We decided to sleep in this morning and got on the bikes around 10. We originally planned on doing an alternative route, that went over a pass on the way to Ashland, but upon further inspection we realized the road was gravel so we continued on the normal route. This section was filled with long straight roads busy with cars. The day was broken up by a quick rest at a picnic table where we smacked on fresh cherries and Body Armor Lyte. The road did become more scenic as we ended our ride for the day. As we arrived at the lake where we planned to camp we could see beautiful huge peaks and relics of lava flows; that were now huge piles of volcanic rock.
We found a free campsite near the lake in the early afternoon and had plenty of time to get in the water and relax. Crossing over the lava rocks we got to a section of the water where we could access the water. As I come up, I find Joe and Zach talking to two guys already by the lake. After chatting for a bit they were kind enough to offer us a few beers and enough water to fill us all up. The lake itself was pretty mucky and a quick dip to wash off was all we needed to feel satisfied and clean enough. Getting back to our campsite we filled our bellies with ramen and mashed potatoes; a meal all to familiar by now.
Similar to the morning before, the mosquitos were out as soon as we had awoken. This typically leads to a quick departure, following the method of eat as many snacks as you can and leave. The road continued through a scenic highway of volcanic rock and bodies of water. It had really felt like we had arrived to the northwest during this ride. Before stopping by elk lake for a bite we spent most of the morning talking and riding at a slower pace. These conversations while riding backroads in the silence of the natural world allows for voices to travel with great clarity. Talking about anything from our education system in the U.S. to whatever snacks we have been enjoying the most. It has been a beautiful way to spend long hours sitting on a bike, there is only so much music and audio books that you want to listen to everyday. While we became increasing closer to Bend, Oregon we began to see the gorgeous peaks that embody such an iconic part of the Pacific Northwest. Shimmering white caps that tower above rolling hills. After Elk Lake we were able to get good views of Mt. Bachelor, eventually arriving to a large meadow and a perfect view of the mountain towering above.
As we stopped for a second to enjoy the view an older woman riding with a touring setup came biking by. We began to talk with her and her husband, who followed not long after her, and for the first time we met people who were doing the same route as us. The Sierra Cascades is not a very popular route and many travel southbound during the fall or spring. They were a rad couple from Connecticut that had been on a few tours before and it was fun to talk about stealth camping and touring meals with others on the road. Once we had said our wishes of good fortune we climbed a short section up to the base of bachelor and had a long downhill all the way into Bend. As we started to come down we could see more and more how many bikers were in this town. Which was a refreshing change compared to some of the more remote locations.
Our friend Tess was arriving a few hours after us so we biked down to the river and got a bite to eat. Washing down a few beers and more vegetables than I’ve had in a month, we sat and smiled in the sunshine.
We met up with Tess and went down to a park close by and next to the river. We met a few of her friends who were into biking and one of them had been on a tour down the west coast. He was super excited about meeting us and it was great to connect with someone about how awesome bike touring can be.
We planned to take a rest day in Bend and see some of the area. There was a nice breakfast place down the road where we went for a coffee and breakfast pockets. Overall we were all pretty tired this day so we spent most of the day sitting around at Tess’ or at the park. We were able to stop by a cool recycled bike gear shop that had a whole range of used apparel and bikes. That night Tess invited a few of her friends over to have tacos. We talked more about biking and played a game called “stump”, which consisted of hitting nails into a stump and drinking beer. As the night came to a close we weren’t sure if we were going to leave the next day, but it seemed like we were all interested in staying and resting a bit longer.
We woke up and decided to stay. The allure of the river, surrounding mountains, and cool bikers was too enticing. One of Tess’ roommates was nice enough to offer us her car so we could hike. Joe and I immediately began to plan out which of the surrounding peaks was in need of a bagging. After looking for a while we somehow landed on one of the most difficult hikes in the area. Unbeknownst to us this mountain (South Sister) is the third largest in all of Oregon!
Zach stayed behind to rest a bit more that day, as we set off to drive back up towards the trailhead. This hike was an incredible way to spend half the day. A total of around 4.5 hours, 12 miles and 5200 feet it was not a walk in the park. We wanted to go fast as well to make it down around when Tess gets off work. The views were absolutely stunning and completely worth the way up. As we left the first few flatter miles of forest behind, the mountain got steeper and the trail disappeared into piles of rock and scree. The continued slog up the mountain wasn’t too difficult and we were able to pass by plenty of people dressed in full hiking gear. In a way this aspect was pretty comedic, Joe in his sandals and me in my indoor soccer shoes, neither of us had a jacket or sunglasses. Whereas some on the trail had full hiking poles, boots and puffy jackets.
Our shoe selection wasn’t a regret until the descent. Making our way back down the steep and ill defined trail was much harder than the casual crawl up. With every step we could feel our knees and thighs weakening by the sheer impact of putting a foot on the ground. Strangely enough from all of the biking we were doing it felt like I hadn’t used my muscles to walk all trip. The hike definitely caused some soreness the next day, but it was rewarded with one of the most incredible views of the trip. When we came back we floated the river in the evening and got to go down a few small rapids. For dinner we decided to splurge and ordered Indian food from a place nearby. This food came in huge proportions with tons of naan and even being as hungry as we have been it was hard to finish it all.