Bikepacking Four Cascade Passes

sisters Mike and I recently got back from our summer tour.  This year, instead of me (enjoyably) crafting a route, we decided to follow a route designed by Ellee Thalheimer in her book Cycling Sojourner which lays out many self-supported bicycle tours across Oregon.  I reviewed the book soon after it came out and looked forward to putting it to the real test.  In another post, I’ll follow-up on my review with how her directions panned out.

We mostly followed Ellee’s Cascade Classic route, except we started in Sisters, took an extra day on the loop, ended in Bend and added a day trip at the end to Tumalo Falls (which I wish was pronounced “TOO-mah-LOO”, but isn’t).

fellow bike tourers from eugene Day one, two and three had us tackling the McKenzie, Aufderheide and Willamette passes.  The McKenzie highway is gorgeous, but even after labor day, the traffic was a little harrowing on the narrow, windy road.  If only motorists were a little more patient and didn’t insist on passing around blind turns!  Still, it was a gorgeous day.  Aufderheide (right) was like a dream though.  Nearly empty and gentle climbs and a gentle, straight descent that rarely required braking.  We descended with two newbie tourers from Eugene who had their first overnight to Corvallis just a few months ago.

tunnel!The Willamette pass is a little … like a giant highway.  But we’d just come from the Brewers Local Union 180 in Oakridge so we were well-fed and in good spirits.  It was a hell of a climb (as you can see below).  A relentless 5000ft climb.  Near the top, the tunnel was down to one lane and so we got to enjoy the tunnel to ourselves and get a glimpse of our post-apocalyptic future.  On the other side we were greeted by cheering road workers.  Much needed with 1000ft left and little daylight.

The next day we dogged it along the Cascade Lakes Highway and enjoyed a dip in Elk Lake at our picturesque campsite (that I didn’t get a picture of).  An unexpected gift of beer from the ladies in the site next to ours was icing on the cake. The Bachelor pass was a beauty.  We were relaxed and traffic was light.  Construction on the highway down into Bend had the traffic forced into short bursts and so we enjoyed the 20 mile straight 3000f descent into Bend on newly paved asphalt relatively free of cars.

Two nights at the Mill Inn in Bend (which I can’t recommend enough – the breakfast alone is worth the trip) gave us time to relax and take an unloaded jaunt out to Tumalo Falls.  (And another climb.)

Overall, the roads were awesome (after Labor Day certainly helped).  The camping was idyllic.  The climbing leaves me feeling like I can do anything.  In total, we climbed 19000 ft, or so bikely tells me.  It’s hard to believe we climbed more than last year (up to Crater Lake), but I suppose we covered slightly less distance.

If you’d like to know the details of the route – get Ellee’s book!

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