Lolo Pass

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On July 29th the Continental rode from Portland, Oregon to Hood River 103 miles and 7,809 feet of climbing at an average speed of 16.2 mph. It took six hours and seventeen minutes to ride through the Sandy River Valley past Little Switzerland up Lolo and down the gravel backside of Hood to Hood River.

Tony, Greg, Aaron, Ira and Daniel met at the Stumptown on Belmont at 7:00 am. Which is early. We ate coffee and jam filled pastries for as long as we could, forty minutes at least, before we made it to the curb where our bikes and the next seven hours forced acknowledgment.

The ride really begins when, on the southeast corner of Portland, you pick-up the Springwater Corridor, fifteen miles of paved path limited to non motorized vehicles. It’s bordered by trees, backyards and urban wilderness – like rabbits, gangs of cats, piles of dirt, rancid mushrooms, abandoned underwear, reestablished wetlands and power lines. It’s interrupted every eighth of a mile by a crossroad bordered by two-foot tandem yellow poles indicating the beginning/end of a section.

After Springwater suburbia relents the far side Boring, the town, where after several miles along big stretches of rural roads you drop entirely into the wooded Sandy River valley. At the bottom of a banking and twisting descent you cross the Sandy on an old-timey metal bridge and pass a State Park featuring two easily accessible public water fountains. The immediate way forward, up and out, is the first real climb of day.

A few well paved and tree-lined miles later you make your way to Shipley, a mile-long ascent on a canopied rough chip seal path seldom trafficked by cars. At the top, Shipley changes to Marmot for ten miles of rolling, thrusting and pumping hills, white fenced farms and ridge riding. This section ends when, after plummeting through dense trees and steeps, you’re jettisoned into a postcard featuring the countryside of some hidden highland European Farm Valley  an area aptly named little Switzerland.

Barlow Trail Road, a prelude to the heartbeat of the ride, is a pleasant slow grind to the base of Lolo where dappled sunlight, cool leaf-and-needley shade, verdurous tunnels, moist newly made oxygen and glimpses of a massive snow-capped mountain, all make the scene. As do double-digit grades, battered surfaces and miles of false summits and switchbacks.

Like a close-talking European grandfather an outstanding view of Mt Hood from Mt Hood, a magical point of view, and it’s accompanying wilderness greets you at the top. Once rested and wholly reinvigorated by the air and view claim your hard-earned descent down National Forest Road 18. This mostly downhill adventure begins with a gravel section challenging enough to test, if not push, even the most capable rider’s handling skills, and bike. Miles of demanding high-speed turns, washboards, holes in the ground and loose rocks find you at the bottom panting through a maniacal clenched-teeth smile and rubbing your spent forearms and tired braking fingers.

Four miles into the descent the 18 becomes a narrow paved though rough road. Brutal winters, rock slides and practically no traffic – minimal traffic means minimal maintenance – keep this an honest “access” road. Here the ride moves gradually downhill with big drawn-out and sweeping turns. The valley is expansive and open and massive power lines chase you down the mountain, cables spanning and leaping from one promontory and tower to the next, while you slaloming beneath. Further along, the hills, once miles apart, begin to close and you suddenly and unexpectedly drop into the steepest, fastest, wickedest decent of your life.

At the bottom you cross a river and begin your climb-out to Lost Lake Road where you drop immediately into yet another valley. The next series of roads are wide, well paved and consistently downhill to the 34. The 34 is practically straight as it rolls easily for the last ten miles back to Hood River. The ride now, except for a quick and nasty last-minute climb on the edge of town is in the bag.


Sandy River


Hood and Hood River

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