Tuesday, September 23, 2008

5,000 and Going Strong

So, I broke 5,000 miles on the Alder Flat trip, and I'm now only 24 miles away from my entire mileage of last year. Wahoo! Or Sutra! Or both! (ok, bad pun)

502 hours in the saddle, and 5,146.08 miles. 24.32 more to go. At the current rate, my spreadsheet guesses me at 7,035 miles for the year - but we have 2 of the crappiest weather months ahead: November and December, which normally totally kill my mileage. In fact, last year I only rode 1,065 miles for the entire final 3 months of the year. I'll need to do almost twice that THIS year.

I think I can do it. I have at least 3 more camping trips this year, plus the Harvest Century. That's at least 350 miles right there, plus the normal riding around. It could be as high as 500 miles depending on where I ride.

I'm looking forward to blowing out the end of the year, if I can just stay dry enough. The Ortliebs will ensure my gear stays dry, but I'm another matter entirely.

At least I'm not sick anymore.

Alder Flat - A Camping Slice of Paradise

This past weekend, 4 brave souls made the trek from Portland out up the Clackamas River to the gem known as Alder Flat. Alder Flat is the only USFS campground up the Clackamas with NO FEE. That’s right, NO FEE. Despite this, it’s rarely if ever full. Why? Because Alder Flat is a mile hike in from its parking lot, and the car-bound don’t want to schlep their gear by hand one mile down a dirt trail.

Psst… guess what? It’s a good enough trail to ride a fully-loaded touring bike up and down, and while the Forest Service doesn’t encourage bike use on the trail, they don’t PROHIBIT it either. If you know me, you know that that's all the encouragement I need - I totally respect the restrictions placed by property owners and government agencies, but if you don't tell me I need to stay out, I've just GOT to see what's there. And in this case, what's there to see is pretty awesome!

Alder Flat is 44.5 miles from the end of the MAX at Cleveland Avenue in Gresham, or 63 miles from downtown Portland if you want to do it the hard way. Don’t ask me why, but Steph, Ed, Tomas and I all decided to do it the HARD way, even though none of us got more than 4 hours of sleep and ALL of us had been drinking cocktails the night before.

The route climbs from basically sea level (Portland ranges from 0' to 1,100' in elevation) to about 1,500', and the trail to the campsite drops from there to about 1,300' elevation. You can see on the GPS elevation chart I've posted that there are two large hills - one between miles 8 and 10 and another one near mile 42. Both are about 300' tall, and both fairly steep. No matter which way you're headed, you have to go down one and up the other. Makes for an interesting trip.

We dragged our asses, but we made it, and made it fairly easily down the trail, which leads about 200’ down to the river through old-growth Douglas-Fir trees. We were welcomed by a completely empty campground, right on the river, with a tiny little sandy beach, a nice slow-moving area to swim in, fire pits, and picnic tables (granted, some of them are a little… worn).

A few of us promptly skinny-dipped in the water and dried off in front of the fire, and everyone else skinny-dipped the next morning. No road, no cars, no noise, no people. AWESOME.

I’m going to be leading another trek up to Alder Flat at the beginning of November, before the snow moves in, but the weather isn’t likely to be as nice as it was last weekend. Still, that late in the season, it’s guaranteed that we’ll be the only ones there. Keep an eye on http://www.cyclewild.org/ for details.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the event:

We rode 63 miles each way – it took about 6 hours heading out (slightly hung-over) and 5 hours heading back (mostly downhill). That’s actual riding time, plus another 2-3 hours of stops (we had lunch at the bakery in Estacada on the way out, and at the brew-pub on the way back). The day ended for half of us with a trip to the Kennedy School soaking pool. Yay McMennamins!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flu, Camping, and the Elusive 5,000

I got sick this week - REALLY sick. Flu, chills, sweats, fever, sore throat, sore joints, tired, lethargic, headache - almost every single symptom of the flu, and it only took about 12 hours to get them all. It started on Sunday, and I was out flat in bed almost all day Monday and Tuesday.

I'm doing a lot better now, but it really put me behind in the work I'm doing for umbrella, and really screwed up my mileage this week. I'm currently at 4,974.27 miles for the year -just shy of the elusive 5,000. The exciting thing is that it's only September, and I only rode 5,170 miles TOTAL last year. So in 200 miles, I pass ALL of last year! My spreadsheet keeps guessing I'll ride about 7,000 this year - my goal is 8,000. Rainy season is coming up, so we'll see what happens.

This weekend is the first official camping event for Cycle Wild - a ride out to Alder Flat in the Mount Hood National Forest. Alder Flat is a campground along a bend in the Clackamas River above the last of the dams - the river runs wild there, and there are some nice rapids, and about 6 campsites with firepits and picnic tables. I'm looking forward to it.

That's about it for now - 4,974 miles, average speed 9.9, total of 486 hours in the saddle (20 DAYS!). I'm over 1,000 miles on the Gary Fisher, almost 4,000 on the Kona, (since February 1st) and only 17 miles on the 20" Huffy. Hmm... need to Zoobomb more. Now that it's getting colder and I can wear more padding, I think that's a given.

-rubber down!

Friday, September 05, 2008

It's Official!

Cycle Wild is a reality, even if at the moment it's just me and a handful of friends.

Cycle Wild is my attempt to blend my 2 greatest interests: Biking and the wilderness.  Put simply, Cycle Wild's mission is "To reconnect people with nature via the bicycle".  The main focus of this group is bicycle camping.  Starting from home, riding out to a location to camp, camping, then riding home.  Totally self-supported, no private motor vehicles involved.  Taking transit or Amtrak to extend the camping range is ok, but no personal automobiles.

It works great in Portland since we have so much great camping within one day's ride (40-70 miles).  Within 100 miles of Portland, we have a half-dozen or more state park campgrounds, a state forest, a national forest, 3-4 dozen federal campgrounds, an 11,000' volcano, 2 major mountain ranges, 2 major and countless minor rivers, 2 major river gorges, and the Pacific Ocean.  Yet we have people who never camp, and rarely leave the city.  Those who do usually do so in cars - which was fine when gas was $1 a gallon, but more problematic when gas is $4 a gallon.  A bike can be outfitted to camp for less than $100 (2-3 tanks of gas!) and allows a 40 mile trip to a state campground or the national forest for camping at $4 a night (or in the case of the national forest, for FREE).  All it takes is some muscle power.

What it also takes is knowledge.  Where are the parks?  What are the best (low traffic) routes to get there?  What do I need to know when I'm out there?  Cycle Wild aims to teach people the answers to those questions, and to lead bike camping outings (usually weekenders) to help people develop the skills they need to enjoy camping by bike.  In effect, we want to create a nation of bike tourers - one metropolitan region at a time.

I hope that the Cycle Wild concept can be extended to other cities - Eugene, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco - and eventually across the US.

You can see the site HERE.