It’s the “off season” for bike camping and touring in the we(s)t side of the Cascades. While camping and touring is still possible, one has to deal with short days, long nights, and general damp and cold. Not the most conducive conditions for tenting it. But we are lucky here, as many state parks have either cabins or yurts to rent! Either one provides a nice dry and warm (electric heaters!) spot to spend a night after a day of (possibly damp and cold) biking. Oh yeah, there’s power and light too, so if one wants to bring a small kettle with them (like my friend Ed did a few years back) one can make coffee without even going outside! And of course, there are beds, so all one really needs is bedding (and a stove if one wants to cook.)
So Emee and I decided to do some bike-cabin-camping. We chose Stub Stewart State Park, a relatively easy 22 mile ride from the westside suburbs (and you can use light rail to get there)–half on quiet roads, half on rail trail (Banks-Vernonia). Easy peasy! OK, there is that mile climb to get to the cabins, but I guess one has to “earn” it a little, since we don’t need to haul tents! Speaking of which: Emee and I have tent camped before, but with a car, so this is the “next step” before we do some bike-tent-camping in 2018. Exciting!
Emee and I left her house in North Tabor around noon on Sunday, December 3. We took the MAX light rail out to the western terminus in Hillsboro, then after a pause for coffee, rode the 12 miles to Banks. The roads got rural and fairly quiet fast, about a mile after getting off the train. This area is still farm country, and nurseries are the big business, so we saw a lot of that, and the Coast Range in the distance. Oh yeah, we had a brief token rainshower.
Banks is the half-way point, and has a full service grocery store, so we loaded up on supplies, and got on the Banks-Vernonia trail. This was an old logging trail, so there’s a flat section for about six miles, then it pitches upward at about 3%. This incline is more than a standard railroad would normally do, but logging railroads typically had steeper grades in the mountains since they had to. We had a quick pause on Buxton Trestle, and by this point the sun was gone, so it was dark riding the rest of the way. (Pretty typical for me this time of year!) The clouds had mostly cleared, so we got a great view of the Supermoon!
Most of the night was spent hanging inside the cozy cabin. We did build a fire, but it did get pretty cold (frosty) and why not spend the time inside the cozy cabin?
Monday morning arrived, nice and dry. After a fairly wet November, it was the beginning of a (not-yet-ended, as of the time of this posting) dry streak. We fortified ourselves with a breakfast of biscuits and gravy (and of course coffee!) then packed up our stuff and headed back towards Hillsboro. (Pro tip: The first six or so miles is descent, so layer up!) It was a successful little trip, and now I’m looking forward to more bike travel adventures!
What a perfect cold weather adventure. No way would I tent this time of year.
I would tent camp, as long as it’s with other people and a fire is available. Doing it alone this time of year is just too much. It is still possible to tent camp here in winter, since we don’t really get THAT cold. But a good sleeping system is a must!
Good call! I still think the Stub cabins are a great “low cost” way to spice up a weekend and never really be that far away at the same time.
I’m hit with a wave of “spring fever” when +12 to 15 C temperatures arrive (55 to 60 F for yous Americans). It happened for the first time this week here in Calgary!
I have the camping bug too, but it will likely be at least a month or two before I get out in a tent. It does feel like forever from now.