GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

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mjirving
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GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by mjirving » September 28th, 2018, 11:03 pm

Hi All,

I've been dreaming this one up for years...it was a ton of fun...but VERY hard! I hope you enjoy this unique trip report. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on this to do it yourself, (or some form of it), or ways to make it better.

Thanks...happy trails!
Mike (aka GoalTech)

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2018.33 - Crater Lake Loop Triathlon
“Swim, Bike, Hike - 360” 


9/2/18
Rating: 5 Stars


Miles: 54.3
Time: 13 hrs, 30 min
Avg MPH: 4.0
Bike Time: 5:15
Bike MPH: 7.1
Hike Time: 8:15
Hike MPH: 2.1
Elev Min: 6,100’
Elev Max: 8,900’
Total Ascent: 7,460’
Steps: 49,500
Flights of Stairs: 455
Time Up: 5:00
Sleep Hours: 6
Leave Camp/Start Time: 6:00
Temp Low: 50
Temp High: 75
Other hikers: 700
Male:Female hikers: Anecdotally 50/50
Longest time without seeing a hiker: 0:20
Wildlife: Deer, Small Grey Bird, Squirrel, Hawk, Pacific Fritillary Butterfly, Orange-Tip Butterfly
Verizon Cell Service: Weak LTE, mixed with some 3G, 1x and No Service
Approach Road: Paved
Parking Permit Required: $25 National
Park Entry
Parking Lot: Many with many spaces 
Bathrooms: Pit toilets at major pull-outs 


Sunrise * The Watchman * Cleetwood Cove swim * Mt Scott Summit * Cloudcap Viewpoint * Plaikni Falls * Sun Notch * Phantom Ship * Vidae Falls * Castle Crest Wildflower Trail * Lady of the Woods * Rim Village * Mt Garfield summit * Sunset


Opening Shot: The Crater Lake Triathlon course map
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This is an adventure I dreamed up a few years ago. I wanted to try riding my bicycle around Crater Lake on the rim road and hike all the side trails on the way around. I was excited to give it a go as I thought it sounded like a ton of fun, and I’ve never heard of anyone doing anything like it before. I headed out from Portland in my EV at 4:30pm and charged for 20 minutes in Eugene while I grabbed a quick bite to eat. I had planned to buy a bike lock on the way in Eugene, but forgot about it. Everything was closed when I got to Oakridge. My final hope was the Sportsman Center gas station at Crescent Junction. After searching, I found a dog choke-chain and a padlock…that’ll have to do! The station at the park entrance was closed, so I had to pay my $25 entry fee in the envelope slot. This would prove to be my cheapest triathlon entry fee ever! I got to Mazama Village at 10:30 and had to hunt around for the free charger for my car…found it finally! (It was pretty much pitch black which made the task more difficult.) I plugged in, locked up my bike outside and “camped” in my car with the back seats down with my feet down in the trunk, on top of a sleeping pad…it really worked great! It was my first time trying this.
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I got up at 5am to a 100% charge in the car and maybe an 80% charge of my body after a decent 6 hours of sleep. I packed up in the dark and cruised back up to rim village to get prepped for the day. As I went to tighten up the quick-release on my mountain bike front wheel, (that I bought my freshman year in college), it wouldn’t latch tight. Are you kidding me! I’m essentially at the starting line of my big day and my wheel won’t clamp down!? I used to do triathlons, the bike was always my biggest worry due to the fear of mechanical failure. You can see I learned from this fear as I brought my 30-year-old Trek mountain bike that hasn’t been ever been serviced professionally, or in probably 15 years by me…oops! Well…decision time…I figured I just wouldn’t take any airborne jumps or do any wheelies and I should be good! I tested it from the parking lot to the rim and it seemed to be decent…that’s good enough for me! At the rim, I got to just sit there and stare out to the dark lake as I waited for civil twilight at 6am, so I could start. What a peaceful, spiritual experience…all by myself.
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Okay…it’s 6am…time to go!
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At the first viewpoint, the daylight was just beginning to light up the lake.
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Wizard Island looked great.
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On my climb up to the pull-out for The Watchman (8,012’), I looked back to see Mt McLoughlin (9,495’) and Union Peak (7,595’)
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The sunrise continued to impress at the next viewpoint.

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I got the the pull-out for The Watchman (I don’t remember these climbs on the road when I was driving!) This is looking at the summit of my first hike of the day.
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I just can’t get enough of this sunrise.
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Here is a 360-degree view of the sunrise.
2018-09-02 Crater Lake Sunrise from Michael Irving on Vimeo.


I locked up my trusty bicycle with my padlock and choke-chain and headed up the 2.0-mile round trip to the top of The Watchman to check off miles 4.1 to 6.1.
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It already felt good to get off that bike. I suppose I shouldn’t be relying on my last bike training session which was for my last triathlon back in 2003. ;-) The hike felt good and I was at the top in no-time…well…maybe more like 15-20 minutes. It was interesting to see that the lookout is off-limits to hikers now as last time I was here a few years ago, people could walk on the platform around the lookout.
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I saw one of my few flowers of the day in a new flower that I think might be called, Green’s Goldenbush? (let me know if you think otherwise)
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I didn’t dally…back down I went to jump back on the saddle to continue my loop. The choke-chain did its job! I saw 32 hikers on this trail and it took me 40 minutes round-trip.
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Continuing on, I saw Mt Theilsen over the Pumice Desert. I really enjoyed the long downhill, but alas, that means I have to climb again. The minimal traffic all but disappeared as I took the fork in the road around the lake, rather than out to the park exit. The climb began in earnest, and I was glad I had my “granny gear” on my mountain bike to gear down to on the climb.
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I got around to Cleetwood Cove to jump back off the bike to go down to the lakeside. The area was just starting to buzz with tourists for the day with the boat rides. This trail would be 2.2 miles from mile 12.7 to 14.9
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They were just getting the boats off anchor to start the daily boat runs.
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They are tied to permanent anchors in the lake.
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I wound around to the back side to complete the swim portion of the Crater Lake Triathlon. This was about the easiest triathlon swim ever, as I went about 25 yards out and back!

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The swim felt crisp and great. I’d guess it to be about 65-degree water.
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Hiking back up to the top brought throngs of people…my serenity of the morning was officially gone.  I saw 147 people on this trail and it took me an hour and 5 minutes to do this hike with the swim. I grabbed my bike and continued the loop, going past Grotto Cove. I threw my chain near here, and it was really wedged in on the frame. Again…the bike technical challenges are the most worrisome! After wrangling it for 5 minutes, I finally got it quite literally “back on track” so I could continue. Chain on…front wheel still attached…all good!
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I stopped briefly at Skell Head.
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I kept winding around the lake, and after a long, grueling climb, I was SO ready to get off the bike to hike up to the summit of Mt Scott. This mountain is the high point in the national park at 8,938’ and is a 4.4-mile round trip from miles 21.6 to 26.0.

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This is where I’m heading. 
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It was a busy trail, along with the others. I have to say, I was very impressed with the numbers of people out and about on the various trails. The old adage that 95% of people in national parks never go further than a mile from their car (or whatever it is), most certainly did not apply at Crater Lake today! Here is my approach to the summit with the fire lookout, along with Mt Theilsen to the left.
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The views of the lake were cool to see from more of a distance, for variety.
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This is looking to the south from the summit, with Mt McLoughlin just to the left of the false summit.
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Here is a video clip of the 360-degree view.
2018-09-02 Mt Scott Summit from Michael Irving on Vimeo.


Here is another interesting view of the lake on the way down,
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along with a closer zoomed-in shot of Mt Theilsen.
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The choke-chain continues to do its job! I saw 212 hikers on this trail, it took me 2 hours to do this hike.
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I was ready to give my feet a rest, so it was nice to hop on the bike and head out on the spur road to the Cloudcap overlook, which was about a 20-25 minute side trip on the loop. 
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This guy was hanging out with the crowd.
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Wizard Island was positioned just below The Watchman,
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and I got my first good view of the Phantom Ship.
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It was another pretty simple climb to the overlook and of course a nice coasting back to the main loop road. I quickly came to the next viewpoint and got a better angle on the Phantom Ship.
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The cruise downhill from Mt Scott felt great and fast. I hung a left off the main loop to drop down on the side road about a mile to the trailhead of Plaikni Falls. It was a steeper drop, where I actually used my brakes a bit. I kept thinking about the climb out after the hike…ugh. I got to the trailhead and locked my bike to a tree and headed down the immaculate trail towards Plaikni Falls. This was a nice change from Mt Scott as it was only 2-miles roundtrip, and pretty flat, from mile 33.1 to 35.1. I had not planned well, not paying attention to water sources as there was no water between my trip down to the lake and the falls. I had run out of water, but I was fine…but I really needed water here and was glad to see it was easily accessible. The falls was nice.
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I saw some of my few flowers of the day with some Monkey Flower.
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It always amazes me how so many people have pretty much zero regard for signs that help the area stay sustainable. All these folks just decided they wanted to go further to the falls cuz that’s what they wanted to do.
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Here’s some typical trail on the way back out…very nice. I saw 186 hikers on this trail (crazy numbers of people today!) and it took me an hour to complete the hike.
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It was time for my dreaded climb! I made it back to the main road in 25 minutes, but then when I turned left…it…kept…going…up! Oh my gosh my legs were dead. It took another 35 minutes to get over Dutton Ridge for a total of an hour of climbing in 1st or 2nd gear…that hurt.  My seat was killing me too. Did I mention that I probably should have actually trained on my bike before doing this? I was envisioning this nice flat cruise around the lake. I mean, the lake is flat right?? Doesn’t that mean the road around it should be reasonably flat too? Apparently that’s a negatory! On this long climb I saw my only other cyclists of the day as two dudes passed me within a short time on road bikes…they looked like they knew what they were doing! After cresting Dutton Ridge, I cruised down the short distance to Sun Notch and parked my trusty steed.
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This is a short 0.8-mile loop hike from miles 39.8 to 40.6. I got my best view of the Phantom Ship,
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and the deep blue waters, with Mt Thielsen in the back.
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I also liked the bright green shoreline here.
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One more of the Phantom Ship…just because it’s so cool.
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I saw 60 hikers on this tiny hike! It took me a half-hour to complete the loop.


As I pulled my bike away from the tree and grabbed the handlebars, I felt cold metal. Oops…the tree branch caught my foam handle-grip and pulled it right off the handle. All day it seemed that they were getting looser and more frail. You’d think they should last more than 30 years right?! Ha! I found the foam in the tree…slipped it on, and was good to go with my chain on-track and my front wheel still sticking to the front forks.


The downhill cruise continued to Vidae Falls at mile 42.1, just along the road. I also dropped down the the Vidae Falls picnic area and the trailhead for Crater Peak. I thought about adding this to the mix, but at 6-miles roundtrip, I didn’t think I could get done by dark. That would have to be for another day, earlier in the summer, with more daylight.
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I climbed back out to the main road and continued my downhill speed-demon cruise. Yes…it felt VERY good! I was cruising at full speed…just hoping my front wheel would stay attached to my front fork! Ha! I coasted into Munson Valley Road, which is the road that drops down to Mazama Village. Right at that intersection is the post office and park headquarters. I parked my bike here for two more hikes.
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First, I took a connector trail down to the Castle Crest Wildflower Trail. This hike was 1.8 miles, from mile 45.3 to 47.1. The hikers were starting to trail off here as evening was approaching.
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The trail was well past its prime with wildflowers for the year, but it was still a nice and different hike with a lot of water in the area, which is pretty unique for Crater Lake outside the lake itself.
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I thought this was an interesting knotty tree.
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That hike took me 35 minutes and I saw only 20 hikers. It’s funny to think that “20 hikers” isn’t very many. I was on to my next hike, going the other direction, in the Lady of the Woods Trail. This one was a short 0.7 miles, from mile 47.1 to 47.8. It passed through some pretty wooded sections and had a bit more elevation gain than the meadows hike. 
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It took me 15 minutes and I only saw 2 hikers. The end of the day was definitely upon me as the gift shop closed at 5pm during my hike and the parking lots cleared and Park Headquarters was looking pretty vacant. 
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I really wasn’t looking forward to this last stretch back to Rim Village. It would be the steepest climb of the day…a 500’ climb on the bike over 3 miles. That’s not bad for hiking, but at the end of a long day on the bike, it was tough on my tired legs. It was relentless going up the switchbacks. Finally, it started to flatten to where I could gear-up a bit out of first-gear to generate some speed to actually get to the finish line. Then finally…I hit Rim Village (7,000’), dang that felt good! There was still a flurry of activity there as I coasted through, past my car, and over to the Crater Lake Lodge.
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I hooked into the paved trail just past the lodge, and went another quarter-mile before locking my bike for the final time to a sign post where the pavement turned to dirt. It was time to hike up Castle Crest to go to the summit of Garfield Peak (8,054’). This final trail was a 3.6-mile roundtrip from mile 50.2 to 53.8. I was really feeling it, particularly with the elevation all day…I think that is an x-factor that is easily forgotten in this high desert as you don’t feel that high from looking at the surroundings, but make no mistake, the lungs sure feel it! I was really laboring getting up this last trail, greeting people on their way down. Here is the lake on the way up to the top.
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I made the summit at 7pm with about 25 other folks up there. 
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I have to say, I was blown away by the numbers of people I saw with descent from India today at the lake. I swear I’m not exaggerating when I say that half the people I saw today appeared to have heritage from India. The panorama at the peak at sunset was really a great way to finish the day.
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Here’s my official finish (finished climbing anyway) shot.
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I was loving it up there…but it was getting chilly fast with the sun going down.
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Here is a 360-degree video clip of the summit.
2018-09-02 Garfield Peak from Michael Irving on Vimeo.


The next thing that amazed me was that literally everyone left before sunset! I was the only one up there for the actual sunset. Here you can see the sun setting over Rim Village and the lodge.
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Here is Mt Scott and the Phantom Ship,
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and a panorama from sunset.
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Here is Rim Village, The Watchman, and Wizard Island, just as the sun slipped below the horizon at 7:55pm.
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Okay…it was getting cold and getting dark. It was time to high-tail it out of there! I had a half-hour until civil twilight when it would be too dark to see with natural light.


My favorite part of the day was probably enjoying the sunset show as I comfortably cruised down the trail in silence, with no one around.
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The colors were great.
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Just as I got back to my bike, the planets and stars were beginning to show.
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I got back to my bike just as I needed to pull out my headlamp…see the trusty choke-chain? Ha! This hike (with my chilling-out on top), took me 50 minutes to get to the top, and was a 2 hour and 10 minute roundtrip. I saw 45 hikers.
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I rode in the dark with my headlamp the short distance back to my car as guests were filing into the Crater Lake Lodge after enjoying the sunset. What a day! I was so glad this worked out so well. It was VERY challenging, but also VERY rewarding. One of my favorite parts of backpacking is experiencing full days with the crisp dark changing to light in the morning sunrise, through the bright and warm afternoons, and then the cooling evenings with the sunset and back to dark stars. I can’t think of a better place to experience a “full day” like that than Crater Lake. It really was a special day! the final tally was 54.3 miles and 13 1/2 hours! The “Crater Lake Triathlon” was complete! A 50’ swim, a 38-mile bike, and an 17-mile hike!


I loaded up the car and started my drive back to Portland. I stopped in Chemult at the 24-hour truck stop/Subway and had my traditional post-hike snack with my foot long club on flat bread loaded with veggies and an extra large pop. Oh my that tasted good! I was so amped from the day that it was no problem getting all the way home without getting sleepy. (The Mountain Dew and coffee probably helped too!) With the downhill trend, it was also a piece of cake to go the entire 250 mile distance without having to stop to charge for a few minutes.
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I rolled into home and into bed by about 2am…that’s what I call a full day…but so worth it! I thought this was one of the hardest athletic achievements I've done in my life...but wait...tune in for my next trip report to see the real hardest achievement.


Summary:
An amazing day riding the 33-mile rim loop (plus 5 bonus miles round-trip to Plaikni Falls and Cloud Cap Overlook) and hiking all the trails. Very hard but very worth it to complete this bucket list adventure. Please let me know if you have questions or want advice if you want to try to do a version of something like this.


Favorite experience of the day:
Sunset and hiking down from Mt Garfield watching it continue to twilight.


Least favorite experience of the day:
The long, 3-mile uphill bike slogs...very difficult!


Today's route (clockwise):
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Today's elevation (left-to-right):
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Google Earth with Track:
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GPS Track:
https://www.gaiagps.com/public/vIYxIMkmBXNdUpYqhYzPmiM0

-GoalTech
www.GoalTechHikes.com
@goaltechhikes (Instagram)

Webfoot
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Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by Webfoot » September 29th, 2018, 6:24 am

You're nuts! :)

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mjirving
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Joined: July 5th, 2011, 10:40 am

Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by mjirving » September 29th, 2018, 6:25 am

Wait’ll my next post :D

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Charley
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Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by Charley » September 29th, 2018, 9:27 pm

Congrats! That's a neat idea and you completed it in fine form. I'm glad your bike didn't fall apart on a bump or anything. :)

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mjirving
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Joined: July 5th, 2011, 10:40 am

Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by mjirving » September 29th, 2018, 10:11 pm

Thanks! Yes it was great fun and I’m
glad my bike stayed together!

Chazz
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Joined: May 26th, 2013, 12:53 pm

Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by Chazz » October 1st, 2018, 7:08 am

Sounds like a great adventure. How much water did you take with you on the bike to cover all that distance before you got to the waterfall?

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mjirving
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Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by mjirving » October 1st, 2018, 10:04 pm

Chazz wrote:
October 1st, 2018, 7:08 am
How much water did you take with you on the bike to cover all that distance before you got to the waterfall?
I started with a full 3-liter Camelbak. When I got to the lake, I really hadn't had much, so it seemed to be a bit of a waste to add maybe a 1/2 liter or something. But that was it for water until the falls. I think I ran out right on time, but I was worried that the water might not be accessible. I asked the hikers coming out and they said it was, so that was a relief. Of course there were a million people around that i could have Yogied some if I had to. There were a few falls after that on the main road that would have sufficed too, but I would have been pretty thirsty by then. Not dangerously, but thirsty. Fortunately it was a reasonably cool day too with temps barely in the 70s.

Mike

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retired jerry
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Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by retired jerry » October 2nd, 2018, 5:30 am

nice idea

I bet that water was cold :)

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mjirving
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Re: GoalTechHikes Crater Lake Triathlon 360 loop - Swim-Bike-Hike

Post by mjirving » October 2nd, 2018, 5:32 am

Not too bad...probably upper 60s.

Mike

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