My goal today was Sisters, Oregon, only about 42 miles away. However, to get there I had to climb up and over McKenzie Pass, around 5324 feet (1623 m).
I packed up my tent and headed back to the Belknap Lodge for a breakfast and look at the hot spring. I didn’t bother going into it, I was already packed and they wanted $7.00 for it.
Leaving the lodge, I went back up the road about a mile and turned onto route 242, towards McKenzies Pass.
The highest point, the pass itself, was 22 miles away. I started at 10:30. The first seven miles or so were not too bad, I was using my middle gear ring and lower gears. Then the climb began for real. For the next 12 miles (19.3 km), I stayed in my lowest gear and crept along at 3-5 miles per hour.
As one nears the last few miles before the pass, you pass through the Belknap Lava Field. An eruption about 1700 years ago buried the entire region in a deep lava flow. Nothing has started to grow there yet and it will be a long time before something does.
As exhausted as I was, I stopped to take lots of photos and use the photos as an excuse to rest.
I was totally spent when I arrived at the top, some five hours later. It was, without a doubt, the most grueling ride I’ve ever done, rivaled only by, perhaps, the Vermont 50 Mountain Bike race. Climbing to the pass with 71 pounds of bike and gear is memorable.
A local fellow I talked to at the pass filled me in on some of the area, such as the hunting, lakes for fishing, that sort of thing. I expressed being thrilled at now being able to go downhill into Sisters. He didn’t seem to think it was very much downhill and deflated my expectations. True, I wasn’t going down as far as I had come up, but the ride down did prove to be a thrill.
I hit peak speeds of 45 MPH (72 km/hr). There were numerous curves where the speed limit was 15, 20 or 25 and I usually went through a little faster than the limit. I felt like I was back on one of my old motorcycles.
Having taken over five ours to reach the pass, it only took me about 25 minutes to do the 15 miles to Sisters, Oregon.
When I arrived in Sisters, a thunder shower passed through. I pulled under a cover at a tire store that was closed on Sunday and waited out the rain. I had sent a request message to a WarmShowers.org host and checked my phone to see if there had been a reply. There was. I had two voice mail messages from the person and they apologized for not being available but offered me some great advice. I called them back for details and they explained that they were in Iowa for a wedding but wanted to help me out.
They suggested going just a short distance north and camping in the National Forest, or, going to the Creekside Campground, which is operated by the town of Sisters. I checked in at the campground and had a wonderful tent site, right next to the river, with hot showers; all for only $5.00. I was thrilled!
I set up the tent, went back into town for a pizza and then came back and fell into a very deep sleep. All was good…McKenzie Pass was behind me.