Monday, August 21

Cycle to Snowline

Trillium Lake and Timberline Lodge

Over the past weekend I went out with the Exchange Cycle Tours on a ride to Trillium Lake. We left Gresham early enough to have enough time out there. After departing from the Gresham MAX station, we left via the Springwater Corridor, and rode through Boring before connecting with Hwy 26. [It's best to avoid connecting with Rt 26 for as long as you can, because it's quite unpleasant until the road narrows to 2 lanes near Zigzag.]

It was in this area that we experienced the one flat tire of the trip. Given the distance and road conditions, that was quite fortuitous. The ride alternated between unpleasant conditions with minimal roadside space, and wonderful conditions with shade trees growing alongside the road.

After Lolo Pass Rd, the route began to climb and the views grew more impressive. We had great views of the mountains, and took many more rest stops as the grade became steeper. While I don't have photos to describe it, we had the amazing experience of cycling through a storm of butterflys in the area. All around us were white or orange butterflys floating along the roadside. This is one experience that auto-dependants are unlucky enough to miss out on. It brings me such joy to see these animals fluttering a few inches in front of me.

It became worrisome, as the afternoon waned, if we would make it to our destination before nightfall. With the sun beginning to set while we were still in Government Camp, the situation became more disconcerting. However we didn't lose our composure. We had lights, and the traffic was minimal so late in the evening. After getting dinner, we rode through the twilight towards Trillium Lake. By staying together and riding responsibly, there were no problems.

The only bad news was that all the auto-dependants had raced ahead and consumed all the camping spots in the campground by the time we arrived. At first I was unhappy about this. However while we rode around the camp access road, it became clear that camping amongst a sea of motor homes would have been no vacation. It felt more like cycling through a trailer park than a national park. In my opinion, the whole reason to make the excursion so far from the city, is to get away from the motorized public. We therefore cycled down the road and found a nearly deserted camping spot by a dirt road, and had a fairly peaceful evening.

In the morning Steve set up an impromptu stove and with a single match, had breakfast cooking on it. Not everyone of course was so bright eyed. I had been working hard the day before sharing in the bikey fun, and therefore was a bit less chipper.

After cleaning up the camp, we headed to Trillium Lake which is amazingly majestic. Thankfully due to the ban on motor boats, we had a mostly peaceful morning swimming and enjoying the views. Then once the urban campers began filing in, we headed out on the return trip.

But when we reached Timberline Hwy, we caught site of the zoobombers. For those of you who don't know zoobombing, it means using small BMX bikes to ride down a steep descent at ridiculously high speeds. While they caught rides with sympathetic drivers, we hauled ourselves up the last 600 meters (2000ft) to Timberline Lodge. I wasn't at first excited about the climb; but the rest of the group was willing, and I have little trouble climbing hills since I do it every day. So we headed up the road, making our way slowly toward the top. The effort was more than worth it when we reached Timberline and found ourselves within walking distance of the snowline (at 1800m). It was unbelievable to have a snowball fight in August, knowing we had reached such an elevation with muscle power alone.

Being a bicycle commuter at the top of Mt. Hood does make a person feel like an outsider. After all, the chances of meeting any other bicycle advocate was near zero. So it was with utter amazement that I see the revered Reverend at Timberline. [Rev Phil is an unusual member of Portland's SHIFT community. He has hosted numerous bike-movie events, and he also plays a leading role in zoobomb] While I have never been a fan or advocate for such extremism, I gained new respect and some sympathy for the group after hanging out with them at Timberline. Not only were they very impressed and courtious to us, they even offered to trade bikes with us for the descent. I thought that was a big offer on their part. Especially since they make the effort to come all the way out to Mt. Hood in order to ride these low-slung bikes which offer less aerodynamic drag. So the three of us joined them on their next run down the mountain and while I didn't break any speed records, the crew apparently hit 40mph on the descent. I was also impressed that the group was so amicable given I had hardly topped 25mph. It's great to live in a community where people from very diverse backgrounds can share great bikey experiences. [I later heard that the bombers had been struck by a murderous group while traveling at high speed on the same road which our group had traveled. I compare this with someone who would hurl a stick into the spokes of a motorcycle because they see it as offensive.]

After leaving the bombers at Government Camp, we continued on our uneventful trip back to Portland. While the trip up there took almost 9 hours, the trip back took about 3 1/2.

For those who feel that a 60 mile ride would be daunting, there is the option of taking the MAX to Gresham, and hoping on the free Sandy Area Metro to Sandy. This cuts the trip by 1/3 leaving plenty of time to climb the elevation to Government Camp.


Anonymous said...

Hi Aaron,

Thanx for taking all the trouble to document our wonderful trip. I still cannot believe that we climbed to the top of Timberline lodge from Government Camp. I met a guy at work; who had driven to Timberline lodge on Sunday or Monday. He said his car had trouble climbing up to the top!

Well, its always fun to practice "RANDOM ACTS OF BIKE FUN" (one of the bumper (OK Frame/Fender/Fork) stickers on your bike ). We were lucky to meet those zoobombers and get to touch snow.


Anonymous said...

Umm, ZooBombers don't usually ride BMX bikes (well, some 'ringers' do); most ZooBombers ride kids bikes.

Matt P. said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Aaron - last Sunday I rode from Milwaukie up past Government Camp. I wasn't quite prepared enough to make it to my goal of Timberline Lodge, but I did make it to 4,200' (the first waterfall on Timberline Hwy) before turning around and heading back. (Next time, Gadget, next time) 113 miles and close to 6,000' total elevation gain. I totally understand now about the thrill of doing that on muscle power alone, and everyone at my work now thinks I'm nuts!

-Matt Picio