Smith by Bike

I’ve written a bunch about trips to Smith Rock State Park, so I’ll spare you the details of the climbing and butt-shots of me halfway up the way.  This trip to Smith was more about an idea.  The idea that crops up when I talk to my brother about climbing, or fill another tank of gas on the way to some distant crag.  The idea that my climbing absorbs more than my fair share of resources.  That climbing trips are more complicated than they should be.  That we all own and bring too much stuff.

Note the rope peaking out from under tarp on the trailer.

My friend Sylvia was in town to celebrate two different weddings, which I was also involved in.  We had a week in between, and wanted a “carfree” adventure.  Smith has strong meanings for both of us, and Sylvia has a history of tough bike tours under her belt- it was only obvious to load up our gear and ditch our cars, to see if we could climb at Smith without burning any gas.  We had 6 days, just enough to make it to Smith, climb, and get back, or so we thought.  We pared down our gear, donned our bike shorts, and wasted a bunch of time while I tried to get my pedals, panniers, and presta valves in order.  We finally pulled out of Portland around 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

It all fits... barely.

I started out with the draws, food, and stove, while Sylvia had the rope (each of us carried our own bivi sac, clothes, shoes, and harness).  We made it into Mt. Hood national forest, and camped along a logging road just off Hwy 26.  Not quite as much mileage as we would have liked, the narrow road and fading light convinced us camping was prudent rather than pushing on.  Plus, we’d have fresh legs for the climb Monday morning (and an awfully long way yet to go).

We felt good waking up, and got rolling around 9am, climbing steadily for the first 45 minutes.

On top of our first big pass in Government Camp, OR.

There are 3 passes to get around Mt. Hood, then about 30 miles of downhill, and temperatures stayed cool while we worked through most of the climbing.

She just keeps on truckin'.

Unfortunately, getting the climbing done while it was cool put us in the sun, and in the desert around 2pm.  Careful that we still had many miles to Smith, we knew proper nutrition was imperative:

After 5 hours of riding, the BLT goes down hard.

Temperatures peaked just as we dropped into the Deschutes crossing and started a 2,000′ climb out of the river bottom.  We got the climb done, but it took the best out of both of us, and the additional mileage left to Smith was a battle.  After climbing out of the Deschutes, an old quadracept injury started to flare up for me, and Sylvia had some knee issues of her own.  Things had started to go sideways…

Lovin' the downhill, not far from Terrebonne.

Our first sight of Smith, just on the horizon.

We made it to Terrebonne around 7pm, stocked up at the local Thriftway, and destroyed a rotisserie chicken.  95 miles at 95 degrees out Making camp under the stars at Smith has never been so satisfying.

True to our objective, we did get up and climb routes on Tuesday morning, but both of us were feeling the effort of our ride.  I was totally out of shape for sport climbing, and the brutal heat saw us down at the river for a mid-day siesta.  My knee was still hurting, and both of us were feeling the weight of commitments left unattended in Portland. Sylvia had been debating getting an early ride back to make the most of her time in Portland (she usually lives in Wyoming), and I realized I would be asking for trouble to ride home alone in time for the wedding rehearsal on Friday.

Sometimes you eat the dog, and sometimes the dog eats you.  We called for a rescue- a huge shout out to our friend Alex for making the drive down to get us.  I’d be tempted to call it a failure, but I learned way to much to bury the experience on a negative tone.  A few important lessons:

  • Don’t forget to take your climbing shorts, key to the bike lock, and phone charger.
  • Fix slow leaks the right way, the first time.
  • Pick safe and quiet roads, even if they mean more distance.
  • Overestimate the time it takes to cover a distance.  2 very fully days would have been appropriate, 3 days would have been comfortable.  1.5 days was not nearly as fun.

Many thanks to Sylvia for being a staunch and experienced partner, I look forward to future bike adventures together, and remembering these lessons on my future adventures.

3 thoughts on “Smith by Bike

  1. Pingback: Plasir Means Fun | stickthefeeling

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