Snow in September?

Birds chirped and saws buzzed as Lindsay and I woke in the Diamond Lake campground to the maintenance crew building new tables.  Just as we had all of our stuff packed up a Ranger came to tell us we couldn’t camp there and needed to keep on moving.  He tried to tell us of the hiker/biker camps and we told him thank you for the help but secretly we were thinking, “Haha sucker.  We just camped for free right under your nose!”  Free camping again.  Oh, what a life it is to travel and sleep for free.  Come to think of it, its kinda strange that we are charged for a place to sleep in the first place (on second-thought, it is pretty easy to find free [and legal] camping spaces so I recant my statement).

We were planning on a climb, but of no more than 1,000 feet.  We were already somewhere around 5,000 feet and my Gazetteer puts Crater Lake at around 6,000 feet.  It was a damp, drizzly day so we once again put our rain gear to the test and rode along 138.  The slope was much easier to handle.  Nothing was too extreme and separated us.  However, there was much more traffic as we were got closer to Crater Lake.  We got to the main gate and were immediately angered.  It costs $5 per bike going to Crater Lake.  It costs $10 for a car.  If you have a group of three people it is more economical for you to take a car to Crater Lake and endanger the natural beauty of Crater Lake.  The car costs the park more, threatens visitors’ and fauna’s lives more, causes all kinds of pollution, and a whole bunch of other dumbness.  We were silently enraged.  I really wanted to talk to someone about it, and may do with a strongly written email.

After just being reminded of my anger, I just did write an email.

We have to go up there?

Once you get past the gate you peer up at a large, steep climb.  We thought that was the end of the climb.  It was just the first part.  Pines lined us on both sides and hid the true ascent from us.  And then all of a sudden it broke clear and a pumice desert lay before us.  I really wish I had taken better pictures because it was astounding.  We were both confused by the red rocks and how they were there in between two different forests.  Of course, it is left over lava from Mt. Mazama’s eruption, but we didn’t know about that at the time.  We headed for the peak which wound and twisted its way up.  Further and further it climbed.  So many times I thought I was done only to find the mountain had more.  To give you an idea of how steep it was, the lip of Crater Lake actually etches over 7,000 feet.  At the base I think you are just over 5,500 feet.  We had about 5 miles to cover that climb.  It was brutal, not only because of the grade, but also because it was freezing.  As we got higher and higher it got colder, windier and wetter.  It was miserable.  I realized that I do not have all of the cold and rain gear that I need for my trip yet.

Not quite at the top yet

The fog rolled up the mountain beside us and rose from the pumice like a ghost from its grave.  Much more of the cold pedaling and I would join with my own fresh grave.  We finally got to the top and ran behind some trees to hide from the wind.  Immediately the temperature rose at least 10 degrees.  The vastness and height of Crater Lake is a sight for reckoning.  I have lived in Oregon since I was 6 and had never seen the lake.  It was truly spectacular.  Unfortunately it looked like this.

A fleeting moment when you can see the other lip.

I’m glad I got to see it, but it would have been better if the weather had cooperated.  But I am not allowed to think this way anymore.  From here on out I am heading to places where I may not be able to return again for a very long time and so need to cherish the moment I have.  So, Crater Lake was good.  There, postitivity.  Actually the best part, was the scariest part.  Lindsay and I decided to go to the lodge to get some hot chocolate or something, anything, just-get-out-of-the-goddamn-cold, we-don’t-need-a-reason and headed into the fog.  It was a roller-coaster ride of dips and climbs, turns and narrow bridges.  There was a spot barely wide enough for two cars that had 30 foot drops on either side with no shoulder!  It was harrowing and exhilirating.  My eyes were nearly closed to block out the blinding cold that was mixed with my speed, the rain, wind, and snow.  Snow!  Holy shit it was great to grip so tight and trust my life on my ability to guide myself and my bike through those awful conditions.

I barely made it to the lodge alive.  My skin had greyed due to frostbite, my eyelashes were frozen together and my tongue was stuck as hard as a popsicle out the side of my mouth like Air Jordan dunking on some fool.  When I arrived there was a tour support van.  Two guides were loading some really fancy bikes onto its roof.  They told me that their pack didn’t ride today because the hill was too steep and too cold.  I would like to say that I was modest and sympathized with the losers but instead I scoffed and inflated my head with two quick pumps of my portable pump that I keep stashed in my panniers that I biked all the way up the mountain with all the rest of my gear.  Of course I didn’t say it out loud.  I learned that the guides go to Hawaii in the winter and spend the summer in the Northwest.  I want a job for them someday so I played it cool.  By the time I was finished talking with the tour guides, Lindsay still was not back.  She was still winding her way around the rim.  But she couldn’t be ten minutes behind me.  I wasn’t going that fast.  I got very worried.  There were some pretty tight spots and it was nearly impossible to see.  After about 15 minutes I hopped on my bike to try and find her when she fortunately decided to show her face.

We sat by the gas-burning plastilogs of the fire at the lodge and drank beer and ate sandwiches that we made inside the restaurant of the lodge.  The staff was cool and let us save some money to do this.  They even let me use their telephone to call the ranger to see where to camp.

“Hey Ranger, where can I camp?” I asked him over the telephone.

“Well, Jordan,” he said to me.  “You can camp at this place and that place for free but you have to come three miles down the steep mountain and sign this registry.”

“Is there anyway that I can just tell you and not have to ride down and then back up the big, steep mountain and just camp up here anyway?”

“No,” he replied very succinctly.  “You need to sign the registry.  But if you do decide to go against the rules I would recommend this place, Jordan.”

“Gosh, thanks Ranger.”

That was all verbatim.  But he really did give me advice on how to break the rules.  It didn’t matter because the wind was supposed to drop the temperature below 30 and we didn’t have any dry firewood.  There was no way I was going to freeze to death on top of Crater Lake.  Not without a decent view anyway.  We hopped on our bikes and decided we would buy some firewood from Mazama campground ($19 a site!).  On our way down we passed the staff dormitories and the ranger station.  I decided to stop there and ask where was a good spot to camp along the Pacific Crest Trail.  I zipped past Lindsay and (I just need to say that SOU students do not understand the concept of a library.  They are talking loudly to each other and answering their cell phones for crying out loud!) told her that I was going to speak to the Ranger.

The rangers name was Jim Carrey.  He didn’t have a rubber face but he did know his stuff about the park.  When I asked him where to camp he told me to go to the Sno-Park that had just opened.  It was a free lodge with a wood stove, electricity and free firewood.  Well, alrighty then, Ranger Jim Carrey!  I left the station and couldn’t find Lindsay.  I called her name and but she was gone.  I couldn’t believe that she would just bail on me and leave without me.  I bolted down the hill to see if I could catch her and came to the PCT trailhead where we had discussed camping.  I pulled out my phone and saw I had no coverage and wondered where the hell she could be.  Then, to make matters worse while I scrambling to figure out what to do, I get a bloody nose.  Was she ahead of me?  Was she behind me?  Was she already on the trail I thought to myself while I bled all over my moustache.  I stood there licking it out while I car drove by.  I probably looked like a deranged murderer fresh from the kill on the discreet PCT.

Just as I was about to give up hope Lindsay rolled her way back up to where I was.  She had left thinking I had abandoned her.  Everything was cool so we boogied fast to get to the lodge (about 9 miles away) before dark.  It was fast!  We averaged about 35 mph zooming down along the gorgeous Annie Creek Gorge.  I really wish I had taken some photos.  The gorge is a tall one with a small creek winding through it and pillars lining the walls of it.  All the while there was a vivid pink sunset altering our perceptions.

No way…free lodging again?!

The lodge was perfect.  We got to dry out our wet stuff.  We were so warm we ate our dinner in t-shirts and there were really uninteresting Snowmobiling magazines to read.  Someone really needs to put some real literature in there.


So much space and wood.

Number of geeks being too loud in the SOU library: 3

Death-dodgings: 1 splendid one

Lindsay losings: 2

Miles: 40.3


One response to “Snow in September?

  1. Jordan,
    I met you at the BogStomp race in Arcata. I was shooting photos and we chatted a bit. Wish I would have spent more time with you about your travels. I do have one comment/opinion about staying at hiker/biker camps. I did a ride across the U.S. in 2002, and like you was staying where ever we could for free. I think we only paid maybe a dozen times or so for camping across the whole continent. However, with that said I must admit I am all about supporting the hiker/biker camps at State and National Parks. For one, our (California especially) budget is deteriorated and whatever someone can do to help save our public lands is all the more helpful. The fact that a park has even set aside a special section for non-motorized vehicles blows my mind. So a perspective from someone who spent a lot of nights under bridges, in the bushes of hospitals, under elementary school play things, etc. Have a safe journey out there. And check out some photos of the race here:

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