Baker City, OR to Woodhead Camp – New State


Day: 6
Day Mileage: 85.1
Total Miles: 315.6

Knowing I had a long day ahead of me, I woke up just before 6am. I began packing up everything I had taken out since two days ago. I haven’t been able to figure out my packing system just yet but I know that that will come and mostly this week. James and I said our goodbyes to Nancy and thanked her for such a great stay. We were heading out of baker City by 8am.

Initially, we knew we had a little climb, followed by a bigger climb later in the day. The ride began cloudy and it was a welcomed respite from pervious days. The first climb out of the city led us to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, it was about 600 ft above the road we had to bypass. Instead we met a cyclist heading west after starting in DC. His name was Shawn and was recently retired from Seattle and was on a 125lb (!!!!) Surly Long Haul Disc Trucker. He must have had everything on his bike. He woke up at 4:30am and began riding. Impressive. We were off once more. 

Most of the ride into Richland, 40 miles away, was downhill luckily. We made it the remainder of those miles just before 11:30 where we had fizzy drinks and lunch with a coffee. A couple from Scotland approached us as they were just cruising around the US on bicycles with the end destination being Crater Lake. They were taking a break in Richland and were heading to the bar. There’s a theme in bicycle touring… They wished us luck on the next climb and we knew we still had 45 more miles.

It was 12:30 before we began again and immediately we were going uphill. This is where things got troubling. It was hot. The sun was beating down on me and the incline kept getting greater it seemed. I was able to look to the sky to my left and could see where I was going. That’s when I knew these switchbacks were going to be real. In all, I stopped 3 times on the way up to catch my breath, slow my heart rate and to drink water. It neared 100 degrees in Eastern Oregon in the afternoon. At the summit, though not my greatest elevation to date, I took a picture with James knowing it was by far the hardest climb because of other factors. I’m glad the downhill was coming.

The town(?) of Oxbow was next and we would have completed 70 miles by the time we arrived. Needing water, we stopped at Copperfield Campground and cooked a little snack, ramen noodles. As we filled up our waters and got back on the bikes, I discovered I had my first flat! I blame Shawn as he discussed flat tires when we met him and I wasn’t able to find wood to knock on. Dang it, Shawn.  I couldn’t find any puncture on the tire not could I find it on the tube. I kept the tube, changed it out and was able to change it successfully. James made a slight brake adjustment on my bike and we had another 15 miles before the end of the day. 

Crossing into Idaho, we climbed along the Snake River. I didn’t know the elevation that remained into camp. It was tough. My legs felt like we had been riding for 82 miles and I was pretty worn out, but we finally arrived to camp after 85.1 miles. We turned into Woodhead Camp, found the camp where he told us it was closed for the week due to maintenance and that no tent areas were available. My heart sank as the next available was 8 miles down the road with a steep climb to get there. We explained our situation and somehow his tune switched and told us we could pitch a tent anywhere and that all the water was potable. Somehow, the campground was closed but the only thing that was wrong was that there was no showers, yet water was just fine and there was a hose. Sprinkler shower number two! We found a spot, pitched the tents and made dinner before heading to bed. Low of 63 tonight but it’s currently still hot as I head to bed.

Day Five – Baker City Rest Day

Day: 5
Day Mileage: 0
Total Miles: 230.5

After Nancy kindly allowed James and I to stay another day in her home, we took full advantage. It was a lovely slow star to the day where we had coffee on the porch and good conversation with Nancy, who is a school psychologist at the school in town. I headed to town shortly after for breakfast and to catch up on a few items, namely signing up to take the NCLEX after I receive my a Ticket To Test from the Board Of Nursing. So that’s nerve wracking.

After a really good breakfast at Lone Pine Cafe, I walked about town for a little before returning to the house. James needed to mail a few items back to England so we made our way to the post office, but only after picking up a fizzy drink Fromm the gas station. He’s learning to say coke, but by the end of the week, I’m sure he’ll have it down. After the post office, we stopped in a bike shop that just so happened to serve PBRs.

Next up on our recovery day was a little active recovery while icing. We jumped in and floated the Powder River which some locals which runs right through town. Once cooled off, which didn’t take long in the a Powder River, we had s few items to pick up at Safeway before joining Nancy and her girlfriends for happy hour at her friend’s house.

Just on the edge of town, Nancy’s friend Carol invited us over for drinks, dinner and pie. Their other friend, Judy joined us later. Carol toured the US by bicycle in the 70s and Judy is still touring the US. After living in Baltimore for 30 years, she toured thenUS, discover Baker City. She loved it so much, she went back to Baltimore, packed up and moved to Baker City. It was a terrific evening looking out to the Elk Horn Mountains. We said goodbye eventually and headed to Nancy’s for a final night’s rest on our rest day.

Tomorrow we have an long ride ahead.

Day Four – Bates State Park to Baker City, OR

Day: 4
Day Mileage: 51.4
Total Miles: 230.5

It got cold last night. I was sleeping in my tent for the first night and the temperature dipped into the 40s. I was in pants and my down jacket while mummified in my sleeping bag. I didn’t have on socks though I had them in my tent with me. I was too warm inside the sleeping bag to bother getting out to put them on. I slept much better last night than I did inside the church but it was also after my biggest climbing day.

Once up, I prepared for the day I had two big passes to climb before it was to be mostly downhill into Baker City, OR. With that in mind, I made 4 PB sandwiches for the road and two packages of ramen for breakfast. Tasted like college. I also made sure to drink the broth as I noticed I needed to increase my sodium intake a little. Once packed, I set off with James and we were climbing not a mile into the day’s ride.

Passing Tipton Summit at ~5,000 ft was not terrible being fully fueled and chatting the entire way up. I enjoyed the decent but even that was short lived as we were needing to climb the next pass, Sumpter Pass at another ~5,000 ft. James has a few days on me traveling and is a cyclist back home in England so when he takes off on climbs, he’s nice enough to wait for me a time the top. Descending into Sumpter, we stopped for lunch on the side of the road when we realized we had cell service.

With a few messages sent and phone calls made, there were 29 miles before reaching the final destination for the day. I had gone through my entire water supply on the two climbs and needed to stop and refill. There were a few campgrounds ahead though I wasn’t sure of the distances. Luckily, only 7 miles into the final push, we pulled into a park near Phillips Reservoir and topped off. A Vietnam Veteran came out to chat with us for about 10 minutes. He still been retired for some time now and travels, has speaking engagements about the war, what happened to him after and how he dealt and isn’t dealing with it all now. He was happy to share is story and we were happy to listen with full water bottles. We said good luck to one another and then we cruised alongside the Powder River to Baker City City Hall.

James had a warmshowers host set up ahead of time so I reached out asking if she had availability you host another. Turns out, she was hosting another rider heading west and has almost completed the full TransAm route. She was out to dinner so James and I made a stop at Safeway to load up for the upcoming days as towns will be few and far between. After weighing our bikes back down, we stopped off at a bar on Main Street for end of day drinks.

We then met Nancy at her house. She is a cyclists but not done a tour herself. She likes to have company so her friend suggested warmshowers. She has hosted only 3 cyclists before and now she’s hosting 3 in one night. She’s a school psychologist in town and has been in Oregon for the last 30 years.

James is taking a rest day and we’ve decided to keep riding together to Missoula as there aren’t parts of the next 6 days that preparation is key as services aren’t a readily available as they have been. That’s saying something considering services aren’t THAT readily available already. The plan is to be in Missoula by Sunday. So for me, rest day as well. My legs and butt will appreciate it.

Day Three – Dayville to Bates State Park

Day: 3
Day Mileage: 61
Total Miles: 179.1

I didn’t sleep well at the altar. I thought I’d sleep great but was unable to for some reason. I popped up early at 5:45 and knocked out some NCLEX Prep questions before having to wake up my church bunk mate, James, as I snuck not so quietly to the bathroom. It’s an old church, nothing is quiet. After showering and getting things prepared for day, I made pancakes in the stocked kitchen for cyclists use. We each had 6 and debated on making more. Instead, we cleaned up, prepared our bikes and set off just after 8.

We had planned for 60 miles to Austin Junction where a cafe allowed cyclists to camp in the back lot, so that’s where we headed. It took 22 miles until the next town, Mt. Vernon, before we stopped to have a bite. I’m still learning my fueling for the trip so before we left Dayville, I bought bread and peanut butter and made 4 PB sandwiches to pack. I had one in Mt. Vernon and a root beer from a gas station and we were off again, this time to Prairie City. That ride had some gradual climbing but the real surprise was getting caught in traffic in John Day behind the 110th County Fair, the longest in Oregon. Once we arrived in Prairie City, I ate two more sandwiches and James made coffee. It was nearing 3pm and I had my biggest climb thus far to 5,277 at Dixie Pass. It was an 8mile climb lasting well over 1:30 and was every bit of a 1,900 ft climb from Prairie City. 

It was a smooth 7 mile decent into Austin Junction, where the cafe was without internet for guests, showers or bathrooms after 7 for those staying so we pushed ahead another mile to Bates State Park, where there is no internet (expected), showers (unexpected, but sprinklers did the same trick), and 24 hour access to bathrooms. We got settled and used my SPOT Tracker Jared Muse was kind enough to let me borrow. It register with GPS to send a preprogrammed email to recipients letting them know you’re where you needed to be and also the location. I had my 4th PB sandwich and some instant potatoes before winding down. On Day Three now and my legs felt in on the climb. We have 2 big climbs tomorrow before we make it into a more populated city, Baker City.  Today is my first day camping and it’s very exciting and not as lonely with James, who recently graduated from University in England, to chat with. It was a really good day today. 

Day Three Bonuses 

  • Town parades, complete with everything you know small town parade to have
  • A riding partner to learn all things England and one to navigate American culture 
  • Root beer
  • Rob, in the middle of my climb, encouraging me at a view point
  • Not dying of dysentery 
  • Better meal planning
  • Knowing what I need to adjust… like more salt intake
  • Live music at camp, a couple jamming some bluegrass?