Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Road Trip: Estacada, Sisters & Bend

With Nancy away back home for a week, I had some time to kill. I moved a short distance south to Milo McIver State Park in the small town of Estacada. This kept me within range of my new favorite mountain bike trail, plus the Clackamas River, and bought me some nice new digs at a cheap price. Unfortunately, like all state parks, this one was booked solid for the weekend, so I'd have to move again.

I did return to the Sandy Ridge trail system, and this time I got all armored up including my full-face helmet. This gave me more confidence to really try to get some hang time on the jumps. It was my first real ride with that helmet and with moto-cross goggles, and I was please with the comfort and visibility. I enjoyed the downhill run even more than before, spent even less time in contact with the ground, and managed to stick all of my landings and not crash. X-Games: Here I come!

My next activity of note was kayaking the Clackamus River. Milo McIver SP is big enough that I could launch at one end of the park, float for about an hour, and take out at the other end. I dropped off the boat upstream, drove to the bottom, biked back to the top, paddled, then loaded the boat on the truck and retrieved the bike. Self service shuttle. The float started out with a rapid that was a bit intimidating for my first white water in the Ocean Kayak Frenzy. I scouted it on foot, picked my route, then hopped back aboard and ran it. It was great, but I got very wet, so I pulled off again and changed out of my soaked clothes and into my wetsuit. The river split in several places, so I did quite a bit of scouting to make sure I stayed in the main channel and wouldn't miss my take out point. Once I portaged around a short but rambunctious rapid which looked to have a particularly high penalty for failure, but in retrospect, I think I'd have cleaned it just fine. The boat's high, wide bow was great for pushing over steep standing waves. It was great fun and I won't hesitate to run class II, even mild class III rapids with this boat in the future.

When I left Milo McIver it was weekend and I had a hard time finding a campground with availability. I finally did when I looked in the Bend area. A few hours southeast, on the other side of Mount Hood, I secured a spot at Crooked River Ranch in Terrebonne, OR. The drive up the shoulder of Mt. Hood and down the other side was pretty amazing - the landscape changes so much in so few miles. It transistions from temperate rain forest to high desert so very quickly. My campsite at CRR was less than ideal. I was backed up to a grassy area surrounded by large groups of campers. This lawn was the playground of what seemed like four separate family outings - tents, lawn games and little kids everywhere. Being there by myself I felt like some lonely nomad, sitting by myself watching all of the family fun. Toby found them riveting, though. He'd sit out there in the grass for hours watching the activity. I did have fun, though. I drove to the town of Sisters where I found some easy, but fun, trails to ride. On the way I got a good view of The Sisters, three volcanic mountains that dominate the view around here, and of the famous Deschutes River:

I passed by a-pack-a alpacas:

There must have been hundreds of them, all sporting their poofy post-hair-harvest do's, looking like the poodles of the hoofed animal domain.

But the best thing about visiting the Bend area was connecting with my cousin Bruce and his wife Cathy. We'd sort of known each other growing up, both of our families living in Maine. But Bruce and his brothers Steve and Jonathan were considerably older than Laurel and I, so we didn't really spend much time together. His little sister Sarah was the one who played games with us and kept us amused while our parents drank gin & tonics and talked. Anyway, it was great to get to know Bruce and Cathy this time. We had a great day hiking around Todd Lake with Mount Bachelor in the background, beautiful wildflowers everywhere, and lots of snow lingering in the shady areas:

We had lunch on the shore of Sparks Lake with an even better view of Mt. Bachelor:

We checked out the Descutes in an area featuring barren lava fields and where white-water rafters float by:

The day ended back at their house, where Bruce and I talked over gin & tonic while Cathy prepared an excellent salmon dinner. It was a really enjoyable day full of great conversation, including discussions of geneology, land use, hiking, biking, fishing, and memories of Friendship Sloops and sailing the coast of Maine. I wish Nancy could have been there, and I truly hope to see Bruce and Cathy again some day.

The next day I took a quick drive over to Smith Rock state park to see the spectacular rock formations along another beautiful stretch of the Descutes. Rock cliimbers dotted the sheer cliffs, the major routes white with chalk. Another example of the recreational opportunities that abound in this area:

I can see why Bend is such an attractive place to live - so much to see and do within an hour of town, and over 300 days of sunshine per year to recreate in! This is a place to revisit for sure.

Back to Troutdale for one more ride at Sandy Ridge (gotta ride the Little Monkey trail!) and to pick Nancy up from the airport. Our journey continues next in Washington State. Check back soon.

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