Eastern Oregon Bike Tour: Day 9

View Eastern OR: Day 9 in a larger map

Start: Just outside Kimberly, OR
End: Ochoco National Forest
Miles Biked: 72
Money?: $6 groceries in Mitchell

Since I designed my route as a figure eight of sorts, today was the day I went back down through the John Day fossil beds for the second time–totally worthwhile, since this time I stopped at different places and did different things. The Blue Basin hiking area was particularly awesome.

(the Blue Basin trail beginning. Blue Basin is actually a lot of rock that actually looks blue because of the minerals in it. Kind of amazing)

There are a few different hike options here. I imagine on a full-on summer day they are all heinously hot and dry, but when I was here it was a perfect time to take the longer (3+ mile) hike that actually goes all the way around Blue Basin and gives you amazing views of the surrounding desert.

(the wildflowers were blooming, too:)

I stopped again at the Condon Paleontology Center, though this time only really to refill my water bottles. While I was there, I ran into a few other bike tourists, who I recognized as Russ and Laura from the Path Less Pedaled website. It was somewhat awkward, as I imagine all interactions are where the level of knowingness has been skewed on one side by things you’ve only seen on the internet.

Stasia: [gesturing to a few bikes leaning against the wall] Are these bikes you guys?

Russ: [starting to say yes]

Stasia: [realizing] Hey! I know you! You’re Russ and Laura right? I mean, er, I know your blog… I’m from Portland… er… I’m stasia… erm.

Laura: [saving me] Nice to meet you!

And then awkward chatter ensued. They’re doing a story on the Old West Scenic Bikeway for some publication that I don’t remember. It was actually pretty rad to meet them, since from their blog I feel like they’re pretty cool folks, but I wish I’d been a little more suave. heh. Oh well.

Anyway. After I got to Picture Gorge again, this time I turned west back toward Mitchell and Prineville, taking Highway 26. Shortly after, some perspective:

(though since I didn’t take 26 directly home this time, it was actually further than this)

This part of the ride felt more like a commute than a tour. Perhaps because this was Memorial Day, there were a ton of RVs and other vehicles booking in what I assume was a homeward direction, and the road was loud and crowded. Nothing like 26 by Mt Hood, but much louder and more populated than anything I’d been biking through for the last week. I put my head down and pushed ahead–but then a few things saved me.

First, I heard a shuffle off the side of the road and saw a flash of oddly shaped brown. Because you can do this on a bike on a highway (as long as no one’s coming to squish you:), I u-turned just in time to see a badger emerge from the ditch. A badger! I had no idea you could actually see those in real life! And moments later, a red-tail hawk screamed down into the field next to me and emerged with a mouse struggling in its talons. Those two things reminded me that even though the road was not as nice as it had been, there was still an amazing amount going on around me if I just took the time to notice. And thus I was back to touring.

Today was a lot of climbing. It’s a very, very gentle uphill all along Highway 19 through the fossil beds, then a much more insistent uphill on Highway 26 for about 25 miles to the Keyes Creek summit just shy of Mitchell, then a crazy 4 or 5-mile (I think) descent all the way back down into Mitchell, only to be followed by another 15 or so mile climb to the Ochoco summit, regaining almost exactly all the elevation you just lost. A good day for people like me who like hills:)

Oh, and along the way, you pass this crazy shoe tree:

(it sure was growing a lot of shoes)

I have no idea what it’s about, but there it is.

I camped in the Ochoco National Forest again tonight. And even though I hadn’t even realized it was impending, basically the second I finished putting up my tent it started dumping rain. And again, even though it hadn’t seemed that cold during the day, that rain totally froze on my rain fly during the night. But whatevs. Despite its cold, wet end, it was another amazing day.

(more pictures here)

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