Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out of the Desert, Onto an Airplane

1100 Miles down!  After 3 weeks of pedaling, I take a short break.  Check out this link to see my route so far:

Blog Day 20: Richland, WA to Palouse Falls State Park: 79.6 Miles

Another incredible day! I continue to enjoy all of the wonderful little things that this trip is helping me to see. Today I noticed grasshoppers – thousands of them- jumping out of the way of my wheels as I rode through endless wheat fields in the desert southeast of Washington. They sit, sometimes in little clumps, all over the road. I think it may be mating season, but I also see some grasshoppers hanging out next to dead ones that have been squished on the road. This intrigues me.

A tumbleweed chased me for 100 yards up the side of a canyon while I rode slowly up a hill.

I stopped to take photos of an abandoned farm house in the middle of nowhere.

I stopped in the shade by the side of a pesticide warehouse, where I met 2 guys working there. They were friendly and smiley, even though they were the only signs of human life for 30 miles in either direction.

I gazed upon vast, open, empty planes of grass that seemed never ending. Some of them were wheat, but most were a mix of invasive European grasses and yellow star thistle. I stopped to contemplate what a Ranger at Pinnacles National Monument had told me once about the yellow blossoms of star thistle being so attractive to honey bees that they neglected to pollinate native species because they were too busy with the star thistle.

I rode into the Lyon's Ferry Canyon, the Snake river winding through, an elevated train bridge rattling with constant traffic crossing the river next to me. The canyon walls of steep, red basalt contrasted with the green trees lining the river and the cool, blue water. Fluffy white clouds floated in the sky. An Osprey chased me away from its next on top of the bridge as I crossed.

My day is ending in the campsite of a Pastor and his son, who invited me to camp with them after I asked them if they'd be interested in splitting a site with me. David, the father, immediately invited me to camp, refused my money, and gave me a hearty dinner of steak, potatoes and carrots. It was tasty, timely and so incredibly kind. We are camped at Palouse Falls State park, home of 198 ft. high Palouse Falls. They have made me feel welcome, and we just finished roasting marshmallows around the fire.

Day 21: Palouse Falls to Coffeepot Lake: 93.1 miles

Tired. Today I pedaled for 8 hours and 26 minutes. This is the time I spent on the bike, actually pushing my legs around and around. I went 93 miles and ascended 4962 vertical feet. Not all at once, but over the course of the day.

Some people might question a guy riding a bike uphill through the middle of nowhere in the desert in July. I saw opportunity in the challenge.

My skin is about 5 shades darker, with tan lines that would make fake tanners jealous.

I stopped at 3 homes to fill up with water (I drank over 6 quarts today), because homes were the only human development along most of my route, and there were no streams.  At the first, an old man opened the door, I asked to fill up, and he pointed at the faucet outside next to the doorway. Simple. At the second, I was greeted by 2 dogs, one semi-friendly who walked up to me after a few barks, and then went back to lay down in the shade. The other dog was attached to a serious chain, and went totally nuts barking and growling and snarling at me. I was glad to be out of range of the chain. I heard other dogs barking behind a fence, but could only see a nose and some ears. I stood in the driveway, waiting for someone to come quiet down the racket of the over-excited barking dog, but no one ever did. I looked around for an accessible hose, but only saw one behind the fence, where more dogs were hidden. On my way out of that driveway, I noticed at least 4 other dogs barking at me from behind a chainlink fence, most in a rather unfriendly way. I guess no one was home. At the third home, I met a nice young lady who was happy to let me fill up from her outside faucet. The houses are all on wells, and the water tastes very good. After a short conversation about her parents who sell machinery to wheat farmers (I had been surrounded by wheat fields all day), I departed.

Tonight I am camped at Coffeepot lake, a BLM managed site used primarily by fisherman. In the most unlikely place, Coffeepot lake simply appears in the middle of the desert, and is surrounded by picturesque basalt cliffs in a small canyon. Tomorrow, I will jump in before I leave.

Day 22: Coffeepot Lake to Spokane, WA: 69.3 miles

I completed my 1000th mile of the trip yesterday. Today was more of the same. Coffeepot lake, with its cool waters, green vegetation and flocks of birds, is a far cry from most of Eastern Washington. Wheat fields and fluffy clouds filled my eyes all day. I sprinted the last 15 miles to Spokane (averaging 18mph) to make it to the post office in time to collect the package that I mailed to myself general delivery from Ashland. It felt good, and my legs feel strong enough to climb the rockies. I am ready for this 4 day break. The most time-crunched portion of the trip is now over.

I got a nice look at downtown Spokane on my way to the home of Ian Farquhar and Michelle McRory, whom I worked with for many seasons at Naturalists At Large.

Ian and Michelle are in a comfortable apartment in the northern neighborhoods of the city. They have a crowd of vegetable and flower pots on their back patio, and an uncluttered feel to their abode. They were already cooking dinner when I arrived, and we chowed down on grilled turkey burgers, potatoes and breaded zuchini sticks followed by cookies and ice-cream. It was a wonderful meal to be welcomed with. Tomorrow, I fly to Minnesota after running some errands in town. You'll hear from me again soon!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Out of the Forest, into the Desert

Day 16: Portland to Mosier, OR: 76.7 miles

Today went like I expected, and continue to expect, most days of this trip to go.  Despite a somewhat late start, I put in the longest day I've had so far through beautiful, scenic country in varying weather conditions.
Cheryl really took care of me before I left this morning, putting together a HUGE egg scramble filled with goodies, as well as a homemade muffin which is one of the best I've had in a long time.  I spent some time trying to find a place to stay in Kennewick, where I plan my next layover.

Leaving Portland was quite easy, and I followed bike routes and paths the whole way, even crossing the Columbia river in a bike lane which runs down the middle if the Interstate 205 bridge, with 4 lanes of traffic on either side of me (see photo).  This was exciting, but I felt very safe with tall guard rails on either side, and no evidence of anyone ever having crashed into the center.  After 8 miles of pedalling, I was in Washington, and I turned Eastward on the old Evergreen highway, which joined shortly with the Lewis & Clark Highway, which runs along the north bank of the Columbia river for most of the length of Washington.

I exited the highway shortly and continued to follow the Google bike route, which makes a strong effort to keep cyclists off of main highways, but at what cost?  I found myself pedalling up a HUGE hill that I did not expect to encounter while following a river.  At the top, rain started pouring down and I got quite soaked on the fast, steep ride back down to the river.

The rest of the day was smooth and simple, and I ended up camping by the side of an abandoned road near a small lake.

Day 18: Paterson, WA to Richland, WA: 41.5 Miles

Yesterday, I arrived at the home of Alicia, a woman who accepted my request to surf her couch on  The morning that I left Portland, I sent out requests to 5 people who were listed as having a couch available in the Kennewick, WA area.  I had decided that this would be a good place for a layover during my trek from Portland to Spokane, rather than trying to bike and camp for 7 days straight.  Two of the five gave me positive replies, 1 of whom later withdrew, saying that she had mixed up her dates, and would not be home on the day I was planning to arrive.   So I am staying with Alicia, her 10-month old daughter Cinda (who is completely delightful) and her brother and uncle (who has Alzheimer's).

 Alicia lives in what I imagine is a typical neighborhood, in Richland, which seems like a pretty normal American town.   Situated on the west bank of the Columbia river after it leaves the famous gorge which separates Oregon and Washington, Richland is dry and hot and fairly flat.  It used to be a company town for a big piece of the Manhattan project back in the 40s and 50s, and as such, has aging infrastructure and lots of companies with "Atomic" in the name (Atomic Brew Pub, Atomic Bowling, Atomic Auto Body).

Earlier tonight, after some great pizza at the Atomic Brew Pub, I went with Alicia and Cinda to a local park, where a volunteer organization had set up a series of fun events for Saturday night, culminating in the screening of the movie "Rango," which I had already seen, but enjoyed thoroughly for the second time.  The park was amazingly crowded, especially by the pre-teen crowd, who were happily playing games and socializing, enjoying some good, clean fun.  It was nice to see.  The movie was projected onto what must have been at least a 25 ft screen with an inflatable 2 ft diameter tube as its structural support.  It was great fun, and the temperature stayed mild all the way to the end.

The previous day was EPIC.  I started the day in a fairly dry area (having biked through pouring rain in lush green forests the previous day) and it continued to become more dry and desolate as the day went on.  The towering, green forests west of the cascades became dry, golden fields of grass and steep basalt cliffs as I continued east along the north bank of the Columbia River.  After pedalling 51 miles, I stopped to take a dip in a calm, flat tributary.  The water was cool and clear and I filled up by bottles.  Then I got back on the bike for what I expected to be another 25 miles, to round out my day somewhere between 75-80 miles so that my next day would be similar.  At mile 65, just before 5 pm, I passed through the town of Roosevelt, which consisted only of a mini-mart and a bar/grill with what seemed like "pleasantville" tract homes in a small bundle tucked in next to the river.  This neighborhood was much newer and more planned than anything else for miles.  I considered stopping at the grill for dinner, but decided I wanted to get some more miles in before eating, as I had been dining at 7:30 or 8 pm most nights.  So I continued on.

The next town on the map, at mile 81 for me, was Alderdale, which consisted of a turn-off to a winery, and nothing else.  The next town on the map was Whitcomb, at mile 86 for me, which consisted of a nice state park (with RV camping only) and an island which had restricted entry due to its being a wildlife santuary.  I stopped on the side of the highway here, near a green pond (I was getting low on water) and considered camping in the bushes.  The other problem in the back of my mind was that I had very little gas left for my stove, and would only be able to cook up a small dinner unless I found a restaurant in which to get a proper meal.  So I had a big snack, made some Gatorade from the powder I've been carrying, and pushed on.  Food immediately gives me energy!  No matter how many miles I've gone, or how many times I've snacked, my body seems to make food into energy very quickly.  So I rode on, into Paterson, the next tiny town on the map, at mile 98 for me.  There, the only store/restaurant happened to be having its once monthly rib and tenderloin dinner, which I happily said yes to, scarfed down a huge portion of absolutely delicious meat, and found a place to camp in some tall sagebrush a few miles down the road.  After 102 miles, I wanted to sleep so badly, but it was warmer than it had been anywhere else, and my down sleeping bag made me sweat.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goodbye, Oregon

Day 14: Corvallis, OR to Champoeg State Historic Site, St. Paul, OR: 60 miles

Today's ride flew by.  I felt as if I were getting a late start when, at 10 o'clock, I started cleaning my chain and gears after packing up in Corvallis.  I departed town on the 99W, a fairly substantial highway which runs straight north.  Soon, I turned off onto some side roads which parallel the 99, and found myself in the midst of corn and wheat fields.  I had no idea that Oregon grew so much corn and wheat. I would have sworn I was in the midwest at certain points except that there were mountains not to far in the distance.  Just outside of Salem, the state capital, I stopped at a fruit stand to take advantage of the plentiful berries and cherries available here this time of year.  The guy at the stand asked about my trip, and was so impressed with what I was diong that he sold me a pint of blueberries for one dollar, and threw in a pint of cherries for free!  He was a very nice man.  After that,  I passed by fields of blueberries and cherries, bursting off of the bushes and trees (they've had a late year, like everything else).  Then there were fields of ornamental trees, mostly conifers, of all different varieties.

Champoeg State Historic site, where I'm camping, is a place where many "firsts" for Oregon's European settlers took place.  It was also an important spot for the natives who lived in the area, thriving off of camas root, acorns and plentiful other plantfoods before the Europeans arrived.  Tomorrow morning, I plan to inspect the excavation of the historic town site, which was flooded and buried not too long ago, as well as the historic store, which serves all sorts of tasty treats to this day.

Yesterday was an incredibly nice day.  I woke up in a big, comfy bed at the house that my friend Thea is housesitting.  We had Chilaquiles for breakfast - a specialty she learned from time spent in Mexico.  I followed breakfast with an uploading session on the internet, and then smoothies which we made from bananas we had frozen the night before, and some strawberries and other berries which Thea had sitting in the freezer.  Luckily for me, Thea will be moving out of that house on Friday, and she was trying to "get rid of" most of the food so she won't have to transport it all.  My appetite has definitely increased noticably since the start of the trip.  I am now hungry at all times.  If I come to visit you, be prepared for me to accept any offer of food.

Later, we walked to the food co-op five blocks from the house, picked up some supplies, and I whipped up some granola to take on my trip.  Because I made a quadruple batch, it took much longer than expected to cook (I had it layered too thick), but came out very nice in the end.  In the evening, Dave Frost, a friend and co-worker from Redcliff Ascent where I worked in 06-07, came over with his girlfriend Katie, and we shared a pot-luck dinner of a fabulous salad and perhaps the best veggie lasagna I've ever eaten.  It was great to see old faces and catch up over great food.

Day 15: Champoeg State Park to Portland, OR: 51 Miles

Today started off with another beautiful ride through wet, fecund forrest.  Ferns and moss and big, green trees surrounded me as I passed families of bikers and retired couples walking down the Champoeg bike trail.  Heading back east across the valley from Champoeg, I joined up with a bike path about 20 miles south of Portland, and rode it all the way into town.  Once in the city, bike lanes and bike routes were plentiful, and I made it to the home of Rob and Cheryl Goria with little effort.  Rob is a cousin of my father, and found out about my trip from his sister Kathe, who is on my e-mail list, and a kindred spirit of outdoors love.

After dropping off most of my gear at their house, I quickly met 5 little kids whom Cheryl does daycare for, and then zoomed off on my bike again to try and get to the downtown post office before closing.  I had an extra taillight shipped to me via general delivery, and thankfully, it was waiting for me when I arrived just before 5 o'clock.  I jumped back on the bike, headed to Trader Joes to stock up for the day, and arrived back in time to enjoy a wonderful fish taco dinner.  I ate 5 tacos on 6" tortillas, stuffed to the spilling point.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Can it get any more green?

The 2 days of biking before yesterday were simply incredible.  I have never seen more green in my life.  I am now in Corvallis, OR, taking a break to visit my friends Thea Appleton and Dave Frost, whom I met through different jobs a number of years ago.

I took a ridiculous Forrest Service road up and over the mountains from Highway 138 to Highway 58, stopping at Umpqua hot springs along the way.  This road, called the Toketee Rigdon road, was without a doubt one of the most beautiful roads I have ever been on.  I wanted to stop and take a picture every 5 minutes, but could not, due to the need to continue riding, as well as the rain which fell on me most of the last 3 days.  Things got wet, but not irreparably so, and they are now drying out.  My whole rig is waterproof, and I'm glad I got to test it early in the game.  Details of the days follow:

Day 7:  Ashland, OR to Fish Lake, OR: 65 miles
After a wonderfully fun and relaxing day yesterday hanging with my high school friend Meghan Smith, her boyfriend, and one of their friends at a lake for the afternoon, I was ready to go.  I have been spending lots of time on the computer checking out routes, looking at maps and trying to figure out the best way to go.  Something maps have been really helpful with so far: terrain & elevation.  The route that I chose today was actually 10 miles longer than the more direct route which would have been my choice if I did not carefully consider the slope of the mountains.  Because I could see that the climb on this stretch of highway was much more gradual, I chose this route and am so much happier for it.  I am at 5000 feet elevation right now, and having started the day at 1300, I feel pretty good.  Today’s climb was actually a lot easier than getting over the mountains on the 199, as well as near Oregon Caves.  This is certainly partially due to the fact that I shipped a bunch of weight in the form of food and warm clothing to Spokane, where I will pick it up in 2 weeks and decide once again what should come on the bike and what should go to Minnesota for the start of Autumn.  
Today was the most continuous climb I’ve had.  There were only a couple of half-mile sections of downhill all day, but still, because of all the weight I lost and the very gradual slope, the ride felt great.  I am still surrounded by towering trees and valleys of green as far as I can see.  It rained on me just a little bit tonight, right after I got my tent up and shoved everything inside.  It is nice to know that everything fits.  Tonight, I sleep at the base of the climb to Crater Lake!

Day 9: Fort Klamath, OR to Umpqua Hot Springs via Crater Lake: 65 Miles

Today, I was expecting a ridiculous climb which would wear me out utterly.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was hardly worn out at all at the days end.  I think my endurance is building up.  
Last night, I spent the night at Sun Pass Ranch in Fort Klamath, a tiny town just outside the south border of Crater Lake National Park.  Patty Brown, a family friend, now runs a bed and breakfast there, a very nicely done country-style house with several cozy, well appointed rooms.  Since they had the fortune to be completely full for the time I was there (and most of the summer), I slept in the pop-up tent trailer in the yard, which was quite nice.  Patty took me on a quick tour of some nearby sites, including the headwaters of two rivers which were simply giant springs bubbling straight out of the ground.  Literally, there was no sign of water, and then 10 feet later, there was a river greater than 20 feet across.  She says that is how most of the rivers in this area start. 
 I regretably forgot my camera on this little trip, because one of the springs was a truly memorable sight.  Fallen logs criss-crossed the river, overgrown with little yellow flowers which had bright green foliage and little white roots dangling in to the clearest water I've ever seen.  There were several dozen of these logs, reaching all the way across in some places, looking as if fairies and pixies should be dancing along their lengths, sipping up the cool, clear water as it sparkled in the sun.
This morning, I got a nice start after an enormous delicious breakfast served by Patty.  I ate with the guests staying at the b&b, who were 7 teens and 2 chaperones in a Christian group from Illinois.  They were quite entertained that I was going to be riding my bike across the country.  
The ride up to crater lake was rather uneventful, though the last 3 miles up the crater to the rim were quite steep.  Snow is still plentiful on the rim, and because of it, the road around the rim is still closed, as is the hike down to the actual water itelf.  Regardless, as a biker, I paid only $5 for entrance, and the views of the lake from the accessible portions of the road were unbelieveable.  I have never been to a place that looked so much like a postcard.  I think it would be nearly impossible to take a bad picture, but I had to take about a hundred anyway.  The thick blueness of the water, the clean sky, the sharp, craggy volcanic rim surrounding it, all capped with snow and evergreens is simply stunning.  Highly Recommended.
The ride down from Crater Lake (I topped out at Wizard Pass, Elevation 7700) was grand.  The entire rest of my day (35 of 65 miles) was gently downhill, whizzing through trees and over streams and down beautiful valleys.  Tonight, I spend the night next to the North Umpqua River in Umpqua National Forrest. I changed my route to skip Bend, because the friends I was hoping to visit there are out of town, and there is a hot spring near here that I have heard great things about.

Day 10: Umpqua Hotsprings to Toketee-Rigdon Rd: 18.6 miles

This morning, I did two short hikes before loading up the bike.  First, I stashed my stuff in the woods (this seems to work well), grabbed a daypack and biked a mile up the road from my campsite to Umpqua Hotsprings trailhead.  There, I locked up the bike and hiked less than a half-mile up to the springs.  In a beautiful spot, overlooking the North Umpqua river, seven pools are situated on a hillside, all of varying sizes and temperatures.  Talking with another bather, he said there used to be only one pool, but people have been modifying the area in the last 10 years, and have redirected the flow of the springs into the new pools they've built.  It must not take long for the mineral-rich waters to deposit a layer of rock on top of whatever part of the pools were man-made, because everything looked very natural.  The pool I spent the most time in had a wooden shade structure over the top, and had lots of decorations from travelers who had come before.  After a nice soak, I headed back down the hill, where I hopped on my bike and rode 3.5 miles to the Toketee falls trailhead.  Again locking up my bike, I walked the half-mile trail to a wooden overlook platform, elevated high above the river that the falls run through.  Vertical basalt colums surround the 80 foot plunge of the main falls, and smaller falls can be seen above.  It was very pretty.

Today's biking was TOUGH.  I chose a route based on the AAA map I had (which shows a paved road from Toketee lake to the town of Oakridge, but this is not the case.  Less than 2 miles up a very steep climb (the day before I had descended down to 2300 ft from Crater Lake's 7700), the road turned to compacted gravel, and I decided to continue.  Riding on a road this well compacted is not much of a problem, as long as it doesn't get too steep.  I went up some serious slopes today, and so far, no slippage.  I think I am less than 2 miles from the summit of this climb, as I have already gained 2200 feet today.  It is tough going, bumpy, and slow, but perhaps the most beautiful ride yet.  Water from the mountain streams (through a filter) is delicious.  Cooking massive pots of rice, lentils and cheese hasn't gotten old yet.  The mosquitoes are horrendous.  My therm-a-rest and sleeping bag have been warm and comfy.

Day 13

Yesterday, I arrived in Corvallis.  The day before, I spent the night at an intentional community / educational center in Dexter, OR called Lost Valley.  I originally found out about this community through Jordana, who was contemplating taking a permaculture design course there.  I arrived around 5 pm on a Saturday, and not much was going on.  I was shown where I could camp, and followed some folks who lived there to the kitchen, where I met several people who were in the middle of their 4 week permaculture course.  I made quick friends with this interesting, energetic group, and was invited to meet up with them later for dinner and a movie.  In the mean time, I set up camp, did a short self-tour of the grounds, checked out the gardens, the buildings, and the educational plaques placed near most of the infrastructure.  Arriving back at the kitchen/lodge, I was offered a tasty lentil soup, prepared by the young woman I had spent the most time talking to earlier, Emily, for a friend who was feeling under the weather.  There was plenty to go around.  I helped clean up the kitchen later, and somehow managed to be the recipient of an excellent massage while watching "The 5th Element" for the first time in a decade.  It was a most pleasant evening.

The next morning, as I pedaled off in the rain, most of the folks I had met the previous evening were busy harvesting snow peas and removing banana slugs from the garden.  I was sad that I did not have more time to spend there.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It has begun!

Howdy y'all! I'm on the road! On a bike! Adventure has already taken place...

1. Check out the photos (click on the thumbnails above, or here). They tell more of the story.
2. Click on the "My Location" text to the left to see where I've been for the past week.
3. Checks the "Stats" window to the right if you're into numbers!

WHERE I'M HEADING NEXT: (within 2 weeks, with some confidence ) Crater Lake National Park, Bend, Corvalis, Portland, Spokane.  If you're in one of these places, I want to see you!  Let me know.

So far, the scenery has been STUNNING.  With such a wet winter, water is flowing from every crevice. Streams and rivers are everywhere, all the plants and trees are happy and green, and the flowers are amazing.  I think i set off with over 100 lbs of gear and food, which have been tough to haul over the mountains.  Today, I shed gear weight, and send things to where they need to be later on (warm clothes to where I'll be in the winter, trail mix for 2 weeks to where I'll be in 2 weeks).  Thanks for reading!

Day 1: Trinidad, CA to Prarie Creek State Park, CA
Ahead of schedule and under budget.  Today was super smooth.  I departed Trinidad at 4 pm (3 hours later than planned), but made it to my destination of Elk Prarie Campground in Prarie Creek Redwoods state park with no trouble at all.  I am carrying too much weight, and I think I will start to feel it in the mountains.
     The weather was fabulous, the views were fantastic, and biking felt good.  I met some biologists doing a survey of invasive plants at the campfire program I attended, and we had a good chat.  I also won a banana slug postcard for being the first one at the program to find a Redwood pinecone.  My naturalist training is coming in handy already!
                Looking forward to things to come.  Looking forward to draining some of my 15 lbs of trailmix.  Excited to be on the road!

Day 3: Smith River NRA to near Oregon Caves National Monument

I am having surprisingly little trouble staying present.  My main task of riding a heavy bike is taking much of my effort and energy, and is causing me to concentrate on where I am and what I am doing.  Eating, drinking, breathing hard, pedaling, pedaling, pedaling.  The bicycle is my friend, a useful and reliable tool to get me where I want to go.  It works just as hard as I'm willing to push it, and never wants to take a break before I do.
Yesterday, I rode up the 101 to Crescent City, where I said goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and headed up the 199 toward Oregon.  The 199 follows various forks of the Smith River, which is one of the most beautiful rivers I've ever seen, with water so clear I could see at least 20 feet down.  Unfortunately, most of the places where I had a good view of the river were right next to very steep cliffs, often with retaining walls, or on narrow bridges.  With constant truck traffic and my first full day of riding, I did not have time to snap very many pictures.
Today I rode from the Smith River NRA over the Oregon border, through several small towns on my way to the base of an 8 mile climb to Oregon Caves National Monument.  Tomorrow, I will stash most of my stuff in the trees, taking with me a day pack with lunch and my camera, and ride the 16 mile round trip to the caves and back, because the highway ends at the caves.  I stopped to swim in a couple of streams today, and am camped next to a swimming hole with 2 rope swings.
Some things that are easier than I expected: getting supplies (only food so far) from small markets in little towns.  Little markets are often small enough that I can leave my bike with all my stuff on it outside, and see it the whole time I'm shopping.  I stopped at a health food store in Cave Junction today, spent $5 on some fresh organic produce and lentils, and headed on my way with enough dinner for the next 2 nights.
Something that is being harder: Biking!  I'm sure it doesn't help that I started off with upwards of 12 pounds of trailmix, 3 lbs of nut butter, 20 granola bars and lots of warm clothing which I won't need for another 3 weeks, not to mention a daypack, a drybag, 2 fuel canisters and a full set of toiletries (I didn't bring any of that stuff with me to Asia).  So far, the full load is being a welcome challenge.  I have not pushed myself this hard, physically, in quite a long time.  Thankfully, my lungs and heart are quite happy to go along with whatever I can put them through, but my knees and ass are telling me that I'm getting older.
So far, everything is breathtakingly beautiful.  The Northwest is a magical place, especially this time of year.  Nothing but sunny days!  

Day 4:  Grayback Rd & Highway 46 to Oregon caves National monument and back, then to Williams, OR
Today was glorious.  It was everything I hoped this trip would be.  In the morning, I stashed most of my stuff in the woods and ascended 2200 feet in 8 miles to reach Oregon Caves National monument.  The ride was challenging, but I felt very light without most of my gear.  Surrounded by a towering green forrest, gushing creeks at every corner, I was very happy.  The monument itself left something to be desired.  I like caves, and this is a very large cave, but the formations are much less spectacular than others I've seen.  Also, because it was discovered so long ago, humans have damaged an enormous portion of the formations.  There is even a place where a University of Oregon Professor of Geology signed his name on a flow stone, only to be covered up by more minerals, preserving it forever.  He encouraged all the students who went with him to do the same.  The philosophy has changed now, but the damage is clear and annoying. 
I descended from the monument after the 90 minute tour, took a dip at the great swimming hole where I had spent the night before, and loaded up my bike to head toward my next destination.  I chose a route based on Google bike maps, and it happened to be the same route that my GPS unit liked, so I headed off.  Shortly, the road became incredibly steep, and I had to take several breaks in order to make it to the top.  At the top of the first road (Grayback Rd), the pavement ended, and I had to make a choice between either a 1.6 mile chunky gravel road, or a .7 mile rutted dirt road.  I rode on the gravel for a bit, but it was awful, so I turned around, and started pushing my bike up the steep, deeply rutted dirt road. (National Forrest Road 059).  It took all the effort I could muster to push my fully loaded bike up that hill.  Thankfully, my biking shoes are also keen sandals with deep tread, and I didn't slip nearly as much as I thought I would.  After an hour, I was at the top, back to a paved road, and on my way down a wonderful, steep, tree lined road that I had all to myself.  Tonight, I'm camping in the yard of the State Fire House in Williams, which is on a 2 acre piece of land with few neighbors.  It was getting late, and I knocked on their door.  They said no problem!

Day 5: Williams, OR to Ashland, OR

Williams is a beautiful little town with little farms sprinkled across a tree-lined valley with green mountains in the background.  Another beautiful ride today, the last 12 miles along a bike path running from Medford to Ahsland - very nice.  I'm staying with Meghan Smith, a friend from high school whom I haven't seen in nearly 10 years.  She and her boyfriend recently moved into a very cute and accommodating house here, and have welcomed me fully.  I wonder how long I'll stay?