Columbia River Gorge: 8/20/11-8/21/11

The practice trips have led up to this weekend, which I considered the fist “real” trip. The other tours were fun and important, but they were practice for a trip more like this one.

Route: Portland to Cascade Locks and back
Total distance: 120 miles

This was my first trip with panniers. I used Ortlieb front rollers, and I loved them. They held twice as much as the daypack I was using before. And I was able to leave one open so my sleeping pad could stick out.

Loaded up

Once we got out Portland and left the urban riding behind us, we got to the Marine Drive bike trail, which was really nice. It was right next the Columbia, flat, wide, and scenic.

Blurry action shot from Marine Drive trail with Mt Hood in the distance

The Historic Columbia River Highway was mellow at first. The shoulder was not great, but there wasn’t a lot of traffic to worry about. We passed surprisingly few other cyclists on our climb from Troutdale to the Portland Women’s Forum Scenic Overlook. The Vista House at Crown Point seemed to be the place for cyclists to meet, and we soon realized that the west side of this peak was the more popular bike route.

The ride down was almost harder work than the ride up. The rode was very windy, steep, and had no shoulder and more traffic. My hands were hurting from riding the brakes the whole way down. We stopped at Multnomah Falls for a lunch break. I opted for a hot dog and potato chips, which was not the most energizing lunch ever, but it beat waiting too long for an overpriced meal at the restaurant. I’d like to spend more time here someday, but it was super crowded and we were on a schedule.

Mulnomah Falls

Once the historic roadway ended, things got a little dicey. We used the Columbia River Gorge Bike Map available from Oregon DOT. It was invaluable, but we still were surprised by where the route took us. We were actually on Interstate-84 for a few miles. Here is a picture of John getting on the on-ramp.

I-84 On-Ramp

Also surprising was this staircase. Thankfully someone spraypainted STAIRS on the trail 20 feet before we slammed on brakes and looked at a steep staircase. There was a wheel trough for bikes, but with all the gear we were toting, it was useless. We each had to take 2 trips: 1 for the gear and 1 for the bike.

This was a pit stop at a grocery store in Cascade Locks, OR. We hit up 4 grocery stores on this trip for Gatorade, cold water, and snacks.

We crossed the Columbia on the Bridge of the Gods. We were prepared for the 75 cent toll, but bikes are not required to pay a toll anymore. Once we headed across, we learned why there was no toll: I speculate bikes rarely use this bridge. It was metal grating the whole way across, with no pathway or shoulder. Everything was fine, but it was scary, and I’m not sure if I would have ridden across if I knew what to expect. In fact, on day 2 I talked to a few cyclists who specifically asked how it was riding over the bridge.

Bridge of the Gods

Next stop was Walking Man Brewery in Stevenson, WA. This brewery was totally worth the side trip. The food and beer were both excellent. Sadly, we limited ourselves to 1 beer each because we still had 10 miles to go, and we were probably more dehydrated than we thought we were. Sadlier, was that they did not sell 22s to go.

Walking Man 

After another grocery store stop for drinks, we were headed to Beacon Rock State Park to camp. They had 1 hiker/biker spot. The campground was really nice, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I imagined being close to the river and having a clear view of a starry sky. The campground was up a killer hill and heavily wooded, but it was still a great spot that I’d love to go back to again. We played Pass the Pigs, ate a can of Pringles, and drank a few Bud Light tall boys.

Hiker/biker spot

Beacon Rock State Park Campground

Reflectors

Beacon Rock

Next morning I took a baby hike up to Little Beacon Rock, and then we were off. We spent most of Sunday on Washington-14. We both enjoyed this road more than the historic highway from Saturday. The traffic was manageable, and the views weren’t as obscured by trees. John even had a wildlife encounter! Ahead of me, I saw John swerve uncharacteristaclly. I thought it was weird until I saw the large buck off the shoulder.

Across the river from the Oregon scenic overlook was the pullout at Cape Horn. From here we could see an amazing view of the trip we just took from Beacon Rock.

The rest of the trip was mostly about just getting home. There was one last grocery store pit stop in Washougal. At Camas, we followed the bike detour signs through the city, which added miles and elevation. Once back on WA-14, as we got closer to Vancouver, the road became more freeway like with on-ramps and off-ramps we had to cross. I did not like that, but it was doable. I wouldn’t attempt it on any other day than a Sunday.

There is a bike path on I-205 to cross the river back into Oregon. This was really strange to be in the middle of traffic.

After some more unglamorous urban riding, we arrived back at John’s apartment. I was so tired and hot and hungry and ready to be done. We were home before 4 pm so there was plenty of time to eat dinner and relax a little before the weekend was over. The trip was so fun! Even though I was so happy to be done, I could only think about where we would go next!

What I wish I brought: long sleeve tshirt for warmth and mosquito protection
What I wish I didn’t bring: hoodie
What John wish he brought: camp stove for making morning coffee. (we did mooch some hot water off our neighbors)
What I learned: even if a campsite is walk-in only with no reservations, it is worth calling ahead to ask about how it works. The ranger here explained to me that since I let her know we were coming they would hold the site for us (not sure what that meant) and also told me about some road construction in the area.

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One thought on “Columbia River Gorge: 8/20/11-8/21/11

  1. Pingback: Week On Olympic Peninsula – Volume II | Reba On Tour

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