After sleeping in until about 9:00 on Saturday morning it dawned on me that today would be a great day to do some exploring. So I headed east through the gorge, up north through Carson, and found my way to the Thomas Lake TH. I was on the trail by 12:10. My first destination for the day was going to be the East Crater. I wasn't quite sure what to expect so that sort of added to the anticipation of bushwacking. I knew that I had to leave the trail behind at the point where it veered south toward Blue Lake, about 2.5 miles from the TH. Then I just needed to head due east and eventually (or about 1/2 mile later) I'd intersect the Pacific Crest Trail right at the base of the slope up to the rim of the crater. Doing this saved me about 2 miles. Getting up to the rim was about a quarter mile, 500 ft elevation gain through mostly open forest with uncountable downed trees and snags. Once on top I traversed the rim over to the east side where I found the official USGS marker confirming that I was in fact on the ""East Crater"". I sat up on the highest rock I could find and nibbled on my lunch while taking in the views of Jefferson and Hood to the south, St Helens to the NW, Lemei Rock and Adams to the NE and Rainier straight up north. Wow, what a sight. After lunch I felt the need for more adventure so I started down the slope... into the crater. The bottom of it was not visible from the rim because it's heavily forested. I was jones'n to find out what was down there. A lake? A cave? Nothing? It's not terribly steep just bushy. Once I got to the bottom I was amazed at the open meadow, and not much else. the feeling of being literally inside of an extinct volcano was almost spiritual. I made my way out by heading straight up the west slope back up to the rim. At this point I did see evidence of human footprints (hiking boots) but had yet to see another hiker so far. I spent the rest of the day doing a loop that took me north on the PCT. I then went NE on the Lemei Lake trail, north up to Cultus and Deep Lake, back to the west to the junction at Deer Lake, south on the PCT past Bear and Elk Lake, further south to Blue Lake (the prettiest of about 20 or 30 that I saw that day) and back to the car on the Thomas Lake trail. Whew! What a day! About 15 miles (give or take one) in about 7 hours. Bugs didn't give me much grief as long as I kept moving. Excellent camp sights were open everywhere. Makes me wish I'd brought my overnight gear. Me and my compass had a great time!
Deep Lake, Lemei Lake, Indian Heaven & Bird Mountain Loop — Sunday, Aug. 11, 2002