The road above Timberline Lodge.
Prep for the High Cascades meant hours spent on the bike with the Freakonomics podcast keeping me distracted. And that’s how I got here.
Bottle Number One
Steve’s cold wet nose wiped the mix of dust and sweat off of my calf. Riding gravel roads in 90 degree heat highlights the interaction of the air and the creases in your legs. Dark lines of dirt formed in the pockets where the skin stretches from bone to muscle. I think it’s rude to give dogs human names but I’m trying to be friendly so I just ask how her day is going as Steve turns his nose towards the Burgerville stuffed in my bags. Caroline. Good. Her truck has California plates but she was from Washington, driving south not north. I offered her bottle number two. It would be nice to have company but she politely declines and I was not disappointed to have something for later. Still creek is not still, the water is moving fast and Steve doesn’t seem very interested despite the heat. She doesn’t sit down but we chat. She is nice enough, friendly and makes a couple jokes, but she’s too quiet and the conversation is going no where. After a few more minutes my beer is done so I take my feet out of the water and get ready to get back on the bike.
Still creek road.
I shouldn’t have been on this road; I had planned on riding a different, harder, longer route. It was Thursday (July 2nd). By Sunday I would have had a week filled with modified plans. Between those days, the reward for this pivoting would be several pleasant conversations, a mid-ride nap in the grass and swimming in cold lakes, but also some disappointment (a story for another day). Also by the end of the week, I would very sunburned.
Bottle Number Two
I’m sitting alone on the West side of the upper end of the Magic Mile lift seven thousand feet up. It’s still hot as hell and I’m only wearing bibs. It’s six o’clock and the jersey came off hours ago. Incongruously I’m surround by skis and boards left behind for the evening by the kids attending the summer camp on the mountain (there is still snow a thousand feet further up the mountain).
#selfie (why am I so mad?)
From Portland Mt. Hood looks like a solid rock but above the timberline it’s a sandy nightmare. My shoes are filled with the shit. A few spots were too loose to ride up, walking and pushing wasn’t much easier. But I’m up here now and all is forgiven. Now it’s the wind that is that is my nemesis. Little bits of foil are blowing down the mountain as I get further down my burrito. But these two banes are combining for a pleasant side effect; the sand is holding the bottle of Bud Light Lime I shoved into it in place as the wind whistles a tune across the open top.
Bottle number two, singing.
Andrew and Shawn had recently told me about seeing the sunrise from South Sister. Seeing the shadow of the mountain slowly shrink across the central Oregon plains as the Sun rose. This is something I was looking forward to so as the Sun fell closer to the horizon I moved to a ridge facing East. By now I was wearing all the clothes I had brought (tights, a long sleeve jersey and a light wind jacket). I found a good boulder sheltering a flat spot from the wind and laid out my ground cover.
I’m tired, very tired, at this point but still waiting for it to happen. I look around the side of my boulder to see the sun finally disappearing. Then, a shadow starts racing up a ridge just east of Hood. It starts as a simple line but as it grows I can see the other side, the north side of the mountain, extend out to make a point. Ok…so… with the Snow Cats still running up and down maintaining the snow and the lifts cutting across my view it’s not really as romantic as I had imagined but there it was nonetheless.
The Sun sets. The sky turns blue, the horizon glows orange and at some point I fall asleep. This was actually my first time sleeping outside not in a tent. It was fine, it was great, but I still woke up several times. I think the Snow Cats worked the entire night so the kids could ride nice snow in the morning. Crazy. Morning came and the whole pointy mountain shadow thing happened again. The other way and in reverse. I was pretty over it at this point. It was nice but the lifts had started (it was about 6:15) and the ski instructors were heading up the mountain to get in place before the students arrived. So I brushed my teeth and packed up my bike. The ride down was pretty great.
After a burrito and coffee in the lodge I busted the road down. In Government Camp I hopped onto single track (Pioneer Bridle trail). It was just at the limit of my packed down Fargo. By 10am my jersey was gone. In Zig Zag I was in no mood for slow back roads. It was already stupid hot and I wanted to get home so I stuck to 26 and ITT’d to Boring and the Springwater. Freakonomics is great for keeping your mind busy, not good for getting those legs spinning. My “Shitty Rap” playlist was to thank for getting me home.
This is single track. It is better than 26. I did not take any pictures of 26.