10ish miles – Crater Lake to Windy Pass
Wow, what a day. It started off with me sleeping in a bit, which isn’t in the least out of the usual. I woke up around 5:30, but didn’t get moving until 7:30. I had breakfast by the lake, and I also checked my maps, dug my first cat hole in a hot minute, and loaded up on water from the lake.
Then I had to resolve my dilemma from last night: try that sketchy trail up the hill again, or take the well-marked route leading in the opposite direction? The latter wasn’t on any of my maps, but it seemed like my best option. I also remembered seeing a note about taking a trail “below crater lake” to avoid the “rock scramble,” so this seemed to fit the description. Thus, mind made up, I hiked.
I was a little nervous at first, because it didn’t seem like the trail was going in even remotely the same direction as the Divide trail. But then it took a turn into a valley, and continued straight south, following parallel to the trail.
Eventually, it led me to a large rock wall with a well-graded and very well-marked series of switchbacks running to the top. When I got to the summit, I checked my GPS, and somehow, miraculously, I was on the Gallatin Crest again! I’m glad I trusted that gut feeling.
The trail wandered around the side of the mountain, then down onto the first of many grassy open mountaintops. It soon turned upwards again, of course, and followed another ridge to a lovely summit, where I took far too long eating a Clif bar and doing phone things with the little bit of service I found.
It sort of continued in this pattern all morning. Steep climb, ridge, grassy path. At one point, I caught a glimpse of what looked like the trail making a huge cut through a precarious rocky wall on the side of the mountain. I started getting really nervous about it, but when I actually began the ascent, I realized that the grade was not as steep as it looked from further back, and the trail was pretty wide. That climb took a while. I was really winded at the top of it, but I knew I’d already taken too long, so I kept going across another lovely grassy field, another ridge, another climb, and then finally, at another trail marker on the top of a summit, I had lunch.
This particular lunch reminded me how objectively gross backpacking is. I took a packet of spam and a handful of crushed salt and vinegar chips, and put them on a tortilla with olive oil. Delicious. Afterwards, I still had a lot of olive oil left in a little packet, and I didn’t want to be carrying a half-used packet in my trash bag, so I just straight up drank it. It wasn’t as bad as I was imagining, but it was rather strong.
After lunch, I realized I really needed to kick it into gear if I wanted to make it to Windy Pass at a reasonable time. Luckily, the rest of the day was pretty easy, mostly following the same grassy fields and ridges. After what felt like not too long a time, I looked to my right and caught a glimpse of a little cabin in the distance. Windy Pass! I’d made it in less than half the time it took me to get to lunch, even though it was a longer distance.
Once I reached the turnoff for the cabin, I took the path for what seemed like an interminable amount of time. Then, all of a sudden, I was there. It’s a little Forest Service cabin that is usually rented out, but from the boards on the windows and the metal box over the door latch, it’s clearly not being used.
I decided to have dinner on the porch, along with approximately three million insects. I leisurely cooked my ramen and chicken, listened to a podcast, and drank some water. After I ate, I went down to the creek to load up on water, since it’ll be a long carry to the next source, and I headed back up the hill to find a campsite.
I ended up next to a stand of evergreen trees on one of the crests. It’s a great spot, though I can’t quite seem to get the pitch right on this tent I’m borrowing from my friend. Right now, as I write,the bug netting on the inside is right up on my head. It’s probably a user error type situation. Hopefully I’ll be able to sort that out by tomorrow.
Alright, I am proper tired and very sore. Time to get some sleep!