Mt. St. Helens pokes up just above the Cascade Range
Mt. St. Helens pokes up just above the Cascade Range

It probably is not any surprise now that I spend a lot of time in Oregon. More specifically in Hood River.

It is where my parents live, where I work on my bikes due to my dad’s large, well stocked shop, and where I currently keep the majority of my tools.

So when I’m given the opportunity for a long weekend, due to working off my 40 hours earlier in the week, I typically pack up some clothes, and head south of the border (Washington Border that is!) and spend my time in Oregon.

The great thing about the Columbia River Gorge, is that it has a little bit of everything to offer to any individual.  From the towering Cascades to the majestic rivers and streams, the area is ripe with life, beauty, and an endless amount of activities.

Having taken the time to head down to Oregon on Thursday Evening, I was able to get a rather early start Friday morning after a wholesome breakfast of Bacon, Eggs and Coffee.

I hadn’t really planned a route. In fact, my main goal was just to try and get my bearings straight in the area. I figure the more times I cross by the same intersection of 2 dirt service roads, eventually I will recognize it when I do further adventures in the area.

So I geared up, and headed out, first riding down to the gas station, which ended up being a rather awkward experiance when  the pump handle’s latch key was missing, causing the latch to fall into place and also it not automatically shutting off when it was getting to the top and the nozzle was submerged.

Luckily I was able to get the gas turned off quick enough before to much spilled over the top of the tank.

With that, I wiped the tank down with some rags, started her up, and headed off.
I took a familiar route, basically retracing the path I took a couple weeks prior. Only this time, I decided I would see what was beyond on Huskey Rd.

This viewpoint offers spectacular view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood.  45°34.803'N 121°28.824'W
This viewpoint offers spectacular view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. 45°34.803'N 121°28.824'W

It didn’t take long before I knew I was no longer on Huskey. With so many cut-offs and alternate roads in the mountains, I eventually became somewhat disoriented.  I remember looking at the map, that Huskey turned inland, instead of staying along the ridge. I however was taking a ridge road.  No matter, I was going to make the best of the day, take the time, explore some of the roads off of what I guess you could consider the main road (as it was the most traveled, well beaten path).

While exploring the road, I would eventually turn off on another one that looked promising, follow it down a quarter a mile or so, and then back track back up. I did this so that it was registered on my tracks. Having just bought a new GPS unit, I realized how useful it was going to be when it came to exploring new routes.  I opted for this method instead of setting way points because I didn’t feel like really stopping to take my glove off to do it. Also, my GPS unit is actually held on with Velcro, sideways on my dash making it kind of a pain to pull off, program, and reset.

This method of saving my data actually paid off, as I had ended up at a dead end road along the ridge that overlooked the whole valley floor with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.

To the north, Mt. Adam’s could easily be made out with Mt. Rainier beyond it. To the west, a snow capped Mt. St. Helen’s poked up through the Cascade Range, and to the South, Mt. Hood stood watch over the Hood River valley.

By this time, I absolutely had no idea where I was. So I continued following the main road I had been on for some time now.  I would once in awhile take a quick jaunt off the main road, then return, and continue heading south on it.

Eventually I came to some Power Lines, and then to a paved, single lane road.  I decided to follow the road a bit, taking a couple side roads off to explore some area’s, and actually finding an overlook that I later came to learn was called “Surveyors Ridge”.

Snow eventually blanketed the ground, forcing me to abandon my efforts.
Snow eventually blanketed the ground, forcing me to abandon my efforts.

Eventually the pavement ended, and the dirt continued, then eventually the dirt ended, and what was once the neutral tones of brown, tan and green covering the ground, turned white.

As I continued to climb in elevation, the snow began to appear more and more. What started out as small patches of snow in the north facing corners, eventually became large patches of snow directly around me.

I eventually let common sense talk me out of pushing on any further.  This was no place to be alone, in these conditions. Miles from anyone with no cell phone coverage, this was no place to take the chance of being stranded with either a broken bike, or a broken me.

So with that, at an elevation of 4045 feet, an elevation change of 3523 feet from my starting point, I turned around, and headed back down.

I decided, once I hit the pavement, to follow it down to see where it came out. I was more than certain it would eventually lead me back to Highway 35, or at least a side road off of it. With taking some time to take a couple side roads to explore, some back tracking, and killing time just looking around off of that main road, my assumption played out, as it spit me out just north of the village of Mt. Hood on Highway 35.

Being now just after 2 in the afternoon, I decided to head back towards Hood River, grab a bite to eat, and decide out the rest of my day from there.

So with that, I headed into Hood River, grabbed myself an order of Fish and Chips at The Ranch Drive-In while pondering my plans for the rest of this gorgeous day.

A common site on the way up to Wahtum Lake
A common site on the way up to Wahtum Lake

After finishing up, I had decided to run back to my parents place to drop off my fleece jacket I had started the day out with underneath my riding jacket. I also, decided to swap out my Scorpion Street Helmet I was wearing, for my new Bell Moto-8, as the day had now warmed up enough to comfortably wear with the wind smacking my face.

From there, I decided to try to head up to Lost Lake again. I had tried this a couple weeks prior, but was stopped by thick layers of snow that had melted and compacted into a solid sheet of ice on the roadway that prevented me from gaining any tracking to proceed forward up the slight incline. After dropping the bike, I decided it best to turn it around.

Knowing that I was only a few miles from the lake a couple weeks prior, I was hoping with the increasingly warmer weather that the area had been having, I would have better luck.

Unfortunately, I had no such luck, and although I was able to push a bit closer, only by about half a mile, but was forced to abandon my efforts, and seek other enjoyment.

I decided, since I was hanging in the area, I would also try for Lake Wahtum. This road actually becomes rather interesting, as it hugs along the side of the cliff face, with sheer drop offs. Rocks are common to see in the roadway, as well as boulders pushed off to the sides. And although this cliff edge road offers some spectacular views of Mt. Hood, it also is enough to make this individual keep his distance from the edge. Heights and I just never really did get along too well. However, I continued to push on, and yet again, after willing myself up and being just a couple miles from my destination, snow and ice forced me to turn around on a north facing cliff.

If it looks like the edge of the road disappears in this picture... It does
If it looks like the edge of the road disappears in this picture... It does

With one last effort, I took the back road towards Lost Lake, and again, as the previous times before, I was forced to abandon my efforts just shy of my destination.

Recognizing that my efforts any further into the Mt. Hood area would only be thwarted by Snow and Ice, I decided to turn myself around, and head home for the day.

Outside of Saturday afternoon’s excitement with Vernon Wade of Adventure Sidecar, the rest of my weekend seemed to be keep me grounded to the lower elevations due to snow and ice.

Taking a run up to the Western side of the Valley, and area I am extremely familiar with, as I spent several years riding the roads of that area as they were very close to the house, I found myself turning around multiple times due to the increasing snow levels.

Sunday was filled with a bit more disappointment, as the weather man was wrong and the “no rain” we received, was enough that I didn’t want to have to bundle up in my rain gear to go riding off the beaten path.  Eventually the afternoon cleared out, and I was able to make my way up the mountain again, in hopes to back track my steps from the day prior with Vernon.

I realized a couple things while back tracking.

Streaks of rain are captured in this picture, as I try and retrace Saturdays Route
Streaks of rain are captured in this picture, as I try and retrace Saturdays Route

First off, I have a terrible sense of direction.
Secondly, things look much different one direction, than they do another.  After reviewing my tracks, I came to find out that the day prior, some of the road we had took, I to had taken on Friday.  In fact, one of the paved roads that he pointed out to me across the valley, was the same one I brought down on Friday. I did not realize this when he told me, as I was not aware we had traveled that far south.  If it wasn’t for my GPS, I probably would never have known.

To finish the day off, I was able to cover almost all of the route. But instead of keeping right at one point, I continued left, and eventually ended back at that paved road, in a different location than I did 2 days prior.

All in all, I think I am starting to get my bearings straight in that area.  There are so many roads to explore on that side of the Hood River Valley, many of them leading right into Eastern Oregon, routes that I am most definitely looking forward to exploring in the near future.

Final Weekend Tally:

Miles Ridden: 198
Minimum Elevation: 403ft.
Maximum Elevation: 4045ft.

Until Next Time

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7 Comments

  1. Julie
    March 24, 2010 at 11:03 AM — Reply

    Have you ever checked out the Stevenson area? With Hamilton Mountain & Dog Mountain hiking plus 2010’s #15 best brewpub in the world (according to ratebeer.com) Walking Man and Skamania Lodge it is my favorite place in the Gorge! It is definitely worth a trip!

  2. March 24, 2010 at 11:15 AM — Reply

    I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time in Stevenson! In fact, Hamilton Mountain and Beacon Rock used to be a favorite Hiking spot when I lived in Portland.

    As I start to get back into Hiking, I look forward to getting myself acquainted with the surrounding area.

  3. March 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM — Reply

    Think you’d love the two-lane road from Mosier through Rowena to the west end of The Dalles. Great curves, wow vistas, and a lot of wildflowers coming up!

  4. March 30, 2010 at 12:01 PM — Reply

    I enjoy the whole loop heading back up 7-Mile to State Road back into Moiser. I have ridden it both with my motorcycles, as well as bicycle. Driven it multiple times as well!

    This is a wonderful time of year to do that whole loop!

  5. April 1, 2010 at 9:30 AM — Reply

    […] Border Hopping: Destination – Another Weekend in the Columbia River Gorge […]

  6. GS1200
    August 11, 2011 at 3:01 PM — Reply

    I have a challenge for ya. Suicide grade off Mill Creek, about 10 miles from The Dalles. I do a lot of riding in this area, I’m in the process of looking for a smaller bike for the technical stuff (DZR 400?). Do you know Apple jam on ADVRider?

  7. August 15, 2011 at 8:02 AM — Reply

    I don’t know AppleJam. I know he lives here in Hood River.

    I do know Vern though, of Adventure Sidecar.

    I’ll have to take a look at Suicide Grade.

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