March 25, 2011
The phrase might sound trite and overused, but standing at the edge of Crater Lake in Oregon will "take your breath away."
For most visitors -- who arrive and travel around the lake in a car or motor home -- that phrase refers solely to the beauty of this national treasure. But for a much smaller and more fortunate group of travelers, the phrase will also relate to their lung capacity.
Crater Lake is along one of the Adventure Cycling Association's newest routes, the Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route, which takes cyclists on a stunningly beautiful, roller-coaster ride from the Canadian border to Mexican border. You can tackle it all in one swoop, or break it up into a series of smaller trips.
But however you do it, when you get to Crater Lake ... do the loop (also known as the Rim Drive).
Many bike travelers pass on it. They have been climbing mountain passes for weeks and the thought of a hilly, 33-mile side trip is daunting. The elevation profile looks like a silhouette of the Alps.
But resist the urge to skip it and move on. Take a day off if you need to. Find someone in the campground who will look after your gear and do the ride sans pannier or trailer. Then pedal one of the most scenic roads in America.
Folks may tell you the loop is best traveled in a clockwise direction. That advice is probably coming from visitors driving large motor homes, who can more easily pull into parking lots at scenic overlooks by traveling in this direction.
But you'll be on a bike. You don't need a large parking lot. So buck the trend and cycle counter-clockwise around this jewel. You'll have less traffic on your side of the road, and better light to snap photos like the one above.
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.