Windigo Pass: Dirt Road Adventuring

July 30, 2019

We sluggishly packed up camp this morning and made our way 10 miles down the road to a lake resort for coffee and muffins. Nick was going off today to continue his own adventure on the Oregon Timber Trail. It had been so fun having him around for company, bad puns, and hard miles.

Alone again. I felt bored and a bit disoriented. Soon it got hot and the hills got steep, and all I could think of was food and a water refill. The road ahead was wiggly with heat waves and I chugged water to put off dehydration. About 40 miles in, I was still far from camp that night. I took a 3 mile detour to Crescent Junction and biked into a headwind. I spotted the only open bar and walked in to order a basket of fried chicken. A man came up and asked if I was riding the Sierra Cascades. Other southbound bike tourists! Jeff and Sharon invited me to cycle up the Windigo pass alternate. Yes! I wasn’t planning on it because it was on a remote dirt road, but going with friends changed everything.

We cycled to Crescent Lake and enjoyed the beach. From there, the pavement ended and it was all dirt from there. The dirt road started with packed dust, then gravel. Pretty manageable. The road steepened and turned into sand. I started fishtailing with my back tire, but pushed through with triple the effort. I was aggressively testing out the limits of my “light gravel” touring bike. We made it to the top of the pass and ran into PCT hikers. I pitched my tent and chatted for a while, and admired the impressive water cache all while being eaten alive by mosquitos.

July 31, 2019

Jeff, Sharon, and I started our morning with a big downhill on Windigo Pass. I managed to get going 25mph on the rocky road, holding on for dear life when the surface turned to a deep, rutted washboard. We hit a paved road and stopped for a mid-morning cheese and crackers break, then the road kept climbing for miles towards Diamond Lake. We pulled over at the lake resort for an espresso break and ran into some bike tourists who went up Windigo Pass the day before. I recognized their panniers from Devil’s Lake. Turns out we’d been seeing their tire tracks in the dirt up the pass.

We made our way around the lake to a pizza joint, and I couldn’t believe how tasty the pizza crust was. The climb got steeper and continued on for too many miles until we reached the first view of Crater Lake. It was more beautiful than I’d remembered! I sat down and took it all in while Jeff and Sharon caught up. We snapped photos of the captivating caldera and I shared a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies.

A bit more grueling uphill to another scenic point and I lost Sharon and Jeff behind me. An amazing downhill took me to the Rim Village, where I vacuumed food into my face. The two caught up and we took an even bigger downhill to Mazama Village. I spotted a PCT hiker, Grim, and he was happy to share his campsite. He showed us the way and we greeted the several other hikers staying there. The hikers ranged in age, the oldest probably in his 70s. We stayed up late and Grim gave me a trail name: Volcano, because I couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful climbing them was.

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