After an alpine start at 7:45 I arrived at D's apartment and waited while he got his extra socks and filled the thermos with coffee. We were fortunate that the cinder scree on top of Black Crater has been there for at least 10,000 years and it would take more than the late morning sun to make it move.
We drove up along the McKenzie and were pleasantly surprised that so few cars seemed to be out. We would find out soon enough where they all were.
Stopped at Harbick's for a bean and cheese burrito and Clif bar.
Drove up the pass to the trail head.
Turned in and there they were. 2 Cadillac Escalades, 2 Beamers, several Honda SUVs- an even dozen cars total. And milling around them was the expedition, completely and totally outfitted with, not just ten, but every essential known to the outdoor gear industry.
D and I were ecstatic. Why, if whatever god-forsaken hiking club this was had picked Black Crater as their goal du jour, it must be a worthwhile endeavor.
A respectable-looking older gentleman arrived with his wife and asked if I had any information on the trail. I said I thought it went that way, pointing.
We decided to wait a bit so as not to impinge on our compatriots' wilderness experience.
(I'm sorry I didn't take any photos of the cars in the lot. There goes my big chance as an outdoor magazine photographer.)
We ascended. We trudged the trail through the scrubby pines. The trees opened a bit and we could see Mount Washington and Three Finger Jack.
We were about two-thirds of the way up when we heard the previous group coming back down. D was surprised that they hadn't lingered on the top. We stepped off the trail a few yards and all eleven of them passed without looking up. I'm pretty sure not one of them saw us, or much else.
In another twenty minutes we met another group with the same result. The last man in line saw us, looked surprised and said good-morning.
About a quarter-mile below the top we left the trail to the right and scrambled up a rocky ridge. The rock was very loose and rotten.
After crossing the plateau of cinder scree at we arrived at the rocky summit block.
We crept out past the old lookout site and ate salami and cheese for lunch while admiring Mount Washington.
After lunch we poked around the top and felt suitably inspired by North Sister. D was inspired to go and flog up the rotten rock as soon as possible, while I was content simply to feel inspired.
The wind timber on top of the mountain makes a startling contrast with the colorful cinder.
On the trudge back down I realized that there is no feeling on earth like standing somewhere that you know no more than twenty other people have stood that morning.