I actually brought my "nice" camera on this adventure and left my iPhone, which I usually use for adventure photos, in the tent. Eight of us set out to backpack, camp, and hike in the Crater Lake backcountry over Memorial Day weekend. We got into the park around 11am on Saturday and drove through some of the most alien and breathtaking landscapes I have ever encountered. The Pumice Desert (which I didn't get photos of) was insane. It also helped that the clouds were low-slung, casting a moody atmosphere across the entire park, which made our first views of the caldera absolutely breathtaking.
We checked in at the ranger station, made a plan on where to camp (a lot of the backcountry sites were still buried in snow), procured our backcountry passes, and set off along the Pacific Crest Trail (kind of) to get to our camp. We were actually so excited to get going that we didn't search for the trail very hard and decided to bushwhack with our trail map, compass, and boy scout. It actually worked out surprisingly well --we encountered some beautiful vistas and ended up meeting up with the trail a few hundred feet from our campsite.
Saturday evening was spent setting up camp, figuring out water, collecting firewood (which was all pretty damp) and getting a fire going. Once the fire was cracklin', we made a sort-of nest around it to dry out the rest of the wood we gathered. It actually worked pretty well as long as the "nest" didn't catch fire.
Sunday after breakfast and stretching, six of us set off on a hike up to Rim Village, while the other two decided to embark on an epic hike up the Pacific Crest Trail, up to the caldera, around Rim Village, and back down to camp (15+ miles!). The hike up was grueling. We lost the trail multiple times due to snow, I fell through (post-holed) a few times and had to get help out, our feet got soaked; but we had a great time. Snowball fights ensued, some off-trail rock climbing occurred, the sun was out, and we still had another day of weekend to enjoy.
Lunch in Rim Village was probably the most scenic one I have ever had. We could see clear across the caldera and the water was a perfect reflection of the sky. The turkey sandwich at the top was also pretty great, mostly because I was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g. Heading back down to camp was much easier than the hike up. We had our tracks to follow and the downhill sped us up quite a bit. Once we got back to camp, we re-lit the fire and started playing cribbage. The two boys who had taken off on their own adventure returned, carrying beer and s'mores fixings, and the fire was roaring.
Early Monday morning we woke up and made breakfast, broke down camp and started hiking out around 10:30. This time we had the trail to follow which cut our hiking time almost in half. Everyone seemed to be relieved to be back at the cars (away from the mosquitoes) but we still had quite a journey back up to Seattle. What should have been a six-hour drive somehow ended up being nearly 10 hours, traffic getting to and around Portland was a nightmare but Google safely guided us around an accident that would have added another two hours to our trip, and we avoided the usual traffic jams around Fort Lewis and Tacoma.
It was a wonderful weekend in the wilderness but showering that night and sleeping in my own bed was incredible.