Day 2 – Steens to Willow Creek
Sunday, July 14 2019.
A chronicle of my 7-day ride of the Oregon’s Big Country route.
I slept poorly as the wind was blowing non-stop causing the tent wall to flap into my head. Waking me every few minutes, no matter how flat I made myself or deflated my pillow. Still a bit tired and already sore from the day before, day 2 was going to be a little rough.
I didn’t want to waste any time, so I quickly packed up, filtered some water, and headed out by 7am. Although I had only planned around 30 miles for the day, I really wanted to keep moving as long as I could and maybe get a day ahead of schedule.
Riding on the Fields-Denio Road was pretty quiet for the most part. After the first 10 miles, I finally started to see the occasional car every 20-30 minutes.
Just before reaching Alvord Hot Springs, a young couple stopped me to ask where I had been, where I was going, and was I wearing Bedrock Sandals. Righteous! After telling them my trip and immediate plans, they got my instagram handle then offered a beer. I can never turn down a hand-me-up-beer. I’m not normally a fan of a light beer, but it was so warm and dry out there that it was glorious. We said our pleasantries and were on our separate ways again.
I still had some internet so I plotted out a detour over to Fields to get some water bottles to take on my way. As I pulled up to Alvord hot springs a french tourist chatted about how surprised he was to see a cyclist out in the desert with so little gear. He took a pic of me with his camera then was kind enough to snap a pic with my Fuji. I meant to get a selfie on the bike at some point, but this ended up being my only pic.
I went for a soak in the hot spring fully clothed. My legs were already getting kind of burned so it stung a bit, but it was oh so good getting out as the water quickly evaporated off my clothes.
The Alvord hot spring host had some water for sale in the form small water bottles and by the gallon. I decided to get a gallon bottle to top off my steel bottles and slug a bit with lunch. It took a few minutes, but I figured out how to a half gallon off the handlebars. It was it a bit awkward but it worked. Water problem solved.
According to my route, I had to head due East to get to the Playa. Unfortunately this just lead me to a roadless wandering to a barb wire fence. It wasn’t difficult, but it wouldn’t be the first time I would have to pick my way through the sagebrush and do a bit of wayfinding.
Crossing the playa was relatively easy but the winds would constantly shift. It’s where I watched civilisation fade away mile by mile. It would be the last I would see of other people for some time.
After crossing the playa, I had to climb something marked on the route as “The Sand Gap”. This lead to pushing my bike up hill and through sand for about 2 miles. Taking so much time to get up a seemingly short hill was a little discouraging, but I knew I had to press on and that it wouldn’t be the first time I would have to push up-hill.
The route started heading south and again the road just kind of disappears a few times. Dang. It wouldn’t be a Limberlost route without some sort of pushing and bushwhacking.
I started getting into more more ranch territory with cows scattered throughout the fields of sagebrush. At times, they blocked the path, staring at this human riding this contraption of a horse. Only the shout of “Git git git!” would get them to clear a path and allow me to pass.
After Sand-Gap, I noticed something skitter into the road. If it had not stopped in the middle of the double track, I wouldn’t have been able to find it again. Check out the camouflage of this Pygmy Short-horned Lizard!
As the sun was nearing the tops of the western hills, I pulled into the Willow Creek campground. A van was parked there but nobody to be found. I took a quick dip in the hot spring to rinse the road grime from my legs which was starting to get caked with the sunscreen.
I could hear running water near by, so I had some dinner, set up camp and called it an early night. Cows, birds, and other strange noises would periodically wake me but otherwise I had the whole place to my self. This night would be mostly windless, so the combination of droning insects and exhaustion lulled me into a deep sleep. It was a good day.