On Day 3 of Cycle Oregon, we’re finding our rhythms. In camp and out on the bikes, daily routines are setting in. As we pound out the miles day after day, our bodies are adjusting to the rigors — and immeasurable rewards — of exploring Oregon’s beautiful backroads on a bicycle.
Today we continued our quest of the “Magnificent Seven” Cascade peaks with an ascent of Mt. Hood. I’ve lived in Portland for 10 years and had never seen Mt. Hood up-close from her eastern side. Until Today.
This morning we left the sweet little town of Dufur and headed west on Dufur Valley Road. As the morning sun peeked through the clouds, we rode past hay and alfalfa fields. Then the road tilted skyward and we began the first of what would be 6,740 feet of elevation gain on the day (to go along with 74 miles). As the sign announcing our entry into the Mt. Hood National Forest passed, it seemed like everything changed. About 16 miles up the road, near Camp Baldwin and Eightmile Creek Campground, the oak trees gave way to pines and firs.
Our first rest stop of the day was firmly ensconced in the forest. There to greet us — in addition to the cheery and helpful local volunteers and amazing spread of energy-inducing foods and drinks — was Charlie Wicker of Portland-based Trailhead Coffee Roasters. Charlie had left camp at 4:30 am on his 120-pound cargo bike to ride up and serve us fresh pour-over coffee. Over the years, Charlie has innovated his bike-mounted brewing station significantly. Here’s how it works: He pours water through a artistic glass funnel into a huge pot, where it’s heated to just the right temperature. Then, using a custom hose and spout, he infuses four small pots (that swivel around in a wooden stand — another one of his innovations) of freshly-ground beans. The result is really good — and truly bike-powered — coffee!
For Charlie’s next trick, he’ll be opening up a new cafe/tasting room with chocolate-maker Patrick Zender of Ranger Chocolates. Watch for Cup and Bar to open later this year at 118 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Continuing our ascent of Mt. Hood, we rode through the watershed for The Dalles near Dog River, then turned south on Highway 35 and followed Hood River for several miles. It was in this section of the route that we got our first major view of the mountain. It was sufficiently stunning. So much so, that many people simply stopped pedaling, laid down their bikes, and stared (then took photos).
It seemed like we climbed all day today. We gained 3,000 feet by mile 20 and our lunch at the top of Bennet Pass at White River Sno-Park was the highest point of the entire ride at 4,647 feet. The climbing was made even more difficult by a stiff headwind.
Our lunch spot is likely to be the most memorable of the trip. The sno-park is right at White River, which tumbled down from Mt. Hood through a valley of grey-colored rocks from a recent melt that loosened vast amounts of rock and dirt from the slopes. Beyond the epic setting of the lunch stop, it also happened to be very cold. Many riders were unprepared for the low temperatures. Thinking the day would be warmer and full of climbing, most people discarded jackets and extra layers at the rest stop lower down in the valley (Cycle Oregon has a great “gear drop” service where they’ll take your unwanted extra stuff back to camp). One woman was taken away from lunch with hypothermic symptoms and a friend of mine said he finished his meal in the porta-pottie to stay warm. With a descent right after lunch, some folks opted to stuff discarded pieces of cardboard into their jerseys to block the cold wind.
We left Bennet Pass and continued south on National Forest Road #48 which follows the White River south for 15 miles. It was a wonderful descent. We plunged down through a channel carved in the forest. As we lost elevation and turned our handlebars east, the temperature and the landscape changed quickly. We left the cold air and thick forest for warmer temperatures and the dry, wide-open valleys characteristic of Oregon’s dry side. We finished the day on Rock Creek Dam Road (which is full of terribly jarring cracks that have left 6-8 inch gaps across the entire road) and made our way into Wamic and then Tygh Valley.
Today’s finish line was a special treat. Dozens of local high schoolers set up cheering sections and yelled at the top of their lungs as we came through. The cheerers included the “Maupin Militia,” a group of young kids who specialize in boosterism. Also at today’s finish line was a special treat. Portland-based businesses Nossa Familia Coffee and Ruby Jewel Ice Cream teamed up to give every finisher a double espresso ice cream sandwich. The occasion was Nossa Familia’s 10th anniversary at Cycle Oregon. As riders rolled into the Wasco County Fairgrounds, Nossa Familia’s founder Augusto Carneiro was there with a broad smile and an ice-cream sandwich. It was just another one of the small things that makes Cycle Oregon so special.
Thanks for following along with me on Cycle Oregon 2014. Tomorrow we head south to Madras. It’s another long day in the saddle with 84 miles and over 6,000 feet of elevation gain in store. I’ll wake up at 5:30, strap on my camera and lenses, and head out again to document Oregon’s amazing beauty. Stay tuned!
— Browse all our Cycle Oregon 2014 coverage here.