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Lake Baikal pre-trip: south-central Oregon by tandem – part 1

Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 04:20 PM

Scenic of Baikal

Lake Baikal and Crater Lake have many things in common. Baikal is the deepest lake in the world, while Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  Both have been regarded as sacred sties, and are renowned for their beauty and breathtakingly cold water.  But while our trip to circumnavigate Lake Baikal on bicycle is a committing winter endeavor and still months away, a trip to ride around Crater Lake is a pleasant summer vacation that will only take us 9 days.  While our final goal is to ride around Crater Lake, we have planned our trip to include many of the hidden treasures and curious sights in south-central Oregon such as McKenzie Pass, Lava River Cave, and Hole in the Ground.

The starting point of the trip is Eugene, Oregon. From here we will ride to Oakridge and head north to highway 242 via the acclaimed Aufderheide memorial drive. This road travels first along the South Fork of the McKenzie River, then along the North Fork of the Willamette River, and finally through Box Canyon. We will ride over the red covered bridge in Westfir, the longest covered bridge in Oregon, built in 1945. Once we reach highway 242 we will ascend to the summit of McKenzie Pass.

At the summit of McKenzie pass we will visit the Dee Wright Observatory – an open shelter in the midst of a large lava flow. It is constructed entirely from rough black lava stones. If we are lucky we will be able to enjoy a view of many of the mountains in the area.  After the heights of McKenzie Pass we will descend, down, down, down, until we have reached a place deep in the earth called Hole in the Ground.

USA LAKEThis “hole”, located near La Pine, OR, is actually a large explosion crater, or “maar”. It is approximately one mile across and its floor is about 490 feet below the surrounding ground level.  In pictures it looks more like a moon crater or a giant pimple than a hole, but perhaps it will be more impressive when witnessed firsthand.  After the Hole we will continue our subterranean exploration at our stop at Lava River Cave near the town of Bend.  The Cave is a lava tube of 5210 feet in length which was formed approximately 80,000 years ago

Many towns we will be passing that were established in the 19th century were previously inhabited by Native American tribes. Many of the peaceful forests and fields surrounding these towns witnessed some of the last fighting between Native Americans and European settlers in the Pacific Northwest.  One of the most famous of these sites is Fort Klamath, where the Modoc, Klamath, and Northern Paiute tribes fought to retain autonomy over their lands.  These were the last battles to occur in California and Oregon.  One of the interesting things about the Pacific Northwest is that much of its history is told outside of museums and the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities.  One of Oregon’s richest historical museums is its nature. Even the trees here are over 200 years old and stand as monuments of a dramatic past.

Along our way we will also enjoy the simple pleasures of eating wild huckleberries and blackberries on the side of the road.  One of the best things about travelling by bicycle is that your focus is not so much on reaching your goal, but having fun on your way to it.  The goal simply functions as a good reason to get out of the house and make a go of it – the hardest part being just getting out the door.  With so many fascinating aspects of our world to explore, why not throw a pair of panniers on a bike and set out?

Enjoy your summer!


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