Stuckylife affiliate Rory O'Connell doesn't mess around when it comes to getting rad shit done and perpetually making everyone jealous. This summer was no different. Rory went "along for the ride" on the newly created 3 Sisters 3 Rivers bikepacking route. While he's not crushing on the saddle he's also a master behind the lense so some stellar imagery accompanies his epic trip report after the jump...
And this is how it starts. Under-experienced and over-excited. The best way to convince friends to commit to a 9 day bike ride.
Usually I'm the culprit who initiates the original trip idea, but with an educator friend who I hadn't seen in a while that was keen to fill her summer with adventures I got to just "go along for the ride". There was of course some trip planning to be done, but as it turns out we didn't really have a whole lot to plan out: figure out tents vs bivies, group vs individual cooking, and of course vehicle logistics. The rest was all laid out for us...download gpx from bikepacking.com and follow in Gabe’s footsteps (http://limberlost.co/). #InGabeWeTrust
Last minute nonsense included:
• getting bikepacking bags 2 weeks prior to departure and doing zero trips in preparation
• trip partner realizing passport has expired and getting declined for a quick renewal in Whitehorse because of a coffee stain
With the international component to the trip this last one nearly derailed us. Luckily 24hrs prior to our departure we got this all sorted. Surrey CBSA ftw!
|Chromag Rootdown – perhaps a little overkill, but oh so much fun…|
Setting up the vehicle shuttle took the entire first day. Between a border crossing at too early o'clock am, getting lost in Seattle rush-hour, lunch time entertainment at Chang’s Mongolia Grill, and finding a place to park a vehicle in Idleyld, OR we rolled into Bend as the sun was setting.
Although the plan had been to roll out first thing the next morning and beat the heat - we managed to get going at the crack of 11am. While loading everything and adjusting fork and tire pressures Simon got the first flat of the trip as we were rolling away from the coffee shop (the first time around). Lessons learned #1: when running tubeless tires remember that you probably have holes in your tires that will not appreciate higher tire pressures.
|Team shot before departure: clearly we have yet to discover Simoni’s flat|
We pushed on with newfound enthusiasm and decided that Gabe's recommended camping spot at Little Three Creeks Lake would be worth the extra effort. After a big day in the heat it was nice to camp in the cool alpine air and enjoy a chilly swim before sitting down for dinner.
|Little Three Creek Lake – alpine lake swimming at its finest|
|Erika barely containing her excitement at getting to descend.|
|Our Trivial Pursuit skills weren’t good enough to keep from taking advantage of cell reception |
(to be fair, Simoni is actually checking route options here)
|Sunset at Suttle Lake|
|Simon ripping down the lower section of the Santiam Wagon Road.|
|Rapid cooling at Great Spring|
|Rafting at Hidden Lake|
The Indian Ridge climb was proper tough. We didn't have a good plan for camping since we knew we wouldn't be able to get to the shelter on Alpine Trail in time, and we knew that there would likely be no water at the pass. We cooked and ate at Hidden Lake and then brought enough water for the night with us up to the pass. As it turns out it was probably the best evening of the trip as we watched the sunset light everything up.
|Top of the Aufderheide Pass|
|Waking up in the am is a little easier with views like this|
|Through the bunchgrass along Alpine Trail|
We rolled into Oakridge and I nearly passed out with food still in my mouth, while the others did productive things like get beta from Randy Dreiling (https://oregon-adventures.com/) including finding us showers, suggesting an alternative to the "Stairway to Hell" climb to Timpanogas Lake, and finding out that Lemolo Lake does in fact have a store. We were beat that day, and despite Randy's suggestions for free guerrilla camping the $85 motel room split 4 ways sounded pretty good - not to mention the on-site laundry.
Guillaume pulled through with a surprise beer/ice cream run while the rest of us soaked up the comforts of the motel a/c, and after a proper rest we were ready to tackle another day. Randy had given us some tips on getting up to Summit Lake and suggested that we absolutely should not try to attempt climbing the Middle Fork trail past Indigo Springs. We rolled along and thoroughly enjoyed the Middle Fork singletrack, regularly stopping to comment on how we couldn't believe that we were actually gaining. My legs were actually enjoying the trail - and the swoopy singletrack meant that I could stand up and give the 'ol bum a bit of a rest from time to time. Day 6 was another cooker and by the time lunch rolled around it was smokin’ hot. We decided to chill and relax at a picnic spot along the Middle Fork. We forged on after the heat had somewhat abated but opted for a shorter day and to stay at Indigo Springs. There was some discussion about pushing on to Summit Lake but conservativism prevailed and we enjoyed an early evening.
|Easy cruising up the Middle Fork|
|Post-dip singletrack ripping|
|Camp at Lemolo|
Leaving Lemolo we started into the final river trail - the North Umpqua Trail - along the Dread and Terror section. Here again we were uncertain what to expect having come across others who warned about deadfall in the top sections and poison oak ALL OVER the lower sections (one guy showed us the scarring from a spring attempt he made), but luck was with us and we seemed to time it just right. The annual trail run up the NUT had included quite a big volunteer effort to clear out the major deadfall in the spring. Although a large tree had fallen on one of the bridges high in the Dread and Terror section resulting in the Forest Service declaring the bridge unsafe, we were able to cross without issue. As expected the NUT was indeed amazing. The diversity between technical rock and cruise-y flow kept you on your toes, and although this is a river trail there is PLENTY of climbing. After an early start from Lemolo we were starting to spread out quite a bit by the time we hit Umpqua Hot Springs and the heat was again proving to be a challenge. We decided to take a break, enjoy a soak, and put a dent in our recently restocked food supplies. On the trail again we pushed as far as we could and ended up just short of the highway 138 crossing at Eagle Rock.
The next morning Simon suggested we stash our bags in the woods for our final ride. Readjusting to an unloaded bike took a couple minutes and led to some near-misses as we blasted down the trail with abandon.
|Wrapping up the final day on the NUT and enjoying the freedom of singletrack without bags|
The final day was a huge one - even without bags. 50km and 1600m, and the first thought on our mind when we rolled into the parking lot at the end of the NUT was swimming. The second thought was "where's the bike rack?". Turns out our plans to stash vehicles didn't quite go according to plan. Someone had come in with a grinder and cut the bolts off to steal our (borrowed!) bike rack. Lessons learned #4: vehicles left in quiet parks for days on end are good targets. The gas station in Idlelyd probably wouldn't have been a great option either, but at least it would have been out in the open rather than tucked off the side of the highway out of sight.
We licked our wounds and found more ice cream at the gas station, this time along with burritos. Somehow we managed to cram 4 bikes, bags, and humans into Simon's VW station wagon.
A quick stop at Crater Lake to gawk at the view along with the other tourists (and an opportunity to ruin someone's selfie by thoroughly disgusting them with my flatulence) and then back to Bend. Luckily we found Guillaume's truck with bike rack and fancy lights all intact. We had one last evening in Bend and made sure to visit Bend Brewing Company and had rounds two and three of burritos for the day. Our server may have been a little taken aback by the amount of food consumed, but we assured ourselves that it was not unhealthy. And besides - 'Merica.
#flats - 4
#flats by Simoni - 4
#lake swims - avg 1/day
Km ridden – 500ish
Elevation - 9800m. Kapow!
#times someone rode off a cliff into the river - once
Scoops of icecream consumed - difficult to quantify because of the icecream bars and litre in Oakville. Easily 30.
Lost items along the trail - Simon's sunglasses. Simon's shoes (!). Erika's hat