I was on a cross- country road trip and had made all these plans for my exciting day at Crater Lake in Oregon, but I woke up that particular morning and just thought- ummm… no.
I am not super great at getting up early. I also hate waking up at noon feeling like a wasted the day.
Oh life is SO HARD sometimes. It’s the physically act of putting my feet on the floor that really feels like pulling my teeth with pliers.
Without pain killers.
By an elephant.
Sooo… being flexible in your plans can lead to some really amazing experiences. If we let go of our expectations for the day, we might just enjoy the challenges presented.
You never know what might happen.
Maybe you’ll actually do something way cooler than you originally had planned. You might also have a totally lame day, but these are the risks we take when we set out on adventure.
Always knowing what’s going to happen is also incredibly boring.
People say they’d want to see into the future so they could cheat the lottery and win tons of money or whatever. Great. But then nothing would be a surprise and I like living life with surprises.
I had planned to arrive early and do some hiking around the crater before taking off to camp further north in Oregon. That didn’t happen, so I figured I’d give backcountry camping around the lake a try.
Since I wanted to be found in case a bear destroyed my face (and it’s required… the permit, not the face destroying), I went to register with the park rangers.
As it says on their website:
Backcountry permits are required for overnight camping in the wilderness. Permits must be obtained at the Canfield Ranger Station at Park Headquarters between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., no more than a day before you begin your backcountry trip. Advanced reservation are not available, permits are only issued in person.
~ from National Park Service website, Plan Your Visit
The permits are also free, so there is really no reason not to get one. Be smart.
With map and permit dutifully secured, I made my way to park my car on the road, near Lightening Spring. I had some sunlight left, so I hiked my way out to Watchman Tower from the parking area. If you have limited time, this is a great hike. It’s short, simple and sweet, with the advantage of awesome views of Crater Lake from the Tower.
I was hoping to watch the sunset from here, but it was a bit too early plus I needed to get back to my camp spot. I hiked back, taking time to admire the Pacific Crest for a while. Layers and layers of mountains and trees so thick… it’s as if there’s one green block of color instead of a forest.
I watched the sunset eating a snack in my car parked on the side of the road. The sky went from orange and red, to purple and blue. Vivid colors. Purple mountain majesty. But it’s always best to get set up before it’s totally dark, so I had to get hustling. Head lamps are great and all, but actual sunlight is better.
There are certain areas you are not permitted to camp…
…such as day hiking trails, so be aware of this before you set up your tent. There are currently no maps for backwoods trails, so have a nice chat with the ranger when you get your permit. They lady I spoke with was super friendly and helpful, considering I had no idea what I was doing.
Based on the information provided to me by the ranger that day and my limited knowledge, I decided to only hike a mile (minimum required distance) into the forest to set up camp, by Lightening Spring.
The glow on the trees and the moon rising above was beautiful. But I was too nervous to really appreciate it. Walking away from my car with my supplies as twilight set in was actually terrifying. I’ve never slept alone in the woods before.
I found a clearing easily where there was an already established fire pit. If you really like to challenge yourself, I recommend going backcountry camping alone for a night.
I also recommend building the largest fire you can manage safely and howling like a crazed wolf at the top of your lungs.
I don’t know if this helps, but it made me feel better, like I had established myself as an animal to be reckoned with on these mean forest streets.
It was a wild time listening to the sounds of the woods and dancing around the fire. I was in bed early, but I also knew the sun would wake me early blasting heat rays on my tent. In fact, once I stepped away from the fire, I realized how quiet it actually was. Almost silent. No bugs, no birds, no wind. I’ve never experienced that in my life.
People call me brave all the time because I travel alone, but this was the only time I actual felt brave.
And by brave, I mean scared out of my mind.
Waking up that morning and unzipping my flap to a new day was one of the more exhilarating moments I had felt in a long time. Sleeping in the woods alone and makes you came away from that feeling stronger and more confident in yourself.
I considered doing a morning hike, but woke feeling ready to move on. I wanted to leave the lake with that high I felt spending a night alone in the backcountry.
Crater Lake in Oregon is an especially amazing place and not to be missed if you are anywhere within driving distance.
It’s open all year, but roads or certain trails might be closed, so always be sure to plan your trip in advance.
I bet it’s stunning in the snow.
If you are lucky enough to be there on a sunny day, the reflection is the lake it outstanding, like a holding up a mirror to the mountains that surround it.
There are plenty of trails to hike around and explore this magnificent crater, or you can simply use one of the car pulls-outs to stand there and bask in all its glory.
Have you ever been backcountry camping?
Join the Tribe to receive awesome travel ideas!