Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

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miah66
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Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by miah66 » April 14th, 2014, 1:56 pm

Opening shot:

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I've had the good fortune to take several fantastic snowshoe trips during this season of low snowfall, and for that I'm grateful. First, there was the Barlow Ridge Overnighter, Second, there was the Maiden Peak Snowshoextravaganza, and then this past weekend, the Crater Lake snowshoe and snow camp.

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My friend Switchback Steve from eyehike.com and I have been trying to organize a winter snow camp on Mt. Rainier all winter, but conditions were just not favorable. Where is the one place you are guaranteed to find snow at almost any time? How about Crater Lake? We decided to attempt a weekend at Crater Lake and it did not disappoint. Also, Mandrakes report from March was valuable recon for us...there was indeed enough snow to snowcamp!

BTW, Mandrake, your handiwork was indeed still intact, but several skylights have been added since you were there. :lol: These 65 degree sunny days are taking their toll on the roof. Awesome location though!

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We met up and departed from Portland around 6:15am Saturday morning. Since the North entrance was closed, we had to enter the park from the winter (Western) entrance, which added to our travel time. We arrived at the visitor center around noon and picked up our backcountry permit (which we inadvertently left on the dash of the car :o ) and trekked off under beautiful blue skies and 65 degree(!) weather. Our plan was to trek several miles away from the parking lot at Rim Village and camp near "The Watchman" and dayhike up to it on Sunday before we returned.

Watchman Peak was named by William Gladstone Steel 1886 when he brought a survey team to measure the depth of the lake. From Wikipedia: "The Watchman tower was part of the fire detection network for Crater Lake National Park...A trained observer, usually a park ranger, manned the lookout and kept in contact with the fire dispatcher at the park headquarters on short-wave radio...The National Park Service manned the Watchman Lookout Station during fire season until 1974 and intermittently since then. Today, the Watchman Lookout Station has significant interpretive value. Since the lookout was built, there has been a major philosophical change in how forest managers deal with wildfires. The Watchman tower provides visitors the opportunity to experience the essential elements of 1930's era fire lookout. The accessibility of the site, the unobstructed view on all sides, and the use of native materials that blend the structure into the surrounding landscape combine to make the Watchman Lookout Station a unique and historically significant structure. As a result, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

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So, a worthy destination. Plenty of sunblock was needed this weekend! The snow and sun together was so bright it was almost blinding, even with sunglasses on. On the way out, we passed many groups of people on the way back to the Lodge, which was closed for the winter. Some were on skis, some on snowshoes, and some were postholing mid calf :lol: in the wet, slushy snow.

We reached Discovery Point, and just beyond found the remnants of Mandrake's igloo, and contemplated repairing and re-using it, but it wasn't close enough to our destination. We pressed onward. We found a great spot overlooking the mountains to the South within close proximity to the Watchman and set up camp. Steve planned to build a snow trench, and set to work while we put up our tents. We enjoyed the warm temps, working in the snow in our short sleeves and shorts, even! It was almost like being at the beach.

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Since we had so much daylight left, we decided to summit the Watchman this very evening and have a later start on Sunday with some time for some bonus stops on the way back.

We set off, hoping to make it up for sunrise. It was a straightforward trudge along the road for about 1 mile before veering off the main trail to go straight up the Western ridge.

Mt. Bailey (L), and Diamond Peak (C)

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As we drew nearer, the lookout became visible, high above us.

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We arrived at the summit in about an hour, right in time for some great light on the lake. The views were stupendous:

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Looking down into the giant lake, I was really struck by what WASN'T there, namely, another 4000' vertical of mountain. This giant hole, over 30 miles in circumference, filled w/ snowmelt that we call Crater Lake is all that remains from a mountain that was similar in shape and size of Mt. Adams, and here I am peering down into it's decapitated neck!

Mt. McLoughlin (L) and Union Peak (R)

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Llao Rock

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The route we had come up:

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Hillman Peak to the North, w/ Mt. Thielsen peaking out from behind it

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and some weird guy with Wizard Island, Mt. Scott and the (almost) full moon:

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We could even see Mt. Shashta, 107 miles away from here.

We played around on the watchtower's masonry walls (summoning my inner Bosterson) for a bit before deciding to descend back to camp before dark.

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We arrived back in time to watch the sun set, but not before it cast a gorgeous golden orange light on everything around. This is my favorite part about being in the wilderness nowadays, the way the orange light just permeates everything for about 15 minutes before sunset, giving it a warm tint and reminding you how beautiful nature is, to find meaning, peace, and try to hold on to every moment while it lasts.

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Steve's snow trench shelter

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Camp under the eye of the Watchman

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A nearly full moon was up and shone on us all night, making enough light that you didn't even really need a headlamp. It hogged the starshow, but how can you complain? The forecast was for gusty wind and we were concerned about it, and for good reason on the rim. Since we decided to camp away from the rim it wasn't a problem, but we heard the trees all night near the edge whipping and the wind roared constantly like a wind tunnel up there. I'm glad we were in a sheltered area.

Steve was up early to see the sunrise:

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I decided to sleep in. I always plan on getting up early, but the 20 degree temps of the night had driven me deep into my sleeping bag and I didn't want to emerge until the sun's rays had a chance to warm us up. I awoke again around 8:30 and began the morning rituals as the temps climbed and climbed. We got back on the trail, and headed for the Lodge under bright sun and softening snow. Didn't see many people, but Mt. Shasta was still visible as the dark figure, hulking right of center:

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We arrived back to the car around the same time we left the day before. After dropping our abandoned permit back off at the Visitors Center, we decided to head for Toketee Falls, about an hour outside the park off Hwy 138.

As you pull into the TH parking lot, there is a massive, old 12' tall wooden pipe running along the road and water is shooting out of in arcing leaks. What the heck is this thing!?

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It turns out it's part of an early hydroelectric project on the Umpqua River and it's still in use today. The trail to the falls is about 1/4 mile through some really great forest. There's alot of stairs that go up and then down and up and then down to a tree-based lookout

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of stupendous Toketee Falls.

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There actually several more tiers to this waterfall, but the canyon is so steep and narrow that it would be very difficult to see them all. The grotto above this fall is really something, massive potholes that have been carved out over eons.

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Back to the car and another couple miles to Umpqua Hot Springs. The wife and I have been wanting to visit for years, and finally got our chance. There is about a 1/4 mile trek from a well worn campground along the Umpqua River, up a steep bank and through a campsite that is probably ALWAYS occupied. The springs are nice, and we didn't have to wait long for a pool at all when we arrived, but there was a steady stream of people (some dressed, some not) coming and going over the half hour we were there. The springs come out of the bank into cascade into several pools staggered down an embankment. The lower the pool, the cooler the temperature. There is a larger pool under a gazebo that seems to get the most usage, but with nice weather it doesn't matter much which one you take.

After a (very) cooling plunge in the Umpqua afterwards, it was back in the car and the long drive back to PDX. We stopped for dinner at Tracktown Pizza in Eugene, OR and laughed at each other's sunburned faces. Most excellent weekend, thanks to Steve for the photos and organization! I guess this year has been interesting. We haven't had much snow to play in, but I've been lucky to have taken advantage of what we DID have. I'm certain winter isn't completely done with us, but it can't last too long since there isn't much, if any of a base.
Last edited by miah66 on April 15th, 2014, 8:30 am, edited 2 times in total.
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BrianEdwards
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by BrianEdwards » April 14th, 2014, 4:15 pm

Nice view from above Toketee Falls. Such a scenic spot. Cool trip
Clackamas River Waterfall Project - 95 Documented, 18 to go.

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kepPNW
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by kepPNW » April 14th, 2014, 5:40 pm

Absolutely beautiful! Wow, what a trip... :)
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obera
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by obera » April 14th, 2014, 6:57 pm

Amazing pictures! Love CL! Glad you had such great weather!
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Born2BBrad
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by Born2BBrad » April 14th, 2014, 7:01 pm

Totally awesome!
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
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awildman
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by awildman » April 14th, 2014, 7:30 pm

+1 for fantastic weather! Great trip and photos!
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Sean Thomas
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by Sean Thomas » April 14th, 2014, 8:18 pm

I like how the moon was framed by the tree in that one pic. I really need to get back down to Crater Lake :D

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forester
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by forester » April 14th, 2014, 8:23 pm

Great TR! I really enjoy the ones from my area.

Something I really want to do is take a small raft/flotation device and get back into that cave behind Toketee Falls (to the right of the falls as you're facing them). I can't imagine a lot of people have done this.

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MariposaMan
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by MariposaMan » April 15th, 2014, 12:55 am

Very nice report... and wonderful images! I had flirted with the idea of going to Crater Lake for a day outing or two, and was curious as to the snow conditions. Now I know. Some spring I'd like to spend a few days skiing around the rim. I worked there one summer when I was in college––many great memories (including an earthquake).

And yes, Track Town is a good place to satisfy one's pizza cravings.

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sprengers4jc
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Re: Crater Lake Snow camp + Toketee Falls, Umpqua HS

Post by sprengers4jc » April 15th, 2014, 7:59 am

Stupendous trip, miah66! We only had one snowshoe excursion this year and that was at a local high school during Snowpocalypse 2014 :lol: . So I have had to live vicariously through your snowshoe reports. Well done, glad you had such a great time. And the pics are fab!
'We travel not to escape life but for life to not escape us.'
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