I actually slept really well on night one. Funny how making yourself really tired will make you sleep well. I’m pretty new to the bivy, so I’m pleasantly surprised how well I can sleep without a tent. Good weather certainly helps that, so does the sound of the creek flowing. We went to bed super early, so waking up with first light was easy and natural. I just brought pre-ground coffee beans and a Montbell filter. I boiled water for coffee and homemade instant oatmeal at the same time. It was cool but not cold. Mike and Steve rode out with their puffers on. I went with knee warmers and my 7Mesh windbreaker.
The day starts with like 4000 feet of climbing in the first 15 miles. Parkdale to Cooper Spur isn’t a huge deal. The gradient feels pretty gradual as we roll past the orchards. We all settle in at our own pace. Mike takes off down the road as Steve and I hold it down in back. I sort of expected Mike to be at Cooper Spur since I imagined it to be an obvious regroup, but instead we roll past the lodge and enjoy the swooping descent to 35. Riding up 35 isn’t ideal -the shoulder is sufficient in most spots, but cars are going pretty fast and I’m anxious to get to 44 and be done with this part. Soon enough we see Sherwood campground where we stayed when we did Gunsight to Surveyors not long ago. Pretty noisy campground so close to 35!
Not much to say about the climb up FR44. We did it on that Gunsight ride when we messed up and went down Gumjuwac trail and had to pedal up 44. I had imagined the route went straight where Cooks Meadow meets Surveyors, but instead you keep climbing on road. Anticipating the descent to Dufur, I stopped for spring water. I know at some point you get so focused on the descent that you forget about water and when you think about it, it’s too late and the canopy of trees is gone and it’s exposed. Also I figured a little extra weight wont hurt the downhill speed. It feels good to be on dirt roads finally. There are several places where the navigation isn’t completely obvious (to me) so I’m glad to have a good track to follow. There are many roads up there that criss-cross. After lower 8-mile campground the long descent begins. I love this transitional terrain between upper Hood and the more exposed dryer land near Dufur.
It’s ridiculously scenic - the barns seem perfectly weathered, every tree seems weather-beaten and sturdy. We stop for photos, snacks and skids. Not me – I’m too old for skidz I’d tear a sidewall. I’m all about the long game. Finally we reach a paved road and jog left. I’ve done a lot of rides in this area, but never these exact roads, which is cool. After the quick jog left we’re faced with Endersby Cutoff road. I know it’s a necessary evil to get to Dufur. It’s by no means endless, but it kicks up pretty good and by now it feels hot and we’re missing the altitude and the cool in the trees. We huff up the road, and gleefully bomb the backside. Now we’re on 97 and it feels ridiculously straight and tidy and perfectly paved and the traffic is all business. No worries though it’s not far to Dufur and the shoulder is wide. At this point I’m working on my Kramer’s Market strategy. Hot case or deli sandwich? I think banana, club sandwich, and a ginger brew.
Kramer’s is the the main game in Dufur. It’s a really nice market for such a small town. It seems like someone spent a bunch of money to restore this old historic building. The awnings are nice and new and the old timey belt-drive fans overhead are freshly painted. We wander around looking for the perfect food/drink combo to bring us back to life. For whatever reason we all start staring at our phones. Must connect with the world back home, or something. A lady comes by and asks if we’re OK, since we’re not talking to each other and we’re all phone hypnotized. We laugh and our food comes. We scarf down sandwiches and fill water bottles. The lady at the front counter dances to “My love is Alive” by Gary Wright
Satisfied by a nice Kramer’s lunch break we pedal South towards Tygh Valley. Pretty soon we’re on 97 again for a bit before a steep road climbs off to the right. Mike’s pedal squeaking has gotten really loud at this point. He seems not to be too worried about it – like it’s happened before and he’s sure it won’t be unrideable anytime soon. I start making deals to shorten the route to avoid a mechanical incident. Steve and Mike are having none of it. Steve just says Nah, lets ride gravel and that’s all it takes. Up we go, into the heat. The roads are new to me, but it’s classic Stampede territory – rolling farm roads with no trees, sprawling and lonely. Sometimes it’s hard to ride together in a group, especially on rollers or terrain with frequent climbs. It’s easy though with Steve and Mike – everyone just rides their own pace. On this part Mike and I take turns leading the rollers, mostly Mike leading. We regroup after a few good efforts and check in with each other. Mike’s pedal still sounds like it’s slowly grinding the spindle with each rotation. You can only laugh about it. None of us have any way of repairing it.
At some point we come to a fork in the road and our route has a DEAD END sign. We pause under a tree and consult Gaia. In my (brief) preparations for the ride, I failed to note that we go through the White River Wildlife preserve. It’s the same preserve that the Stampede route goes through, although the Barlow route goes through the Eastern part of the preserve. It has a completely different feel than the Stampede portion. This section is more open and it has more of sense that you’re climbing gently. The dirt road becomes rockier and again I’m thankful to be on 2.1 tires. Still, we choose lines carefully through the debris, looking up occasionally to enjoy the stark beauty. We come to a lookout and it becomes apparent we’ve reached the high point, since we can now see layers of gently rolling hills and what looks like Tygh Valley in the distance. The road cuts a line down the far slope. We suck on our bottles and inhale. This is one of those golden moments when the route makes sense and you realize how few people will ride this road and what you’re doing is pretty damn cool.
When we feel like we’ve inhaled the view and committed it to memory, and taken our snaps, we push off, knowing the last bit of the preserve is a dramatic descent compared to the road that got us here. In minutes we reach the South Gate, and roll a short stretch of dirt road with one switchback and we’re on pavement again. After what feels like a mile and half we reach the Tygh Valley market. Again, we wander the aisles looking to fill cravings for snacks that are unlike the bars we’ve been eating on the bike. This is our last stop before camping, so I try to think ahead for what I might want at camp for dinner or breakfast. I decide on milk to mix with my recovery protein shake when I reach camp. For now, I fill bottles, eat a banana and an It’s It. (It’s It is an ice cream sandwich made with oatmeal cookies) The locals seem really friendly and one lady asks where we’re headed and wishes us luck. I tell them we’re camping at White River, but when I describe where we’re going their responses make me wonder if there aren’t multiple White Rivers.
Mike and Steve stash big Budweiser’s in their bags. Mike lashes a box of Cheez-It’s to his seat bag. They’re better about post-ride snacks. I know I’ll want a beer in camp, but I can’t really fit milk and beer in my bag, so I choose recovery over a buzz, I guess.
I know we’ve already done the bulk of the day’s climbing, but I know those final miles of day can drag on. The trick is to not get anxious and mentally finish before you reach camp. Try to enjoy the afternoon light, slow your pace a bit. Don’t race for the barn. Ride as a group. Take some photos. This part of the route feels odd to me – lots of straight, flat roads through farmland, lots of 90 degree turns. It feels like we’re going pretty far South before we turn West towards Mt. Hood again. We stop for photos and a final snack before the road dives down sharply towards White River. Again, I’m surprised because so far the route hasn’t done anything like this and it’s not what I had imagined. After a high speed descent, we reach the river and find fire pits and sandy ground by the river. “Is this the White River campground?” I was expecting more facilities, so I climb the road out of the canyon to see what’s at the top while Mike and Steve hang out. I guess I was underwhelmed with the camp spot and was hoping for something with a view. It’s not like it’s cold or uncomfortable in the shade of the canyon, it’s just that I’m not ready to say goodbye to the sun for the day yet. Once out of the canyon I realize we’re surrounded by private land with signs that say so. Reluctantly, I ride back down to report my findings before we decide that camping by the White River will be a decent option and it beats lugging a bunch of water up this steep climb.
Once we choose our spot by the river, we inflate sleeping pads, take splashy river baths and start firing up dinner. I drink my recovery shake and start boiling water for my dehydrated Lamb Rogan Josh. It’s been awhile since I’ve had it and I’m reminded how good it is. We covered a lot of ground today since starting in Parkdale and the change in terrain reminds us that we’re now in a totally different zone. It feels remarkable that we can travel so far under our own power. Having ridden short bits of pavement with the speeding cars and then veering off onto roads less traveled I know we’re doing something unique and slightly hard and totally worth doing. We’re the only group camping here for the night. It feels slightly odd to me. I can’t put my finger on it. The mileage works for the day and it’s clearly an established primitive camping spot. I’m constantly reminded of the difference between what I had imagined and reality. I wish there was a nice grassy spot that wasn’t sand, but at least the sand will be comfortable. We relive the day a bit during dinner. Steve asks us what our favorite and least favorite parts of the day were. For me the highlights were probably the descent to Dufur and the Wildlife preserve and the low points were the second half of the 44 climb and the hot rollers after Dufur. All things considered, a killer day on some new roads. I make bedtime tea while Steve and Mike toast big Buds. Good day guys…and good night.