Resting at Crater Lake

We spent two full days, Sunday and Monday, at Crater Lake National Park. Sunday was absolutely a rest day. We barely had the energy to do a load of laundry, feed ourselves, and make some modifications to our bike/gear setups.  Before you judge us too harshly, please remember how far we’d come: 87 miles. Medford, Oregon, where we’d started, is at approximately 1400’ elevation, and Mazama Village is at 6000’.

We could say that we reveled in relaxing that first day, but we were to too tired to revel. Instead, we simply enjoyed it! Moving at half speed, we accomplished our chores, but we never sat still. And somehow, the day disappeared.

That’s the thing we’re finding about bicycle touring: it is so all-consuming – even rest days – that everything else in life falls away. Work disappears. Life’s regular “To Do” lists become irrelevant. Family drama fades to distant memory. Instead, we live in the moment: eat, sleep, pedal, navigate, camp. Life becomes so immediate: scenery, terrain, weather. There isn’t time to consider or dwell on the distant, and now immaterial, minutiae of daily life.

And that is the beauty of bicycle touring! One or the other of us would occasionally mention some issue going on in our lives back home and marvel about how little it mattered. It was like questioningly holding a long-forgotten item in our palms. We’d glance, almost puzzled, at the curiosity resting in our outstretched hands, and briefly comment on it’s surprising existence. It was a novelty, not something we were emotionally invested in. We’d mentally toss the object over our shoulders, out of sight and out of mind again.

Maybe, once we become “experts” at bicycle touring, and it’s no longer so physically and mentally challenging, we’ll once again get emotionally involved in the dramas of daily life. Perhaps that’s inevitable. Sure hope not, though. It was glorious living so fully present in the moment, even if at times the moment at hand was grueling.

The next day, we locked our bikes up behind some trees at our camp spot, rode the free shuttle up to the rim, and spent the day being tourists, sans bicycles.

Crater Lake National Park is the only national park in Oregon. The lake was created 7700 years ago when the volcano that used to be Mt. Mazama erupted in a ring around the mountain, destabilized the center, and caved in the top of the mountain rather than blowing it completely off. Still, the eruption was large enough to be felt across what would become 5 US states and 3 Canadian provinces. Over the next 500 years the lake filled to its current depth of nearly 2000 feet. It is the deepest fresh water lake in the US and the 7th deepest in the world. And because its only watershed is the caldera (the jagged remains of the mountain top), it is also one of the purest, most unpolluted water bodies in the world.

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A gorgeous view of Crater Lake

Crater Lake is spectacularly picturesque:  an intensely blue lake encircled by sheer cliffs rising almost 2000 feet above the surface of the lake.  At times, the water is so deeply blue and so still that it can be difficult to see where the mountain’s reflection ends and the shoreline begins. Jutting out of the lake is a tiny volcano called Wizard Island.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Crater Lake and Wizard Island through the treesWe took in an engaging Forest Ranger talk about the interesting, if limited, aquatic life of the lake. We ambled about, enjoying a slow day taking in the sites, sounds, and smells of the park as it prepares to shut down for the season in just a week or 10 days. The sun shone, but at that altitude, it wasn’t hot – the high was projected to be about 60 degrees. It felt warmer than that in the sun, but cooled immediately as soon as we moved into the shade. We stayed until mid-afternoon, when we caught the last shuttle back down to Mazama Village.

That evening we met our campground neighbors, Ad and Heidi, from Holland. Ad (aka “Ed”) is a physical therapist and Heidi is a hairdresser for cancer patients at the same hospital. Ad is an avid cyclist and has done an 8-day tour in Belgium and Holland. He offered to host us and even ride with us for a few days when we reach their area of the Netherlands. We’ll definitely take him up on that offer! Thanks Ad and Heidi!

Total mileage over the two days: 2 miles