Day 69: the crossing of the Cascades

I’ve decided to skip Crater Lake Nat’l Park.  It’s too high up and people tell me the roads are still closed due to snow.  I’ll cycle around it and cross the Cascades at Cascade Pass.  Though it’s the highest mountain pass in Oregon, it’s actually not that high, just 5,925 ft.  An amazing thing about the ride up is that the highway, OR-138, is absolutely straight all the way to the top! It’s the only straight-line road to the top of a mountain range that I’ve ever seen; not a single turn, let alone a switchback.

I pass several brilliantly beautiful peaks in the Cascade Volcanic Belt.  Among them are Mt. McLoughlin, Mt. Scott, and Mt. Thielsen (also known as Big Cowhorn), which sticks into the sky like a crooked accusing finger.

The day begins clear but heavy dark clouds arrive and cover the sky.  I successfully negotiate the 5-mile-long dangerous stretch of Hwy. 97 just north of Klamath Falls where the road is squeezed on the left by Klamath Lake and a railroad track and on the right by a steep cliff.  The area is prone to rockfall, so half the shoulder is taken by a concrete rockfall barrier, making the rest of the shoulder very narrow.  Needless to say, traffic is heavy as this is the only northbound route out of the city.

I play hide and seek with the rain most of the day as I finally enter the land of endless taiga.  After lunch, the left-hand turn onto the scenic and empty Hwy. 138.  It skirts the northern boundary of Crater Lake National Park and will take me across the Cascades.  Though I can now fully protect myself with waterproof clothes, I hope to not have to, because riding in them, especially uphill, is uncomfortably hot.  Magnificent pine forests cover the eastern slopes of the Cascades.  Interestingly, as soon as I get to the other side an start my descent down the western slope, the forest changes from pines to spruces and firs.  It must be due to the moisture that comes from the Pacific and is caught by the Cascades.

The weather finally catches up to me just after the pass.  I put on all my waterproof stuff and ride comfortably the rest of the way down to the beautiful Diamond Lake, where I’m going to camp tonight.  This reminds me of the time back in 2007 when Masha and I crossed the High Sierra (at Carson Pass) and camped at another mountain lake, Silver Lake.

It’s snowing.  I pitch  my tent in a cozy nook under the wide branches of a big spruce and occupy myself all night by trying to build the most aesthetically beautiful fire.  I’m an artist of fire and I’m pleased with the result.

The Cascades have been kind to me and I feel at home here.

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