August 17, 2006
Oh man. Last night I was pummeled by an army of sprinklers. They’d been hiding underground, and launched a surprise attack at 1am.
Surrounded. Flanked on all sides. No escape.
“Shock and awe” for sure. The good news is that I rigged the rain fly on my tent when I set it up last night for a little extra warmth. The bad news? Everything else was drenched. All my panniers were open, and this morning they had a good two inches of water sitting in the bottom.
So I spent the first hour or two of my day laying out every item I own in the sun to dry out. Fortunately, I usually put my electronics and valuables inside my tent every night. Last night I had everything important in the tent except for my cell phone. It was in an open Ziploc bag and didn’t get completely submerged, but I think it may be dead. I’m still scared to try and turn it on, but the condensation on the inside of the LCD screen… not a good sign.
After everything was reasonably dry, I went and had my usual breakfast. I’d heard that the road to McKenzie Pass was closed because of a wildfire, though the fire itself was quite a good distance from the road. The only other option was Santiam Pass, on a much more heavily traveled road. Santiam Pass would take me 20 extra miles out of the way, so I thought I’d try the closed route first.
There was a chance maybe they’d let me through because I’m just on a bicycle. Nope.
The guy at the roadblock was really nice about it, asking me about my trip and all. “I’d love to let you through, but if a helicopter were to drop something on you, they’d hang me for it.”
Fair enough. So I rode the four miles back to Sisters to pick up the detour to Santiam Pass and reassess my day, since it was already almost 1pm.
Troy and Mel caught me outside a McDonalds, and I got to recount the tale of the sprinklers, and my ride toward McKenzie Pass. They went on ahead while I stopped to dismantle my cell phone and replenish my belly.
The climb up to Santiam Pass was still good and scenic, though the heavy volume of noisy traffic was annoying. I could see a large cloud of smoke rising from the nearby fire, and crossed the Pacific Crest Trail near the top of the climb.
The descent was possibly the best of the whole trip. There weren’t any sharp switchbacks, so it was possible to get up to a good steady speed. It went on for miles.
The most amazing thing was the forest full of tall, mature trees, dwarfing the relatively narrow road. Clear mountain streams rushed down from the higher peaks. As my proximity to the fire grew closer, the sun became hazy through the smoke. At one point there were even some light ashes blowing through the air.
It’s funny how the vegetation on the west side of The Cascades ridge changed so dramatically to virtual rain forest. The mountains block the notorious Pacific Northwest moisture all throughout the eastern majority of Oregon. This stretch was the most dramatic forest I rode through on the trip thus far, and that’s saying something… I’ve seen a lot of trees in my day!
Stopping at a general store to pick up some food for dinner, I sat outside and pieced my phone back together. Not only does it work, but I finally have reception on the west side of the mountains… for the first time since Colorado!
Tonight I’m at a quiet USFS campground with a peaceful wilderness setting. The towering canopy and hazy sky made for a dim evening with my pasta. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.