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.

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