Day 77 – Sisters, OR to McKenzie Bridge, OR

Today was the last real climb of the trip. I had been hearing from the Eastbounders about how hard McKenzie Pass was so I got out early and started moving pretty slowly.

I soon found myself in the heavily wooded Deschutes National Forest. It was a chilly morning and the road was mostly shaded. I hadn’t ridden in weather this cold since the Rockies and it was great! I zipped my jacket up all the way up and began the long climb up.

The first part of the ride was filled with the sound of birdsong but as I climbed higher, the trees thinned and the sound of birds became more scarce. The only sounds were the peck of woodpeckers and the high pitch squeak of chipmunks as they darted across the road. Few cars passed me all morning. It was such a rare phenomenon that it threw me from my comfort zone whenever one drove by.

As I continued to climb the scenery changed again, this time the dirt changed to lava rock and the trees thinned out even more. I continued to go up, amazed by the scenery, when I noticed that suddenly I was top of the pass. I had estimated another hour left when I saw the sign declaring he summit. The Eastbounders had definitely oversold this pass!

I spent the next hour on top of the pass, looking out from the observatory on the top and walking the boardwalk through the lava fields. I stayed on top longer than I meant to but I wanted to enjoy being on top of the world for just a little bit longer! After this, it will be back to normal elevations — no need to rush into that.

Unlike the climb, the 4,000 ft decline after the pass was not oversold. I flew down the mountain and was at camp in no time flat! I set up my tent right by the McKenzie River and am going to sleep tonight listening to the sound of it rushing.

Key stats:
Miles: 45
Elevation gained: 2,300 ft
Estimated temperature of the McKenzie River: -21 degrees

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