Category Archives: Local Camping

Ideas for camping within a day’s ride from Portland

Stub Stewart: First bike camp of 2014!
(Or, an exercise in being wet:)

Rain? What rain?

Despite a forecast that looked pretty crappy, this weekend I was determined. I’ll be taking a 3-week trip through Utah later this month (more on that later!:), and before I go it seemed prudent to test out my new bikey camping setup–since I’ve never really traveled without a trailer, I mean, and I wasn’t sure if two panniers would actually cut it for the kind of bike adventure I have in mind.

This weekend is when I had two consecutive days off, so for a test run this weekend it was, weather be damned.

bike overnight camping setup(The setup. Yeah, I know, not a very informative picture, but still:)

The perfect place for a test camping trip? Stub Stewart State Park, of course–it’s only about 47 miles from my door if I take a detour to the Beaverton Farmers Market (which I did, of course, for some fresh provisions:). It has a super awesome, incredibly peaceful hike/bike-in campground that only costs $6 per night in the off-season. (If I’d really wanted to stay dry, I could have instead rented a cabin–but those are something like $45, and they wouldn’t have given me a chance to practice my wet-handling abilities:).

Also, while I was at it I wanted to go running, and there are miles and miles of trails there. Perfect!

camping setup stub stewart(Home, sweet home)

The tarp in the above picture was a fun, last-minute experiment inspired by the weather forecast. It was actually really nice, since it provided a dry staging area to pack up my stuff in the morning deluge. But other than the tarp, I tried to bring about the same sorts of things I would bring on any longer trip: extra clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, water filter, extra shoes. Even though it was only overnight, I brought a lot of stuff–in part because I wanted to have lots of dry things (I hate being perniciously wet!) but also because I wanted to try to emulate a longer trip to see if I could actually carry everything.

I think I can! I’ve been nervous about only having the one rack in the back, but also loathe to deal with another rack and set of bags right now. It turns out I think I’ll be able to fit everything I need into my two bags plus some stuff strapped on top of the back, no front rack or extra bags required. If anything, it’ll force me to be super judicious about what I bring, which is always good.

Also, biking with panniers (rather than a trailer) might be my new favorite thing. I’m still getting used to the fact that my bike when propped up will not necessarily balance the way I think it will, and I’m a little awkward at putting the darn things on, but I love the feeling of everything on my bike instead of trailing behind me. I feel so self-contained!

stub stewart(the horse area of Stub Stewart as seen from my hike, mist-erious;)

As for the rain? There was a lot of it. Happily, it let up by the time I got to Stub Stewart, so I could set up in the dry and was even able to take a long evening hike without getting more than misted on. It was cold, cold, cold–more so because of the damp–but I was pretty cozy in my sleeping bag. And despite being drenched all day today and bringing home basically everything wet (as we speak, my tent is re-set up in my basement to dry; my other things are spread everywhere for the same reason)–despite that, it was a lovely time. And I’m feeling good about my upcoming longer adventure with this bike.

So I’d say this was a great way to kick off the bike camping season of 2014:)

Oh, and the moral of the story? If it’s only an overnight trip anyway, any weather is bearable:)

Cycle Wild Sunset Falls Camping!

A bunch of people and their bicycles, huddled under a roof to wait out a downpour…

heisson store(the bitty Heisson Store, last supply stop before our campground)

Must be a Cycle Wild trip in April! :)

This weekend’s camping trip with Cycle Wild, a group dedicated to helping people get out camping on their bicycles, left from Portland in the sunshine on Saturday morning and became increasingly gloomy and wet as we made our way to Sunset Falls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. But whatever, right? Who actually expects nice weather in April? Despite the wet, it was a rockin’ good time.

Cycle Wild is a good deal, especially if you’re curious about bike camping but not totally sure where to start. They plan the route and the campground and give you a cue sheet to get there and back; you provide your own bike, gear, and food; everyone has a chance to chat with other awesome people and you make your way out to the campground together.

It’s a really nice, supportive way to try bike camping if you’re curious about it but perhaps still a little intimidated. And even if you’re a bike camping pro, it’s a really nice way to meet other cool people and get outside for a weekend. I’m into it.

You can find a whole list of routes and maps for nearby camping on the Cycle Wild website, although it looks like this route to the Sunset Falls Campground isn’t on there. Regardless, it’s sort of like going to Battleground Lake, but then adding on a whole bunch of awesome biking along the Lewis River.

lewis river(ye old Lewis River. We took an unpaved biking/hiking path along this that was absolutely spectacular)

lucia falls(breaktime to check out Lucia Falls. Super awesome to have all these loaded bikes in one spot!:)

We got to our campsite around 6pm, plenty of time to set up our various tents/bivys/hammocks/whatever, change into dry clothes, check out Sunset Falls, try to build a fire with wet wood, make dinner, and otherwise hang out. Though we all biked out together, people left at different times in the morning according to how early they woke up and how long they wanted to hang out. I’ll admit that basically everything I owned was pretty darn wet by the time I got home on Sunday, but, again, that’s basically what I expect from a camping trip in April in the Northwest. I’m super psyched to have been out this weekend to inaugurate the camping season.

My camera stopped working partway through the trip, but I do have more pretty mediocre pictures here.

Awesome work, Cycle Wild! :)

Bike camping season: begin!

Ha! You guys probably think I’m a crazy person (and maybe I am, I suppose:), but now that I’m back in Portland, I’m immediately leaving again!

Just for the weekend, though: a camping trip with Cycle Wild to Sunset Falls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I’m super psyched since I’ve often meant to go on a trip with these fools–other people who want to be in nature on their bicycles? yes please!–but have never had the appropriate time off (the downside of often working weekends during camping season).

And I’m excited to get bike camping kicked off for 2013. Bring it!

So yeah. Check back after this weekend for fun stories about an extended spring break and then subsequent camping! And think happy thoughts for the weather to not be too heinous! :)

New camping at Oxbow

Oxbow Regional Park, on the Sandy River outside of Troutdale, is one of my favorite places to camp near Portland. Not only is it a really sweet ride–you can take the car-free Springwater Corridor most of the way from Portland, and it’s only about 30 miles–but it’s also just a lovely place to be: on the river, nestled amidst old-growth forest, peaceful, quiet.

oxbow(Oxbow last summer–with a dear friend who at the time never biked and yet still made it out there:)

Of course, on weekends in the summer it can be quite popular, which used to make it kind of risky to bike all the way out there hoping to find a campsite. But this year, they’re introducing online reservations, so you can be sure to have a spot waiting for you.

Though I feel like I should be excited about that, I actually have some mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s cool to be assured of a spot. On the other, it sort of gets rid of the impromptu-camping-trip feeling that I associate with someplace so close as Oxbow. Though any unreserved sites will still be first-come-first-served, I can easily imagine a system developing whereby if you haven’t planned your camping trip weeks in advance, you simply can’t camp there anymore.

The other thing that colors my thoughts a bit is my disappointment that their reconception of how to manage their campsites didn’t include any thoughts about saving one or two spots as hiker/biker sites. Metro, the governing body that manages Oxbow, is the place that brings you the Bike There! map, after all, as well as the urban growth boundary and all sorts of things that make Portland dense, livable and bike-friendly. It seems natural to me that they would try to incentivize people biking instead of driving to Oxbow.

When I emailed (the address they provide on their website) to ask about it, I got a reply from Dan Kromer, the Metro Parks and Visitor Services Manager, saying “We have discussed devoting specific campsites to bike camping only but decided to hold off on that idea until we see how the new reservation system is working.” Which makes me think that they could use some more convincing that bike sites are a valuable thing to include.

So if you think that a biker site, like the ones many state parks have, would be a nice thing for Oxbow, it might be worth sending an email. On their end it seems like a good idea, too. Not only can you fit more people into one space without having to dedicate half the area to parking, it would actually speak to the values of sustainability that they purport to espouse.