My Bike Respite in Oregon

Sep 6th, 2016

One of the best parts of working at Adventure Cycling: We are ENCOURAGED to take a bike tour each year! Since reading about Crater Lake National Park about 10 years ago in the travel section of the Kansas City Star, I’d always wanted to go. A bike tour there seemed like the perfect opportunity!

I convinced a friend to come with me and in July, it was time for me to hit the road, heading to Oregon for my Crater Lake, inn-to-inn bike tour.

My friend Becca, myself, our bikes, and all our gear, loaded up and headed out early Saturday morning, overnighting near Hood River. The next day we arrived in Eugene with time to bike around and tour breweries while waiting to meet the group. This was my first Adventure Cycling tour!

Becca and I were a little late, so we sheepishly walked into the lobby and found our group sitting there. No big deal! We did another round of introductions and learned about how the tour will work. We also get our goodie-bags of maps, a pen for notes, swag, and some money for park entrance fees.

After a day of riding around town and checking out the Co-Motion and Bike Friday factories, we took a shuttle to Belknap Hot Springs. After a good night’s sleep, we headed up McKenzie Pass — the part of the tour I was most terrified of.

Author with the McKenzie Pass sign
Started from the bottom and now we’re here.
Emma Wimmer

As it turned out, all those climbs up Missoula’s Rattlesnake Drive and especially up Pattee Canyon Drive really paid off! McKenzie pass wasn’t too steep, about 6%, and it was shaded almost the whole way! The forest kept us very cool as we climbed, stopping along the way to rest a bit and snack. After what seemed like a long time, about three and a half hours, I was finally at the top! The view was amazing — mountains all around, lava flows … and a SWEET downhill!

Mountain lava
Emma Wimmer

Bend was lovely. It took forever to get there, but we ate well and stayed in a cool historic hotel. Becca and I even had time to visit the Deschutes Brewery! The next day, we headed out of Bend.

Two women smiling at the camera in a rocky landscape.
Becca and I stopping for a short walk at the base of Mt. Hood and checking out the historic Timberline Lodge.
Emma Wimmer

It was a full-sun, no coverage, long, slow pull up a very gradual hill, heading up toward Mount Bachelor, before dipping down to Elk Lake. It was more tiring than McKenzie Pass, possibly due to all the sun! It was a very beautiful ride, though.

Flat-topped mountain with some snow in the distance
Mount Bachelor
Emma Wimmer

The next day was more of the same: climbing for a short time out of our overnight location, followed by a descent. Today wasn’t SO bad though — less than 50 miles with more gradual climbs adding up to about 1800 feet. There was a busy road for a short bit; then Crescent Lake was quite tucked away, as we descended a deserted, windy road. You know what that means: a climb the next morning.

And climb we did! It started out okay, with some gradual ups and downs. Then, we turned onto the last road. I passed the last service for 20 miles and thought to myself, “I’ve got enough water. I still have my lunch. I’ll be fine until we get to the pizza place!”

Several cyclists riding on loaded bikes.
Looks flat, but it’s not.
Paul Chiusano

Fine enough? I guess. What followed were a series of false and actual summits. You’d be looking and see a hill, but not feel it, then look some more, and finally you’d climb up. I ran out of water and burst into beast mode. The faster I finish this stretch, the faster I get to water and pizza! A few miles later, at what HAS to be the last climb, I saw Becca! She had some extra water to get me through. 

rock structure holding wooden sign for Crater Lake National Park
It’s a long hill to the entrance.
Emma Wimmer

Due to this exhausting day, I showered, ate dinner, and went to sleep ASAP. The next day we would climb up to Crater Lake National Park! And what a climb it was. Up and away from Diamond Lake wasn’t too bad, and before I knew it, I was at the entrance.

Riding along, I came to the first view point. I pulled my bike over for a photo “op” of the Pumice Desert.

Flat beige landscape with occasional evergreens.
Makes me want to exfoliate!
Emma Wimmer

I continued and my climbing slowed down significantly. It wasn’t steep, but it felt like I was riding in mud! I schlepped for a bit, then stopped in some shade for my sandwich. 

It’s amazing how easy pedaling becomes after a little break off the bike! Shortly after, the real climbing began. It got steeper and I could finally see the next lookout point at the top of this hill — that must be a view of Crater Lake! I picked up my pace, finally pulling into the view-point parking lot. I leaned my bike against a rock and rushed up to the guardrails. Wow!

A rocky cliff
Llao Rock, with magma line.
Emma Wimmer

I snapped a few photos and continued around the East Rim Drive, a steep, partial-dirt road (due to construction) before it returned to pavement. Good thing some of my training rides were on dirt! I looped around, stopping at most of the lookouts and finally reached Crater Lake Lodge, where I spotted some of my group locking their bikes! We headed out to the deck and sat down in rocking chairs — a great view of the lake and a great feeling of accomplishment after that climb! The best part was knowing that the next day, I didn’t have to ride my bike at all. 

On the layover day, I did a boat tour and swam in the lake (brr). The boat tour really gave a great perspective!

Blue lake with green undertones
Looks just a few feet deep, right? Wrong — the guide told us it was about 20 to 30 feet deep here!
Emma Wimmer
Tall spires of rocks jutting out of water.
Phantom Ship Island
Emma Wimmer

The water in the lake is so clean, our guide refilled water bottles toward the end of the tour. 

The next morning, we enjoyed our last breakfast together and loaded up our bikes. Then, we started out, looking forward to an easy last day!

A curvy, sometimes steep and beautiful descent lead me to the last gift shop. I stopped and watched a video about Mount Mazama and Crater Lake. Then I descended further to get my last look at another geological phenomenon, the Pinnacles.

Rocky slope with occasional evergreen trees.
Emma Wimmer

Beyond that, we eventually got down into farm country. There was some smoke from a nearby wildfire, but it was great otherwise — nice and flat! It even reminded me of the Bitterroot Valley back home! 

A group of cyclists bike on a hazy day.
Welcome to fire season!
Wally Werner

At the end of the ride, we were shuttled back to Eugene. I hugged my new friends goodbye, and Becca and I headed up to Portland to stay with a friend before our long drive back the next day.

Now that I’ve been home for a month and reminiscing about my tour, I can’t wait for next year. Where will I go? Another inn-to-inn tour? Maybe I’ll be in a camping mood and go for one of our self-contained tours. I have all winter to dream of my next tour. And before I get ahead of myself … if I can find a way to sneak out of the office for a week or two … maybe I’ll finish out the year with a nice fall tour!

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