What an amazing day. I woke up early, around 4, after not sleeping well and decided to just get started on the ride. I knew that I had a huge climb ahead of me and I wanted to get through as much as possible before the RVs showed up. The jerk side of me also wanted to give my loud neighbors from the night before who kept me up a taste of their own medicine, but I promise that wasn’t that much of a motivator. I packed up mostly quietly, had a cliff bar, and got under way. The reservoir was stunning in the morning light, and it made me a bit sad that is stayed in the campground. There were abundant wild campsites available that would have been quieter and more picturesque. Anyways I got back onto the route in much better spirits than I left it yesterday and tried to take advantage of the carless roads. As the miles passed the sun started to come out from behind the trees.
This view in particular really touched for some reason:
Soon I was passing through McKenzie Bridge and turning onto McKenzie Pass to begin the climb. I knew that it was approximately 21.5 miles and 4000+ feet. I settled in for it, and noted that I started at 6:30. The first part of the climb was fairly straight with a mellow gradient. It passed through a dense wet forest that was just starting to come to life as the first rays of sun touched it.
I think I was one of the first road users to come through as there were lots of rabbits, squirrels and birds running around. Note for the future: there’s beautiful camping in the forest here, you can just pull off and stay wherever there’s a place.
Eventually I completed the first section of the climb (Straight Bit One) and headed into the next section: the curvy bit. The forest opened up slightly here as we really started gaining elevation through switchback after switchback. It got steeper but also more beautiful. I could catch glimpses of the massive buttes towering overhead through the trees. My map called them Deer Butte and Two Butte.
Along the climb there was signage every 1000 vertical feet indicating the elevation. It started below 2000, and every thousand feet above that felt like a major accomplishment. The curvy bit was slow going and tough. The scenery at least provided a beautiful view. Slowly the curvy bit mellowed out and straightened out into Straight Bit Two. I was at something like 4000 feet around this point and with the ground levelling out was feeling good, knowing the end was in sight.
I reached a false summit, which I was still happy to see and descended briefly, into, of all things, a lava field (dried, luckily). This area had a volcanic eruption only 1500 years ago, one of the most recent in the US. The sharp jagged stone was uninviting but beautiful.
Through this section the butterflies and the mosquitos were insane. I stopped for a second to try and refill my water and was swarmed by mosquitos. Keeping moving was the only way to avoid them. The butterflies on the other hand were everywhere, to the point that I would hit them constantly. I felt bad but there was no way to avoid them.
I emerged into a large field where I was surrounded by massive mountains in all directions and knew I was close to the top. A few miles further down the road and sure enough I saw the McKenzie Summit sign. I rode up to the very top of a lookout constructed entirely of lava rock and took some awesome pictures
I got some food and water, took a rest, then got ready to be rewarded for my climb: a several thousand feet descent into Sisters, a largeish town where I was considering camping for the night. The butterflies were literally a flock on this descent, and they got me in the mouth and eyes hard enough that it hurt. Poor creatures. The descent slowly leveled out into long stretches of straight road through a new type of forest: dry alpine trees, very different from what I saw at the start of today on the other side of the pass. I was feeling great from the descent so got into the drops and hammered for a bit and… heard the hissing from my tire of the first flat of the trip. A staple had worked itself through the tire. Luckily all my supplies worked and I was able to change it out without too much trouble. The worst part is that I was only a mile or two outside town. Soon enough I was back on my way. I stopped at the first restaurant and got $40 worth of food and had about 6 lemonades. I learned during lunch that there’s a heat advisory today in Sisters, so we’re back in the heat.
I headed further into town and visited a bike shop to buy a new saddle. We’ll see if it helps with the saddle sores. I went to a city park which advertised hiker biker sites and was pleasantly surprised: it’s right next to a creek with showers and very friendly camp hosts (hi John and Anita!) It’s going to be a very pleasant evening here I think. I’m going to head back into town and get some ice cream then head to bed. See you tomorrow!
- Lots of cliff bars (3?)
- Nuun tablet
- Beef jerky
- Onion rings
- Black licorice
- Banana bread
- Oreo shake