Crater Lake came into my life unexpectedly when a road trip spontaneously got extended. With the gift of extra time, my husband James and I found ourselves in the lovely little town of Bend. Our location, the fact that we had our bikes with us, and our love for craft beer all resulted in our stay in a place that we had never heard of, and quickly fell in love with.
Bend was so amazing, and I definitely want to go back. Many a cycling adventure we found, including the ride up Mt. Bachelor. As the week went on, James mentioned a place called Crater Lake. He really wanted to go, but it was a 2 hour drive. Since we were already all the way in Bend, and it was only a couple more hours, I assured him it made sense to go. I really felt that if he was drawn to this place, then we should check it out. I had no idea what an absolutely amazing experience it would be.
Crater Lake is a lake at the bottom of a volcano. It is completely untouched, thus absolutely pristine. A road circles the top circumference. The stars completely aligned for us. Part of this road is closed to traffic for a certain portion of the year due to the amount of snow. It just so happened that when we were there, the snow levels had been high, and thus, the road was closed a little later into the year than usual. What a cyclist’s dream, to bike along a closed road!!! What an even bigger dream to bike along a road of this caliber and beauty.
We wound our way up to the start of the road, parked the Subaru, geared up, and off we went. The ride was one of the most peaceful experiences I had ever had on my bike. Although there was a lot of snow, the road itself was clear. There were spots where walls of snow surrounded us.
I did not have my best day. The whole trip I had been experiencing a very high level of inconsistency with my riding. Fitness, health, and anxiety all played parts in this. The day of Crater Lake, I did not feel very strong. I struggled, I struggled a lot. I experienced thoughts of frustration and yearned for my body to be as strong as it had been on other rides. As I chose to focus on thoughts of trust in my body to get through the ride, any doubt and negativity simply couldn’t stick in my mind.
The beauty surrounding me was breath taking. There was absolutely no way that I wasn’t going to finish this ride. The road was a big circle around the crater. Thus once we got far enough in, there was no turning back. I don’t think there would have been any turning back after the first pedal stroke. I didn’t know if I would ever get the opportunity to ride this road again. I was not going to miss out on this, and I definitely was not going to cause James to miss out on this hidden gem. Sometimes you simply have to go with the moment, seize the opportunity, and do what you can while you can.
When we got to the start of the section of road that was closed off we past the barrier and were immediately engulfed in peace. So quiet. Just us and nature. It was truly soothing to the soul to be swept away in the peace of pure nature. James, as on many other occasions, was extremely patient with me. It was not my strongest nor fastest day. And we had to stick together as it was just us and the wild animals. We didn’t encounter anything, but, James has taught me that you stick together in these environments.
About half way through the ride, we encountered a turn off. We weren’t exactly sure where it went, but, we decided we should explore it. Why wouldn’t we? We chose to take in everything about the moment, and go up the extra turn off. It was the best decision we ever could have made. We found ourselves at the end of this turn off, perched up at the top of the crater, looking down into the most perfect lake I had ever seen. Untouched. Undisturbed. Perfect clear blue. It was nothing less than completely breath taking. We felt every part of our beings completely calm and at one with the earth.
As the ride continued, I struggled more and more. Once we reached the end of the closed off section, James was able to stretch his legs a little. As we got close to the end, we encountered a series of switchbacks. I had to dig deep within and convince myself to simply relax and put one foot in front of the other. Even when you think you have nothing left, you can always find more. So I did.
Soon enough, my pain was rewarded. As we basked in the sun on a patio and sipped a cool drink, everything in me relaxed. It had been a hard day for me – I wasn’t on par physically. But it had also been one of the most amazing and beautiful experiences I had ever had on my bike.
Crater Lake is a hidden gem. It is a complete treat for anyone who gets to experience it, and provides a good dose of medicine for the soul.