Posted by: Jack | August 21, 2008

Weekend Warriors? Sure, Why Not.

With Anna finishing up her first term at OHSU and myself not liking to go a month without some form of vacation, the two of us took a long weekend to flip a few goals off of the back burner. We hit the road before dawn on Friday and made a b-line for Crater Lake. Having visited winter before last for some snowshoeing, we had since been wanting to return after the snow melts to circumnavigate the crater on bike.

First sight of the lake is always breathtaking.

The rim road is approximately 33 miles around, a distance we’ve surpassed on numerous rides. However, few stretches of road offer such continuous and significant elevation change as can be seen in this elevation map (at the very bottom of the page). Still sporting my single-speed (great challenge for this ride but I wouldn’t recommend it) I was quite proud to have made it up every climb, some of them spanning five miles. And on the flip-side, we were rewarded with the longest and fastest descents we’ve ever experienced; often passing 40 mph powered by gravity alone (since my bike can only be pedaled up to about 25). One fallback of these exhilarating stretches was the swarms of recently hatched butterflies that clouded the skies. At 40 mph, a butterfly to the face feels like getting shot with a BB-gun (I’m guessing) and leaves an entirely unpleasant gooey, yellow smear. The bugs were so thick that when the occasional car passed, the machine-gun rattle of continuous impacts nearly drowned out the normal sound of the engine and tires.

The road frequently drops away from the rim and upon every return, we were certain the lake had become more blue. The photo below — though fairly uninteresting — demonstrates this well as it gives the illusion of looking at the sky rather than the water.

Though we had originally intended to take our time with this ride, the miles seemed to fly by. In no time at all we found ourselves passing the half way point, anxious to press on.

Our pace stayed strong and after an especially long climb, we hit the final descent back to the car. Goal #1 – complete.

Per recommendation from a classmate of Anna’s, our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just South of Bend. As it was already early evening, at the visitor center we asked to be put on a loop hitting as many must-see attractions as possible. First stop was the Big Obsidian Flow, an other-wordly (but not very photogenic), mile-long, 100+ foot deep landscape of obsidian and other volcanic rock.

Next we sought out a tiny hot-spring fed pool on the very edge of Paulina Lake to soak our sure-to-be-sore muscles. However, as the air temperature had risen into the 90s, the similarly hot water was only slightly relaxing.

Returning to the car we drove up to Paulina Peak to take in the view as the sun set beyond the Three Sisters, with Mts. Bachelor, Broken Top, Jefferson and Hood also in view.

Some time later we reached Soda Creek Campground and managed to take down some camp food — fresh salad, grilled salmon and steak, wine, chocolate — before passing out after a very long day.

Although setting up camp in the dark can be annoying, sometimes waking up to unexpected scenery — such as South Sister basking in the sunrise beyond a grassy meadow — is well worth it.

Right about here is when the well-planned portion of our weekend ended. As a result, we spent a majority of the morning seeking out a ranger station for the Three Sisters Wilderness only to find that its closed on weekends…yeah, I think that’s ridiculous too. So rather than some epic mountain summit, we found ourselves hiking for a few hours on the Tam McCarthur Rim Trail overlooking Three Creeks Lake, Broken Top and the Three Sisters.

After a refreshing/freezing dip in Three Creeks Lake we got onto a forest road marked as “Not Maintained for Passenger Vehicles” that would cut out about fifty miles of driving en route to our next camp. About ten miles and two hours later we were reconsidering our shortcut. Navigating stray boulders, straddling deep trenches and splashing through rivers was fun for a while but eventually grew very tiresome and stressful. Further dismaying was the discovery that in all the bouncing around, one pedal on my bike — which was mounted on a rack behind the car — relocated itself and had apparently been scraping against my trunk for some time.

Eventually we made it back out to the highway and found our way to Devil’s Lake Campground, the base camp of choice for those looking to summit South Sister…which is exactly what we intended to do. If you’re ever in this area, I strongly recommend this free campground but bring lots of bug repellent as the mosquitoes are terrible.

After an intense, dry lightning storm during the night, we rose early the next morning as a few hikers had told us that the trip to the summit was about six hours at a strong pace and we didn’t want to be climbing as the temperature peaked in the afternoon. The first stretch was a steep climb through thick forest right at the mosquitoes feeding time. Not especially fun. But it was not long before we came upon a flatter moraine area with open views of the summit ahead.

Starting in on the true climb to the summit, the trail became loose and extremely dusty but our ascent was steady and we soon decided that the six hour estimate we’d received was far from accurate. As we climbed past turquoise glaciel pools, the vistas grew more and more impressive, hindered somewhat by haze as a result of the many fires in northern California. We also spotted smoke from a fire no more than five miles away and after speaking with some climbers who spent the night at the summit, confirmed that it had been started by the previous night’s lightning.

After only 3.5 hours of hiking we reached the mountain’s crater where the trail splits to circle the rim.

Four hours from the trail head — almost to the second — we officially reached the highest point among the Sisters at 10,363 feet (10,366 for Anna).

Taking in the views and enjoying lunch, the sun soon grew too intense and we began our descent, breaking only once for a dip in Moraine Lake. The unplanned swim left me looking especially stylish, finishing the hike wearing only wet running shorts.

As you can see above, storm clouds began rolling in and we ended up spending much of the remaining day in the tent. In the spirit of car-camping not really being camping at all, we brought along a laptop and I was finally able to introduce Anna to Star Wars, She previously being the last remaining individual of our generation to have never seen any of the movies. She’ll hesitate to admit it, but she enjoyed it and is looking forward to the remaining five episodes.

The following morning we scrambled to clear camp during the first break in the rain and drove East to Bend. There we met Sarah — a classmate of Anna’s and resident of Bend — and her husband for an indulgent breakfast before Sarah took us on a relaxing 25 mile bike tour around Bend.

We intended to explore Smith Rock that afternoon as it fell along our route home, but by the time we arrived the weather had worsened and fatigue had set in. From the little we saw, it will definitely be a future destination.

I don’t generally like to be categorized or classified into common groupings…but if we find ourselves becoming Weekend Warriors, I suppose that’s alright.



  1. Terrific account of a challenging, fun adventure! Crater Lake is soooo beautiful!

  2. Hey, Jack, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, as you know, it’s bookmarked and I peek in once a week or so to see whether you’ve had any new adventures. This one sounds awesome, you put me and my fitness levels to shame!

    Dropped in for an unexpected peek today after coming across your name while reading the wikipedia entry for Lionel Terray, where it’s mentioned Jack Olsen had written a famous book inspired by an incident from Terray’s life. I nearly spurted coffee all over the keyboard, but on closer inspection found it was another Jack Olsen. Thought you might find it interesting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: