This was supposed to be the summer-fall of multiple short bikepacking trips. I was hoping to do a couple weekend, a couple 3-4 day rides and one week long ride. Yup….COVID-19 screwed that all up.
This past weekend Dean and I got out for a relatively short (but far from easy) overnight bikepacking trip. Commonly referred to as a S24O (sub 24hr overnight). We ended up riding the Bennett-Barlow-Bonney loop (that is what I call it based on where we start) that I have done two times before this version. First with a fun group and second as a solo ride. I’ve been playing around with mapping out more singletrack along the original route and eliminating some of the gravel roads.
I met Dean out at his in-laws off Lolo Pass Rd and we were up at Bennett Sno-park for a 5pm start. The first part of the loop is predominantly downhill and the goal was to get through the first new singletrack section and find a place to camp around Clear Creek Campground area.
We made good time along Barlow Road and back to the pavement. I had routed the ride onto a, new to me, trail called rim rock trail 487A off of NF4330. A section of this trail is used during the annual Bear Springs Trap mountain bike race. Unfortunately the section from NF4330 to Clear Creek Campground looks to have had a fire and very little maintenance recently. We followed it for about 0.7 miles over dead fall, overgrowth, super tall and angry thistle that was incredibly sharp and painful if you brushed it. We had to bail on this reroute and revert to the original route. We lost almost an hour on this 1.4 mile failure.
There were orange ribbons that seemed to indicate the possibility of a trail but with so much dead fall and thistle from hell we took the prudent decision to go with the known roads. The goal had been to be at a campsite by 7pm it was almost 7:30pm as we dropped back to the forest road.
I was shocked as we biked by this dispersed campsite right where NF2130 heads up to Clear Creek Campground. Neither of us hesitated to drop off the road and claim it as ours.
It was comfortably cool and there was no wind at all just the pleasant gurgling of Frog Creek next to our tents. There are also plenty of free range cows roaming the woods around this part of Mt. Hood and we could hear them mooing off in the distance. Maybe it was sasquatch though?
I wrote about my tent options a few months back in April. This was the first night actually using the Big Agnes. I have to say I am fairly impressed. No complaints at all.
I will always refer to Dean’s bivy as his “body bag”. It is a super compact and light option, I just don’t know how the heck he can do it. I’m not claustrophobic but man that thing would feel tight.
We were all packed up and on the road just past 8am. The first new section of singletrack that I added off Keeps Mill Rd was awesome but longer than I anticipated. I think I told Dean only about 15 minutes two or three times.
At the bottom of Keeps Mill is the (in)famous fording of the White River. The closest bridge across adds 30 miles by heading east 15 miles towards Maupin along gravel and paved roads. This is not an easy crossing even in late summer. I’m not sure I would want to try it when there is still a lot of snow melting off Mt. Hood.
The river moves deceptively fast and given its opaque nature it is really hard to place your feet carefully as you cross. The only real way to do it is cautiously and slowly. Don’t rush it! That would be my number one advice.
This ride can best be described as all down and then all up. From Bennett Sno-Park to the White River crossing you lose a little over 3,000′ in elevation and only gain around 1400′ in total. From White River crossing to Bennett is “only” 20 miles but it has a touch shy of 4300′ in elevation gain! It makes for a long day.
I lost one of my two bottles on the descent of Keeps Mill. I was not going to climb back up to search for it. It just meant when we came across this stream (or creek?) just after leaving Wamic Rd (NF 48) we both took the opportunity to filter more water. I was able stretch this bottle until we got back to the car.
I think Dean and I were both surprised by the amount of car traffic coming down from Bonney Meadows CG. This final 5 miles of climbing is on a very rough and blown out gravel road. We both agreed that we wouldn’t drive our cars up there on purpose. If I had a jacked up Jeep or truck maybe but not in anything less.
We skipped the last section of new singletrack that I routed. Dean was pretty cooked from all the climbing and I had no idea how rough (or not) the new option was going to be. It isn’t like the climbing we did do was any easier it was just a known quantity at this point.
The final 4 miles are more or less downhill with one annoyingly false flat about halfway down. Ripping down to the car is fun on an unencumbered bike. Coming down loaded up with bags and camping gear adds some level of caution that I wouldn’t normally use.
Any ride that ends with only one lost water bottle can be deemed a success. There were no mechanical issues and I was able to secure my rear seat bag more tightly on day 2 which eliminated some serious tire rub on the rougher sections (joys of being a short guy).
Thank you Dean for coming along! As I said earlier as long as you want to keep playing bikes with me we can keep doing difficult stuff like this.
No trip through Sandy is complete without stopping at Joe’s Donuts either!
This week’s recipe is once again from Mia. I didn’t get home until after 4pm on Sunday. I still had to unpack, air out gear, shower and walk the dog. Mia made a kick ass galette using the dough recipe from King Arthur and filling recipe from Grand Central Bakery.
That is about it for now.
Thanks for reading,