Distance: 16.88 mi
Average speed: 9.3 mph; Max speed: 23.0 mph
Elevation gain: 1,728
Average temp: 46.5 F; Temp range: 39.2-57.2 F
I slept very well again last night in my quilt on a comfortable bed. I woke up a bit before 6, as I have been doing recently, but didn’t move more than to look at my phone a bit. I stayed there, cozy and comfortable, until my host, Jim, came in with a cup of coffee. I do love my coffee!
It was a relaxed morning. I packed, ate a great breakfast, eggs, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, pesto, and maybe some other things as well, and prepared for my challenging day of 3 mountain passes. Jim, in addition to helping me find a place to stay in Baker City tonight and suggesting hosts on the road ahead, also pointed out water stops along the way today and provided other helpful tips.
It started to rain as I was about to set out, so we decided it would be best to wait it out. Jim showed me pictures of his birding and travel adventures while the rain passed. Then, fully decked out in my rain gear, I headed out.
I commented offhand that I had forgotten to put on sunscreen, and Jim laughed that I wouldn’t need it in this rain. I just figured I’d put it on at my first meal stop.
It was a strenuous climb right from the get go. In the first 5 miles, I had climbed 800 feet. By 6 miles it was over 1000 feet. And the rain was starting to get harder. By the time I reached the summit, I was sweaty—rain gear does not breathe well—and it was getting a bit cold.
Once I started downhill that “bit” became more than a bit. It was frigid! There was a cold wind exacerbated by the “wind” of my own downhill motion. Add in the fact that I was already wet and it spelled disaster. I stopped shortly after beginning my downhill to put on my down jacket, heavy gloves, waterproof overmittens, and balaclava. I don’t want to imply that they didn’t make a difference, but they didn’t make enough of a difference.
For all that I didn’t swear much when climbing McKenzie pass, I swore a lot at the cold that had me shivering so much that my entire body shook. Not good. Very not good. There wasn’t just swearing, there was a bit of fear mixed in there. Cold and wet is a very dangerous thing to be. And my Garmin tells me that it was below 40 F at that point. Did I mention that this situation was not good? Cause it wasn’t.
Thankfully, I remembered that there was a campground at the bottom of the mountain, which made me feel a bit calmer. I made my way down, stopping every few minutes to get a break from the relentless cold wind of my descent. Before the campsite was a café and country store, and I thought nothing had ever sounded so good as a hot cup of coffee right then. Not only was there hot coffee, but there were hot sugary treats as well. A warmed bourbon pecan sticky bun accompanied my coffee.
I stayed in the café for about an hour, but thanks to being quite wet, I never really did warm up. I renewed my decision to not attempt to make it over the next two passes, and used the café’s internet to text Jim, who I knew would get an internet-based text, and my prospective host for tonight to let them know I had bailed on the ride due to the weather and my inability to keep warm.
I went to the campground, paid my $8, and set up my tent. At that point it was a bit warmer and only drizzling, but the damage had been done and I needed to change into dry clothes. Dry at last, I cuddled down into my down quilt and pulled out my book to read a bit. I knew I should eat, but I didn’t feel very hungry and just wanted to rest and enjoy being warm for a while before digging through my panniers.
Not 20 minutes later a voice outside my tent called out, “How’s that sunscreen working out for you?” Jim had driven out from Prairie City with an offer to go back to his house and spend the day warm and comfortable. This was an offer I was more than happy to accept, so we took down the tent, stuffed everything back in my panniers, a bit haphazardly, and rode back.
Touring cyclists and backpackers will speak of “Trail Angels,” the people who help them during their journey with water, snacks, or hospitality. Jim embodies that term. I was prepared to (and expected to) spend my day in the tent, but instead I spent the bulk of my day in a house, more comfortable than my sleeping system could hope to be. He hung my tent up to dry in his garage and set up a drying rack for me to hang my gear on. After a while spent wrapped in my down jacket and a sleeping bag, I made a hot lunch, which he added a bit to. Then I conked out on his couch while reading.
The rest of the day was relaxing. We took a walk around sunset, although it drizzled some more. My legs feel great, the almost non-existent soreness showing how much they appreciate the easy day. And I looked at the weather forecast and tomorrow should be sunny and warmer.
Roadkill count: none