Everyone cherishes some images permanently burned into memory like a tattoo. So many fill my head I find it impossible to rank them. Without question, Crater Lake reigns as one of them.
A scintillating peach sunrise peeked in and out among the thick forest ridges on the drive into Crater Lake National Park on a spectacular late summer morning, the temperature hovered right at the freezing mark — my body yearned to soak in those warming rays.
Never one to follow the masses, I chose to begin my ride around the rim of Crater Lake with a demanding climb from the Steel Visitor’s Center to the Rim Village, climbing from 6,450 feet to 7,694.
Good morning Crater Lake!
Layered up for a long day in the saddle starting in the near freezing shade of towering Douglas Firs, I stripped off my outer shell in just five minutes into the sunny climb.
By the time I reached the summit on the verge of overheating, I was breathless from the simply stunning view that unfolded before me as I rolled to the edge of the ridge and gazed out across the stunning blue lake with Wizard Island bathed in the soft morning light.
Can it get any better than this?
I uncovered the answer over the course of the next four hours: a resounding yes.
Among the many aspects of Ride the Rim around Crater Lake that make this one of the most memorable rides imaginable, the ability to literally chart your own course just might be the most intriguing.
Two days a year, September 9th and 16th this year, Crater Lake National Park closes its East Rim to vehicles and allows a stress free journey of endless angles and light tones shaping unforgettable images of one of America’s most scenic destinations.
The East Rim makes up 25 miles of the route that circles the lake. To make a complete revolution requires eight more miles with traffic. You can opt for that or hop a shuttle to avoid vehicles completely.
The park started this offering a few years back. After two years of just closing off the East Rim for a free-for-all, Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau teamed up with the park staff to create a unique event.
Although it is free with no mass start and the ability to come and go as you please, the ride offers five rest stops and almost all the amenities of a paid ride. They suggest a $10 donation. It’s worth far more than that.
Back to my strategy.
While many opted to begin near the North Junction and started with the long seven-mile descent, I decided to climb that first and avoid descending with traffic on the narrow roads with no guardrails. Thus, the challenging climb.
No matter which direction you take or when you decide to begin your ride, it unveils endless spectacular views of Crater Lake. The climbs and descents are long and gradual as opposed to hard intervals.
You will climb. The whole 33-mile route has 3,500 feet of climbing. But what goes up, must come down. So it felt as though each climb was rewarded with a long, fast descent.
My wife Debbie and I first cast our gaze on Crater Lake more than 25 years ago. The prospect of soaking in the rim on bike seemed like an unattainable dream. I just don’t put myself in sketchy situations on my bike, no matter what the reward might be.
Riding the rim with tourists in mammoth RVs distracted by killer views around every corner just never seemed to be a safe bet for me. To ride it sans cars?
Memory of a lifetime.
Time to ride.