Total Trip Miles: 1,679
One of the most popular day rides in the Pacific Northwest is the 33-mile long ride along the rim of Crater Lake. I've wanted to do this ride for a long time. Since we were passing through Crater Lake, now was the perfect time to make that ride happen.
The Crater Lake area is one of the snowiest places in the Pacific Northwest. On average, it receives 44 ft of snowfall each year. Because of the heavy snowfall, the road around the rim of the lake is only accessible for a few short months each year -- typically in July, August, and September.
Last week, I began inquiring to see whether the rim road would be open for circumnavigation by bicycle. The Sierra-Cascades route passes along the west side of the rim, and I knew that the west side of the rim was open. But, I wasn't sure about the east side of the rim.
While we were in Mt Shasta a few days back, I called the Crater Lake park office to see whether the east rim had been plowed. I was told that the road had not yet been fully plowed. I was bummed -- it wasn't looking as though I'd be able to bike around the lake.
When we arrived at the park yesterday, I again inquired about the status of the east rim for bicycling. I received confirmation that the road crew had been making daily progress. But, surprisingly, no one was able to confirm for certain whether the road was entirely plowed. I would need to find out for myself.
Around midday, Ferit and Dilek gave me a ride to the north junction, where the east rim splits off from the west rim. I would begin my ride here, since I'd be riding along the west rim tomorrow. As Alex wanted another rest day, I was on my own for the ride.
|A map of the rim route.|
Starting at the turnoff to the east rim, where I was dropped off, the first 4.5 miles were plowed and open to vehicles. Just after the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead, however, the road was closed to traffic. I rolled my bike around the "Road Closed" gate, and off I went, not knowing for certain whether I'd be able to bike all the way along the east rim.
Along my ride, I stopped numerous times to stare at the lake. The water was intoxicating -- it was amazingly pure and colorful.
|The water is so pure and colorful.|
The winds were really strong. When protected by the trees, the wind was manageable. But when the road opened up to a viewpoint, I needed to grasp my handlebars tightly. Without a full load, I forgot how susceptible my bike is to crosswinds. At one point, the crosswinds were so strong that they blew me across the entire lane.
|Shirley, at one of the east rim overlooks.|
As it turns out, all of the east rim has been plowed. There are some sections of the road that would benefit from repairs -- primarily pothole filling -- before the road is opened to vehicles. And a few of the signs along the side of the road needed to be remounted on their posts. But aside from that, I can't imagine it will be much longer before vehicles are allowed to encircle the entire rim as well.
As I rode along the east rim, I was amazed at how tall some of the snow drifts were.
|Shirley, leaning against a snow drift that is at least five times as tall as her.|
I had nearly the entire road to myself. Riding alone along the rim was eerie at times and empowering at others.
|Enjoying the whole road to myself.|
Along the east rim, I came across two hikers, two government vehicles, and one other cyclist. The cyclist was traveling in the opposite direction. He had crested the climb and was beginning to descend towards me, as I was just a hundred feet or so shy of the summit. As the cyclist began his descent, he let out a loud "woohoo." I chuckled, as that appears to be an expression common to all cyclists.
|A gorgeous view of the lake, with Wizard Island front-and-center.|
|The view from Phantom Ship Overlook.|
A few miles shy of the end of the east rim, I rolled my bike past another "Road Closed" sign. A maintenance worker was fiddling with the sign, and so I asked what he was doing. He said that he was preparing to open a section of the east rim road within the next few hours. Lucky me that I got to ride that section of the east rim before it was open to traffic!
|About to open a section of the east rim to traffic.|
The maintenance worker explained that because of the low snowfall this past winter, they were opening the east rim about one month earlier than usual. I'm fortunate I was able to ride around the entire loop this early in the season.
Park documentation for bicyclists proclaims: "Each year, increasing numbers of cyclists come to Crater Lake National Park to ride around the lake on the physically demanding 33-mile Rim Drive. Steep hills at high elevation may encourage even the most fit riders to pause at many of the road's thirty overlooks and pull-outs."
Having more than 1,600 miles of climbing under my belt so far on this trip, it was nice to ride around the rim without having to worry about being fit enough to enjoy the ride. To be truthful, I didn't feel as though the rim ride was at all physically challenging. Partial credit is due to being in shape. The rest of the credit is due to being so wowed by the experience that I paid attention to neither my legs as they pedaled nor my lungs as they took in deep breaths of air.
I arrived back at camp just a few minutes before Ferit and Dilek returned from their hike to Cleetwood Cove. They proposed that we have a lazy remainder of the afternoon, hanging out in their car-top tent and watching a movie. What a perfect way to top off the bestest day ride ever!
Ferit, Dilek, and I snuggled under the comforter, in the car-top tent, and watched a movie. I've never watched a movie before while camping. This trip is full of firsts for me!
|Watching a movie from within the car-top tent.|
|The movie screen, complete with a solid attempt to create surround sound.|
Ferit and Dilek had planned to prepare a fancy stuffed grape leaf dinner. But the mosquitos were so unpleasant yesterday evening, that we decided to head over to the Mazama Village restaurant and enjoy an indoor, insect-free dinner instead.
What an awesome day! I'm so glad I was able to ride along the east rim today. It was definitely the most enjoyable day ride I've ever experienced. Let's put it this way: my smile muscles look forward to an evening of rest.