Short and Long Stories from Crater Lake

The short version:
 
Jonathan and Jenelle spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week backpacking in Crater Lake National Park. They had lots of new experiences, including:
  • Hiking thru rain, hail and snow.
  • Hanging their food from a tree at night to keep it away from bears.
  • Using a propane stove to start a campfire.
  • Checking their tent for leaks.
  • Conducting comparative studies of foam and inflatable mattresses.
  • Learning that manufacturer temperature ratings for sleeping bags aren’t always accurate.
  • Seeing a small herd of deer.
  • Digging a hole in the ground to go to the bathroom (which, by the way, is a lot more pleasant than using a porta-potty).
  • Seeing fungi that looked like plastic and felt like Jell-O.
  • Making French toast from dried eggs and powdered milk.
  • Deciding that a more exciting name for the park would be “Collapsed Mountain of Destruction Mega-Pond.”
You can see some pictures in the online photo album, as well as some panorama shots here:
 
 
The long version:
 
Being avid hikers and occasional campers, Jonathan and Jenelle dreamt of going backpacking thru the wilderness, away from civilization, feasting upon the beauties of God’s creations. So, when their work schedules finally allowed it, they planned a backpacking trip in the beautiful North Cascade mountains in northern Washington. Something short and manageable, three days and maybe 20 or 25 miles. They read hiking guides and how-to books, looking for the perfect trail. They picked out a few, but it turned out that these had been washed away by a flood in 2003. And the day before their departure, Jonathan looked out his office window and noticed a fresh coat of snow above the timberline on Mt. Hood. This made him think that maybe he should check the weather forecast before dragging his wife into the mountains. Sure enough, there was cold weather and a 30% chance of precipitation in the North Cascades for that weekend. (And remember, cold weather + precipitation = snow.) So, the night before they left, Jonathan and Jenelle planned an entirely new trip to Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon, which they had always wanted to visit anyway, already having the license plate. The forecast seemed a little more encouraging there, too.
 
They rented some big backpacks from REI and stuffed all of their camping gear in them, including Jenelle’s spiffy, new, pink sleeping bag. (“Grapefruit pink” because it’s designed especially for women. And because pink repels bears.) They didn’t have a scale to weigh the loaded packs, but they felt like they were about 100 lbs. each.
 
Due to some delays, and longer than expected travel time, Jonathan and Jenelle didn’t reach the trailhead in the park until about 5p on Thursday. This worked out fine, as it gave them just enough time to hike to their first campsite at Lightning Spring, on the southwestern slope of Crater Lake. The weather was beautiful. At the spring they spent the first evening at a beautiful campsite within earshot of gurgling waters. They apparently had the whole valley to themselves. Jenelle decided to build a campfire, since this is her favorite part of camping. The setting sun dappled the forest with orange light, and by the time the hikers went to bed, stars were poking thru the forest canopy.  The wilderness solitude was very satisfying.
 
When they awoke the next morning, they made French toast for breakfast and wondered if the clouds would burn off. They began hiking up to the rim of the lake to take in the view, but turned back when they realized that it would be too cloudy to see anything. Hiking back down the mountainside, they saw a small herd of five deer, including two fawns. They also passed thru strange landscapes, large clearings where almost no trees could grow. These were reminiscent of the Pumice Desert, a large area north of the lake that was created when Mt. Mazamas (now Crater Lake) erupted some 7000 years ago. The Pumice Desert has pumice deposits 100 feet deep.
 
By lunchtime they came to a junction with the famed Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada. Some people actually hike this trail end-to-end, though Jonathan and Jenelle didn’t see anyone but squirrels, birds and deer. That afternoon, it started raining, which was okay and not unheard of in Oregon. But eventually it rained enough that Jonathan’s feet got very wet which gave him blisters. When they reached their campsite at Dutton Creek that evening, it began raining very hard. They tried to build a fire, and as long as Jenelle held her poncho over the fire pit, it seemed that the fire had a chance against the rain. But the rain eventually won out, so the hikers just hung a tarp among some trees and cooked their meager dinner under there. They were very wet and a little discouraged.  Being inside the warm tent felt wonderful, though.
 
When they awoke in the morning, it was still raining and raining. At about 8a the rain stopped, so they got up, made breakfast and broke camp. Then they hiked back up the mountain, very eager to return to their car. In the meantime, it hailed for a few minutes. About 100 yards from the road that circle the rim of the lake, they saw the first person they’d seen since Thursday night.
 
On the rim, the weather had cleared up a bit, providing some beautiful views of the lake. The first snow of the season rested on the rim. When Jenelle reached the car, she said, “I’ve never been so glad to be finished!”
 
They are looking forward to going backpacking again in drier weather.

A New House

We bought a new house over the weekend.  We’re very excited at the thought of having our very own floors to sit on.  We’ll be moving in next month.

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Hood to Coast

Jenelle ran in the Hood to Coast relay race on Friday and Saturday.  Hood to Coast (or "H2C", as the locals call it) is one of the largest relay races in the world, with over 1000 teams of 12 runners each.  The 197-mile course starts at Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Hood and finishes on the beach in Seaside, Oregon.  (If you think this sounds foolish, stop reading now.)

It takes most teams more than 24 hours to finish the course, and some team member is always running somewhere, even in the middle of the night.  Each team member runs three legs of 5-7 miles each in varying terrain.  Jenelle ran about 17 miles, discovering that her training runs were not quite long enough to prepare her for the experience.  But least she got two hours of sleep in a stinky van between the second and third legs.  She was very sore on Saturday afternoon when Jonathan picked her up in Seaside and drove her home.  But even before the aches and pains disappeared, she began talking about "next year."

Jonathan "Bad-Knees" Vance got involved in the race by volunteering to help at one of the exchange points.  On Saturday morning he found himself in the tiny town of Mist and quickly came to the conclusion that H2C was more excitement than the town saw the rest of the year.  He parked in a big field filled with vans and exhausted runners dozing in sleeping bags on the grass.

Most of the team vans (each team has two) were decorated, some with signs, slogans, large pictures of celebrities.  A few inflated dolphins could also be found.  Jonathan’s favorite slogan was, "Remember — you paid to do this."

During his 4-hour shift at Exchange 24, Jonathan got to be a volunteer captain, which meant doing a little bit of everything, including:

  • directing traffic
  • calling out number of approaching runners
  • asking spectators to please stand behind the white line on the road
  • pretending to know what was going on

Best of all, Jenelle and Jonathan both got free T-shirts!