Tour without a goal – 31 July 2014

Written by robert on August 1st, 2014



in the high lake country
After yesterday’s deluge and a damp morning I spent extra time hanging up everything wet in the sun and let them dry out a bit. Once I was on the road after only five or so miles of riding along Elk Lake and in the thin woods I came upon Lost Lake Campground and Resort where I’d planned on staying last night. The info sign indicated they had showers and so I pulled right off. Clean and refreshed I returned to the road at nearly noon. It was warm now though not yet truly hot and whole there were hills things generally trended downward. The terrain was all formed by volcanic eruptions a 15,000 years ago (and earlier eruptions) which has thin nutrient poor soil. So the trees are thin, the undergrowth minimal. But there are all these lakes and just to east is the real Oregon desert so you get a wide variety of birds and insects.


Davis Lake is in this valley where there was not only poor volcanic soil but there had been a massive fire a few years ago. The trees were all burnt husks, the shrubbery gone and the lake down In the valley looking like a glass of water spilled into the dirt. This was about the last of the Cascade Lakes and only a few miles on I turned away. But at this point there is no camping on route until Crater Lake 50 miles away. As I’d already ridden near fifty miles already this was not an ideal situation. So I ended up riding five miles or so in the opposite direction to Crescent Lake where the USFS campground was only lightly occupied. As I set up thunder boomed and lightening flashed but there was not a return to the rain.

transparent lakes in ash
blackened sticks of trees
- dragonflies darting around

Posted from Crescent, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 30 July 2914

Written by robert on July 31st, 2014


a desolate mountain remains of the setting sun
-Hōsai Ozaki

the storm breaks
On coming down from Santiam Pass yesterday the character of the land had changed back to at dry scrubland with its sage, ponderosa pine and spares undergrowth. The ride from Sisters to Bend was all through land like that with, here and there, evidence of recent fires. It was pretty easy going even as it warmed up with excellent views of a least five major mountain peaks – the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and way in the distance Mt. Hood. These mountains all receded in to the distance and as I climbed the valley walls above Bend all but disappeared. The route skirts Bend but I dropped in town to replenish supplies and go to the original Deschutes Pub – couldn’t skip that.


While there isn’t a mountain pass proper on today’s travels the route climbs up to Mt. Bachelor and gains as much elevation as some of the passes I’ve crossed. It also was over 6000 feet at the top which is the highest I’ve climbed so far. The sun really beat down on me on the first half of is ascent but ahead I could see this band of black clouds and I began to hear the rumble of thunder. Once I passed into it things cooled down dramatically, especially as big drops of rain began to (occasionally) fall.

thunder surrounds me -
I keep climbing

Near the summit the rain picked up enough I stopped to but on my rain covers. The thunder was coming from both sides of the front each on a different side of the arm I was climbing up and it’d rumble and echo in these valleys. Mt Bachelor itself is just right off the road and on rounding a curve it suddenly is just there impressively towering right over everything. From the top of the climb where you turn off to the ski area you can see that the lifts run right to the summit which seems a little sacrilegious.


It was a fast descent down from Mt. bachelor and once it flattened out I was now in the Cascade Lakes region which is all volcanic soil with sparse flora and myriad shallow lakes. There are campground all over this area but very few have water. I was making for one pretty far up the chain of lakes when I passed Elk Lake Campground. It had a sign out that it was full, but the camp host saw me and asked if I was looking to camp. He said I could stay in this open area next to his site and he’d only charge me the extra vehicle fee of $7. They had water so I went for it. Minutes later the storm broke.


On this tour there have been several times I’ve heard thunder and expected the deluge of rain. Each time it only sprinkled and then blew away. Well not this time, the skies open up and it just poured for over an hour with hail even at times. I had no time to setup my tent so I put on my rain gear and wandered around. In my wandering I discovered that right next door was Elk Lake Resort with a restaurant: the ideal,place to wait out the rain. Alas it was packed, so I retuned to camp and set up my tent during a break in the rain. The rain did eventually stop, after the storm rolled right over ahead and it began to clear up. I put on dry clothes and retuned to the Lodge thinking that not cooking tonight would be okay. I got there at 7:10 and the kitchen closed at 7. Cooking it was.

alpine lakes reflecting the darkening sky
- lighting flash behind the mountain

Posted from Bend, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 29 July 2014

Written by robert on July 30th, 2014


Traveling this high
mountain trail,
delighted by violets

thunder on the mountain
When the weather gods displeasure falls on you the clouds roll in on the descents and are whisked away to reveal the hot sun on the climbs. Today was one of those days where while it dawned clear and warm clouds rolled in during the initial part of the ascent. The first dozen miles or so were gently up hill, in the woods along the Santiam River. Then he clouds rolled in and there was even some drizzle. I have to admit I enjoyed this quite a bit. When the sun came out I left the trees and was in this hot eerie wasteland of volcanic slag. It was fairly short lived but with the red pumice lining e road and the hot sun it was a dramatic shift. At the junction with hwy 20 the route begins to climb in earnest, the clouds were gone and the sun high in the sky. I’d done 1000′ in fourteen miles now I’d ascend over 1500′ in just over four miles.

red pumice
black rocks vomited out of the earth
pop click-click-click of grasshoppers
valley of burnt trees
under the naked sun

In 2003 the B&B Complex fire ravaged this region and as I climbed this winding road along the valley it was nought be dead trees poking up like burnt matches in spare undergrowth. This was a slow, hot few miles and this road was plenty trafficked. As I reached the summit – only indicated with a PCT crossing – black clouds were in the neighboring valley and I began to hear thunder. I saw a lightening strike over by the bare, pyramidal peak of Mt. Washington and a cooler breeze began to stir. So of course it began to rain on the descent. But happily not much beyond a drizzle. After a fast six mile descent it became gently rolling hills with the breeze at my back all the way to Sisters.


Sisters is a well turned out tourist town that serves all the skiing, mountain biking, hiking and water sport of this region. A bit of a western theme it is one of these tourist towns that has an aesthetic and clearly making money. I rode to the edge of town where there is supposed to be a camp and there I saw a big group of cycles setting up tents in be field: must be the place. Well it turned out to be the Mid-Valley Cycling Club out of Corvalis on a rest day from their 9 day tour in these regions. Well they invited me to stay with them and how could I pass that up? I’d arrived early into town so was able to do laundry, go out to dinner and talk a lot about touring with the club members. After the sun set the thinnest possible waxing moon set over the mountains amidst the traces of painted clouds.

on the edge of town
the thinnest sliver of moon
sets over the mountains

Posted from Sisters, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 28 July 2014

Written by robert on July 29th, 2014


mountain wind
-Hōsai Ozaki

butterfly way
The best riding on this tour has been on the forest roads right in the trees: Old Blewett Pass, the roads around Mt. St. Helens and today on the edge of the Mt. Hood wilderness. Things started slowly with a near five mile climb but this was followed by near dozen mile decent. The forest road was never wide but a certain point, deep in green trees, it became a single lane road with the occasional wide spot to allow cars to pass. It really was just a bit wider than a modern bicycle path. Nearly empty as well this was really my own private ride in the woods.


But all things must pass and after the epic descent I had to climb out of whatever little valley I was in. It was now quite hot as well and this climb regained 2/3s of the vertical feet I had just eschewed but in more like five miles. Fairly tough but on this climb and near the descent from it the views opened up again of the heavily forested hills well above the Clackamas River. No altitude is gained without immediately throwing it away it appears and I was right back onto the descent.

far above the roaring stream
green hill after green hill after green hill

This was a steep descent with a wild hairpin curve and with the occasional car one had to keep on ones toes. Eventually the degree of descent slackened and campgrounds began to appear. It also got hotter and hotter as I descended into the Breitenbush River valley. At the bottom was Detroit Lake and the tourist town of the same name. This was a madhouse of people out recreating on this quite hot Monday. The lake was thick with boats and swimmers other recreations trying to escape the heat. I got what supplies the town had to offer and headed back down the route toward the mountains. With the shadows growing longer and a bit of a wind at my back I pretty quickly made it into cooler (though still hot) climes and at the Whispering Falls USFS Campground I ended for the day. Camped right above a rushing river there is a nearly hidden trickling waterfall across from my site.

struggling up the mountain
under the blazing sun
— wild strawberries

Posted from Idanha, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 27 July 2014

Written by robert on July 28th, 2014


sunset sweeps the sky with a single stroke
-Hōsai Ozaki

mountains and rivers
This was a day of many crossings: four passes, three times over the Pacific Crest Trail, the Oregon Trail even. The primary activity was climbing back into the mountains proper. The day before on the Columbia Rover I was near sea level. Today I would climb up Bennett Pass at 4674 feet. This was more akin to my initial ascent into the Cascades via Rainy Pass than any other of the long climbs I’ve done.

beyond the hill,
another hill

I followed the Hood River most of the way up, which is a shallow, lively, rocky river with numerous white water sections. A mountain river makes for a fine companion on a long climb: always chattering and chuckling at it all. This was another fairly warm climb as the skies were blue with faint white streaks of clouds and of course the road is fully open to it. But as I made my way up the pass on the clouds rolled in and while always fairly thin they did block the sun and keep it from beating directly upon me.


On beginning the descent from Bennett Pass Mt. Hood came back into view the rocky south side with only dirty glaciers left of his winter snow. Really close now to the mountain by the sky resort I could see a snow free route all the way to the rocky summit. After a brief descent I went up again nd there I crossed the PCT and another pass! Also the Oregon Trail: A major intersection in the mountains. Continuing to descend the route turned onto Hwy 26 which was busy with returning weekenders. There I crossed the PCT agin and stopping to take a picture a through hiker came through. We briefly chatted about our respective trips and then both set off again. Shortly I crossed a pass and then once again crossed another pass: Blue. Box Pass at 4024 feet.


Happily after descending I turned onto Skyline Road which was basically. Paved forest road right in the trees. Pretty sapped from the passes it was thankfully still mostly downhill. More traffic than you’d expect on such a roD but it turns out that Timothy Lake is a major draw in this area. Talking to a ranger she recommended camping there though and stated the crowds should be gone. So I rode down to Oak Fork Campground on the lake and while it was still pretty occupied it wasn’t not full. The camp host though said she let hikers and bikers camp for free in an open area behind their site so I took advantage of that. A really scenic lake right in the woods well used by swimmers, fishers and boaters. I took a swim myself, the first time in ages. That evening there was a fantastic sunset over the lake that slowly changed from white, to orange to purple to dark.

after the sunset the insects begin their grinding drone

Posted from Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 26 July 2014

Written by robert on July 27th, 2014


a world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

between the gods
Today would be split between riding along the Columbia and riding up the Hood River Valley back into the Cascades. The morning was clear and cool and my route back to Cascade Locks was in the woods on the isolated HCRH. But things were to take a turn after the locks. The route used frontage roads along the highway for a ways and then turned into the woods. Then it began to steeply climb at what was perhaps the steepest grade of the route so far. After descending that hill I was riding on the shoulder of hwy 87 which was plenty busy though fairly easy riding. As I approached Hood River I began to catch glimpses of Mt. Adams to the north and Mt. Hood to the south.


Hood River was a zoo and while there looked to be much to see there I resupplied and had lunch outside of town and only rode through the more interesting looking downtown. I turned to follow the Hood river and the route returned to backroads and another, long killer climb at grades that probably are no longer legal. But after climbing this there was a long view up the river valley with Mt. Hood dominating at the far end. Hood is pretty isolated in that there aren’t other mountains around it and even the foothills are pretty insignificant. So it really looms large over the landscape.


The route crossed over a valley wall with what I have no doubt is the steepest hill I’ve ridden with a touring load. It was signed at 16% which frankly is insane. I’ve ridden a lot of hills this tour, long mountain passes, steep forest roads but this hill had me in the granny gear, standing up and nearly passing out. But I made it. It was then some nice country riding through rolling hills and past the county fair at one point. I’ve begun the ascent up an arm of Mt. Hood so though there are ups and downs it’s always trending upwards. It also had become hot and the combo of the heat with those hills had really worn me down so when I passed Parkdale (the last town for 90 miles) I stopped at Toll Booth County Park where they had one spot left.

Ten pm that night while I was already in the tent a van pulled into my site and there was conversation about someone already being there. I got up and talked to these people and they claimed they had booked the site earlier that afternoon and went to a wedding. It was a bit tense for a moment but we worked it out and ended up just shared the site. Seemed like they had come early enough that the campground thought they were from the previous day.

the tops of the trees
glow in the setting sun
this summer evening.


Tour without a goal – 25 July 2014

Written by robert on July 26th, 2014


Sokei-an met an old man on the banks of the
Columbia growing potatoes & living all alone,
Sokei-an asked him the reason why he lived there
he said
Boy, no one every asked me the reason why,
I like to be alone
I am an old man
I have forgotten how to speak human words.
-Gary Snyder, from Night Highway 99

rolling on the Columbia
After my down time in PDX I returned to the Historical Columbia River Highway and retraced the route I’d done just a few days ago. The initial segment was on Marine Drive which is right on the river and was a mix of paved trails and roads all the way to Troutdale. Then it was the HCRH the rest of the way in the bluffs above the river. It had been a cool and overcast morning but by noon it had cleared up which was quite the distinction from the ride in the pouring rain. It being Friday though also made a difference and the tourists were out in force. There was a backup at Multnomah Falls which I was able to wend my way through thanks to the bicycle. But the views from Vista House were longer than ever looking back toward Portland and fathead toward the layers of mountains.


Once I’m back on the main route I’ll be back into the hinterlands around Mt. Hood (and out of contact for a while I’d hazard) and it made since for me to camp west of the Cascade Locks. A shorter day to get back into the swing of things was certainly okay. I pulled into Ainsworth State Park around 3pm and it was already full. Happily the Hiker/Biker area was empty. Apart from having to share the field I camped on with the horsehoe pit and a ranger led ‘Disc Golf 101, for the kids it was ideal.

after the trains have passed
the cawing of a crow

Posted from Cascade Locks, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 23/24 July 2014

Written by robert on July 24th, 2014


I always felt terrible on the trail the first day after a break. Katz, on the other hand, just always felt terrible. Whatever restorative effects a town visit offered always vanished with astounding swiftness on the trail. Within two minutes it was as if we had never been away—actually worse, because on a normal day I would not be laboring up a steep hill with a greasy, leaden Hardees breakfast threatening at every moment to come up for air.
-Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

at the house of bikes
I spent two days off the tour in Portland at Shawn’s house, recouping my energy, resupplying and taking in a bit of the city. The first day I was here it rained most of the day and we spent it indoors doing chores and taking care of business. The next day Shawn had to work so I went downtown and went to some of my usual P-Town haunts: the Deschutes Brewery and Powells World of Books. Afterwards I just rode around downtown a bit and ended up on the waterfront where the Oregon’s Brewers Festival was going on. Well I couldn’t resist that so I bought a few tokens and had sample pours of a variety of PNW brews.


The day concluded with meeting Shawn and some of his crew at the Hopworks Bike Bar for an engaging evening discussion bicycle touring, the outdoors, Portland, beer and myriad other topics. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in Portland and the bicycle culture is all they say it is and more. Really easy to get around from NE Portland where I was staying to downtown and anywhere else. Bicycle lanes, signed routes, bike boxes at tricky intersections, bike racks everywhere (and full too most often) and hundreds of people of all sorts riding everywhere on every kind of bicycle. It’s been a nice visit and a good break and I’m glad I got to see even a tiny slice of this vital city. Many thanks again to Shawn for putting me up and arranging these actives.

down in the city
falling into old routines;
thinking of wildflowers

Posted from Portland, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 22 July 2014

Written by robert on July 23rd, 2014


A long hard journey,
rain beating down the clover
like a wanderer’s feet

riding the PCT to OR
It began to sprinkle as I retired to my tent last night and by morning was a full on downpour. Listening to the tapping of rain on the tent as I lie enveloped in warmth is always a pleasure. Less so is packing up and heading out in the rain. I was riding on hwy 14 right in the Columbia River gorge and within a few miles on this well trafficked twisty road the rain stopped. A few more miles on and I was at Stevenson where I gratefully had my morning coffee. I was looking haggard enough after days in the mountains and riding in the rain that the proprietress of the coffee shop asked if I’d been hiking The Trail. Not quite.

damp and bedraggled from the rain
- daisies line my path

A few miles down the road I turn east a ride over the Bridge of the Gods, a striking steel girder bridge over the Columbia, and I’m in Oregon. This is also the only stretch of the Sierra Cascade route that actually overlaps with the Pacific Crest Trail so I have now ridden on the PCT.


I left the route at this point and rode the Historic Columbia River Highway into Portland. I was meeting Shawn of Urban Adventure League fame on this road and would stay with him for a couple of days in Portland. The HCRH begins with an isolated car free section that winds through woods and over stone bridges and with scenic overlooks onto the Columbia River. After a few miles it merges with route 30 and passes three major waterfalls, hiking trails, scenic viewpoints and campgrounds. It began to pour as I rode through this section especially during a series of switchbacks up to Crown Point where I was meeting Shawn at Vista House.


Vista House was well named and while it was cloudy and raining when I arrived after spending some time there drying off it began to clear up. Spectacular views down the Columbia River Valley and of the patchwork green hills across the river. Of course on the descent the rain returned harder than ever and it was back on with the rain gear. We decided a break was in order and pulled off at the McMinimins in Troutdale which was well received all around. By the time we left it had stopped raining and the sky was this rich scattered foam with daubs of blue sky showing through all backlit and glowing in the dwindling sunlight. Shawn took us on the scenic route along the Columbia River before we navigated back roads to his house in Portland. Happy to be here as I need a bit of downtime and much thanks to Shawn (and his roommate) for the hospitality. Also check out Shawn’s photos from his end of the trip over on Flickr.

shaving my head at a roadside stop
you have to wonder what passers by think -
a vagrant trying to get by; perhaps dangerous
no, just a pilgrim to America’s holy sites

Posted from Portland, Oregon, United States.


Tour without a goal – 21 July 2014

Written by robert on July 22nd, 2014


I have all the vestment I will ever need,
not gauzy silk nor twill,
and if you ask about the color,
neither red, nor purple . . .
In the summer it’s light as wings;
in the winter it’s my quilt.
Winter or summer, of use in both . . .
Year upon year,
just this.
-Han Shan

the grey mountain
It had been a peaceful night in my little spot in the woods and while I had to filter my water from Iron Creek I really appreciate being able to camp in the woods. I was very close to the junction with FR25 and was soon back on the climb to Elk Pass. Four miles in the woods on this chilly yet clear morning. The pass itself is unmarked, demarcated only be a sign warning of miles of steep grades ahead. This was a fun descent, without much traffic I was able to take advantage of the full winding road and ride it down. Distractions from the pure descent was the mountains that began to reveal themselves, first Mt. Adams and then finally Mt. St. Helens.


St. Helens dominates the landscape in a similar, if in a less dramatic fashion than Mt. Rainier a bit further north. The the fresh snows melted off In the summer warmth only the old glaciers remain, which are all grey with impacted ash. There was a succession of viewpoints throughout the day each revealing more of the mountain and the surrounding landscape. Em long descent finally concluded and I was in the usual river valley you find below these passes. This time though the route turned and began the climb toward another pass.


The climb to Oldman Pass was among the most unforgiving of the passes I’ve done. Not an epically high pass at only 3050′, but it does all of its climbing in just over four miles. It’s initial section was the steepest grade yet on any of these passes. Around three quarters of the way up there was an overlook with a final view of St. Helens, perhaps the most volcanic looking view. Once Oldman Pass was surmounted it was a steep, toasty descent down to the Wind River. The Wind River valley gently descending for many miles through moss strewn trees along the rocky river. Eventually I left the Gifford Pinchot National Forest which I left feeling there was a lot more to explore here. I will be back. I ended up,in Carson and after days in the mountains felt odd to be back into civilization (as it were). A few miles off route is the Home Valley County Campground where I stayed for the night. A pretty beat down ‘ground right on the Columbia River I was rewarded with a shrinking sunset that evening.


coming down from the mountains
among ordinary people again
I can’t seem to see what they see
or say what they expect to hear
my eyes have been rinsed by mountain streams
my tongue thick from lack of use
they ask me where I’ve been
and I don’t know what to say
vaguely flapping my hands northwards
I point toward high peaks.

Posted from Stevenson, Washington, United States.