Bike Overnight at Ainsworth in the Columbia Gorge, 12-13 May 2021

Horsetail Falls, 13 May 2021. Olympus Pen EES-2, Kodak Elite Chrome 100.

Since my bike overnight to Milo McIver last month, I’ve decided that I would like to get in one camping trip a month at least until October. But the concept is easier than the execution, at least for the month of May, as none of the open, close-by options appealed to me, and I didn’t want to go that far until I got my “bike legs” back. Then I heard some good news: The Historic Columbia River Highway was open again! If you remember from last time, I planned to go to Ainsworth in April, then learned about the closure at the last minute. With the old road open, a trip to Ainsworth was possible. So I booked a site and went.

The weather for Wednesday May 12 was good: sunny and a high around 75F/24C. Perfect camping weather. I decided to take the MAX to cut out about ten miles of riding through eastside suburbia. I wanted to make the getting out there as positive as possible. The MAX deposited me at the end of the line, Cleveland Ave Station in Gresham, just after 2 PM. Yeah, I should have departed earlier, but the relatively short biking distance (25 miles/40 km) and long day (sunset after 8:30 PM) meant I still had plenty of time. Of course, that meant I did all the climbing in the heat of the day, which was not fun. Live and learn.

After the big climb to Women’s Forum viewpoint at about 850 feet in elevation,1 the ride got easier. Vista House at Crown Point is still closed, so it was a quick pause there, along with Latourell Falls. Multnomah Falls was jammed as always, but the old highway itself was pretty mellow.

I got into the campground at Ainsworth State Park around 6:30 PM. Even though it was a mid-week night in spring, the place was bumping. I booked one of the tent sites in the forest, and every other spot was also full. The hiker/biker was empty, so I would have had the place to myself. But I worry that if I make that assumption for my next trip, I’ll find people there. It won’t be so bad in a few months when more people, including myself, will be fully vaccinated. But for now, I’m glad I spent the extra money to have a guaranteed site to myself.

It was a nice and uneventful evening. I made dinner and listened to the radio while reading a book. Sleep was fitful, though, it took me a long time to fall asleep, as it was during my McIver trip. While the Mountain Hardwear Hibachi bag has served me well for seven years, it’s time for a new one. I don’t want every camping trip to become miserable.

I awoke to a beautiful morning on Thursday May 13th, another sunny day with highs in the upper 70s. I had all day to get back, so I had a leisurely breakfast. I also spent a bit more time at stops, including a good break at the viewpoint at Bridal Veil.2 What made me really happy is that the postage stamp sized Bridal Veil Post Office was open again! It closed during the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017 and I wasn’t sure that they’d reinstate service, but I guess the money that they can make from hand-cancelling wedding invitations (a tradition in the area) made it worth reopening. I sent a couple postcards and made sure to get them hand-cancelled!

It was late afternoon by the time I got to Troutdale, the town at the west end of the Historic Columbia River Highway. I had a good-sized lunch since I didn’t pack enough for the return trip home and options are scant. I should remember to pack a decent lunch for next trip. There was a few more miles of thrill-less riding on busy suburban roads (thankfully with bike lanes) to get me to the MAX station at Ruby Junction. Thirty minutes later I was back at the 60th Ave Station, right around the corner from home.

It was a great trip! I had fun. I do need to change up my sleep system, as the lack of good sleep wore me out for the 30 miles of return riding. (Having a good lunch before 4 PM would also help.) But these are solvable problems. Maybe I’ll be able to get back out to Ainsworth before the campground closes in October. Maybe I’ll do a tour through the Gorge at some point this summer. There’s a world of possibilities.

As for cameras, I brought my Olympus 35 RD loaded with Kodak TMAX 100 black and white film. I also used a red filter to get more dramatic shots. I also brought the Olympus Pen EES-2 half-frame camera and loaded it with (gasp!) slide film! I got some good results from the roll of Kodak Elite Plus 100 I took. You can see the photos in the dynamic flickr album below, or click here.

Women

1 It’s not that high, but the climb starts pretty close to sea level and is done in about six miles.

2 I only stop here on the return, never on the way out.

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