Eastern Oregon Bikepacking: Day 5 – On Making Plans and Letting Them Go

Our 5th day of cycling pulled us out of bed early. We had heard the previous night that the ride to Joseph had some construction and was pretty challenging, so we packed our gear, ate some oatmeal in the hotel (with peanut butter of course), and headed out.

There were no Saint Bernards chasing at our heels this time, and the ride out of Halfway was beautiful; ten glorious miles of gradual downhill, with the sun looking about as sleepy as we were. We’d ridden this road the previous day, and knew right where the turn-off was, and when it came, the uphill began.

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A sleepy morning ride.
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We knew the turn off had to happen some time. Here is Trish starting what we’d find to be an 18 mile climb.
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Oh yeah. 18 miles of uphill, WITH 13 miles of gravelly construction.

We started the day with an 18 mile hill; no that was not a typo. 1-8. Eighteen miles. Of course it ranged from gradual uphill to 6%, but it was completely unrelenting. This hill broke us a little. Trish’s saddle sore from the night before intensified, and she was really struggling by the end of the hill. We were rewarded at the top with 6 fast miles of downhill before starting another massive climb which lasted 10 miles.

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Sometimes the gravel was nice; like this.
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Sometimes, the road was nice, like this.
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But sometimes, there were signs like this.
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And gravel, like this.
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It didn’t help that Trish was carrying some extra weight from a freeloading butterfly.

Trish and I separated on the 10-miler. Sometimes riding together can make hill climbing harder. You question whether or not the other person is having to go faster or slower than your pace, things start to feel wrong because you’re not get into your own rhythm, and frankly, there is no one to complain to if you’re by yourself. So the second hill was actually much easier mentally.

We reached the top of this hill and were rewarded a couple miles of downhill before the last major climb: an easy 4-miler; at least it was easy compared to the previous two. 18, 10, 4. Not friendly climbing numbers to deal with in one day. When we finally reached the top of our final major climb, we were rewarded with 10 miles of downhill, and then gradual ups and down the rest of the way into Joseph. Unfortunately, Trish’s saddle sore had grown to epidemic proportions and was causing her a lot of pain. As we limped our way towards Joseph, plodding methodically up yet another hill, some mountains began to peak up over the crest of our final ascent, and then were encouraging us the last few miles into Joseph. What a view! We knew Joseph was known for being perched at the bottom of the Wallowas, but it was such a rewarding experience to feel like we earned them after 73 miles and over 7,000 feet of torturous ascent on this ride.

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Trish fighting through the pain.
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This is at the bottom of the 10-mile downhill. Only about 8 miles to go, which felt like an eternity at this point.
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The Wallowas began to pop up as we got closer to Joseph.
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And closer.
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…and closer.

We parked ourselves in the closest hotel we could find, the Indian Lodge, showered, Trish showed off her disgusting battle scars from the day, and then we headed to the nearest pub, a delightful establishment right on the main strip where I had an excellent Terminal Gravity IPA. I’d get to experience Terminal Gravity’s entire gamut of beers the next day, but for now, I was satisfied sitting with my wife, eating a delicious burger, drinking a refreshing beer, and thinking about the wonderful bed we’d be sleeping in that night. There are few days where I’ve felt such serenity in the present moment as I did that evening.

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