I've done a middling job of writing in a space for me, of trying to upkeep a log of memories. It seems that each year I live more and more but find personal writing drifting to the edges. I intend amends to me. Let me write and keep a space for living in thought.
The fire of Janna's Achilles combined with my re-inflamed left knee brought us to an early close on the Great Parks North route. After a brief return to Arizona to clean our gear and check-in at school, we head back out. Last summer, we rode the Sierra Cascades Route. Due to the record-setting heat domes, we got only as far north as Lake Tahoe (still about 1,000 miles) before we called it good enough. However, there were a few National Parks we didn't get a chance to ride through. With several weeks of summer ahead of us still, we make some last minute reservations and head back on the road to ride and hike through Crater Lake National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
We cross the sun-baked heart of summertime Nevada to arrive at one of our favorite Eastern Sierra towns - Lee Vining. We camp at Mono Lake RV Park which provides the same glorious tent-camping experience as we had on the Sierra Cascades. From there, we make our way to Crater Lake. Due to the late season snows, much of the campground, even in July, is still closed due to snow drifts. I was fortunate to grab a cabin reservation in the park.
We drop our stuff and head up to the rim proper. The water color is absolutely mind-blowing. I've never sapphire and known its shade until this moment. The crystal clear, deep, exosphere-shade lake captures our eyes endlessly. It is as epic as I enthralled my expectations with. Janna and I spread our dinner picnic style along a rim section and eat to the golden light of aging sun.
Post-dinner, we hike past the historic Crater Lake Lodge along a paved trail that becomes dirt. We meander up a climb that takes us to Garfield Peak. We get close to summiting but decide to turn-around as night crawls softly along the horizon. The hike was impromptu and we didn't bring our headlamps. But the blue-shift of lake shine and sun angle is too capturing to release me. We stand and watch as dusk escapes the edge of Earth to swallow the sky.
The next day, we wake up, eat some oatmeal and put strap food and water to our bikes for an all-day ride around the circumference of Crater Lake. Almost a third of the route is currently closed to cars due to snow and road damage. To bikes, it is completely open. We leave from our cabin at Mazama Village and start a relatively car-free climb up Munson Valley Road. The strategy is to avoid the climb at the end by taking on the ~1.5 k feet of climbing to start. We merge onto the West Rim Drive to a brilliant morning where the lake maintains its atmospheric blue that cuts the eyes and makes you stare.
We head west around the lake and decide it obligatory to stop at every possible viewpoint of the lake. At the overlook nearest Wizard Island, a grand piano is setup and a classical pianist is playing vigorously. Apparently this guy travels to the parks and is a big draw for his outdoor pieces. We just happen to be there at the right time and have most of his music to ourselves and Wizard Island. Continuing west, we parallel the edge and snow-clung peaks as the Pacific Crest Trail and its myriad of thru-hikers (mostly SoBo) intersect with us.
The views outwards from the Lake are equally enthralling. Sprawling north and south are peaks near and distant of other Cascade Range volcanoes. At one overlook we stop as a law enforcement ranger cordons it off. It turns out that Kamala Harris's husband is coming through anytime to do a piece on the Park and climate change. We continue on and merge with the East Rim Drive. Traffic begins to fade as we approach the far-north end of the lake and the imminent gate closure to motor vehicles. We pedal on and suddenly a series of Secret Service SUVs come down the road in a long train carrying the Vice-President's husband.
After the motorcade we go around the vehicle gate and have the entire highway to ourselves for the next couple of hours. Just well-paved surface, gorgeous climbing, distant snowy peaks, sapphire water, and perfect temps. We run into one other set of cyclists who biked up here in order to leave their bikes to climb the highest peak in the park. After seeing them, we take the side-route to Cloudclap, the highest road-point in the park at just under 8000 feet in elevation. We linger here, enjoying perfect temps at a spot that bills itself as rare to calm; typically, this spot has tremendous winds that scour the landscape and chases visitors quickly back to their vehicles. Only accessible a few weeks out of the year, today, we have it to ourselves in utter calm.
We venture back south and arrive at the Phantom Ship Trailhead. We stash our bikes behind the south-side gate and hike the loop out to the Phantom Ship Overlook. View-satiated, it's back on the bikes and South toward Mazama Village once more to complete the loop. I am thoroughly stoked by this ride that has sat in my desire-list for some time. Janna and I drop our bikes, take some showers at our cabin, and then drive back up to the Crater Lake Lodge area to eat our dinner once more along the rim in addition to heading over to the Visitor Center.