Progress and an Ainsworth S24O
The healing process is painfully slow, especially when it interferes with larger plans. Laura has been resting her ankle and is progressively becoming more active with it. The whole experience has really shown us how fragile our bodies can be and the tenuousness of our plans and schemes. The good news is that it is healing and we’re expecting a departure date of this Wednesday. Ultimately, it was the right decision for us to have her convalesce in Portland than try to to push off at our appointed launch date.
While she has been resting, I took the opportunity to do an S24O this weekend with my friend Joey. Like most endeavors, it was decided that after a few beers on Friday that we should leave “early” the following morning and go bike camping. Early is relative of course. I was off to a slow start and had to quickly rearrange the bags from “fully loaded touring” mode to “overnighter,” which consisted of leaving most of the electronics at home and carrying pots and food.
We met up around noon (“early” is relative remember) at the Rose Quarter transit stop and took the MAX train to Gresham, an outlying suburb of Portland. I got a chance to try out my new Garmin Vista HCx that I picked up at the REI sale along with the City Navigator SD card. It is admittedly not as easy to use as Google Maps on the iPhone. Once you get past the clunky user interface and invest some time, you realize how robust it is. Some of the absolute no-brainer advantages of the Garmin over the iPhone is its amazing battery life, great reception and weatherproofness of the unit. Running a real-time GPS application on a smartphone will drain its battery life in no time. It is also no secret that AT&T has absolutely terrible reception and because of this it is easy to be left out on a limb if you use a smartphone as your primary navigation. I was able to record the route and post it to Bikely with relative ease.
After some flat riding in Gresham and a quick dip to a tributary, you pick up the Historic Columbia River Highway and pass through the small town of Corbett as you work your way uphill to an overlook near the Portland Women’s Forum. The grades are reasonable and the climbing is extended over several miles. From the overlook, you get an amazing view of the Gorge and catch a glimpse of Vista House.
From Vista House, the road twists and turns, dumping elevation quickly until you are almost level with highway 84. From there the road undulates in gentle rollers and you past several falls. Perhaps the two most popular are Multnomah Falls, the second tallest year-round water fall in the United States and Horsetail Falls, where a scene from The Road was filmed. Caution is needed, especially at Multnomah Falls, because of the high level of tourist traffic coming from the main highway that may not be looking out for bicycles.
Once you are past the falls, it is a short ride to Ainsworth State Park. Ainsworth has several RV sites, but also a few “walk-in” tent sites that are more covered in the woods. Firewood, flush toilets and showers are available, making it a great comfortable place to camp.
The next morning, we got a truly early start and left camp around 8am and climbed the switchbacks up to Vista House and made our way back to the MAX stop in Gresham. We got back into Portland by around 11:30am. The S24O to Ainsworth is a great retreat from Portland and offers the cyclist a good mix of rural roads, scenic byways, a satisfying climb and descent that is only a few hours out of town, making it a perfect bike camping option.