I did cancel the Three Speed Tour that I had planned for Labor Day weekend, but that didn’t mean I was against camping. So I roped Steve M and Todd B into an overnight camping trip to Champoeg State Park.
Champoeg, ah. I’ve been bike camping for thirteen years, and while this campground is about 30 miles from the south end of the Orange Line MAX (light rail), I’ve only camped there three times previous to this. With a campground not only so close to me but open all year and featuring a hiker/biker site, why have I only been there three times before?* Well, as stated during my last trip there in 2015, “it’s not a particularly exciting camping destination, nor are any of the routes getting to or from there particularly great.” But Steve was into the idea, and on a holiday weekend the only way we’d be able to find a campsite sans reservation would be in a campground with a hiker-biker site. So off to Champoeg!
We left the Park Ave MAX station just south of Milwaukie around 11:30 AM. The next few miles was along the nice Trolley Trail which brought us most of the way into Oregon City.
After lunch at Oregon City Brewing, the first hurdle of the trip was presented: how to get out of Oregon City. The options on bike are a) “I’m going to die” busy, b) steep and still busy and c) really steep but mostly car free. We chose option 3, but also managed to ride the Oregon City Municipal Elevator too! This route primarily consisted of abandoned and car-free Water Board Park Road, which climbed the wooded hillside. The road is abandoned due to a landslide, which required hike-a-bike action. Once at the top, we were presented with a spectacular view (even seeing the skyscrapers of downtown Portland in the distance) and some pleasant rolling country roads into Canby.
The ten miles from Canby to Champoeg can be summed up as eh. The first half is busy roads, some lacking shoulder. The second half is a flat and shoulderless road with less traffic. We got into the postage stamp sized Butteville and got some sherbet at the store. The last 2 1/2 miles were on a bike path through the forest along the Willamette River, so that’s a nice way to end a day!
We arrived to a full campground, but that don’t mean nothing to touring cyclists! The big hiker/biker site was pretty empty, even though there were five other cyclists already there.** All of them had the same idea we did. One couple was continuing south on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, another couple just hangin’ for the weekend. We set up our respective camping gear, made some dinner, shot the shit in the dark,*** and hit the sack. I got a good night’s sleep especially since I just heard coyotes in the distance. (No one screaming bloody murder at 3 AM, thank god!****)
We were greeted to a beautiful and dry Sunday morning. We made breakfast and packed up. It was ten miles back the way we came to Canby, where we had margaritas and Mexican food. Steve had never ridden the Canby Ferry, one of the three extant Willamette River boat crossings, so we decided to go that way.
Getting to the west side, our choice was longer but less hill or shorter and more hill. The vote was for the latter, so we scaled the steep (8-10% grade) Pete’s Mountain Road. It gave us a great view, but it also broke us. The rest of the ride home was along the west side of the Willamette, which felt a lot hillier than I remembered. I basically hobbled onto the MAX outside of Sellwood, got home, showered, ate, and went to bed. I’m still hurting a day later.
It was overall a good little trip. 30 miles to, 35 from. Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have gone over Pete’s Mountain, but whatevs. It was good to be out in nice weather and spend time with friends. I hope to get a few more overnights in before winter hits…
*As noted during my last trip there in 2015, I had been there on an every three year clip since 2009. I had even noted in that post that I probably wouldn’t be back until 2018. Sometimes I can predict the future correctly! 😉
**Okay, four were there when we arrived. The last showed up after.
***There’s a burn ban.
****See the 2015 trip.