Deschutes County, Oregon
Day 79. Today we're climbing up the McKenzie Pass which was the initial pass across the Cascades. It was incredibly hard to go down on the western side. Here on the Eastern side it's more of a gradual climb up. Once a better route was developed this Pass became less used except as. Scenic Byway.
We had breakfast in Sisters, Oregon - named after the snow capped mountains of the Cascades to the west. It's a little mind boggling to be riding toward them knowing we are going to cross that mountain range.
The arid high mountain desert is starting to recede with tall ponderosa pines. Bill says they have a distinctive smell and hops off his bike to demonstrate. Barry joins in on the smell-fest but it proves a little unsatisfactory.
Bill. He has led an interesting life. Hang gliding and para gliding. That's risky some say and Bill says yes but what really terrifies me is having children so I never did.
The Cascades wipe out all the moisture from the weather moving east. It's why there is an arid Western Oregon and a lush and green Oregon.
About halfway up the pass I notice fern leaves. Ferns! So long surrounded by the lush green of Virginia I wondered what I had to pass through to see the lush green of Oregon and now we are on that doorstep.
Near McKenzie Pass Summit
As climbs go it's not the worst. I was last (again) biking at 4mph and taking breaks for my behind and water. Today, for some reason, my rear end and the seat haven't been getting along and there's a cyst right at the seam of my leg and torso which gives me fits when squeezed. We'll see.
As we reach the summit, the tall pine trees give way to a massive black lava flow. There was, according to the sign, an eruption here about 1,500 years ago and much of the summit is covered by a lava field. The road eventually turns into the lava field ,and for a while we are driving in this black lava maze.
And then the summit is reached and we are beset not only by people visiting the summit and the lava field, but also butterflies. Hundreds of them. Climbing up they would come in pairs or threes, and playfully flit about and once even just fly with me as I biked up the incline.
Here at the summit they dance about in the hundreds. They, along with the distant snow capped peaks of the Cascade Range are the only thing that argue against us having been transported to a barren lava rock planet.
This is the last climb of the trip, and looking at all the motorists here, I know what they are thinking (or at least what I would be thinking) ... "There's no WAY I'ld ride my bicycle up here!!!"
Yet here I am and I look forward to what they may never know. An absolute thrill ride waits for me on the west side of this summit. It is better than any rollercoaster.
Until then I eat a peach, some cherries, while butterflies dance about me in the hundreds.
We are surrounded by Douglas Firs, White Cedars, Ferns and moss. This is the Oregon you picture.
This sun dappled road winds it's way back and forth along switch backs descending from McKenzie Pass (5,325 feet) to less than a thousand feet in about thirty miles.
To put that in perspective we were on the eastern edge of Kansas in Pittsburgh, Kansas when we were last under a thousand feet in elevation. Cañon City, Colorado, six hundred thirty miles to the west of Pittsburg, Kansas is at the 5,300 feet elevation.
In other words, it took me a little over an hour to zip down the same elevation in thirty miles that it took us eleven days and 630 plus miles to reach.
Too much fun and too beautiful to be properly described and it's a little bittersweet because, for this trip at least, it's the last time.
Midway down or so from the summit we came across a recommended short loop hike to Proxy Falls. Jim and I went while Barry and John kept biking onward. Later I saw Norm and Christine there too.
There's a fair amount of lava rock, but mostly it's what you expect from the rainforest side of Oregon. Tall trees, moss covered limbs, ferns, and a deep damp earthiness that just heralds renewal and anything left on the ground will be used to replenish the earth and stuff will grow anywhere.
The falls were pretty, but it is just water falling of a cliff face. Still it was a nice break from biking.
Mackenzie Bridge Campground
We camp tonight at the McKenzie Bridge US Forest Service Campground, just a half mile down from the McKenzie Bridge Service Station - a historic gas station and country store which has, since the 1930s has served summer tourists and locals alike.
It is now owned by three couples who have expanded the kitchen, the beer and wine offerings, and have created an outdoor courtyard with a fire pit, tables, shade and cornhole.
The campground is along McKenzie River and is lovely, earthy, and fern green. The Douglas Fir and White Cedars tower over us, and are covered with moss. We are in rainforest land and the bookends of green Virginia and green Oregon are starting to come together.
There is no shower, however, so we are reduced to plunging our bodies into the chilly McKenzie. I can take only three seconds of total immersion before I have to get some part of my body out of the water.
After dinner and map meeting Norm and I went back up the road to the McKenzie Bridge Store for some drinks (Cider for me) and cornhole as well as to hook into their wifi so we could grab emails, and respond to texts. Played two games of Cornhole. Norm won both but I kept competitive.