The itch for bike camping returns

Bike Camping at Ainsworh SP/Columbia Gorge, 25 Aug 2020. Ricoh 35 ZF/AristaEDU 200.

We’re having some nice weather for the beginning of March. That snow and ice storm? So two weeks ago. How can you think about winter when the outside temp is nearing 60F? Not only do we have nicer weather, but the days are getting longer. Around mid-February is when I typically notice the lengthening of days.* After many months where the sun goes down before 5 PM, I realize that now the sun is going down just before 6. And in another two weeks, we’ll have that shift that Daylight Saving brings. Sunset at 7 PM? Sign me up!

Nicer weather and longer days definitely get me in the mood for bike camping. After a justifiably sub-par 2020, I’m really looking to get back in the swing of things. After a year of pandemic, I know what to expect. I’m still cautious but not overwhelmingly apprehensive about doing things. Also, I no longer feel guilty about doing things like bike camping.

Still, the paradigm shift that coronavirus has brought us has still made things weird. Not all the campgrounds are open, nor do they all have full services. I have to do more research to find out what’s open or not, and if open, what can I expect to find. Many parks have also switched to “reservation only” so I can’t roll up to them unannounced. Several campgrounds (especially on the coast) have shuttered their hiker/biker sites for now.

The weather this week is supposed to be nice: highs near 60F/16C, lows around 40F/4C, and no rain in sight. I’d really like to go now, but I’m going to wait a week or two when Ainsworth in the Columbia Gorge opens up.** For one, I love going here. And it also has a hiker/biker that still says it’s open,*** which means a cheaper site and no reservation required.

There are parks open now, as we have several all-year campgrounds nearby. But none of the current options excite me:

  • Oxbow is close, but it requires reservations, which would put the camping cost around $30, more than I like to spend. Plus, the regular bathrooms are closed and there’s no water available, so it’s either bring all you need or filter the Sandy River. And they’re not selling firewood. That sucks, a nice fire helps me get through the long and dark night in the Sandy Gorge.
  • Battle Ground Lake is also open, but the walk-in sites I like seemed to be closed right now. That means I’d have to go for the car-camping sites which are more expensive and less “rustic”.
  • The walk-in sites at Stub Stewart are also closed (surprisingly for reasons unrelated to COVID)**** and the other sites (except the cabins) don’t excite me either.
  • Champoeg is open, including the hiker/biker sites, but it’s a bit further than I want to travel at the moment.

Thankfully it’s just the start of nicer weather. There’ll be more rain again, and then more lovely days. I still have more time to get out there. But it’s sometimes tough to remind myself of this, when all I want to do is get out there. And I still have to figure out some bike tours too…

*Conversely, mid-August is when I really notice the shortening of days, when the sun starts to set around 8 PM or earlier.

**McIver outside of Estacada will also open, and they have a hiker/biker.

***Don’t worry, I’ll double-check before I head out.

****They’ve been doing a tree-thinning operation since last year. The walk-in sites are supposed to reopen mid-June.

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