Eastern Oregon Bikepacking: Day 4 – On Making Plans and Letting Them Go

Our fourth day was to be the longest of our trip; 82 miles. It was a bit different than our previous rides, however, in that it was an out and back. We planned on riding 41 miles down into Hells Canyon, get to the dam at the bottom of Hells Canyon on the Idaho side, and then bike back up to Halfway. Because our ride brought us back to Halfway, we had the luxury of leaving the majority of our gear in the hotel and riding with almost nothing but snacks, water, and some extra tools, just in case.

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We spooked some deer who jumped over this cattle fence like it was a sidewalk curb.

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Our ride began with Trish being chased by a Saint Bernard and using some choice words to keep it from biting her heels off. Our adrenaline had just begun to subside when in the distance we saw a wall of black shapes making their way towards us on the road. As what was left of our adrenaline began to flood into our veins, we realized it was a herd of cows methodically making its way towards us. City folk like Trish and me don’t see this kind of thing, but apparently people occasionally use the roads to move their herd from one pasture to another. At the end of the herd was a family of friendly ranchers who waved and kept on moving. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite the fact that we accidentally spooked some of their cows who consequently ran down some unmarked dirt road. After having appreciated the spectacle, we continued to pedal on.

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What is that army of black dots blocking the road up ahead? Oh… just some docile bovines who apparently are terrified of bikes.

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The road eventually aligned with the Snake River, and we ended up following it the entire way to Hells Canyon. Although the road was a steady downhill leading into Idaho, once in Idaho, the road had some undulating hills all the way to the dam at the bottom. The views were beautiful along the way, but not quite what we had envisioned it to be. Perhaps we expected ‘Hells’ Canyon to be some grandiose precipitous cliff that drops down into the heated heart of the earth. Instead, it’s a beautiful canyon with cliffs that could be likened to the gorge, another canyon of sorts that makes its way east along the northern border of Oregon. Anyway, the view was beautiful and the riding was surprisingly leisurely for both of us. We pushed it hard for the last 5 miles to get to the dam, which was our snack stop.

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The slimmer version of the Kona Sutra.
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Trish making her way up one of the hills on our way to the dam.

The dam was a great place to stop. It gave a great vantage point for watching fisherman down below, as well as a number of fish that were apparently sunbathing in the shallows.

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If you look closely, you can see the fish swimming in the water.
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Looking down the dam.

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A precariously balanced timer shot.

Our way back was also refreshingly simple. We assumed that the downhill we had enjoyed on the way to the dam was more severe than it actually was. We were able to plod along at a decent pace on the way back to Halfway. By the end of the ride, Trish was beginning to get the makings of a nasty saddle sore, but we hoped that it would clear up for our ride to Joseph the next day.

Upon arriving at Halfway, we ate at our now regular dinner spot, Will Bill’s Restaurant, and met a guy there who was participating in a bike race from Astoria to Virginia. His bike set up was awesome, but I don’t think he was planning on winning the race based on the amount of gear he was hauling along for the trip.

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The final stretch back into Halfway.
Cool Bike
Awesome bike setup, but it looks a bit slow…

Overall, this was a nice day of relaxation and fun, with no major climbs, just a decent amount of miles to fit in. We had all but given up on our warm showers host and yet again acquiesced to the quirky little hotel we had stayed in the night before. Cycle Oregon had an event going on in Halfway that evening, and I talked to one of the directors of the ride. He recommended that we get an early start tomorrow because our planned route had some road construction and some very challenging climbing. Having already ridden four days of challenging roads, we half-heartedly adhered to his warning and got to bed at a decent hour.

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