On our second day trip to Crater Lake a week later, the weather was considerably different. There was a heat advisory in effect and the sky was very hazy with lots of thunderstorms moving through the Cascades. Unfortunately, we did not get an early start to the day and ended up hiking during the heat of the day.
We had a small mishap with the Airstream trailer when we were trying to leave in the morning that delayed our departure. Funny now – but not so much at the time! As we were packing up the truck for our day trip, my husband inadvertently locked the trailer door with the keys inside 😦 We do have a couple of spare sets and this should not have been a problem. We did need to get back inside before we left for the day to double-check things and we wanted to leave the door unlocked anyway in case of an emergency given the fire warnings in the area. So, we grabbed the spare set out of the truck and tried to unlock the door. For those who do not own an Airstream, it is worth mentioning that the Airstream doors have 2 locks – a top lock and a bottom lock for extra security (I’m guessing for traveling down the road). We “thought” we were using the key for the top lock, which is the mechanism that can inadvertently get locked by accident, but the lock seemed jammed and the key was not working.
I won’t go into details on how we got into the trailer but it was not an easy feat! Once we unlocked the door from the inside, we realized there was nothing wrong with the lock. We were simply not using the proper key! How embarrassing! Why we did not test other keys in the set remains a mystery to us both! With the extra time involved in finally getting the door unlocked, we did not arrive in Crater Lake until after noon. We had planned on hiking the highest peak in the park – Mount Scott – and then completing the entire Rim Drive afterwards.
So even though it was very hot when we got to the park, we did not alter our plans. Mount Scott is accessed via the trailhead on the East Rim Drive. This is a narrow, winding road with many steep drop-offs – not for the faint of heart! Just past the trailhead parking area, there is a picnic area and we stopped off there first to eat lunch. Mount Scott is a 4.5-mile out-and-back hike with an elevation gain of over 1,200 feet. Carrying plenty of water, we persevered up the steep trail – taking breaks often to drink and rest from the heat in the shade of the trees along the trail. The predominant tree species here at this altitude are Mountain Hemlock and Whitebark Pine.
The trail climbs moderately through the hemlock forest before starting a number of steeper switchbacks that lead to the ridgeline along the summit. With views of Crater Lake and the Cascades in the distance, it was an awesome experience even with the hazy skies.
We watched thunder clouds in the distance throughout our hike, hoping to get to the summit and back without encountering any lightening and thunder! Luckily, they stayed off in the distance while we were hiking.
The fire tower at the summit is a very dilapidated building that was obviously not in use anymore. Unlike the fully restored CCC fire tower at Lava Beds NM, this one is very much in need of a facelift. The awful condition of many park service buildings and structures is sad. I see it throughout the country and wish that we had more funding and human resources for projects to restore the many buildings that need repair.
As we started our descent from the summit, I thought the ridgeline part of the trail was pretty cool. It dropped off fairly steeply on either side – making for a great photograph!
After our hike, we continued on the East Rim Drive and stopped at the Cleetwood Cove trailhead. This is the only trail in the park that takes you to the lake itself. It is a steep 1-mile descent to the shoreline. We opted not to do this hike on this trip but did grab a photograph from the top of the trail.
We drove on to the junction with the West Rim Drive and stopped at several turn-outs along this side of the lake before heading south towards home. We noticed signs for the Rim Trail that runs along the west ridge of the crater and decided that we would be back to tackle that trail next!