We just came back from our most recent bikepacking trip. We followed the newly designated Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway along the Clackamas and Breitenbush rivers, starting in Gresham, and finished by following the Santiam to Lyons and then along wonderful backroads into Corvallis. Except for 15 miles of windy, winding, steeply downhill, two-lane highway (HWY 22 from Detroit to Gates), the roads were wonderful — low-traffic and scenic. Continue reading
This past weekend, my partner and I took 6 of our friends on what was (for 5 of the 6) their first bicycle camping trip. We went to Brownsville, our now go-to intro bike-camping destination. Let me tell you, the Brownsville campground (at their gorgeous, tricked-out city park) is a happening place. Lots of people, lots of camping, right by the river. And free fire-wood! And a lax camp-fire policy.
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).
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.
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!
My partner and I recently completed a 300 mile, 6 day bikepacking trip from Corvallis to Ashland (to see a play) via Crater Lake. The views were stunning, the roads were quiet, the company was excellent. It was an incredibly affordable week-long vacation. We spent less than $70 on campsites and cooked most of our meals. We opted to take public transportation back, at a cost of roughly $80 each (by bus and train). More photos of the scenes along the way can be found here.
View Corvallis to Crater Lake to Ashland Biketrek in a larger map.
I would highly recommend the route we took. Camping spots were well-spaced along the way and we changed our stops along the way (making it further than planned on Day 3 and Day 4). We planned ahead for dispersed camping by bringing along a water filter and though we didn’t use it, it provided peace of mind that we could camp anywhere in the forest along the near completely unpopulated route. The roads were very quiet and ranged from single lane, paved forest roads with cars passing once an hour to roads with wide shoulders and cars passing once every 20 minutes. About 5% of the ride was on roads that I wouldn’t recommend, with little to no shoulder and heavy traffic, but 5% is easily swallowed for 285 miles of felted road.
So, while I would definitely recommend this ride to a friend, it is not for the faint of heart. The climbs were unrelenting. Even the downhills were broken up by protracted uphill battles. We climbed around 13700 ft and descended around 12200 ft. All with a missing brake-pad, a story for another post.
The 2011 Oregon Coast Bike Route Map is hot off the presses and already making a positive impact on cyclists. Michael Sojka of Mount Shasta, Calif. came across one recently and it was the “tool” he needed to make his ride a success.
“This single piece of paper gave me all the information I needed to make decisions along the way,” Sojka said. “Someone clearly did their homework, tested their ideas with real-life cyclists/hikers, and then published a wonderful tool. Every cyclist I showed it to that did not have it was in complete envy of me — everyone I discussed it with had the same opinion of its excellence.”
My partner and I had a
n argument discussion about how to refer to our upcoming bicycling adventure through the Cascades, carrying everything we need to feed and shelter ourselves for one week – particularly to those who don’t know us. It was a good distraction from having to drive to and from Eugene for an appointment that could not be made in Corvallis – thank you kind neighbor who leant us your car so that we could do so without taking the entire day off work to get to Eugene and back. The discussion started as we passed by “Camping World” which seemed to sell RVs, or, as I prefer to call them, gorvs. “How can gorving and backpacking both be camping?” he asked.
Between our close friends, we call what we do bicycle camping, having given up on “bicycle touring” as evoking images of supported bicycle touring. What we do is not supported. But, realizing that car camping and gorving are both referred to as camping, I worried that bicycle camping may lead an uninitiated to believe that we drive our bikes to a campsite. Something I frequently see.
Thinking myself clever, I coined “bikepacking” since I see our recreation as the bicycle equivalent of backpacking. Of course, in retrospect, I was not so original. While I can’t remember hearing the term bikepacking, apparently someone was clever before myself. The boy complained that bikepacking sounds like you are going to a factory to box up our beloved two-wheeled friends. I tried to explain that that would be bike packing, not bikepacking; unconvincing. He started angling for his favored term: land-canoeing. He argues that, like whatever-you-call-what-we-do, a canoe carries the weight (just like a bicycle) and you propel it forward.