Mt. Scott P2K WSC

Tue, Jul 20, 2010

With: Ryan Burd
Jackie Burd
Cheryl Macaraeg

Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile


Mt. Scott is the highest point around the rim of Crater Lake National Park. The family had been keen to visit the park and was in fact the main impetus for our vacation in Southern Oregon. It took a bit less than two hours to make the drive from Medford and was already 8a when we started our drive around the southern portion of the lake. Our first stop, at an overlook to view Phantom Ship (a spirey island just off the lake shore) was fairly disasterous. As soon as we got out of the car at the shady overlook we were enveloped by swarms of thirsty mosquitoes. It was as much as we could do to walk over to the other end of the parking lot to see the feature, never mind actually reading any of the carefully crafted signs that went along with it. I made the further mistake of opening the back of the van in an attempt to secure additional clothing protection as dozens of the pests immediately went inside to lie in wait for us. Once back in the van, Ryan and Jackie spent the next 15 minutes on killer patrol, roaming up and down the van, swatting and killing the free-loaders. Nobody was too keen on Crater Lake all of a sudden.

We continued to the east end of the lake and the trailhead for Mt. Scott. Luckily the trail was almost all in the sun and the mosquitoes did not favor the bright sunshine. There were still some of the pesky varmints to deal with (DEET, doing nicely), but none of the swarms we'd been attacked by earlier. It was only with some hesitation that the rest of the family was enticed to get out of the van, now that it had been made mosquito-free.

The trail is very nice really, about 2.5 miles one-way with 1,200ft of gain. It has open views to Mts. McLoughlin (to the south) and Thielsen (to the north), the surrounding country in three directions and of course Crater Lake to the west. It is very popular and was already busy with people this morning. Mom was feeling tired almost from the start, what we at first attributed to a restless night's sleep, we later figured out was altitude sickness. Though not all that high, Mt. Scott's nearly 9,000ft of elevation was not trivial, and Mom had flown in from sea level the night before. The kids and I had been scrambling around moderate summits for the last two days and had no trouble at all. Mom needed to rest often and more than once suggested it might be better for her to turn around and go back. But we had no fixed schedule and all day to make it, so we simply took our sweet time and added as many breaks as needed.

Ryan and Jackie got restless and we eventually let them continue to the summit by themselves. There's only one trail and we figured it would be hard for them to get lost. If they got hurt, well, there were others at the summit, maybe they would take pity on them and help. A little more than two hours after setting out, Mom and I finally made our way to the top and joined the others. A dilapidated lookout tower crowned the summit with competing signs that decried the lack of structural integrity making it unsafe to the public while at the same time declaring it an active lookout tower for fire reporting and safety. In either case the general public is asked to stay out.

It was a nice place to hang out and take in the gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding country. I photographed the lookout tower, the kids, the views, and a few benchmarks that were secured to the summit rocks nearby. Mom wasn't feeling all that good and had a strong headache now, a sure sign of altitude sickness. I asked her if her stomach was upset, another sign, but she replied to the negative. It seemed the best help for Mom would be to get her down to a lower altitude, so we did not linger much longer at the summit.

The return took only a hour, somewhat to Mom's surprise and our relief. We did not require any of the frequent breaks we'd taken on the way up thanks to the downhill nature of the return. Ryan and Jackie of course danced around, up and down the trail they scampered, and had no trouble at all. Since Mom and I were taking our time, I paused here and there along the way to photograph the flowers and otherwise take in the gorgeous surroundings. We found Ryan near the trailhead waiting on a rock when we got back. He was either quietly observing nature or lost in one of his fantasy adventures that his active imagination often conjurs up. His sister was back by the van waiting for us as well.

Before heading back to Medford we stopped at the Rim Village on the southwest side of the lake. Mom wanted to visit the gift shop while I secretly wanted to bulldoze the entire complex. It was the antithesis of what I think a National Park should be, complete with a busy cafeteria selling typically crappy food by the bucketful and a gift shop selling expensive, authentic Native American crafts made by peoples both Native and non-Native that lived in places nowhere near Crater Lake. And of course it was the most crowded place in the whole park. I imagine that if the entire village were razed the number of visitors to Crater Lake would probably drop in half or more. I see that as a good thing. But while I was quietly musing over these thoughts, I did so in a happy, passive state while waiting for Mom to complete her shopping stop. She had been a very good sport in completing the climb to Mt. Scott, and this seemed like a very small thing I could do for her in return. At least the place had a nice view spot to take in the lake views.

The ride back to Medford did not go well. Mom initially slept for about half of the way, but a wave of nausea came over her for the second half and she could not relax. We had just gotten back on I-5 and were ten minutes from the hotel when she finally had to vomit. She did so without much fanfare, so much so that Ryan and Jackie didn't even know she'd done so. Mom was spent and almost immediately fell asleep when we got to our room. Though it wasn't yet 5p, she didn't wake up for more than a minute or two the rest of the evening, she was that tired. She would feel a lot better in the morning and enjoy her well-earned rest day.


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