August 8, 2013
Everything came together rather quickly. I suddenly found myself with a free weekend. The girls were out of town. Just me and Ridgely, my black lab.
Time for a quick camping getaway.
My sights were set on a long hike I’ve been saving up for such an occasion. Since we’d be camping alone and hiking, bringing a bicycle would typically be out of the question.
I wouldn’t want to leave it locked up unattended at the campsite. I certainly wouldn’t want to leave it unattended on a roof rack atop my truck at a remote trailhead.
This is what Bike Fridays were made for. Taking up as much room as a suitcase in the back of my truck, I brought my Pocket Llama along just in case I found some extra time to pedal around a bit in the Cascades.
Leaving late Friday, the chances of finding an open campsite had me a bit worried. When we arrived at the first option, the notice read: NO CAMPFIRES.
The idea of being way out in the middle of the mountains without a campfire didn’t exactly appeal to me. I do my best thinking in front of a campfire. And even though it has been sizzling hot during the day, nights still have a chill in the air. Plus, it’s just me and my pooch. Call me a wimp if you will.
So we drove on, and made alternative plans to hit the trail from another route. We got off the highway, and hit the gravel of a forest road.
When the dust settled, we found a great campground. Plenty of room. We were the only ones there!
My best guess at the reason for the open occupancy was the fact that the road, for motorized vehicles, ended at the campground.
The area was still recovering from a massive fire a few years back, and the road closure was set to help the rehabilitation of the area.
That also meant we couldn’t drive the three miles to the trailhead I hoped to hike. Rats.
However, I could ride my Llama.
When the sun rose the next morning, casting a soft glow on South Sisters peak, I hopped on my Llama before breakfast.
With no traffic on the road, Ridgely could come along for the ride.
We headed in about a mile, then dropped the bike and climbed up a ridge to get the perfect morning shot of South Sister.
We rolled back down the hill and back to the campsite for breakfast. Before the girls left town, they went out and picked peaches. My mouth was watering the whole ride back, savoring the thought.
August in Oregon is awesome because of peaches and blackberries. After some delicious peach pancakes, we loaded up again, and headed out.
As the road climbed toward our trailhead, I began to ponder my options. The cool morning offered a perfect opportunity for a nice bike ride, with Ridgely able to safely come along.
It has been a while since we rode together. She’s quite an athlete, this dog of ours. Did a 14-mile hike this summer at Lake Tahoe. She’s done a 6-hour mountain bike ride with me before, too.
Ridgely set a blistering pace up the climb, even stopping on more than one occasion to allow me to catch up.
Just after one of her short breaks, we ventured around a corner and surprised a herd of about 20 elk standing in the middle of the road.
One look at Ridgely and they busted a move for the valley, which was good, since they were some huge creatures.
The sound of 20 elk thundering down a hillside sounds like a bulldozer blazing through the forest.
When we got up to their exit point on the road, I glanced down. It was nearly a straight drop — going down an angle steeper than 60 degrees.
About 10 minutes later, a doe and her two fawns bounded across the road, up the other side, and disappeared into the woods.
Of course we missed the turn to the trailhead. Vandals had destroyed the sign, save for a little nibble that we saw hidden in the bushes on our way back. It’s hard for me to tell what three miles is when I’m climbing. We probably did 6 before turning around.
We made it to the trailhead, and hiked in a pinch. Not much. Just enough to find a cold creek for Ridgely to refresh and rehydrate herself [for the first three hours, she was the only one drinking from the Camelbak].
As she soaked herself and drank up, I realized cycling had won the day. The grand hike would wait for another day.
We got back onto the road, and headed down to the campsite. Cooked up some salmon for dinner. Finally some other guests arrived at our outpost.
By the time they got there, the Llama had returned to the back of my truck. No one knew I had it there. Except me. And I’m glad I had it. You just never know.
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