Imagine an 11-day bicycle trip with 24 friends enjoying Lane and Douglas counties, the North Umpqua River, Crater Lake and beyond.
That was our recent Wild Oregon and Crater Lake Bike Ride. My husband, Marty, and I designed and led this Bicycle Adventure Club trip to showcase our spectacular part of Oregon.
On day one we gathered in the gold-level bicycle-friendly city of Eugene, where early arrivals warmed up their bicycling legs on the bike paths along the Willamette River.
Day two’s ride started in Eugene and finished in Cottage Grove (44 miles and 2,100 feet of climbing). We rode through fertile valleys and along timber ridges. A highlight was the King Estate Winery off Territorial Road. The views were worth the climb past plum orchards and fields of lavender to the estate grounds, not to mention the gourmet food and the wine.
The climbing continued on day three from Cottage Grove to Sutherlin (48 miles, 2,300 feet of climbing). We started off along the western shore of Cottage Grove Lake. The lake sits in the rolling hills of the lower Willamette Valley and provides habitat for bald eagles, osprey, waterfowl and songbirds. Our lunch stop was at the Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park. The park features a historic working ranch, old growth Douglas fir and wildflower-filled meadows.
On day four riders had their choice of loop rides from Sutherlin. Many chose the out-and-back ride along Hubbard Creek Road, where they relished the beautiful rolling scenery, vineyards, orchards and forest. Wildlife sightings included turkey, osprey, deer, fox, and not-so-wild creatures like alpaca, llama, peacocks and sheep dogs in training. Some riders chose a 44-mile ride featuring the Rochester Covered Bridge over the Calapooya Creek and the bucolic Tyee Road skirting the Umpqua River. The design of the Rochester Bridge, built in 1933, is unique among Oregon covered bridges, featuring windows with curved tops.
All routes were designed to lead to lunch at the Lighthouse Bakery and Café in Umpqua, where hearty sandwiches, salads, homemade lemonade, pastries and Umpqua ice cream are served. It was well worth a long stop after a morning’s ride.
Day five dawned with an unseasonably hot weather forecast, so we got an early start on our 47-mile ride beginning with North Bank Road and heading to Steamboat. Everyone was fascinated by Colliding Rivers in Glide, where Little River and the North Umpqua River meet head-on. One of our favorite spots was the Tioga Bridge, rebuilt in 2013 since being wiped out in the North Umpqua flood of 1964 and now giving access to miles of hiking trails. We all arrived at Steamboat Inn before the heat of the day and relaxed overlooking the river. Jumping salmon provided additional entertainment.
Day six was a day to do something different in our hideaway among the majestic pine trees and the rushing sound of the river. Some hiked the Mott or Panther segments of the Nrth Umpqua Trail and others went rafting. North Umpqua Outfitters treated us to a wet, wild, wonderful ride filled with brilliant blue skies, green canyons, rapids and wildlife. Three of us went involuntarily into the 56-degree water.
Many of us rose with the sun in Steamboat on day seven to beat the heat on this 41-mile steady climb of nearly 5,000 feet to Diamond Lake with stops at Tokatee, Watson, Whitehorse and Clearwater Falls. The short walks were a welcome change from the pedaling and the mists were cooling and refreshing.
Our ride on day eight started out from the scenic shores of Diamond Lake. After a steady climb (22 miles, 2,600 feet) with stunning views, we reached the high point of the tour — Crater Lake. The views from the 7,100-foot-high rim awed the first-time viewers of this spectacular natural wonder. Half of the riders added the 33 miles, 3,900-foot Rim Ride, named by many as one of the top 10 rides in the world. Others saved that ride for the next day.
A layover day at beautiful Crater Lake Lodge offered hiking, a boat tour around the lake or the trolley tour that circumnavigates the lake with a park ranger to narrate the natural history of the area. Crater Lake is the deepest lake (1,943 feet) in the U.S. and is considered to be the cleanest body of water in the world. The deep blue lake sits regally in a caldera formed 7,700 years ago by the violent eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama.
On day 10 we left Crater Lake and headed for Klamath Lake. The forest gradually changed from mountain hemlock and lodge pole pine to Douglas fir and ponderosa pine at the lower elevations. Riders were seen to be sniffing the ponderosa pine to see if it really smelled like vanilla. We descended almost 3,000 feet in the first 20 miles, leaving Crater Lake National Park and entering the Winema National Forest for a final day of riding in unspoiled wilderness. Lunch was at Rocky Point Resort lakeside of Klamath Lake, the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi. After approximately 400 miles we finished our ride at the Running Y Ranch Resort.
Day 11 was an Amtrak Coast Starlight train ride back to Eugene with our bikes as baggage. The train ran along Klamath Lake, treating us to a remarkable variety of ducks, pelicans, egrets and shore birds, views of Mount Thielson (9,182 feet) and Mount Scott (8,929 feet).
The passenger cars climbed over the Cascades with greater ease than we had on our bikes.