Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 81 - August 23, 2013 - Sisters, OR to McKenzie Bridge, OR

Miles - 42
Total mileage - 2,169

Finally McKenzie Pass day!  We were excited to tackle our last mountain pass of the trip, looking forward to the beautiful scenery along the way, but also experiencing a little trepidation - we had 15 miles to the top, and we weren't sure how tough the grade would be.

We enjoyed some of the berries we got from the fruit stand for breakfast, packed up, and got on the road.  It was still a little cool out, but felt nice, and the forest smelled lovely after the rain the orevious day!

The first 7 or 8 miles were relatively flat, taking us to the base of the mountains through the Deschutes National Forest.

We saw this lovely sign:

McKenzie Pass is a big deal for cyclists.  In fact, the pass is closed in the winter because it gets so snowy, but they plow one lane through it about a month before it opens to vehicles for cyclists and hikers.  Cyclists make treks from all over to ride the road without any car traffic!  Google pictures of that if you have time, they are pretty impressive!

After those initial miles, the grade got steeper rather quickly.  Just for a short bit though - we spun away in some of our easier gears and kept at it, taking several breaks.  There wasnt much traffic, as promised, and we did see tons of cyclists (all one light road bikes without any other gear) pedal by us on their way up.  One guys stopped to chat - he was visiting his mom in the area and came over to do the ride up the pass.  Another couple passed us cheering us on...I'm sure we look a sight as we struggle away up the hill with pounds and pounds of stuff on our bikes!

The lava rocks started making their appearance soon enough:

Then we got closer to the summit and found this :

Lava flows!  Such a night and day difference as you head up this thing!  A group of three cyclists passed us on their way back down, and told us the last 3 miles to the top are rolling and not so bad.  That was all the motivation we needed...the last 3 miles went by quickly!  We met a couple at the top from Canada spending their vacation driving around Oregon doing day trips by bike.  Sounds like fun.  In fact, their first date was a trip to Africa to climb Kilamanjaro!  Cool couple!

It was windy and cold at the top of the pass, and you could see mountains all around.  Some still snow covered, with glaciers that never melt.  Very pretty, and interesting see all of the contrasting landscapes.

The road meanders a bit atop the pass, then finally, graciously, begins the long descent down the opposite side.  I'm going out on a limb to call today the best day of the trip.  We felt accomplished pedaling the entire pass, then had a spectacular almost 20 miles of beautiful descent.  Some of the hairpin turns were tough, and we had to stop a few times to give our hands a rest from braking, but it was fabulous.  Surrounded by towering evergreens, cruising through a virtual tunnel of trees, breathing in the fresh mountain air...I'm so glad this day was saved for one of the last of our trip.  It doesn't get much better.

We eventually met up with the busier highway, but has a wide shoulder up where we are, and cruised on into the little hamlet of McKenzie Bridge.  We arrived at the one small deli in town 10 minutes before they were due to close at 4:30.  The lady was gracious enough to serve us a late lunch and tell us she wasn't in any hurry anyway.  People are so nice!

We devoured lunch, headed to the country store for dinner and breakfast snacks, the  onto the USFS McKenzie Bridge Campground.  There were only a couple of campsites left since it was Friday night, unfortunately the ones right on the river were all occupied, so we picked one and set up camp.

It felt like being in a rainforest...the ferns and trees created a secluded cocoon around us.  We took some snacks later on and went to sit at a table by the river and just enjoy nature.  This is what I call camping!

It was not even 7:00 yet, but we were both exhausted.  We forced our eyes to stay open long enough to watch a few episodes of Friends, then succumbed to the exhaustion of the day.

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