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Bike Tour 2012: From the forest to the desert

Bike Tour 2012: From the forest to the desert

Bike Tour 2012: From the forest to the desert

Biking toward John Day
Biking from Smith Rock toward John Day, Oregon

I am writing this blog while sitting on a bench in front of a tiny little mercantile in the old mining town of Mitchell, Oregon. It is dark out but the tempertaure is perfect, there are locals chatting on the street corner, and the crickets are chirping away. I am enjoying a deep sense of contentment. Even my belly is happy after chowing down on a huge dinner of macaroni, velveeta cheese, and chicken apple sausage. The town of Mitchell only has 170 residents but it is a popular stopping point between Smith Rock and John Day and it offers free camping in it's grassy town park. The ride into this town was probably our favorite of the trip so far. It's hard to believe, but Don and I have already biked 466 miles! Every day offers new sights, sounds, smells, and friends and we are loving it. Our bodies are finally beginning to adapt to our daily mileage and now that we have ventured east of Smith Rock, everything is new for both Don and I.

Will along the McKenzie RiverThe view from McKenzie Pass
Our friend Will at the McKenzie River and the summit of McKenzie Pass

We left Eugene with our friend Will in tow and headed for a campsite just past McKenzie Bridge. Will is an avid biker and runner and it was fun having him join us for our 69 mile ride along the beautiful McKenzie River. He passed our most important test when he devoured a huge ice cream cone halfway into our ride. We enjoyed some dips in the river both along the way and when we got to our awesome campsite at Limberlost Campground. It was a lovely day and a successful ride. Unfortunately Will had to turn around the next morning and head home, but we think we successfully converted him into a devout bike tourist during our time together. Can't wait to hear about HIS next adventure!

On top of the world!Smith Rock
Happy to make it to the top and our layover day at Smith Rock

The next day was a tough 67 mile ride over McKenzie Pass and into Smith Rock State Park. Don and I could not believe how incredible the top of the pass was. No one had told us about the mountain views or the massive lava rock formations. It was a pass to be proud of, and we made sure to celebrate with some delicious Subway sandwiches in Sisters. We biked on and eventually made the decision to take our first layover day at Smith Rock. It meant biking a total of 16 miles out of our way (8 miles out and 8 back) but it was more than worth it for the views, showers, company, and relaxation. We got in as it was getting dark, took some hot showers and passed out.

Sunrise over Smith RockA favorite snack
Sunrise over Smith Rock and enjoying a snack (graham cracker, frosting, and almonds)

Our rest day was exactly that. We went for a very short hike down to Crooked River, but mostly we just analyzed maps, made some phone calls, read, watched some impressive rock climbers, and napped. It was delightful. When we woke up this morning we felt refreshed and eager to keep moving east. We planned for a long day of 76 miles so that we could make it to this little town and its free camping. Also, we wanted to make sure and hit up a popular "Bike Inn" in Mount Vernon for tomorrow night so we had to get as far as we could today. It was a beautiful ride. We were so impressed with the town of Prineville, our first stop of the day. When we first rolled in we were greeted by a Dairy Queen, then we went grocery shopping at the local market, took care of some stuff at the Wells Fargo, and finally grabbed a few items from the Dollar Tree. Everyone we met was helpful and the town felt exceptionally clean and green. From there we climbed our way up Ochoco Pass. It was long and gradual and felt much easier than McKenzie. The weather fluctuated from hot sun to rain to rainbows and cloudy skies. The descent was long and steep and punctuated by incredible views of buttes, bluffs, and high desert flora.  And that brought us here, into the quaint town of Mitchell. We are estimating about 9 more days until Missoula, Montana, but it is hard to really make plans while on the road. We look forward to whatever lies ahead!

Riding down Ochoco PassOur campsite in Mitchell, OR
The descent down Ochoco Pass and our campsite in Mitchell, OR


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