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Part 2: Tombstone Pass, cold nights, camping out in deep wilderness
After Tombstone Pass and its world of white, we rolled down the other side. Of course, we "rugged up" with all the cold weather gear we could muster. Gore-tex jackets, gloves, sweaters, foot covers, tights, baklavas, zipped up neck gators and wool socks. We rolled down hill for six miles knowing that we would be pounding the pedals back up another long pass. Around us, deep woods filled with massive pine trees of every size. Some looked over two hundred years old while others were just starting out. The woods beckoned in its beauty, mystery and grandeur.
I relish camping in the woods. It gives me a sense of peace, quiet, tranquility and spiritual bliss. It gets down to basic living. I like the rawness of it. To sit in a motor home would insulate me from the wildness that vitalizes my soul.
John Muir said, “Most travelers content themselves with what they may chance to see from car windows, hotel verandas, or the deck of a steamer on the Lower Columbia; clinging to battered highways like drowning sailors to a life-raft. When an excursion into the woods is proposed, all sorts of exaggerated or imaginary dangers are conjured up, filling the kindly, soothing wilderness with colds, fevers, snakes, bugs, impassable rivers and jungles of brush, to which is always added quick and sure starvation.”
I’ve seen many an auto tourist pull into a “viewpoint” parking area with camera stuck out the window, “Snap!” and gone in seconds. Why not stay home and watch the scenery on television?
"We're not going to make the next pass before nightfall," said Wayne, breaking into my thoughts.
"Let's find the perfect spot," I said.
"In all this snow?" said Wayne.
"Let's find a clearing in the woods," I said.
We pedaled slowly with the temperatures dropping quickly from 55 to 50 to 45. It would be a cold night. We could be freezing our butts off at 20 degrees this night. This is when nature let's you know you're alive.
We found a clearing along the highway where the snow had melted enough to show some ground. We cracked out the tents and puffed up the sleeping bags before cooking up a hot dinner of beans and rice. Nice to enjoy hot food when you’re freezing your butt off!
I crawled into my tent with these last words as the temperatures dropped toward the 30s and 20s, "Slap on everything you can to keep warm tonight Wayne. I think it's going to really drop into the 20s."
"Way ahead of you," Wayne said. "I'm ready to sleep like a baby wrapped in layers."
That night, my temperature stick read 21 degrees. Fortunately, I carried a 20 degree bag and stayed warm.
Next morning, we awoke to frozen water on the tents. We packed them up, loaded the bikes and began our ride to the top of Santiam Pass. We passed a huge burn area with gray skeleton trunks of once formerly majestic pines. The road continued its 5 percent incline through forest beauty. We saw 10,000 foot peaks in the distance. We climbed toward a 6,000 foot pass, which kept our immediate attention.
What's it like climbing a mountain pass? I've climbed them from 5,000 to 10,000 to a lot of them at 11,000 in Colorado to 15,500 foot passes in the Andes. I've climbed them in heat and sweating like a pig all the way to the top. I've climbed passes in rain which is miserable. I have climbed them in snow and on gravel. Each presents a specific challenge. Whether I like them or not, there is only one way over a mountain pass: guts, gumption and endless determination. At the top, the grind melts away until the pedaling becomes easier and then, gravity takes over. Once that happens, my mind flies with delight, bliss, euphoria and freedom of flight.
We reached the top of Santiam Pass at noon. At the top, it proved flat for a mile, and we saw the trail sign for the Pacific Coast Trail. That path runs from Canada to Mexico for backpackers. Some folks have ridden it on horses. My friend Doug Armstrong has hiked it. He's also cycled and hiked seven continents. He loved his journey on the Pacific Coast Trail.
At the top, from sweating, we packed on the jackets to get ready for a chilly descent. We rolled down a long, winding and dry road into Sisters at the bottom. Looking back as I sped down the long road, I saw Mount Hood rise out of the woods behind me and before me the Three Sisters rose to 10,000 feet into the grand blue sky. Really imposing!
“Tell me what you will of the benefactions of city civilization, of the sweet security of streets—all as part of the natural up growth of man towards the high destiny we hear so much about. I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found. If the death exhalations that brood the broad towns in which we so fondly compact ourselves were made visible, we should flee as from a plague. All are more or less sick; there is not a perfectly sane man in San Francisco.” John Muir, 1878
We met Howard at the Subway and gobbled down some foot-longs!
We headed toward Redmond, Oregon and an amazing meeting at One Street Down.
Laugh, love, pedal and sleep in the mountains,