Ride Around Mt.Hood in One Day
A short text thread kick-started this amazing ride.
Abe: Yoo, do you want to ride around Mt.Hood and back this coming Sunday?
Garret: This one is gonna hurt...
Abe: I routed us to a bbq stop in Parkdale...
Garret: then yes, I do!
The ride by the numbers: 188 miles (302km) / 14,000ft (4267m). Find it here.
2020 was a wild year for everyone; we made the best of it regardless of that. A few months before embarking on the best summer I've had in my life, I was hunkered in my studio in NW Portland, not knowing what the hell was happening with the world. I don't recall ever living through a pandemic like the one we're still going through, although somewhat normalized at the moment.
I was head down working on my Master's thesis and trying to cope with the new reality of studying from home. Regardless, I still managed to pull through and get my MA in Applied Linguistics. Although I was focusing on that, I had been planning my riding goals for the summer.
Long story short, I wasn't guaranteed to stay in Portland past October 2020 since I was an international student. If you know anything about the hurdles that international students go through in the US, then you know how hard that time was. Still, I had a handful of boxes to check, one of which was to ride around my local volcano and back from my front door.
Inspired by the one & only Ryan Francesconi, he had done a similar route for the 2019 Summer solstice ride. That planted the idea in my head, so I worked on getting myself to the point where I could ride +150 mile rides as the new norm. I didn't do it alone, though. It required months of training, mostly mentally, to get to a place where rides that big seem achievable and exciting.
This was a lollipop-shaped route starting from NW Portland. The route can be split into two sections. The first is from Portland to Zigzag, and the second is circumnavigating the volcano from and back to Zigzag clockwise.
The first leg of the route is around 49 miles from the starting point. While the ride up around the mountain was about 89 miles, and the way back was identical to the way out to Zigzag.
Garret and I decided to meet up early that Sunday to catch the sunrise closer to Sandy. We met in SE Portland before jumping on the Springwater trail, a famous bike trail that runs from Portland to Boring, OR.
Although this ride seems so normal right now (at the time of writing this post), it was on par with the vibes of 2020, the year when I went all out, saying yes to any adventure thrown my way.
Headed towards the twilight along the way on the infamous springwater trail is arguably the best and fastest way out of town towards Sandy and the southwestern base of Mt.Hood. Shaking off the Zz along the way, we marched to the Sandy River overlook just outside Sandy.
Before reaching the overlook, temperatures plummeted, and early morning fog flowed in and around us in lower elevation pockets.
A dreamy transition from the city to the country.
The summer sun rose over the northern ridges of Hood. The intense summer sun was a rare sight for me since it rises so early in Oregon. It's a nice contrast to the sunrise ritual I got into during the cold days of winter in the west hills.
That sunrise was worth waking up at 3 am for.
Passing through Sandy for a quick breakfast stop, we found a food truck that had just opened up. The owners were like, "Y'all doing what now? Today?!" a common reaction when you tell someone you're circumnavigating the biggest mountain in the area and make it home in under 20 hours.
Of course, when in Sandy, you stop at Joe's Donut Shop and grab a fritter (or two) for the long day ahead.
Once out of Sandy, you're pretty much out there. We took Marmot rd up to Brightwood, an unincorporated community within the Mount Hood Corridor, and the most direct way to the famous Lolo Pass. Marmot is a quiet backcountry road mostly covered by evergreens that make tree canopies all the way to Brightwood.
Riding parallel to the Sandy River, we followed the road to the base of Lolo's Pass, just after Brightwood. Lolo's pass is a gradual climb bordering the Bull Run Watershed to the northwest and Sandy River to the southeast.
The views of Mt.Hood from Lolo are unmatched.
It also dawned on us that we were actually doing this, circumnavigating a volcano that's the background of Portland. Only a few friends I know would jump on this adventure on such short notice.
Garret always comes through!
By the time we got to the top of Lolo Pass, our big breakfast was pretty much gone.
Running on fumes.
But I saved the majestic apple fritter for this moment.
This is why you stop at Joe's for a fritter whenever you roll through Sandy.
Our Mother The Mountain before us.
Wy'east and all of its mysterious glory.
The descent into the northern side of Lolo is not to be missed; moderately smooth all the way down, with a few potholes here and there. Past the gravel is another seriously fast paved descent before the road levels. We had two options to reach Parkdale, continue north and around the foothills or climb up one of the ridges (forest rd 16) and descend into Parkdale directly from there.
We took the latter.
The steep climb up the forest road somewhat burnt a match, so we stopped to stretch out a bit, and just before we did, we saw a cyclist lying down in the middle of the road. We thought he was passed out or something. We rushed over, and it turned out that he was taking a quick break and proceeded to ask us if we had any food.
I shared what I could spare, knowing that Parkdale would be the only refueling stop between Brightwood and Govy. He was attempting to circumnavigate the mountain as well, but he drove to Government Camp and parked there.
We ensured he was good enough for the next 13 miles he had to reach Parkdale before we left.
It's given that you are rewarded with a descent when you pay the climbing toll. This route has no shortage of that. In fact, the flattest section on this route is the Springwater trail. The rest, however, are climbs unique to Mt.Hood territory. A common misconception is that Mt.Hood is only a prominent glaciated peak. In fact, we are riding on it, as shown in the photo above.
The mountain is so big that it creates its own weather.
We got to Parkdale just past noon and went straight to the local bbq joint. I'm unsure whether that lunch was the best I've had in a while or that I was running on empty for a bit...
However, we were fueled up and ready for the last major climb of the day. Leaving Parkdale, we headed to the dreaded 35, Mt.Hood Highway. The route runs south parallel to the highway through Cooper Spur Mountain Resort before linking up with the 35.
The highway wasn't as busy as we expected on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the majority of traffic was headed down the mountain. The legs were a bit dead by then, climbing up the highway. That bbq sauce sits kinda heavy, but who would've expected that...
Absolutely no one.
Time flies whenever I ride with Garret, and it's always been like that since I've known him. So I routed us to ride on forest road 3531, which runs parallel to the highway. This road accesses the historic Barlow Pass and has one of the best views of the mountain. It's also the perfect water stop.
Leaving Barlow pass behind, we jumped on the highway for a quick hop skip to the famous Trillium Lake. Although we initially wanted to ride down Still Creek road, I think the bridge was washed out that year, so we changed plans to ride T2T (timberline to town) trail out of Govy. We reconvened after a quick refueling stop in Govy and decided to bomb down 26 instead.
We took the fast way down.
Just tuck in and let gravity do its thing.
After a full day of climbing up a few passes and circumnavigating our beloved local volcano, the last leg was a 31-mile-long descent through alpine forests with the sun sinking below the horizon. We descended what we had climbed, Passing through the same roads we were on earlier in the day.
Ironically, the climb up to Sandy, 2 miles/550ft, was arguably the hardest at mile 155 and after a full day of riding. We completed a full circle back in Sandy, where we had been earlier in the day. A quick coffee and food break helped boost morale before the smooth sail back home on the Springwater Trail.
I appreciate Garret for many reasons, and the fact that he jumped on board with this crazy idea is quite telling!
Never a dull moment with Garret, and this ride is no exception. I couldn't be happier with how that day went and hope to see my bud again sometime soon.