Monday, July 5, 2010

All good in the Hood

This weekend I got to see a new place. One way or another I had heard about Hood River from a few people and how good it was for wind, water, and mountains. We had been looking for a fun place to go for the Canada Day long weekend, but one way or another all our plans hadn't worked out. So... I voted to go to Hood River, ride bikes, and maybe climb Mt Hood. The day after the decision was made (last Tuesday night) a very unlikely thing happened... even by Lina's standards. Lina won the Deep Cove Tuesday night SUP race (this is not the unusual bit), and then got lent a damaged board to take to Hood River where they happen to have a Thursday night SUP race, and the board needed to go anyway to be repaired. One thing I learned on Tuesday night: stand-up paddle boards are really big and are difficult to get into small apartments. However, Lina had a race to enter and a board to race on... 600km from home.

Early to Thursday we drove south to sit in the US border line-up for 2 hours. I was glad to see that finally a system has been invented to try and reduce the massive amount of idling engines at the border. The new system of moving forward in groups doesn't really work just yet... but it is a step in the right direction and I managed to keep the engine off for longer than usual. We got through and cruised down I5 to Portland. We rolled into Hood River in time to buy a bike trail map and for Lina to register for the SUP race. This paddle was to be a little harder than in sheltered Deep Cove as Hood River has plenty of wind and of course, current. There was a good group out on the water who powered off toward the toll bridge over the Columbia.

After around an hour the leading guy came past... looking surprisingly relaxed but moving very fast. Apparently he's a pro kayaker, which might explain that. There was some fierce competition going on in the group of guys behind the leader... then Lina appeared. Due to a bizarre coincidence of Lina wearing the same colour shorts and having similar hair to one of the local girls... everyone thought she was someone else. Lina rounded the last buoy and made it in to the finish line as the first girl, surprising everyone (except me) and reclaiming her true identity.

Coming into the last corner

We were not the only Canadians in the Tucker Park camp group by the Hood River that night. The place was full of BC licence plates and there was even a little impromptu Canada Day fireworks display...

On Friday we drive out to Post Canyon, to ride some of the local trails. We started off on a nice, flowing XC loop, then rode up to the top of the canyon to find a longer downhill run. Things got a little complicated here as some trails were closed. My curiosity paid off and after riding down a few promising trails, only to find they weren't so promising after all we found the top of 8-Track. This was a fantastic fast descent with lots of corners and little obstacles. The red clay-ish dirt packs down into a really great trail surface and makes you bike look like it's been to Mars. What else do you need?

Climbing on the Seven Streams loop

Looking for a way back down

A fun way to get back to your car at Post Canyon 

We stuck to the dense area of trails in Post Canyon, but still managed at least 3 hours of continuous riding. There is a lot more there to explore one day...

After a day of the near-instant gratification of mountain biking we went for something a little harder-earned on Saturday. Climbing Mt Hood seemed like a great idea until we left the sunshine of Hood River and hit the rain and cloud of the Timberline Lodge parking lot. It was 5 degrees and we could barely see the road. As we were there anyway, we filled out our climber's registration and went to sleep in the back of the car with the alarm set of 3am. I didn't think we would be going anywhere the next morning. At around midnight, the parking lot started stirring. We heard several groups get up and go, but I was very grateful for another couple of hours sleep. Our time came tough and we staggered out in the cold and dark... following the trail up the moraine to the side of the ski lifts. I was relieved to see the moon and stars in a clear sky and the headlamps of the other climbers on the glacier above us. Maybe it would be clear!

3am and ready to go

In the shadow of the peak on our ascent

Things went well and we moved fast... passing a couple of other groups on the glacier and meeting one earlybird on his way back down. He gave us a few tips on the route and said it was perfect up there. I was glad to be in the shadow as the sun rose, the air was warming up, but the snow stayed solid and it was quick and easy climbing. Considering this is one of the most popular peaks around (apparently the second easiest glaciated peak in the world), it wasn't too busy and we only got a bit of ice kicked down on us. Helmets were a good plan! We made our way up to the summit ridge, peeked over the cornice toward Hood River, spared a thought for our friend Bob who loved the mountains, and turned around. It was only around 7.30am, but the sun was coming up and we wanted to be down before things warmed up too much... plus I was ready for breakfast.

A tourist on Mt Hood

Lina on the descent, with lunar-landscape

The express route back to the car

We spent the rest of the day eating, faffing, and watching kiteboarders on the Columbia River. A quick swim in the (freezing) Hood River and a celebration beer put us to sleep by 9pm.

We had a lunch-date in Portland on Sunday and it was time to go home, so we got up early (not as early as Saturday though) and went for a quick ride on the 8-Mile Loop (which was 5 miles long) at Surveyor's Ridge. For a short ride, the was fantastic. Fast and dusty trails, great views, alpine meadows... it will be great to come back and do some of the big rides in that area one day.

Lina climbing to 8-Mile Lookout


The descent from 8-Mile lookout

It was great to see Hood River and I am inspired to get back there for some long rides... and to get on the water! A few more photos are here.