On August 4th, 2012, four Germans converged upon the small town of Hood River, OR. Their monomaniac goal: to ride around Mt. Hood in 4 days.
My trip to Hood River involved busses with stops in Seattle and Portland.The Greyhound bus to Hood River was well narrated by the driver and accompanied by excellent views of the Columbia river.
The lodging, food and route were provided by Cascade Huts. Overall, we were impressed by the huts and organization. We rented 26″ and 29″ mountain bikes from Discover Bikes. We each had our own ideas of how to attach gear, so 2 bikes had racks, the other 2 without racks. Olaf and myself rented bikes first, while Jörn and Stephan were still driving to Hood River. They did show up half an hour before store closing, so the owner, Kurt, stayed late and got the bikes ready, gave a couple bikes a very good tune-up, and then sent us off to a nearby Mexian diner for some tasty burritos and other non-german fare. Ironically, a german rap song was playing.
We then piled our bikes and gear into our 2-bed room at the Comfort Suites, set up our bikes, and got ready for sleeping. Olaf hadn’t slept in 40-some hours, so he was out early. We 3 then had a fold-out couch, a nice bed, and a pile of pillows from the couch to fight over. I opted for the pillows and slept surprisingly well.
After a good (and free) breakfast, we started our journey at 8:40 am.
Initially, we rode a paved multi-use trail along the Columbia to Mosier.
In Mosier we had a quick rest, food, coffee and were off to climb the day’s total of 5000 ft over 20 miles.
We soon were able to see a snow-peaked mountain in the distance, and though the direction we were looking at was not quite south (it was NW), we just assumed that it must be the fabled Mt. Hood, as we could not fathom that we’d be able to see other snow peaked mountains on this trip. But, Mt. Hood was supposed to be south of us. This confusion kept going for another hour, until we finally spotted a snow-peaked mountain to the south-west and realized that we’d been taking pictures with the wrong mountain in the background :). The temperature was still rising and would be a near record-high for the area: 94 F at Hood River, with high 80’s at 3000-4000 ft. elevation.
Then, finally: A snow-peaked mountain to the south-west!
Arrived at hut at 2:40 pm and had a look around.
Then headed out for another 1:10 hours on the loop going north on Surveyor’s ridge trail and then back up on the paved road.
Olaf cooked a delicious pasta dinner, and we got to eat just like at home. Cool-ish beer was also appreciated. The icing on the cake were the sunset views we enjoyed afterwards:
Day’s total: 35 miles, +6125 ft, -2320 ft., 7:10 hours
I slept really well and snuck out the hut to see the sunrise.
Then enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast of spam sandwiches. I just can’t eat sweet stuff in the morning, or most anytime, but my compadres were digging in the marmalade, oat meal, hot chocolate, the whole sweet enchilada.
We started at 8:40 am with the Surveyor’s Ridge trail. Clearing a few steep and technical sections with luggage made it feel like a real mountain bike adeventure, finally.
Arrived at the lovely hut at 5:20 pm, enough time for showering/bathing with water from the nearby creek and laundry! The fresh clean laundry smell the next morning made it a delight to put on the biking outfit!
Day’s total: 37 miles, +4810 ft, -5663 ft., 8:40 hours
We did a lot of fiddling around, eating a leisurely breakfast, laundry-drying in the sun, all the while knowing that we have a lot of miles to cover today. But, with 2 lights to share between 4 people, only 2 of us were anxious to get going.
Finally got going for a super late start of 11 am.
For the main event: The Pioneer Bridle trail. It had us going full speed with our loaded bikes and then cranking the short uphills just because.
Then, the lower portion of the Pioneer Bridle trail, which was fun, but a bit of a letdown after what we had just done.
Arrived at 7:30 pm. We had great views of Mt. Adams in Washington and Mt. Jefferson further south in Oregon. Both peaks, along with Mt. Hood, are considered ultras due to their geographic prominence above their surroundings of at least 5000 ft.
Day’s total: 45 miles, +5370 ft, -5140 ft, 8:20 hours.
The route for today wasn’t quite clear. If we wanted to ride the single track sections (and we did), we had to get going by 8 am so that we could return our bikes in Hood River by 4 pm. In theory, this would leave us with a 2 hour safety margin before the shop closes at 6 pm and we’d have to figure out what to do for the night. The other option was to basically take a paved road all the way downhill into Hood River for 20-some miles. Ok, so there really was only 1 option for us, we had to get up early!
I was woken up by the sun shining through the windows, and I decided to rouse everyone gently, but with great enthusiasm. The day started off cloudy, and Olaf’s protesting against the lack of view was soon remedied by waning of the fog.
Everyone’s favorite breakfast items and tea/coffee were consumed and after packing, cleaning and loading, we were ready for our mandatory group photo at 8:45 am. Not quite the imagined 8 am start, but I figured we still had a good chance of being at the bike shop to return our bikes before 5 pm.
I was wearing my leg warmers and jacket for the first 5 miles on the fast downhill dirt road.
In town, some confusion arose as to what the best route would be back to the bike shop, and how we’d get the rental car there. While Jörn and Stephan rode to get the car, Olaf and I forged ahead to the bike shop. We arrived at 5 pm at Discover Bike and were feeling glad to have done it, but also glad to do something else, next. Like, go to a wedding!
Day’s total: 53 miles, +4760 ft, -8140 ft, 8:10 hours.
Trip total: 170 miles, 21100 ft, 33 hours with bike.