Benedicto adventure #2.
Not all adventures are created equal. I wrote my friend Andy Waterman about doing an adventure for Benedicto and he mentioned Alastair Humphrey’s book Microadventures. I haven’t seen the book yet, but if you have a look at his site http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/ it brings up all sorts of ideas about adventures big and small. It asks the question: How do you get people out the door to have their own adventures. The answer is of course to start small and start locally.
I like the idea that not every adventure has to be an epic. Epics require lots of planning, free time, and money. Not every post is going to be a far flung corner of the globe. I do love world travel and I would love to ride in Argentina, Chile, China, India, Italy, Iceland. Trust me, I have a long list of places I’d love to visit by bike. Our Alaska trip was a huge eye opener for us in terms of thinking about exploring roads without cars and being fairly self sufficient. Trips like that open your mind to the possibilities and get you dreaming about traveling the world by bike.
But there is also reality. I had decided to go to China to document the second ever cross race. Right after China we spent a week in Las Vegas for Interbike. All good stuff, but it didn’t leave much time for new adventures. Also, we pitched benedicto as a site that would make bikepacking accessible. We had people asking if we described how we got up and running for our Alaskan adventure.
When I think about it. We didn’t just decide to start bikepacking overnight. Sometimes on those long climbs I have time to think about all the factors that combined to make what we’re doing now possible. The seed for this route came from what was my first real overnight mountain bike adventure three years ago. My friend Sal asked if I wanted to join him, Michael Kender and three others (whom I had never ridden with) on the four day, three night Mount Hood hut to hut trip. Cascade Huts has a series of 3 huts around Mt. Hood equipped with bunk beds and stocked with beer and food, so you just pedal yourself there with the supplied map and cue sheets. It’s challenging riding, but you’re not carrying a tent, sleeping bag or stove. The extended climbing and navigating the maze of unmarked forest roads are the real challenge of this route. Cascade Huts provides a cue sheet, but following a Garmin with the route loaded is pretty essential.
Kender had undiagnosed Lyme disease at the time, which meant he had power issues, so Sal and I waited for him at road junctures. The three other guys in the group were also the ones with the only map-reading Garmin of the trip. So they hammered off in race mode and left us to wait for Kender and to try and make sense of the cue sheet. To make a long story short, the three of us bailed after day one. I felt unprepared and didn’t want to spend 3 more days with a group that couldn’t stick together on day one. This trip left me curious about the rest of the route, and I decided not to be that guy that won’t wait at turns for the rest of the group. I also realized I needed to take responsibility for my own route finding.
So with most of September taken up with China and Vegas it was time to do another adventure and we wanted to go back and document and share our Alaska shakedown route. We also wanted to take Jocey and Danny with us so they could have their first ever bikepacking experience.
Hood River to Surveyors
The cool thing about this route is that the only driving we would have to do is down 84 an hour to Hood River. For trail mountain biking we usually drive up 35 to the Surveyor’s trailhead, or further to the 8 mile/Knebal Springs trailhead, ride a few hours and drive home. The genius of bikepacking is less car time, more riding time and you really enjoy the process of getting there.
Anyone that rides a road bike in Oregon has most likely ridden the fantastic Hood River-to-Mosier trail, which is the restored portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway that is closed to cars. Sunny Saturdays are busy there with weekend warriors both young and old, so we had lots of questions as we strapped bags onto our bikes in the parking lot. Right away I was struck with the perfect temps and the quality of the fall light. The last time Tori and I had done this route it was the first week of July. This paved stretch is a great warm up for the day of dirt roads ahead – it’s a gentle climb to the tunnel and riders are treated to spectacular views of the gorge and a swift descent down to Mosier. Mosier was bustling with a town garage sale, but the only shops open were the Mosier Market and Manny’s Mexican cart. We sat on the Adirondack chairs and ate sandwiches and burritos at the former 10-speed coffee deck (I’m not sure what replaced it) I had a feeling I’d want more real food on trail, so I grabbed a small breakfast burrito with sausage from Manny’s and threw it in my pack. I knew we would regroup at the top of the Husky Road climb that awaited just out of town.
The route is good practice for long days of climbing. It’s primarily a dirt road route with a couple of rocky stretches. Tori and I were on hardtail 29ers. Danny was on his full squish Santa Cruz. Jocey rode her Pereira mixte with large volume 650b tires – Grand Bois, I believe. Really, for the climb a cross bike would be fine, but for the descent a suspension fork lets you bomb it properly. I guess our different bike setups prove the point that you can do this route on just about any bike. I’ve really been enjoying the ride quality of the Seven with 2.3 tires. With the proper tire pressure, I can really let it roll on the descents without too much stress. This ride affords some excellent views to the North of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens. Looking East you get views towards Dufur. And of course as you climb South on the route Mt. Hood just gets bigger and bigger.
For food we loaded up on “Flax Your Muscles” bars - I think Tori and I each brought six bars. Molly Cameron got me addicted to Trail Butter on our China cyclocross trip, so we brought a few of those. It really adds richness and flavor to the morning oatmeal packets. We’ve been eating beef jerky on trail since Alaska. We made a couple roast beef sandwiches for lunch. I had made a double batch of bison chili, which fed everyone well for dinner. When dehydrated it’s hard to beat it for weight and portability – it’s really tasty too. During the ride, I keep three 24 oz. bottles of OSMO active hydration on my bike, two in bottle cages and one in my Mountain feedbag. I kept Heet for stove fuel in a Trangia fuel bottle in my second Mountain feedbag to keep weight evenly distributed on my handlebars. Knowing the route, I was confident three bottles would get me to the first water refill at Beaver Spring, which is 19.8 miles from our starting point, or 13.3 miles from Mosier. You have to hike in a bit off the route to get to a good place to filter, but if you follow the trampled grass and leaves on the East side of the road, and listen for the sound of running water it’s fairly obvious where to go. We also knew that we’d be camping by a water source, so we didn’t have to climb with all of our water for dinner and breakfast.
We had a great group for this ride. I think Danny may ride less, but what he lacks in fitness he more than makes up for with sheer determination –and he’s a natural athlete. Jocey is always solid on the bike. She rips down hills on her mountain bike, but she chose her touring bike for this ride. She charged all the climbs and always has great enthusiasm. Tori has really taken to the bikepacking and especially enjoys the maps and navigation. She’s made an effort to get on the bike regularly this summer and her climbing is much improved. For me, it was great to share this route that challenged me three years ago on the hut trip and feel my familiarity improve with every successful run. I don’t have every turn memorized yet, so I still rely on the GPX track and the cues, but it gets easier every time. It was great to be able to share the ride!
We all marveled at how different the route seemed on day two. The morning light was different, the views were different and we got to descend everything we climbed yesterday. There was alot of incredulous “we climbed up that?” We stopped for every view we missed the day before. Sometimes the fun of bombing dirt roads won out and I had to just make a mental snapshot and keep on riding. We stopped half way in a clearing I pulled out the day-old Manny's breakfast burrito. Danny carefully unwrapped another of his homemade chicken burritos. We ate contentedly in the sunshine knowing today's ride would be over before we wanted. We remounted bikes as the road got smoother, from mountain doubletrack, to gravel road, to pavement. Yesterday's ridiculously steep Husky Road climb was today's ripping descent. We lingered on the Mosier bike path, taking photos, chatting, and enjoying the sparkly fall day. We weaved in and out of couples on road bikes and kids on long boards. We raced each other did our best to empty the tank before parking lot high fives and throwing dusty bags in the car. We made a beeline for burgers and beers at Pfriem. Feeling decadent, we strolled over to Cicci gelato, where Paolo set us up with mint stracciatella and told us to check out Lucio Dalla. You like music? Yes. Yes I do.
Words by Jocey Gaudi:
A tour had been the plan for the weekend, but by Thursday with no idea for a route, I had begun to consider other less logistically challenging adventures. Luckily, I saw Tori and Dan that night and they worked together to persuade me to join them for a 2-day bikepacking ride. "The perfect first timer trip!" said Tori, cheerfully. She also assured me that my Pereria touring rig with it's 650b tires would be capable of the trip. Okay, then. Happily, my boyfriend Danny is always up for a bike challenge with me, so he agreed to go along as well. With less than 24 hours to get ourselves ready, I hustled over to the Mountain Shop after work to rent a couple bikepacking bags Danny could attached to his Santa Cruz Blur, then readied my own panniers and camping equipment.
Saturday morning came early, but it was warm with a promise of lots of sunshine. The four of us took over a couple of parking spaces in the lot to reorganize packed bags, change clothes, and double check skewer tightness and tire pressure. A few photos to capture our outset enthusiasm and then we were off and up, climbing immediately. The short pitch faded and our fresh legs carried us into Mosier. Danny and I had been told this is where the real riding starts and, sure enough, a left hand turn onto Husky Road marked a change in the ride - steadily up toward the trees and away from the river.
The pavement turned to gravel and we added to our elevation earned with each pedal stroke. Route finding wasn't always straightforward, but with Dan and Tori's army of Garmins and good old- fashioned paper map and cue sheet, we zigged and zagged across and through Forest Roads. The mood of the crew was sturdy, buffered by everyone eating and drinking well. I was a bit concerned about Danny, considering he dislikes climbing and well, we had been climbing for 5 hours at this point, but the end was kinda sorta in site and I had bought him a small bottle of whiskey to enjoy at the campfire that night.
The sunshine was starting to slant, burning the turning colors of the vine maples. More up. I stopped a few times to inspect mushrooms, holding out hope of unearthing a few chanterelles to add to our dinner plates. No luck. And then, finally, relief. The grade gave way and we enjoyed a coast downhill toward our evening solace. All at once, we were off of our bikes and grateful, relieved, and proud. A fire was built, tents set up, whiskey bottle opened and water boiled. A hearty din of bison chili warmed us up despite the dropping temps. Everyone was wrapped up in thier sleeping bags by 9 PM.
Since the ride was an out and back, I thought I knew what I was in for on Day 2. I was glad to stand corrected when, as my bike rolled in the opposite direction, we were rewarded with sweeping Cascade Range views that I had completely missed the day before with my head down. With a rigid fork, I was challenged on the gravel and braking bump ridden descents, but managed to keep the rubber side down and felt good about mine and the bike's performance. Back in Hood River, we clinked our pints together and called it a damn good weekend.
In closing, my most sincere thanks goes to Dan Sharp and Tori Bortman for encouraging Danny and I out for our first bikepacking trip and for assuring it was fun and successful. We love you guys and can't wait for the next adventure!