Eventually I packed up and headed off. It seemed like I had wasted a lot of time but it was only 6:30.
I walked a short distance and ended up at a gravel road turnaround area just off a paved road. I had been keeping an eye out for two dirt roads the guide book said would come up before Highway 62. I had never found them. I thought maybe either the dirt roads had gotten paved or else the trail had been rerouted. At first I didn't think the paved road was Highway 62 and then I realized it had to be, so I left the PCT and headed east on the Highway trying to follow the crazy instructions to Mazama Village.
I couldn't find the way so I just decided to head cross-country through the woods. When I emerged at another paved road I saw a large building with a long line of hotshot firefighters waiting outside. Imagine meeting people hungrier than me! It turned out they were waiting for breakfast and this was a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Score! I followed them in and ate all I could. I didn't think I could eat too much, but I did. I thought I might vomit afterwards. I ate 4 french toast, 2 bowls of yogurt, fresh fruit, raisin bran and a bowl of country gravy without the biscuit. I thought it was porridge but it was good eaten like soup. I thought I would explode.
I saw the Mazama store behind the restaurant and went inside to buy Tony a postcard. The lady at the register really wanted to learn more about hiking the PCT alone as a woman. I gave her the link to my journal and told her to read all the journals on trailjournals.com. She'd learn all there was to know. We talked. I admitted that this year especially there were moments of loneliness, but almost never any real fear. I encouraged her to do it.
They had pay showers so I took one. I felt so good to be clean again.
I realized I could have skipped mailing food to Crater Lake and just shopped in the store here instead. But the enforced layover would do me good. My feet were tired and sore.
The campground cost $23. Too much for something I could do for free. I thought about hanging around the store all day and then walking into the woods to sleep before making my way to the Post Office tomorrow morning. Then it occurred to me that was a bad idea. Instead, I could get a ride to the Rim and spend the day up there looking at the lake. Then I could hike the connection between the Rim and Highway 62 in the late afternoon, camping somewhere along the way. So I went out to the road and stuck out my thumb.
A car passed me with an older couple. Older people never pick up hitchhikers. I know that. But for some reason I expected them to turn around and come get me and that is exactly what they did. The husband explained they never pick up hitchhikers but something about me said they ought to help me out. Trail magic, that's what!
They drove me to the ranger station to meet their son who issued me a permit to camp in the Dutton Creek drainage. Then they drove me to the Rim where I got my first view of Crater Lake.
Everyone says that Crater Lake is an amazing shade of blue. It is true. The color exists nowhere else in the universe, I'm certain. It does not even exist in the mind. You have to gaze upon the color to see it and as soon as you turn away, the color is gone, so you must look again. It's the only way to see it. In person.
Looking at all the nice vacationers made me think there must have been an easier way to come see this big blue lake. I talked to Tony on the phone. He was playing the relaxed vacationer himself. For now I would try not to think of the 25 miles without water coming up, the 90+ degree heat, the voracious mosquitoes and my dozens of itchy bites and just watch the blue color and see the afternoon shadows give shape to the reddish brown crater walls.
As the afternoon wore on, I decided to go over to the cafe and gift shop. I bought lunch and was eating it in the shade when an old man walked up to sit with me on the ground. He picked up a rock and declared "Andesite porphory!" A word I had not heard in many years since my days as a geology major. I asked him if the crystals were feldspar. Ah, ha, you are a geologist, too, he said. He was a nice old man and was soon hustled off with his lunch and a friend.
As I ate my brownie, I saw the back side of a familiar man. I said, a little quietly in case I was wrong, "John!" The man turned. It was my friend from home John Axen, a recumbent cyclist and magazine review writer. It turned out he had moved to Oregon and was here on a bike ride. He was shocked to see me and I enjoyed talking with him.
The shadows grew longer and it seemed time to go. I went in search of the Dutton Creek trail but needed to ask the rangers where it was. With full bugnet regalia on, I hiked down about 5 out of the 6 miles or so and found a relatively swarm-free spot to spend a few more hours relaxing away my nero day.
So much trail magic today.