Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway

This weekend Emily and I went on our first bike camping adventure.  We both own what the biking industry calls "cross-bikes", road bikes without shocks but built for wider tires and long touring on gravel roads.  I bike every day to work and Emily doesn't get on hers that often so instead of putting on our fat tires and going off-road I decided our first overnight should be on paved roads to test out how we do carrying our camping gear and food in our panniers.  Read on.

We got a late start on Saturday after getting some lunch at the Golden Valley Brewery in Beaverton.  From our starting point at Rood Bridge park  it was about 25 miles of beautiful country roads past farms and wineries.  The weather was perfect for our ride and the blackberries were at the height of their season so we had plenty of opportunities to stop for roadside snacking on them as well as a pluot tree that we found.  The terrain was generally flat which made for easy riding with our gear.  It was really tempting to stop at winery for a tasting but we were pushing our limits of light late in the day and needed to keep moving forward.

After a few wrong turns and one spot where we had to cross a stream on dangerously flexible wooden boards on a closed road we finally made it to the small town of Banks, OR where stopped for dinner at "Our Cafe".  Our waitress was one of the nicest people I'd ever met and was more than happy to fill up our water bottles for us and wish us luck on our ride.  

When we left the diner we only had about 45 minutes left of light.  The plan was to leave the roads and enter the Banks-Vernonia trail (a rails-to-trail) where we would look for a campsite.  We had shuttled the Prius to the trailhead in Vernonia and had noticed that our planned campsite at the Stub-Steward State Park was completely full so we weren't sure where to go.  After about 34 miles of biking Emily's legs were gone and I didn't want to push things much further but the sides of the trail were thick brush so we made our way slowly along the paved path in the increasing darkness until we got to Buxton where the trail continues over a huge rail trestle with a grassy park below.  

We didn't see any signage against camping, so we peeled off the path, and headed down a dirt road to the picnic tables underneath and out of site from the rail trestle above.  There was a woman cleaning out the parking lot bathroom trash when we arrived and the entrance gate was locked.  She didn't tell us we couldn't camp and could see we were headed down the gravel path so we assumed all was ok.  When we got to camp I let Emily relax her tired legs while I set up the tent and got things out for us to go to bed.  She passed out pretty quick while I watched a movie for a little while in the tent.  

In the morning we awoke to a golf cart towing a trailer down the dirt path.  The person clearly spotted us, turned it around and pointed it with lights on at us in our tent. It was about 6:30 in the morning.  Clearly we weren't supposed to be there.  I quickly through on a shirt and was grabbing my shorts when they drove away.  A warning??  In the next 30 minutes we got up, took the tent down and sat at the picnic table eating breakfast and snacking on berries.  Nobody else came down to talk to us so we took our time leaving camp.  

The next 20 miles of the Banks-Vernonia Trail through the Stub-Steward State Park were really peaceful.  We saw some deer, rabbits, and surprisingly few other people.  Emily had regained her legs overnight and we made great time on the trail cruising along.  Right as we made it to the trailhead it started to rain instead of the mist we had been riding through.  Great timing.  We headed back to grab my truck and I was at Tom's to pick up Leo at noon and have a relaxing Sunday afternoon at home and in the hot tub relaxing our sore muscles.  

I must say that really really enjoyed this overnight.  It was tough on Emily but my legs have been trained biking to work for this type of adventure and it was a real treat to have the weight of the gear on the bike and not my back for a change.  The whole time I was riding I was thinking to myself how much fun it would be to do a much longer bike tour, perhaps even down the West Coast on route 101.  I really don't know anyone else who has a bike with panniers and would want to do this with me.  Maybe Holm?  In any case this has now become one of my favorite sports and I hope to do a lot more of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways.  This was a great start!

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