Crater Lake and Alex


I have dreamed for years of visiting Crater Lake but it’s pretty isolated for this East Coaster. But when I started planning this trip I knew I could visit the lake. And not visit but to ride around it.

Both Crater Lake and Alex Shepherd are in the southern part of Oregon. Alex is a 12 year-old battling brain cancer. He’s an avid cyclist as well and last year I made a promise to him or to myself that I would ride with him.

I drove to Crater Lake and, following one rider’s suggestion, parked at Rim Lodge and rode clockwise. I would not recommend this.

It was a beautiful morning if not a bit chilly. The temperature was in the low 50s. I wore arm warmers and a vest. Headed out I headed up. None of the climbing was hard – just long. On my first climb I came to stopped traffic and went up the road past them to the front. There I had 15 minutes of quality conversation with a flagman. In the park they were working to remove loose rock along the side of the road before nature does.

There are more than 30 pull-offs. At one I saw two women both taking a picture of each other. I stopped and asked if they both wanted to be in one. They were so glad I stopped. Then they asked how far I would ride and I replied “around the lake.” They asked me if I could do that in a day. I told them I better do it in three hours.

Phantom Ship Rock

At one lookout I met Mike from Tucson who was riding a trail bike. At the Phantom Ship I met an older lady, probably 70, who was riding counter-clockwise. She told me counter-clockwise was easier because there’s less climbing. I’m still scratching my head on that one. To me there’s the same elevation gain and loss no matter which direction one rides. She may be referring to one direction has more linear climbing because the grades are less but longer while the other direction has steeper grades. And that would depend on your climbing preference.

As far as parking at Rim Lodge, I might recommend that for a counter-clockwise ride. But on a clockwise route with three miles to finish, I passed the visitors’ center (a good place to start). Then I began a three mile climb to Rim Lodge, to the finish. After three hours in the saddle I would have preferred not to finish with a climb. Like direction, you’re going to get the same amount wherever you start but I would much prefer starting with the climb while my legs are fresh.

Overlook at Rim Lodge

After the ride at Crater Lake I drove to Ashland to meet Alex. At first, Alex and his mother, Aushna, were out trying to get his medications and Aushna encouraged me to meet her husband, Dan, and daughter, Lily. Dan is also an avid cyclist and I thoroughly enjoyed talking about cycling (and life) with him. We also discussed Alex’s situation and their efforts to get him into a trial.

Falling Hurts

It was late in the day, I had been there for a couple of hours and still no Alex. I was on East Coast time and was getting tired. I also had a four hour drive ahead of me. I thought about leaving a note for Alex and Aushna but decided one doesn’t do that. I would stay until midnight to meet Alex.

Alex and Aushna did come home and I was able to meet them. Alex isn’t riding his bike right now, a couple of brain surgeries in the past few weeks will do that to you. But what a neat kid. He showed me some of the motorized Legos that he has built. I told him to let me know when he’s back on his bike – I still want to come out and ride with him.

Aushna Shepherd, Barry Sherry

This is an incredibly beautiful family. My prayers are with this family daily and I ask that you join me.

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