Days 17-19: Crater Lake!

Day 17 miles 576-610
Woke up by the lake, took nugget for many walks. I walked him to the campground bathroom and back around the loop, when I came back joey took him for the same walk, then we walked him along the lake path to take one last look at our beautiful aqueous neighbor. Site D25 at Stewart State Park may be the most striking campsite to date. As we prepared to go we waved goodbye to the British tourists in the site next door (Rebecca and Garreth, lovely folk). We chatted with them last night and Ru of course made the rounds to sneak a little love from the other campsites. Can’t stop this ham.
We got back on the road and continued to go up up up, no stopping it. It was mostly gradual until the last 10 miles of the day, that section was more to business. Started at 2000 ended at 5000. Very big day.
One of the first towns we went through was Prospect. No, we didn’t call Craig. We stopped to get supplies at the only shop in town. I leaned my bike on an 8 foot tall bear carving that extended into benches on either side. The worn dark wood was very fur like in my opinion. The rest of the building was clap board and shingles but the bear gave it an air of authority. We met a couple friendly folk wanting to know about the dog and trip and such. They all had the same reaction when we said we were going to Crater Lake: “Oh wow you know there is snow up there, right?” Yes thank you we know and that’s half the reason we’re going.
We continue on and the afternoon was pretty rough. Once we got above 4000 the air started to get noticeably thinner and the going got steeper. As my mind was spinning a little things went from meh to worse. At one of our water breaks Joey and I kept having to chase Ru away from this clump of mushrooms. I identified forest fungus is poisonous thing numerous in my book. I guess we were too late though because about 15 minutes later Ru started drooling buckets and shaking. He started to really freak out and we let him out of the trailer just in time for him to empty his stomach onto the ground. Well actually it wasn’t empty because after a rest and some water and attention we tried to keep going only to stop for him to throw up every 20 minutes for the next hour and a half. I jumped to the worst possible conclusion, he had parvo and he was gonna die. My mental state went on down to anxiety town and I really didn’t come out for the rest of the night. Ru stopped throwing up and he kept his dinner down and has been normal and healthy since so I think he purged whatever it was.
We camped near a gorge made of basalt columns about 6 miles from the park entrance. The beauty was perhaps wasted on me because, having so narrowly escaped having my dog die of illness I now was convinced that he would trip and tumble down into the abyss conveniently located 6 ft from our tent.
We made burritos for dinner. Joey found chipotles in adobo at the store in prospect and so with a nod to our favorite PBS cooking host (Pati from Pati’s Mexican Table of course) we cooked up a spicy black bean mess and went to sleep.

Day18 miles 610-646
CRATER LAKE OH GOD BIG DAY. After a little bit of a rough start, we rode 6 miles to park entrance. This was by no means a lazy six miles but we knew it was not the steepest part of the day so we kept brave faces. We waited in line at the park entrance and bought an interagency pass. This will allow us to get into the rest of the national parks and recreation sites we are planning to visit for free instead of the necessary fee. Then we went to camp store had little luck. I guess we are pretty early in the season but most of the shelves were empty. I blame the private resort company crater lake contracts with. $6.75 for graham crackers. Jesus. We filled out water and prepared for the seven miles to the top. The 4 miles to the visitor center were very pleasant. The trees and the snow got thicker as we ascended. We stopped to use the bathroom and buy postcards at the visitor center. This is when we truly realized how many people were in the park that day. We were in the middle of at least two four-generation strong family groups, a youth program and 30 ish assorted visitors within minutes. We looked at each other and decided we needed to go as the crowd closed in. The 3 miles to the top were brutal. Switchbacks for ever, well really only 6. We had a nice conversation with a ranger about bike touring at a traffic stop. He told us about a friend of his that biked clockwise around the country and we bonded over the Upper Valley section of the AT. He had hiked it and it goes right through the Dartmouth campus do Joey and I got very familiar with the trails there during college. Pity about the drug bust or whatever that was causing the traffic stop though. They had stopped a Subaru with two twenty somethings and they were both out of the car looking nice out of it. The man was rubbing his hands on the snow bank next to the road and the woman was sitting on the ground looking at her feet.
We finally got to the top and the view was almost obscured by the huge crowds of people. The parking lot and road were made more cramped by the towering 15 ft snowballs lining every area. We got out of the main plaza and headed north around the west side of the rim road. We found a slightly less slammed pull out and admired the lake. My favorite part has always been the reflection of the sky in the lake below. On clear days like today it makes it look like you are on a mountain so tall you are looking over a horizon line down into the sky.
We wound along the rim road. It was wandering and at times quite narrow but the billions of national park visitors turned out to be quite cautious and courteous drivers. It was a day completely devoid of semis, delightful. We ventured up to the open section of the East Rim Road. The whole thing doesn’t open until July but there was a partially plowed section open for hikers and bikers after the turnoff for the north entrance. We found a private spot and let Ru romp in the snow. He had a fantastic time and joey is convinced he will be an excellent skiing dog.
We had a quick descent, averaging about 30mph over the next five miles. Then we chose a campsite off a forest service road and made a quick dinner and went to sleep. Good day. Long day.

Day 19 miles 646-685
Today was a light day to help us recover from yesterday’s exertion. We woke up late, Ru slept until 7:15! We hauled our bikes back up the sandy forest service road, found the dog treats that I thought I had lost the day before and popped back out on OR-138. After a very quick 9 miles we hit up a small cafe at a road junction for a muffin and some water refills. Then we continued on north on OR-97 toward Bend. We were still losing elevation and even through the thick of it we were able to maintain an average of 16mph throughout the day, our best average yet. We rolled into a little town named Chemult for supplies. The nicest woman ran he market and she made pleasant conversation with me as I littered through her wares.
We continued the 18 miles to our short term destination. I was struck at how warm and fuzzy the long straight road became. The fluffy band of non commital cloud above me faded into the red dirt kicked up by cars flying through the high desert of eastern Oregon. The road kind of faded in and out about a mile ahead. The road is straight and mostly flat most of the way to Bend and so today as we were zipping through I got a good idea of what a mile really looks like. Weird how distance can creep up on you like that when your only job all day every day is to cover it.
We arrived at the Big Pines RV Park and buzzed the bubbly but no nonsense owner, Faith. I can tell people have put her through some shit in the past because she made it very clear that the laundry facilities are for guests only and she needed to lock it up when I was done. Also the only negative Google review this place has showed a response from management (aka Faith) that discounted the claim above because “we have a zero tolerance policy when the police are called and we regret this was aired in a public forum.” Jeez.
We did laundry, drank some beers and decompressed. We had a long day yesterday and we are making our final push to Bend tomorrow. We needed the rest. We will take a rest day in Bend on Tuesday!!

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