner than expected. The many downed logs across the trail in this burned out section of forest slowed our progress to a crawl as we used our headlamps to detect the many obstacles on the trail. Eventually we passed through the burn area, and found a flat place to camp for the night.