By Lee Juillerat • For the (Klamath Falls) Herald and News

Ride the Rim: If You Go

West Rim Drive from the North Entrance Junction to Munson Valley will be closed to motor vehicles from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sept. 14 and 21, for the seventh annual Ride the Rim.

Free shuttle buses will run between the Steel Visitor Center in Munson Valley to Rim Village and the North Entrance junction, but do not carry bicycles. People can leave bicycles at the bike corral at the North Entrance junction, drive back to Munson Valley and take the shuttle back to the North Entrance.

Helmets are required for all cyclists. Free registration is required. Donations will be taken at various locations, including Munson Valley.

Because of traffic along Rim Drive, which is a winding and extremely narrow road, cyclists are not encouraged to ride the 9 miles from Munson Valley to the North Entrance Junction. “We really don’t want people on the West Rim Road,” emphasizes Tonia Ulbricht, senior marketing manager for Discover Klamath.

Ulbricht encourages participants to get an early start, ideally from 8 to 11 a.m., because afternoon temperatures drop significantly at the high-elevation park. “The earlier you can start, the better,” she urges.

Bicycle rentals are available outside the park, including Hutch’s Bicycles in Bend and Redmond and Sky Lakes Wilderness Rentals in Chiloquin.

For more information about the 2019 Ride the Rim, visit the website at RidetheRim.com or www.DiscoverKlamath.com, or call Discover Klamath at 800-445-6728 or 541-882-1501.

CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK — Carefree and car-free days return to Crater Lake National Park again this month when 25 miles of Rim Drive, the road that loops around the lake in northern Klamath County, is closed to motor vehicles.

The seventh annual Ride the Rim event is set for two Saturdays — this week and Sept. 21 — to give bicyclists, runners and walkers an opportunity to experience Rim Drive without worrying about cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and other motorized vehicles. Pedal-assist bicyclists are permitted. There is a park entrance fee, but there is no cost for participating.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic year,” says Tonia Ulbricht, senior marketing director for Discover Klamath, which manages the event. “Everyone who comes has a good attitude. We get told by a lot of people that it’s one of the best organized rides.”

Ride the Rim was originally launched by the park, and Discover Klamath took on organizing duties four years ago. That is partly because the event, which drew about 500 participants its first year, has grown and averages 3,000 to 5,000 participants — mostly cyclists — over the two days. As of late August, 2,200 people had registered for one of the two days. In past years, about 600 typically register each day of the ride, many saying, “We just happened to be at Crater Lake” when they learned about the event and decided to ride because “I had my bike with me.”

“We’re on line to have 3,200 to 3,500 people,” says ­Ulbricht. “That’s a comfortable number.”

Riding along Rim Drive is especially appealing on Ride the Rim days because participants can chug up some of the steep uphill sections without worrying about dodging vehicles. And, because the section of Rim Drive from the North Junction to the Steel Visitor Center in Munson Valley is closed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., there are plentiful opportunities for participants to catch their breath at the many lake overlooks.

Most cyclists ride the entire 25 miles, but many riders, along with walkers and runners, choose to go shorter distances, often out-and-backs. Participants also have their choice of going clockwise from the North Entrance Junction or counterclockwise from Munson Valley.

While the distance is not daunting for many cyclists, it is a challenging endeavor because of the uphill sections, especially from the Cleetwood Cove trailhead-parking area to Mount Scott. Overall, the net elevation gain is about 3,500 feet. In addition, the park’s high elevation, which ranges from 6,450 to nearly 7,800 feet above sea level, creates other concerns. As Ulbricht notes, “It isn’t easy. The air is a lot thinner. We recommend people try to prepare and be in condition.”

But not everyone comes prepared. Ulbricht says one year a group of four Chinese visitors decided they wanted to participate. There was one hitch — none had ever been on a bicycle. They practiced in the parking lot and then rode the entire distance.

Riding the rim is made easier with the help of several aid stations located along the route. Along with giving participants a chance to catch their breath and enjoy the views, the stations offer free beverages, restrooms, basic bike repairs and snacks, including donations from sponsors such as Clif Bars, JiMMY! bars, and Laird Superfood. REI will provide mechanics to help with bicycle repairs at the Cleetwood Cove stop.

Ulbricht saves her highest praise for the Friends of Crater Lake, a group of volunteers that also helps with trail maintenance projects and staffs a winter information desk. She estimates that 75% to 80% of the Ride the Rim volunteers are Friends members, including many from around the nation.

Among the volunteers is Dave Panabaker, who worked at Crater Lake in the 1970s, was instrumental in introducing cross-country skiing, and makes the annual visit from Missouri.

Faraway visitors are common. According to Ulbricht, of the 2,200 people who registered by late August for this year’s Ride the Rim, 14 are from three countries other than the U.S. while others are from 32 states.

Jim Chadderdon, Discover Klamath’s executive director, and Ulbricht say the Ride the Rim event brings well over $1 million in economic benefits to the region. But they emphasize that the goal is to give participants, whether walkers, runners or cyclists, a chance to get acquainted with Oregon’s only national park.

As Ulbricht says, “It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy and experience Crater Lake.”

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