Two years ago I rode the Hood River to Mosier section of this trail with ecousin and my dear old dad (now 74 and still riding the heck out of his bike back in Burlington, Vermont). This summer ecousin, his family and my family decided to ride the trail in its entirety from downtown Portland (Sandy and 28th Street) to The Dalles.
I chose to ride my road bike, a modified Fuji Tiera (BMX handlebars, a nice front basket and platform pedals), and was able to keep up a fun clip as we paralleled the Union Pacific Tracks and I-84 on our journey east from the congestion of bike friendly PDX to the arid western front of the Northern Oregon desert lands.
I leave my in-laws house for a 7am arrival at Dan's (ecousins brother in law and our RTT partner in crime). Bike is running fast and the overcast skies are a welcome sight for a July 4 ride. I arrive about 20 minutes sooner than I expected I would. This is good. Everyone is ready. Ecousins Dad is joining us for the first 40 miles of the trip. Our destination is Ainsworth Park, an exceptional little camping spot in the Gorge just East of Multnomah Falls.
Once organized we start the roll. Leaving 50th and Division we follow the mellow flower heavy neighborhoods of Portland NE. Gorgeous! Thank you Portland folks for making biking such a pleasure.
A bit of industrial trail ride follows our escape from the density, but this is one of my favorite parts of RTT or other recovered trails type riding. I love that "jig saw puzzle" line where the urban landscape intersects with the industrial and agricultural wilderness. It is always poetic and photogenic.
So, yeah, we made it to Troutdale. Pick your route.
We went through downtown but there wasn't much to eat. Across the Stark street bridge that spans the Sandy river we found nosh at "Tippy Canoe". Breakfast was a touch on the "you get what you pay for" side, and it was worth every penny of ecousins dads generosity. Ecousins dad was very nice and picked up the tab. Great way to begin the true start of the scenic highway.
Unique to this part of the tale is that this is now within a few miles of where I first connected with ecousins family. This next part of the ride is particularly powerful for all of us.
As we were gliding up the scenic highway into Corbett the memories began to flash from my first views of the Sandy river and the bluffy basalt mossy tree lined rolling hills and cuts that form that old road bed.
Springdale, and the exact road that could lead us to gaze at the old homestead.
There it went.
Luckily masked by the parade.
One acre with a canyon creek, a spring, a pasture and house and barn and shop and a garden. Perhaps the finest one acre I have ever seen.
Ecousin and his dad were both railroad engineers. Ecousins Dad got transferred to the Pasco yard in the early 1990s and had to relocate to Tri Cities, WA. It was heartbreaking for them to have to sell that bit of suburban Portland paradise.
One thing that all roads and rail beds share is history. I have many fun memories of welcome and hilarity...perhaps even antics at that old territorial bungalow overlooking the creek and pasture.
It must be the epitome of a bittersweet memory for ecousins family.
Climbing out of Springdale to Corbett we joined the locally famous 4th of July parade. It was truly something for these communities to be proud of. Real nice scene. For several miles you are staring at the heart of America. I think a few of us were able to catch some candy being thrown from the official parade vehicles. I know I caught a piece. I'm amazed we weren't detained for joining the middle of the parade.
East of Corbett the parade traffic dwindled and Gorge sight-seers began entering the main artery. Approaching the Vista House at Crown Point we were fair game for any negligent driver on the serpentine road that drops you down to Ainsworth Park.
We stopped at the recently remodeled Vista
House for meditation and views. Both things occurred.
Descent from Vista House is exciting. Tiera is a very fast bike, and with BMX handlebars it makes corners extra fun. I was most worried about car traffic and I found it when we were about one mile from Multnomah falls.
Lane splitting aside (there is no real bike path in this section yet--coming soon hopefully), we all descended intact.
We managed through tourist traffic, and emerged on a relatively car free zone in Ainsworth park. My wife joined us with the tent and my daughter. Ecousineaus Mom arrived with the party spot and by the time we rolled in the celebration of our nations independence was under way. Kids walking to waterfalls and riding around the campground in preparation of day two.
Corn, salads, hamburger, hot dogs. marshmallows, campfire You know...the fourth.
Is this my tent?
Wrangling children. The kids, coming down off a s'mores high are late to wake up and snack. We have about 8 miles to pull them through before breakfast in Cascade Locks. The morning moved a touch sluggish, but we made it and had some good gorge waterfall stops. Also, this portion of trail is almost road free.
Charburger under the bridge of the gods. Their onion rings are worth the calorie burn between here and The Dalles.
Now we abandon the peloton and the kids are behind us moving west back to camp via Bonniville hot springs. My wife decides to cross the Bridge of the Gods. She reports that it is very scary. I've ridden over this bridge many times on motorcycle, and it was terrifying every time. Lots of cross wind, limited barricade and a deck made of grid steel. Look straight down at the river for vertigo.
So now we are down to the core of three. Ecousin, Dan and I begin our slide to The Dalles. Soon enough we are cast on to the freeway. No flipping shoulder and Semi Trailer triple trailer holy oh my gosh for several miles. No place for children. No place for me. I decide that my best option is to go as fast as I possibly can until I have an exit. I do it and probably score a personal best. My guess is that with the tail wind I averaged 20mph in that section.
That hideous, dangerous,scary section.
Soon enough we are back on tamer roads. Hood river and a beer then the section between Gracy Sues' in Hood River and the Tar Sands destroyed town of Mosier. By far the most fun section of the trail.
From Mosier the climb is steep and perhaps some of the most interesting cycling I have ever done. Traffic was light and the roads ran fast. There are some steep sections, but the downhill reward is worth it if you like fast downhill and sharp corners.
Also a whole lot more of I-84 and going as fast as possible. The faster you go the less trucks pass you where there is no buffer zone.
A lot of artists and farmers living back in that chapperalle. Beautiful. This ride will be exceptional (in a good way) when the project is complete.
Bottom out at The Dalles. At the west edge of town you can catch the Columbia River waterfront bike path. This runs several miles to the marina. It glides through the jigsaw puzzle boundary of what is industrial, residential, agricultural, and spiritual about this particular spot on the Columbia.
A place named after tables.
A crossroads of rivers.
What is a table? Is it a boundary between your floor and your work. In our case, we were on the floor, weaving in and out of other boundries of nature and politics. Tables of dry desert grass shimmering light in the early summer evening sinking sun. Ecousins sister picked us up and we hauled back to Ainsworth. My wifes birthday, some cake and great fire pit conversation.
In the morning break camp and hold back the tears. The earth only gets to rotate so many times on your watch. Make the most of it!
Next year perhaps Bend...perhaps Alaska...perhaps Pennsylvania.