Crater Lake Tour
via Washington and Oregon Coasts
The Route, at a glance…
Sidney, Port Angeles, La Push, Westport, Astoria, Reedsport, Roseburg, Crater Lake, Eugene, Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Whidbey Island, Fidalgo Island, Sidney
July 20th to August 6th, 2003 – 1670 kms
For quite some time now, I’ve had a real urge to revisit the scenic Oregon Coast, where some superb cycle touring abounds. But I didn’t want to repeat a whole previous trip there, where for the most part, I followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s (ACA) Pacific Coast route. What to do, what to do? I wasn’t really enthralled with the ACA route through Washington State, so the motivation here would be to follow the Pacific coast in Washington State as much as possible – basically riding Highway 101 with a few detours. Then the Oregon coast – but not the whole way to the California border again…
I had heard that Crater Lake in southern Oregon was a spectacular site to see, and who could resist riding around the caldera of a volcano at an altitude of over 7,000 feet – certainly not yours truly! So after a quick confab with Basil, the decision was made and a visit to Oregon’s only National Park was to be my destination.
As on a previous tour down the coast, on the return trip, I decided to take the Amtrak train from Eugene to Seattle. I love trains, so an excuse to include one in a section of my bicycle tour was definitely in the cards!
I’ll mention here that I have only added a few photos throughout this blog post of my bicycle tour to Crater Lake, Oregon, but all my images from this trip are available for viewing by clicking this link.
I took along my Pocketmail device again, and what follows are basically the edited e-mail messages that I sent home to family and friends…
Day 1 – July 20th – Sidney to Fairholme Campground – 82 kms
An uneventful ride and with the ferry trip from Victoria to Port Angeles, Customs inspection etc. it made for quite a long day. Very nice scenery though, especially the last 18 kms riding alongside the stunningly deep blue waters of Lake Crescent. This was a very narrow section of Highway 101 and there were warning signs for cyclists to be wary of heavy traffic and advisories as to the absence of shoulders in places. There was even a flashing light to activate which warned motorists as to the presence of cyclists on the road – the light flashes for one hour, which was about the time it took to negotiate that lakeside section on my loaded bike. In actual fact, I found that the shoulder was OK, albeit narrow, all the way around the lake, – I’ve ridden on worse roads – much worse!
Fairholme campground is at the west end of Lake Crescent and is a good choice for tonight’s camp. I’m lakeside with an excellent view and quiet neighbours. I guess that a lot of campers left today, as it is Sunday evening and some unfortunate people have to work for a living 😉 – leaving the campground half full with choice spots for the likes of me – and Basil!
Whilst I was cooking up some dinner, a young lad and a couple of his siblings paid me a visit. They were from a neighbouring campsite and this young fellow was a dead ringer for Harry Potter. He was about 12 years old going on 25 and he started telling me which ferns could stop an itch or relieve a sting and a whole plethora of other botanical information, while his younger siblings listened on. He was definitely a smart one and I guess he was glad of a new audience, namely me! He was pretty good company though, but his partners soon got bored with his diatribe, so they jumped at a chance to leave when I started shovelling food down my gullet!
Basil’s happy to be roadworthy again, as am I; I just hope the weather stays nice for the remainder of this trip – although I’m looking up at a dark cloud right now!
Oh well, I’ll think that I’ll check out the small grocery here at the camp – I’m in the States now, so I should be able to purchase a refreshing beverage there for my desert!
Day 2 – July 21st – Fairholme Campground to
Mora Campground – 94 kms
I awoke to a very peaceful and quiet campground, the sun was just coming up over the lake and I managed to snap a photo of a couple paddling their canoe as they glided by – very picturesque.
After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, banana and a cup of tea, I packed up and exited Fairholme campground to a welcome from a 3 km hill – well at least my legs were awake after that even if I wasn’t! But after that I had a nice tailwind and a clear sunny sky to help me pass the miles away – that is me and the scores of logging trucks on the roads today. But that’s understandable, as I was amazed by how many clear-cuts I rode through and saw today – and people complain about logging practices in BC, they should have a gander here in Washington State!
Second breaky was at the Hungry Bear cafe just outside Sappho. I know why the bear got hungry – he had to wait as long as I did for the food to arrive! Nevertheless, it was worth the wait.
Shortly after Sappho, I left Highway 101 and headed west on 110, all the way to La Push on the Washington coast. La Push is more or less all Indian Reserve with the locals trying to make a go of a resort there. There was some nice looking condo type accommodations together with some cabins. However, the RV park didn’t really seem suitable/inviting for tenting, so I nixed the idea of staying the night there. I might add that it was foggy, windy and cold which probably had a lot more to do with my decision to backtrack a bit and camp at Mora campground in the Olympic National Park. It was exciting though to see and hear the wild surf of the Pacific whilst I was at La Push – very much like the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Mora campground is about 3 kms from Rialto Beach – another wild and desolate coastal area. The single hiker/biker site was probably the best site in the campground – a nice grassy, sunny spot on the river – unfortunately a couple who walked in (from their car in the parking lot) snagged it mere minutes before I found it – oh well, I found some dirt in another site to make my home for the night! After I pitched my tent and cleaned up, I rode down to the beach. There was some fog there too, but it was still well worth the visit to see all the massive pieces of driftwood and the strong waves washing up onto the shore there.
I was quite chilly at the cold and windy beach, so when I returned to the campground, I cooked up a whole wheat macaroni and cheese delicacy, Snickers bar for desert and cup o’ tea with a shot of brandy – that put me right! Cleaned up and then off to my warm sleeping bag to read my book for a while.
By the way, Basil was very happy today, we rode through a small town called “Beaver.”
Day 3 – July 22nd – Mora Campground to Quinault Lake – 131 kms
The only direction to go this morning was to retrace my route on Highway 110 back to Highway 101. There was a heavy mist to ride in all the way to Forks, where the sun started to peek through the coastal fog. I did spot four huge deer on the way who seemed a little jittery, but ran alongside the road in some short scrub bush keeping pace with my pedalling – beautiful to experience that! As soon as I stopped to try to pull my camera out, they shot off into the denser bush! I also rode through some more clear-cuts just outside the boundary of the park – there really seems to be a lot of indiscriminate logging in this part of Washington State.
I devoured a second breaky in Forks, picked up a few groceries and headed south on 101. After quite a few miles of inland riding, the road veered back towards the coast. Then I enjoyed some spectacular views of isolated and expansive sand beaches with large waves that are predominant on this coast – very much like Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Queets was the next stop (ice-cream stop!), then the road headed inland once more towards Quinault Lake. Once again I passed through many areas decimated by clear-cuts, but funnily enough, where I am camped – Willaby Campground on the lake – I am amongst some old growth trees that are simply massive. Some are six or seven feet across at base! And it certainly looks like this area was never seriously logged. It’s part of the National Forest now, so I guess the chainsaws will be silent here.
The ride was pretty average, a little roly-poly, but no major hills. Winds were fickle, but I got a nice tailwind towards the end of the ride, just when I needed it – the weather was getting pretty hot by then and I had been spoiled earlier by the cool breezes off the Pacific Ocean. Inland here at Quinault Lake it is much hotter and as soon as the sun begins to set, I know that my buddies, the mozzies, will take flight. There’s a fair contingent of them here already, so even though it’s still warm I’ll have to cover up – shame really! But at least I got a fairly nice site here, as I was lucky enough to be a bit early – the place filled up rapidly shorter after my arrival!
I walked about a mile down the lakeside trail to use the phone there at the Lodge and found a store adjacent to the resort – Mmmm, cold beer! That’s one thing that I really enjoy about the States is the ability to buy a beer in the grocery store of gas station – handy for travellers like me that only want to buy one or two. The only downside is that it seems that a lot of the beer is being consumed by drivers – I must pass an empty beer can in the ditch every 100 feet here – on all the roads that I have travelled! Kinda disconcerting when you’re a cyclist – sharing the road with drinking drivers!
Day 4 – July 23rd – Quinault Lake to Grayland Beach SP – 95 kms
Another foggy ride after my breakfast for a couple of hours until the sun burnt off the Pacific mist, then all was well. The bulk of the ride today was through forested areas and more clear-cuts. But again, once I reached the coast the scenery improved dramatically. I joined the coast at Copalis Beach, which is a depressed small town even with the advantage of having some stunning beaches – very windy though. A lot of places were boarded up and few businesses remain. Perhaps it is because a few miles further down the highway, Oyhut and Ocean Shores have become the destination for many resort seekers – quite a strip there, with lot of stores, restaurants, motels etc. – very vibrant, but still a very windy oceanfront town. At least the winds are pushing me south when I’m on the coastal roads – which I should be on for a while now.
NOTE: As of 2008, the following described passenger ferry is no longer in service, with no future plans to reinstate the service. Apparently the harbour requires extensive dredging at too high a cost for the local government to bear. It’s a shame as this was a great scenic shortcut to beaches farther south. Now one must reroute through Aberdeen to reach the Grayland Beach area.
I took the passenger ferry from Ocean Shores to Westport – what with today’s winds it was quite the ride in a forty-five foot boat. We did some good rocking and rolling for about thirty minutes – Basil got his sea legs today!
The ferry docked right at the town of Westport, which is a busy little town with all manner of stores and services. I poked around there for a little while and consumed a snack or two before continuing the short ride south to Grayland Beach State Park.
I arrived at the State Park here to a full campground, but the three hiker/biker sites (“primitive” as they call them here) were empty. Primitive is a good word – “Mosquito Junction” is a better one! Talk about bush camping – well beggars can’t be choosers eh? And at least they have showers here – Basil was beginning to smell a bit ripe after three days and no shower!
A small bonus too – previous campers left some firewood, so I splurged by lighting a small campfire to sit by, savour my nightcap and smoke out the mozzies!