I woke early and spent some time writing up my blog posts. Most days I don’t write much when I get to camp. It’s all I can do to stop staring at a nearby tree stump in a tired daze to set up camp and make dinner. Now the mornings…that’s my jam! Words flow in the morning.
This morning I also decided to rock out to some yacht rock as I ate breakfast. 💜💜💜
I am so thoroughly Gen X it’s not even funny…the nostalgia of light-rock radio growing up in the ’80s is right up there with my grunge rock loves from the ’90s (Candlebox anyone?) Thanks to Spotify premium (this is not an ad, but you can download music for offline use), and my local library which has digital downloads (just started Michael Pollen’s new book last night) and podcasts (The Trail Show!), I am overflowing with things to do, and now have a supercomputer at my fingertips. I started hiking before this mobile technology, and I can definitely say I appreciate both styles, but this trip is definitely tech-heavy and I’m embracing it. (Now Steve Miller Band is playing 😄).
This trip has highlighted how much public land we are fortunate to have in Oregon. 100 percent of what I hiked is public, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about the history and current issues facing these lands. I know this route travels on Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Northern Paiute land. I know there are important habitat and wildlife concerns along the Blue Mountains Trail. I know there is much to discuss and discover.
The morning walk was quiet and didn’t touch the creek again. I guess I stopped at the right time!
I rolled into Austin Junction about 10am to see Christy and her husband, who own the place, just back from a week in Idaho. I had considered stashing my bike in the woods, then I thought this would be a great opportunity to get to know what is available at Austin Junction as it will be a very important resupply stop!
I ordered a breakfast sandwich to eat outside on a picnic table (there is a cafe, gas, small store, ice cream…the perfect trail stop), and after eating, picked up my bike.
I had asked if I could drop the bike off here last week. (Hiker tip: if a small business is going out of their way to do you a favor, consider donating some $$. A lot of these small stops do everything from making fries to pouring gas to running the store, and even a small ask can be very well received if you respect their time).
As I was hopping on the bike for my 28-mile ride back to John Day, Christy came out to chat some more and take my picture. We had a lovely talk, and I look forward to visiting again when I do the next section.
And the bike. What was I thinking? Riding with a full pack on my back is not a great idea. I wanted to be self-contained and human-powered in my loop, but I could have put a rack on my bike for the pack, or at least remembered padded bike shorts? But no. It was a slog up to the pass, but I knew the other side would be mostly downhill back to John Day.
At the pass my life got easier, and I rode the brakes as I picked up speed down the hills, still feeling a little unsteady with my pack and change in velocity. I had been traveling at 2-3 miles per hour for the past week, and now I was hurdling down a pass on two skinny wheels.
I passed through Prairie City, a charming little town, and spied a coke machine, so got myself a cold root beer that I enjoyed in the shade. It was another hot day.
I peddled on, only to find a flagger stopping cars for a crew chip sealing the highway. Oh noooooooooo.
Chip seal consists of a layer of hot tar covered with loose gravel. There are steam rollers to smush the gravel into the tar, but they also use cars driving over it to compact the bits of rock. That wouldn’t go over well with my skinny bike tires.
I followed a line of cars over the fresh surface and immediately moved to the opposite side of the road that hadn’t been worked on yet until a road crew directed me to the other side. I rode carefully as close to the drop-off as I could to avoid the worst of the piles of gravel that had accumulated on the side of the fresh tar. What timing!
I was a few miles out from John Day when a car pulled over in front of me. To my delight it was Beth! My co-worker at the Oregon Natural Desert Association! Beth and her boyfriend had been adventuring and just happened past when I was biking by. What are the chances!!! So fun.
Then I was back on the bike, and finally pulled into town and found my car where I parked it behind the 1188 Brewing Company.
Shannon, the owner, was generous enough the let me park there for a week, and a trip to brewery seems the most fitting way to finish a trail! I expect that will be a hot spot once the route is complete.
I changed out of my sweaty clothes, put on my N95 mask, and got a growler of lager to go. My stomach wasn’t up to food after the ride, all the outdoor tables were taken at the brewery, and I’m not comfortable eating inside a restaurant at this point in the pandemic.
So that was it! I got in my Honda Fit for the 3-hour drive back to Bend, and managed to make the whole trip in one take of gas! I had wanted this to be a self-contained trip and managed to do it, with just a few interactions in town/Austin Junction.
One of the parts of long-distance hiking I enjoy the most is interactions with folks along the way, and in trail communities. I really enjoy sharing the culture of long-distance hiking, and helping to pave the way for future hikers out there…but a lot of those interactions are derailed by this pandemic.
I sure hope we can see the other side of this soon, but I do know a week hiking a route that engaged my body and mind so fully that I didn’t have time to ruminate on the world was a gift I had given myself.
So now, I’ll pass on the data to Jared and the Greater Hells Canyon Council, and prepare myself for the next phase of hiking the BMT….stay tuned!