To me this most likely is going to be the saddest post of the trip. Crater lake is some sort of crater, made by some sort of volcano, lots of snow, very pretty, scenic beauty, blah, blah, blah. If this was Tuesday this must have be Crater Lake.
I was excited to be there, anxious to do some light hiking and enjoy the park. I stopped in at the VC, chatted up the ranger. They actually tried to make me pay $.25 for a map, I told them I would go to my congressman if necessary but I wasn't paying for no stinkin map. They gave me one anyway which was a smart decision on their part because I don't think they wanted a call from Senator Cardin or Mikulski. This park is loaded down with snow, I am not sure the snow ever goes away. There were some trails so I put on the right gear and headed to an easy peak because this park is not known for big mountains.
I hiked at Garfield Peak which was a 700 foot elevation change over maybe a mile. I could do something like this in my sleep so I didn't expect any problems. Maybe 300 trail feet below the summit was an ice patch. This patch had solid foot prints in the snow that probably helped a lot of hikers out in the previous weeks, but yesterday was a different story.
The small patch had gone through a series of melts and freezes, at 11AM the top was melting yet again. The upper set of foot prints were still good, but the lower (right leg) prints had melted away and there was not much room to place your foot. This particular surface was very steep, probably 50% grade so if one would slip they would go flying. I opted to attempt to cross and decided that it was way too dangerous and then had a heck of time turning around. The ice was solid enough so that it was impossible to plant a pole. I made it back to safety and decided to sit down and decide what to do.
At that point a man who had crossed the patch earlier when the ice was more frozen and safer was descending with 2 kids behind him. He confidently strode across the patch and the children followed. About 1/3 of the way across both children had a panic attack, understandably so. The conversation went like this.
Girl: Daddy I'm scared
Boy: I'm scared too.
Cham: I'd be scared too if I were you.
Dad: Come on kids, get going.
Cham: YOU ARE A REAL IDIOT TO BE UP THERE WITH THOSE KIDS.
Dad: You yelling at me isn't helping.
The father had had the option of walking the kids around the ice but he was too arrogant and pigheaded to ensure the safety of his own children. When the kids got closer to me I notice the boy was wearing high-topped sneakers with the laces untied and tucked in, the girl was also in sneakers. Dad was in hiking boots.
They passed me on the trail, gave me a nasty look and descended. I was still thinking about what to do when a young couple came up the hill. They confidently strode toward the ice floe. I politely told them that it was unsafe and they should not cross the ice. The girl must have thought I was an old fuddy-duddy because she did not heed my advice and confidently strode across the patch while her SO looked on. She got about half-way and stopped. The conversation went like this:
Chick: Come on honey, we can do this.
Honey: I'm not so sure.
Cham: You can do what you want but let's look at the logistics, shall we? You may not slip in which case all is good. But if you do you there is no way to grab onto anything since you are on a watery ice. You will drop down and most assuredly hit that rock directly under the patch hard, then you will bounce off of it like a pinball and drop another 250 feet in that ice chute with more rocks in it. You can do what you want but I hope you have really great health insurance because you may need it.
The girl promptly froze on the mountain, unable to turn around.
I was pleased because I had a ringside seat for the festivities. This was going to be one spectacular fall and I didn't want to miss it. But I felt obligated to at least call for help if she plummeted. So I got out my cell phone and turned it on. I was shocked to see that it didn't have a signal. No signal then no call for help. If this chick was going to need medical attention then I was going to have to get involved and compromise my own health and safety for stupidgirl and her stupiddecision. Oh no, folks, you have the wrong blogger for that!
You've never seen someone put away a phone so quickly and yell, "I'm out of here, good luck!" I have no idea what happened.
But wait, folks, there's more. I got down off the mountain and decided to take a scenic drive and headed north. I arrived at an overlook near a short steep peak called The Watchman. I met a guy, Brian, that I had talked to briefly at the VC, he was about to go snowshoeing. Brian pointed at two hikers that were at the top of the heavily snow-covered Watchman peak and then we noticed they were doing something weird. The hikers were lying down, one of them pushed themselves off the peak and started to slide down the peak on his ass. He quickly lost control. Brian and I, as well as many other people began running toward the base of the peak fully expecting the ass-slider to crash into a rock. By the grace of God ass-slider managed to avoid the rocks at the base and was okay. You would think the second hiker would have learned a lesson. But no, she manages to ass-slide her way down the peak as well, but slower. I've never seen anything so stupid in my life.
So you may ask, why are so many people doing so many stupid things at Crater Lake? I have an answer for you. Because Crater Lake has a national park designation, easy access because of the plowed roads, several lodges and visitors centers, as well as an army of park rangers. People think that taking a quick hike on a well maintained hiking trail would most assuredly be safe regardless of the weather or trail condition. They think, "If this is a National Park then it has to be okie-dokie and I can take any risk I wish because somebody will come rescue me."
And if you are the type of person who believes that and wants to let Darwin take its course, please go ahead. All I ask of you is not to expect me to be involved in the equation. You see, my own health and safety take a huge huge priority over your stupidity. If it comes down between your life and my hangnail, guess which I am going to choose?
Two potential rescues in one day was two too many. I opted to leave the park quickly before there was a third.