Day 2 Belnap Springs to Bend: Variety


Once again, a misty morning, but today, we could see blue sky beyond the thin layer of cloud packed into our steep valley. So away went the booties, Gore-Tex, and waterlogged, pruned-up fingers. Despite 52 F at our load out (8:40 AM once again), McKenzie Pass. Nine miles and 1600 vertical feet to Proxy Falls, through an overhanging canopy of evergreens, fronted by ferns at their base. When Craig pulled up, and doffed his helmet, steam rose heavily from his shiny head, and seeped over his shoulders, creating mini-clouds to match the ones fleeing from the ridge top up above.

Then we hit the "switchblades". Dozens of switchbacks laid one on top of the other like a desktop game of falling marbles, put together by a kid on Christmas morning. Four miles, 1200 vertical feet brought us to a high valley resembling the upper reaches of a Hawaiian volcano. All around us dark brown and crusty air filled rocks, mostly basalt, from the half dozen volcanoes surrounding us. Early explorers ran out of names after Washinton, Adams, Jefferson and Hood, so they started in with North, Middle, and South Sister, The Husband, and Mt. Bachelor. Then, there's The Maiden, The Brothers, The Little Rascals - a whole family of cratered Cascade crests, giving us a moonscape at the 5325 foot McKenzie Pass.

John and Mike tandemed up this entire 22 mile, 3800 foot climb. It was Mike's first experience as captain. They did remarkably well, keeping a good 6-8 mile pace up the 8-9% grade in the steepest parts of the switchblades (so named for their remarkable similarity to "switchbacks", but with the added burden of knife like pain in one's thighs after pedaling through them.) Even more amazing, their rig did not break down, although it did quiver a few times under the strain.

On top, the CCC had 70 years ago built an "observatory", consisting of a volcanic rock igloo-like cave with windows, topped by an observation platform. From here, the whole dysfunctional family of volcanoes was visible, including a few presidents, save the Bachelor (probably out galavanting somewhere), and the Maiden (too shy to be seen from this point). Cheryl took my picture, just to prove I'd been there.


Craig and Leigh had been training for months along the coast in San Diego. Refusing to do a real climb (like Mt. Palomar), they made do with multiple trips up to the top of Torrey Pines St. Park. While quite steep, it's not that high. About ten trips up would equal the ride they made to McKenzie Pass. Since this was the highest they'd been on bikes, they needed a commemorative shot. (Actually, only Craig's bike is seen here, as Leigh drove the SAG. But later passes, which she did crest, would take her even higher, under pedal power.)


The trip down to Sisters was memorable. Dave and I shot off together. He claims he never touched his brake once from 5325' down to 3800'. Quite possible - we averaged about 30-33 mph on a curvy slope, just steep enough for thrills, but not so steep it was scary. The best part was, it finally got hot. 65 F on top bcame 85 at the bottom, where Cheryl waited to guide us to the Depot Deli. Ken got talked into finally eating, a turkey sandwich. And I showed John the magic of Sobe labels, which peel off, and make great commemorative decals. I now have on my helmet a lizard mountain biking, and on the opposite side, his twin on a surfboard. John started collecting the caps, which each have a special slogan inside. He's hoping to garner all 35 before trip's end.

On into Bend, a final 22 miles down busy US 97 on the tandem with Cheryl. Past llama and emu farms (they live in five foot high "emugloos" and look like slightly diminutive ostriches from a distance) we rolled along getting hotter all the while. Finally hitting the hot tub at the Hampton Inn, soaking in the shade, and contemplating dinner. McGraff's Seafood down the road fit that bill, producing the bloated stomachs so necessary to a good night's sleep after biking up and down and all around the town.

Miles: 63. Elevation gain: 3900 up, 2250 down. 52-85 F, sunny.

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