Wednesday, September 12. A warm late-late summer day in Portland, with a high of 83F/28C. It was a small but nimble group of four that met at the Gresham Central Transit Center for this trip: Elaine from The Vancouver, Josh, April, and myself. I wasn’t expecting a big turnout for a meet-up at noon on a Wednesday, but we did have a few folks who expressed interest initially but didn’t show up. But no worries, we’re a small and nimble group so we could move more effectively.
And quite the interesting selection of touring bikes, too. Besides my Long Haul Trucker and April’s Novara Randonee, Josh had a Salsa Fargo, and Elaine had the holy grail of eighties touring bikes, a Miyata 1000. All good for a 26 mile ride.
But first: a fueling stop in downtown Gresham at Jazzy Bagels, then a supply stop at Lillian’s Natural Foods. Lillian’s is a little mini “Whole Foods” type store, which is good, as there is a dearth of hippie organic options in Gresham. Unfortunately as we found out, it doesn’t always have what you want or need. We needed to pick up more pancake mix, which on the surface isn’t complicated. But April is vegan, so we need to find one that doesn’t have any egg, milk, butter, whey, etc. added. They had a selection of Bob’s Red Mill products, and Bob’s does have a mix that fits the bill. But they didn’t carry it. So we had to get instant oatmeal instead. (Ugh.)*
The five miles after downtown Gresham were on the Springwater Corridor Trail. The first three (until the Clackamas County line) were paved, the last two were not, despite promises on the Metro “Bike There” map that this would happen by “2012.” Clackamas County has done work at the Boring trailhead, though, paving a very short section and building a nice bathroom. We’ll all be thrilled when they get around to building the next section of trail on the old rail grade: the four mile section from Boring to Barton.** When this opens, this will mean the Portland area will finally have a camping destination (Barton Park) that can be reached all the way by a bike trail. Until then, we must go up steep, narrow, and busy Richey Road and down steep steep, narrow, and busy Amissiger Road to get there.
A brief pause at Barton Store, then more rural riding to Metzler Park. After crossing the Clackamas River at Barton Bridge, the best part of the ride: Eaden Road. Despite passing under high tension power lines and a steep hill, this was the most peaceful and bucolic bit of riding. Springwater Road had its moments in scenery, but there was enough fast traffic for about five miles to put a damper on things. And if that wasn’t enough, we had a gradual climb (with a headwind) all the way to Springwater Store. The store bills itself as the outpost at the top of the hill, and indeed it was, at 1,100 feet. I fuel up with Squirt (the poor man’s Aranciata.) And then down, down, down, for the last three miles into the park. The last mile was a screaming descent, and I had to use the brakes a lot. Man, it’s going to be tough to leave…
We got into Metzler Park a little before six. We got a spot in the primitive area, which was right next to Clear Creek. The sites reminded April and myself of Green Canyons on the Salmon River in Mount Hood National Forest. But unlike Green Canyon, where we could hear not see the river, we actually had a creek view. We set up camp, made dinner, and hung out by the fire until it was time to crash.
Despite the heat of Wednesday, it was downright chilly Thursday morning! This was fine, as we were in for another hot day. (The high would reach 89F/32C.) An unpleasant discovery greeted us as we awoke: Elaine left her panniers on the bike, so a squirrel chewed a hole in it to get to a bag of almonds. (This is why I usually bring my food in the tent at night, unless it’s bear country.) This didn’t put much of a damper on breakfast, though. And after breakfast and the take down of camp, we explored Metzler a little bit. There is a really cool foot suspension bridge across Clear Creek, which led to trails, one of which goes to a swimming hole on the creek.
Then it was time to leave. That hill: a killer. Three quarters of a mile of up, as we went from 700 feet to 1,100 feet in elevation. While the park map lists the grade as 6%, we learned from the camp host that parts were as high as 16%. And it sure felt like it!
The ride back was heaps easier, as it was a gradual downhill to the Clackamas River. We took a different route home, as climbing Amissiger Road sucks. We crossed the Clackamas at Carver Bridge, and from here it would be busy suburban roads with bike lanes all the way to Clackamas Town Center, where we could catch the MAX home. After Carver we bid Josh adieu, as he wanted to explore a different route through the suburban hell known as “Happy” Valley. (His report? It sucked.) And on busy 212/224 I get a flat, my first on the LHT since Day 3 of the PDX-Oly-Astoria tour (at least I think so, as that’s the last flat I remember.) Three months without a flat, pretty good. Just wish it wasn’t in such a sucky spot.
|left to right: Elaine, April, Josh|
After much sweat and road grime, we get to Clackamas Town Center. We bid Elaine goodbye, as we spent some time here to eat food and go to REI.
This was the first time I (or Cycle Wild) had camped at a Clackamas County Park. Overall, the experience was good. The sites were really nice and there was ample amenities (firewood for sale, flush toilets and sinks, free hot showers.) All of the sites are $21, so there is no discount if you get a primitive site, which is a bit of a bummer. Also, there is no dedicated hiker/biker site, and I don’t know if Clackamas County would turn away a touring bicyclist. So I would hesitate to bike here on a weekend without a reservation, especially after coming down such a steep hill. I think it would be a decent overnight destination for Cycle Wild, provided we reserve sites. It would be an intermediate level ride due to the two stretches of narrow road with fast traffic and the climbs.
Oh yeah, there would be another thing we’d have to sort out for a group camping trip: the rule is no more than eight people and two tents per site. I think a cap of eight people per site is reasonable, but for bike campers, where we’ll end up with one or two person tents, this can pose a problem. (I’m guessing they derived this rule from car campers, as there’s the tendency for them to bring giant four-person tents.) I knew about the policy from reading their website before the trip, but I didn’t expect to see this rule to be posted at every single site, as was the case. We actually had three tents in our one site, and neither the camp host nor park ranger said anything about it. I don’t want to count on that for a group trip, though.
More of my photos from this trip here:
Midweek Bike Camping: Metzler Park, Clackamas County, 12-13 Sept 2012 on flickr
Photos from Josh:
Metzler Park on flickr
*Ironically enough, Bisquick fits the bill for vegan pancake mix.
**The grade is currently rideable for about three miles, until you come to the bridge that’s gone, and beyond that, the boy scout camp set up an electrified fence through the route of the trail.