8 Jul 2010, 8:51pm

mckenzie pass, sisters, crook county & ochoco pass

written earlier this afternoon


hello! i am writing in mitchell, oregon, where as far as we can tell we’ve got the entirety of the oregon hotel to ourselves. not bad for 41 bucks! it is really hot. like, really really. but i’m getting ahead of myself. i have three days of biking to catch up on here.

july 6th went like this:

(we started the day at maybe 1200′)

(getting closer… but still so far away)

(not too far now…)

yes, we made it!

(a. takes a celebratory shot at the summit)

it was tough, but i am already looking back on it fondly. it was so shady and cool! here’s a picture of me rubbing snow on my head:

snow! so cool and soothing.

a. looked through all the elevation profiles on our maps and is convinced that mckenzie pass was actually the longest and steepest climb we’ll have to do on this trip. the appalachians and the ozarks have some really steep bits but it’s all up and down and up and down–i guess the roads in the east aren’t graded for trucks like the roads here are. it’s true though that the rockies don’t look so bad.

the road across mckenzie pass (route 242) only opened for the season a week or two ago, i guess–until then it was closed for snow. the alternate on route 126 was santiam pass, which is not as steep but is about 20 miles longer (yikes). mckenzie pass was about 22 miles of pretty constant climbing with some quite steep parts. i think it took us about four and a half hours to get to the summit. the tortoise wins the race, remember!

here’s some photos:

(see the mountains?)

(we really didn’t do too much of this)

(higher up, the forest thinned out)

near the top, we passed belknap crater. there is a really cool lava flow at the top of mckenzie pass–according to my map, “the exposed surface is dated as having been laid down about the time the Mayflower was unloading its passengers at Plymouth Rock.”

(those are two of the three sisters, i think)

somewhere around there, we crossed the pacific crest trail. (next summer!?!?)

at the top, there’s this cool observatory with holes cut through the walls pointing at certain mountains and labeled so you know what you’re looking at (i.e., what we’d thought was mt hood was actually mt jefferson).

then we went down!

i didn’t take too many photos on the descent ’cause i was too busy enjoying myself. incidentally, my knee stopped hurting somewhere on the way up to the pass, and hasn’t bothered me again in the same way since (knock on wood). mysteries!?

things look totally different on this side of the cascades. it wasn’t totally desert in sisters but it was heading that way rapidly. on the way into town, we met this guy:

he’s riding a singlespeed trike with his dog in the back basket. we ran into him the next morning in sisters, too, and he told us he rode a lawnmower from alaska to montana and then someone hit his lawnmower, and he couldn’t afford a new one so he bought the trike. he’s planning to motorize it eventually, but in the meantime he got to oregon from montana and he implied that he’s headed cross-country. pretty impressive!

in sisters we celebrated our successful crossing of mckenzie pass with wine and tasty sandwiches at a little wine bar. we were headed back to the main road to find the campground in town when we met jill, who’d also been hanging out at the wine bar and who invited us to stay with her at her house a few miles outside of town.

(the three sisters in the evening light)

jill plied us with wine, good conversation, and sweet kitty cats and then stole all our money and gear and left us by the side of the road. of course i am kidding. she was wonderful and gave us all of the above plus food, laundry, and a comfortable bed. we stayed up (sorta) late talking with her and her friend kathy.

AND THEN when we told her we were going to prineville the next day, she said, “i know, you can stay at my mom’s house! i’ll give you the key.” yes she gave us the key to her mother’s unoccupied house 45 miles away and sent us on our way. thank you jill!

i gave her some mandalas:

so in the morning after sharing a muffin and a delicious cinnamon roll at a bakery in sisters (and buying more sunscreen, oy), a. and i set off towards prineville.

(oh dang, we’re in the desert)

(crossing the deschutes river)

(river access at cline falls state park)

in redmond we bought delicious juicy plums and then pressed on towards prineville. except suddenly it was outrageously hot and those 18 miles were really, really difficult. there was also a whole lot of traffic on that stretch of highway.

this dude surprised me while i was peeing behind a tree by the side of the road:

i called a. over to look at him and he came maybe halfway around the tree and said, “oh, cool,” and went about his business. he couldn’t possibly have seen the lizard, so i asked him again and he pointed out the other lizard also hanging out on the tree. hah!


(these cows were grazing smack dab in the middle of an otherwise quite ordinary residential neighborhood)

in prineville we visited a little history museum about crook county–we got there five minutes before they closed but the guy in charge was very nice about letting us wander around for a few extra minutes. we did some internetting at the library and then got dinner at a cheesy mexican restaurant with tasty grilled veggie fajitas.

this morning we woke up early to try to beat the heat and set off towards ochoco pass. when we passed ochoco lake county park less than ten miles in i almost wanted to just stop for the day. camping near a lake, with lots of shade! but we pedaled on…

(100 what? days ’til i finally make it to virginia? i think miles to john day, actually)

the climb was pretty gradual; not too bad. and at the top was my favorite sign!

the descent got us close to mitchell but not all the way–then we headed upwards again. at almost 1pm, about a mile from mitchell, my body decided that in this heat, enough was enough, and now i am tired and headachey. i’d been feeling so good on this trip so far, too–physical wellness is such a fragile thing! the first cafe we passed was closed and i have never been so disappointed. the second one served us a root beer float and then we stumbled down the street to this hotel, where we’ve been holed up in a cool room ever since. tomorrow we’re planning to leave ideally before the crack of dawn to get as far as we can before noon or so–biking becomes difficult around then, and pretty much impossible at 1, especially if climbing is involved. the heat should get better once we get off the columbia plateau and move into higher elevations–until i get to kansas, anyway.


yesterday we passed pretty close to smith rock state park, where some of our friends go climbing on a regular basis. we’ve also been somewhere near lookout mountain, which a. and i hiked up a couple years ago. it sort of tripped me out a little that we’d biked for a week to get to someplace that’s still close enough to portland for day trips. really, i think it should trip me out that someplace that requires a week of travel by bike (though i guess we didn’t exactly take a direct route) is accessible from portland in a few hours–i mean, as opposed to vice versa. i don’t think i will ever take distance for granted again.

i was feeling sort of doubtful about my ability to actually make it to virginia, and then pretty good about it after i got over mckenzie pass, and now that i am really suffering in the heat i am sort of doubtful again. i told a. that mckenzie pass was probably the biggest athletic accomplishment i’ve made in my life–this trip so far pretty easily surpasses the runners-up, which include my three-day tour from portland to sammamish (230 miles), our backpacking trip last month, and the backpacking trip a. and i took in may 2009. yeah all in the past few years–i never used to consider myself an athletic person at all. and then i sold my car and started riding my bike!

so as far as whether or not i’ll make it to virginia–we’ll see. a friend of ours asked a. if he thought i’d make it, and he said “she has to!” because i have invested so much time, energy and money into planning and preparing for it. it would be awfully embarrassing for me to turn back now (or even in 1000 miles or 2000 miles). and i am seeing all kinds of stuff that i don’t think i would ever see otherwise, especially since i don’t have a car. that stuff they say about the rhythm of life being different in the country isn’t all cliche. towns smaller than about 10,000 people really do feel different, and i feel like a real city slicker for having spent so much time worrying about my bike getting stolen, for example. which isn’t to say i’ve completely shaken the omg-where-is-my-bike instinct. or the city slick.

peculiar travel suggestion for you: a. is leaving to start grad school in mid-august, so if you want to ride with me for a week or more or less anywhere on my route east of pueblo, colorado, you should let me know.


roadkill so far: squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, mice, a deer, possibly a porcupine?, a weasel, a snake, several different birds including a mallard duck, and a few things i didn’t look at closely enough to identify. i also saw a mostly-gone cow corpse by the side of the road, with vertebrae exposed.


oh p.s. tomorrow is my 25th birthday!

8 Jul 2010, 9:46pm
by kendall

stacia. stacia stacia! you are the ultimate badass. I have no doubt that you will someday soon be kickin’ at an atlantic beach. so jealous!

ps happy birthday!
pps andrew is also badass!

Reading this at dawn on your birthday. I must have woken up somewhere right about 4:23 AM which would be exactly 25 years after you you were born at 7:23 AM at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, after 28 (and a half) hours of labor. Well worth every minute. You were a beautiful baby and you’re a wonderful adult. I am unspeakably proud of you.

I think by the time you get to Kansas, you’ll be used to the heat and not suffering so much from it. Plus, you have a zillion relatives there.

ahhhh this look so amazing. thank you for writing and sharing pictures – it really is wonderful to read (though of course it would be better to do). happy belated birthday! also, i love your hair!

[...] MACKENZIE PASS (retracing part of our bike route from [...]



web site

leave a comment