You know what’s awesome? Being able to couple bikes with other modes of transportation that extend your travel reach. There are only so many ways to get in and out of Portland on a bike. I mean, there are many ways to get in and out of Portland, but the further you go, the fewer your viable options. And though I’m sure I could never actually take every possible permutation of ways in and out of town, they all ultimately end up funneling into a few key options, and I do get sort of tired of the good ones sometimes.
Which is why Amtrak is so cool: easily, I can put my bike on a train, sit back, and then start (or end) a bike adventure somewhere totally new to me. Which is what I just did for the mini-adventure I mentioned in my last post. I had to be in Bend for work, but rather than biking from Portland to Bend, which I’ve done, I took the train down to Klamath Falls, then explored some of southern Oregon’s roads for an approximately 400-mile back way winding north to Bend.
I have an illustrated travelogue of sorts over on my flickr page if you want more details or pictures, but there are some highlights worth mentioning here:
1. The OC&E trail, right in Klamath Falls
This is a rails-to-trails deal on the old Oregon California and Eastern Railroad right-of-way. Eight miles of it, from Klamath Falls to Olene, are paved, then it becomes an unpaved wild west adventure, complete with snakes, cattle, water, pine, and a variety of surfaces. I fricken loved it. I only took it to Sprauge River, not to its end, but it was fantastic. And something I didn’t even know about until I got to Klamath Falls.
2. Crater Lake
Okay, I’ve been here a few times — on my bike even, when I biked down to Tahoe — but it’s still so, so worth it. The road around is hilly, hilly, hilly (though maybe it feels less hilly if you’re not carrying your entire life on your bicycle with you;) but hilly in the best of ways, and every second is another sharp intake of breath at how crazy beautiful the world is. The East Rim Road, like McKenzie Pass, opens to cyclists before it opens to cars, and there are two more car-free days planned for September (go check it out!). It’s a great place to be on a bicycle.
3. Underused Forest Service Roads
Before I took off for this trip I tried to leave James with a rough-outline itinerary, just so he knew approximately where I thought I would be in case anything crazy happened. But there were two days where I just had to say that I was going to be biking through a tangled maze of unpaved and oddly-numbered roads in the Umpqua and Willamette National Forests and I hoped to find my way out somewhere near Oakridge. (This was the if-you-don’t-hear-from-me-by-Monday-night-call-the-authorities stretch;). Oh my gosh. This was perhaps my favorite part of the whole trip.
After I turned off Highway 62, I didn’t see a single moving car the whole time I was in the National Forests. (I did see some parked cars at Lemolo Lake Resort, which was less “resort” as you may conceive of it and more “super cute rustic cabins on the lake.”). It was fantastic : waaaaaay hillier than I was expecting, way more remote, way better views. Some stretches were the perfect combination of 1) incredible steepness and 2) too-big-for-traction gravel chunks that made me have to jump off my bike and push it (so laborious), but other than that the unpaved was fairly smooth sailing. Ha — well, not “smooth” sailing, but doable. And no, not all the real-life roads were actually on my map, but enough of them were, and just enough of them were labeled, that I could find my way through. No worries.
I loved this part of the trip so much, if nothing else simply because it felt like real adventure — where I had to be 100% engaged with routefinding and figuring out where I was, where I had to rely on myself because it sure didn’t seem like anyone else was coming through.
4. Aufderheide Memorial Drive
I’ll admit it. I sort of planned my route around getting to this road. I’d first heard of it when I went to a Scenic Bikeways conference and someone whose name I’ve forgotten was advocating to designate this road as a Scenic Bikeway. It’s still not a Scenic Bikeway, but it certainly is a scenic road, and well worth the 63-mile trip.
A group of people I’d met earlier had told me that the first 35 miles north to Box Canyon Meadow were all uphill, so I was expecting an ass-kicking. But it turns out that their version of “all uphill” was nothing compared to the Forest Service Road version of hill I’d just been on, so it felt pretty mellow to me. I also tackled the thing in two days, camping off trail somewhere along the route and taking full advantage of how little traffic there was to go skinny dipping in the river. (The North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River this time, if you can handle that long of a name.) Best thing ever.
There were, of course, some let-downs on this trip. Sometimes what looked like little towns on my map were actually only collections of 2 or 5 maybe not quite lived in houses, so though I’d been imagining buying a snack and refilling my water bottles or being able to get cell reception to check in with James, I was often out of luck. Such are the hazards of the road less traveled. Chiloquin was probably the worst. There, there was actually sort of a town, but it was super creepy in that semi-abandoned, living-derelict sort of way that makes all your hair stand on end, a feeling exacerbated when some (probably drunk) dude kept following me around as I tried to use my phone. I didn’t much feel like leaving my bike outside and buying anything there, despite really having to pee and really needing water. Whatever: I carry a filter. It’s more work, but I’d rather take the time to pump water from a creek than be harassed.
(Interestingly, when I look “Chiloquin” up on the internet, it actually looks like a real town. Perhaps I saw it at a particularly bad moment.)
For whatever minor disappointments there are always twenty bazillion life-affirming bundles of awesomeness. Things like noticing that a ridge near me was called “Dread and Terror Ridge.” (Who comes up with these things?:) Finding a trail along the North Umpqua River where I could walk for miles, stumbling upon waterfall after waterfall. Hearing and seeing baby birds everywhere. Delighting in the hundreds of different wildflowers in bloom (and having time to actually see them all). Swimming in basically every body of water I came to. The stars — oh my gosh, the stars. Feeling so damn lucky, all the time, to be healthy and strong and out in the world on my bike.
And yes, having an “outdoorsy” job so that when I showed up for my three-day training in Bend unshowered, dreadlocked, sunburnt, and smelly, no one even blinked an eye. I just checked in and hopped right into the shower to make myself semi-presentable, drying myself with an ultra-light towel about as big as a doormat and putting on the one pair of clothes I’d been saving the whole week for that purpose. I’m not sure anyone even noticed.
I’m really glad I got to work in a bike adventure this spring. I come back feeling more grounded, happier, and reinvigorated about life. I’m so thankful for being able to take this kind of time.
(And, of course, if you want more pictures, there are many more here. Enjoy:)