CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK - Sometimes it's worth going the extra mile.
Phase One of a recent hike was Garfield Peak and, if that's a place you haven't been, put it on the wish list. The views of Crater Lake, Dutton Cliff, Phantom Ship and, farther off, Mount Thielsen, are spectacular along the trail and from atop Garfield Peak.
But by going the extra distance to Applegate Peak, about a mile-plus cross-country jaunt that loses several hundred feet before climbing back up to a vantage slightly higher than Garfield, the views seem even more dramatic. Maybe that's just because of the huff 'n puff effort involved.
Applegate Peak's elevation is 8,126-feet, only a bit taller than the oft-visited 8,060-foot Garfield Peak. A major reason for Garfield's popularity is it's reached by moderately steep, 1.7-mile trail that begins near the Crater Lake Lodge. During the summer months, ranger-guided hikes are offered. Applegate stands farther east, and there's no trail.
Located on Crater Lake's south rim, Applegate, the western limb of Sun Notch, can also be seen from pullouts along East Rim Drive, but because it's not dramatically carved, it tends to blend in. Although Applegate sees few hikers, in recent years its slopes between the rim and East Rim Drive have become popular destinations for winter-time backcountry skiers.
On a recent day outing, Hans Kuhr led a squadron of hikers up Garfield, which was just a brief stopping place for about half the group. While others retreated to the lodge, several of us followed Hans along an impromptu route that zigzagged down a steep, rocky slope from Garfield to open meadows. By staying high and near the rim, the sights from seldom-seen vantages included elevator-shaft steep views down into the lake, including the Chaski Slide, which was formed when a large chunk of the caldera wall broke from the rim and slid into the caldera.
More dramatically, we passed under Dyar Rock, a prominent 7,880-foot chunk of volcanic rock that, from some rim viewpoints, literally sticks up like a sore thumb.
Some of us reached Applegate by skirting along the rim, sometimes stooping under knobby whitebark pines, wriggling around tight squeezes or stepping carefully over fresh snow.
Although blue skies prevailed, on the morning drive up we'd noticed the park was under a covering of clouds. As we later learned, the night earlier that hovering cloud mass had dropped two inches of fresh snow. By the time we were hiking, sunny skies had melted most of the snow, although tree limbs, branches and needles were still snow-frozen. Along the rim, both on the Garfield Trail and on the way to Applegate Peak, we were lightly showered with snow pellets blown from whitebark pines, Shasta red firs and mountain hemlocks.
There was a certain satisfaction seeing Crater Lake, the snow-covered caldera walls and the gnarly, wind- and snow-shaped whitebark pines from atop Applegate Peak. That's because, in part, there is no designated trail, the extra effort involved and, as the patches of snow emphasized, the opportunity to reach the butte is brief.
Reaching Applegate Peak is worth going the extra mile.
— Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-880-4139.