Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The ride of my life, Part II

Though nowhere near as fast as Part I, Part II - on the same day - was equally as breathtaking.

While touring with my wife and my parents through Deschutes County's mountainous regions, we took a drive into Mt. Bachelor to look around. We had been tipped off earlier in the day that sightseeing expeditions were available.

With three of the four of us in favor of seeing what the mountain had to offer - my mom abstained, as she's even more afraid of heights than I am - we stopped to see what was happening.

For a $15 ticket, we received two chairlift rides that led straight to the summit - 9,065 feet above sea level.

The first chair was rather tame and took us halfway up the mountain. To get to the second chair, we walked down a short hill past a bank of remaining snow that was a foot deep.

The second chair was far more dramatic, climbing steeper than the first. After a 10-minute ride on the second chair, we reached the top.

The top of the mountain was mostly flat, though there was a trail to the peak. Hell, it was hard enough getting used to my in-laws' house at 4,100 feet, so that was out of the question. (Plus, I remembered an experience from a summer trip to the top of the Heavenly ski resort at Lake Tahoe last year. The top there was very near 10,000 feet, and walking up a short flight of stairs felt like I was running a marathon. Granted, I'm fat and out of shape, but not that fat and out of shape.)

Viewing conditions were perfect. Out in the distance from our southerly viewpoint, we could see Mt. Shasta - in California, some 225 miles away according to Mapquest. Several other peaks were visible as well, but Shasta caused the most stir. Multiple employees remarked if we could see that far, it was a damn good day.

When we had taken all of the pictures we could, we made our way back to the chairlift for the ride down. And that's when my fear of heights kicked in.

We boarded near where we had exited earlier. The chairlift slowly made its way through the housing. Suddenly, as we came out of the building, we looked straight out and began a 45-degree drop. Gulp. It was like we jumped off the side of the mountain.

Once I got past that, I was afforded a stunning view of nearby Broken Top, from a similar angle to this USGS photo. (And if there's a word that carries more weight and oomph than "stunning," its use is appropriate here.)

Going up at Heavenly was a wonderful experience and a higher trip than the Bachelor summit, but the viewing was limited. Sure, the views of Lake Tahoe were unmatched; but mountains of a similar height existed on the California side of the lake. So it was like looking into a vast valley.

The top of Bachelor was altogether different. It was a trip we all agreed was worth taking, and one we'd do again in a heartbeat.

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