It had been almost three months since our trek to the Oregon Coast. Emee and I were getting cabin fever, needing to go somewhere. It’s still COVID times and we don’t want to go far, so we opt for places within a couple hours by car from our home. And after the dampness associated with winter, we were feeling the draw of The Dry Side. East of the Cascades is a land of high desert and grasslands, with annual rainfall totals a half to a third of what we see here. It’s the landscape of The True West, one that still fascinates me after twenty years on The West Coast. So it was time to head back out.
We decided to spend a few days in The Dalles at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge. The Dalles is a sizeable settlement by dry side standards, meaning options for eating and lodging. And we wanted to do some two wheel explorations while out that way, so Emee packed her Surly Cross Check and me my Bantam. On Wednesday March 24 we packed the van and drove 90 minutes east on I-84.
The weather was wet for the the Wednesday, but stayed dry and mild (highs in the 50’s to low 60’s), which was great as I neglected to pack my rain jacket! While Wednesday was the travel day, we decided to break the remaining days into specific biking adventures:
- Thursday March 25: We did a 12 mile out-and-back on the mostly flat and pretty pleasant Waterfront Path. We started at the access point downtown at 1st and Union and headed west into the stiff headwind. (Stiff winds are a given in the Columbia Gorge.) This path is pretty flat until the last mile on the west end where it winds pretty steeply up a hillside to the Columbia Gorge Discover Center museum. The view from the top is grand, though, and heading east meant a stiff tailwind pushing us back to downtown. All in all, it was a great little warm-up for what would come next…
- Friday March 26: The centerpiece of this trip was riding the Deschutes River Trail, a gravel rail-trail through the awesomely scenic Deschutes River Canyon. The view is great no matter where you are along the trail. It’s possibly one of my favorite spots for biking in the Pacific Northwest, but this is only the third time I’ve biked it. (The first time was in 2014, go read the write-up for a more detailed account of the trail, the second time in 2018 with Emee.) Spring is a good time to be out here, as the flowers (balsamroot, especially) are starting to bloom, the grass is green, and the high heat and abundant rattlesnakes of summer are not present. We rode to mile post 6 and turned around, making a 12 mile round-trip. Goatheads are a big nuisance out here, yet neither of us flatted despite lacking tubeless setups.
- Saturday March 27: On the return home Emee and I rode the Mosier Twin Tunnels section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, which is between Hood River and The Dalles. This was the first paved highway through the area (formerly part of US 30), built for scenery over commerce. The old road was basically closed off when the Oregon Highway Department (now ODOT) built the more modern, water-level US 30 (now I-84) in the 40’s and 50’s. Now this scenic path is used only by pedestrians and cyclists. There’s a few scenic vistas and the two tunnels as highlights. It’s by no means flat, but the grades were built at a maximum of 5% so nothing is too steep. Despite all that, after not biking that much, I definitely felt those hills!*
Oh yeah, of course I brought some cameras! I decided that this trip would be the first time I’d try my hand at slide photography. I figure that the rich landscapes would be fun to capture on some Kodak Ektachrome 100. I figured that my Minolta SR-T 101 would be the best camera for the task, so I loaded that into my North St. rando handlebar bag, bringing my Minolta Rokkor PG 50mm f/1.4 prime lens and the Minolta Celtic 135mm f/3.5 telephoto. I also had some expired Kodak TMAX 400, so I loaded that in my Olympus XA2, which handily fits into the back pocket of the bag. And I still had some Kodak Portra 160 loaded into my Olymus Pen EES-2 half-frame, so I brought that along as well. The pictures came out great, as you can see below.
It’s always a pleasure to head out to the “Dry Side”. Now I can’t wait for the next time to get back out this way.
For photos from the trip, see the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.
*Also, I’ve only previously ridden this trail as part of a bike tour, so by the time I’ve gotten here I’ve had one to two days of conditioning.