In the style of adventure riders, I went on my first bike camping trip this Labor Day weekend. It was just a single overnight trip to a dry campground on the east side of Mt. Hood, but it was my first off the bike. I’ve gone backpacking countless times in my life, carrying everything I needed on my back. The only difference here is I carried it on my bike instead.
I chose the campground for three reasons. I know where it is and how to get to it, it has a year-round creek running through it, and it was unlikely to be crowded on the holiday weekend. On this particular trip, I intended to videotape the experience, using both my Canon GL2 camera and an Oregon Scientific chip-based ‘action cam’. It worked great and I captured several segments of the trip, but I left the fastening strap for the action cam wrapped around it and ended up covering its internal microphone. I had great footage but no sound on all but one of my segments.
So the video effort will have to wait until another time.
It would be just a single night and I was taking minimal food so no cooking equipment was necessary. I was able to get everything into my bike’s Givi V46 top case and E21 side cases plus a small waterproof duffel strapped to the seat. If I had taken my E41 side cases I wouldn’t have needed the duffel.
My gear included a Eureka Backcountry single person tent. It’s 3′ wide, 8′ long, and 3′ tall at the peak. It sets up easily, has reasonable coverage for straight-down precipitation with its rain fly, and I can sit up in it when inside. I also took an insulated air mattress from Big Agness. It’s 27″ wide and 72″ long and when inflated keeps me a cosey and comfortable insulated 3″ above the ground. I found it to be very comfortable, and it makes Thermarest pads feel like you’re sleeping on a Kleenex. My Mountain Gear polarguard 3D sleeping bag is so small and light it compresses into a package the size of a volleyball, but by the middle of the night the outside temp dropped low enough that I found the sleeping bag’s insulative powers were inadequate. I estimate the temp dropped to the mid 30’s.
I refer to the campground as Bonney Crossing, although there’s indication on the maps and area signs that the actual Bonney Crossing campground is farther down the road. Regardless, this spot has actual picnic tables and at one point had a pit toilet, so it probably has a name of some kind. It is located off of Threemile Road, due north of Rock Creek Reservoir, on the eastern foothills of Mt. Hood. The road there is paved except for the last mile, which is rough and rocky dirt road. My V-Strom handled it fine. I know of a guy that traveled the road on his cruiser, but I’m not sure how he did it. A passenger car would have a difficult time of it, especially if there was rain.
I made it to camp around 5:00 PM, just an hour and a half ride from my home in Sandy. There was one other campsite occupied about 100 yards away, a young couple with four young and rambunctious boys. Although we never introduced ourselves, they seemed like nice people. I was worried the campground would be full of rowdy rednecks wanting to party all night. If that had been the case I would have turned around and found another location.
It didn’t take me long to get my tent set up, my pad inflated (manually; I still need to find a nozzle that lets me use the 12v air compressor I store in my tank bag), and my sleeping bag rolled out. Soon I was dining on cold orange chinese chicken, rice, and wontons. Without having to cook, the dinner selection was pretty good. I washed it down with some 7-Up and The Macallan. My entertainment until sunset was a book written in the late 70’s by a wildlife biologist helping to find locations for parks in Alaska.
The trip over had been uneventful other than some strong winds. The wind continued to blow until well after sunset. The temperature began to drop with the sun, and by 8:30 PM I was in my sleeping bag waiting for sleep to arrive. I never sleep very good the first night in the woods, so my expectations for deep slumber were low.
At about 2:00 AM I got up to relieve myself. The wind was absent and the stars were out in massive numbers, visible upward between the pines and oak. It was noticeably colder, however, and despite wearing insulated underwear, wool socks, and a sweater, I never quite warmed up inside my inadequate sleeping bag.
The rising sun was just beginning to hit my tent broadside when I arose at 6:45 AM. I bundled up and emerged, doing some mild calisthenics to get my blood flowing and my body temperature up. I chugged an orange juice and began breaking camp. The family camped nearby was beginning to stir just as I started my bike and headed out.
I backtracked east to the tiny community of Wamic in search of breakfast. My initial idea was to grab a snack and a coffee at the small general store and ride straight home, but the store was closed. I settled for the somewhat skanky Pub and Grub restaurant. It was 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning and I was the only customer there. That should tell you something. My meal of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast (plus coffee, oh yeah, coffee) wasn’t half bad, however, nor was the service. It was good to warm up both on the outside and on the inside. Other customers began to arrive by the time I was donning my helmet to head west toward home.
Heading back the way I came on FS48, I could see a bank of clouds hovering over the Cascades. It wasn’t long before the sun disappeared and I was under cloud cover. The air was chilly and the breeze was up, misty rain began to fall by the time I reached highway 35. When I crested the pass at Government Camp, it was 33 degrees and raining heavily. My hands were cold and I had a shiver despite being bundled up in my riding gear. I pressed on.
The clouds never went away but the rain let up as I descended the foothills and got back to Sandy. I passed numerous cops that were patrolling the stretch of highway 26 between Mt. Hood and Sandy quite heavily as they had been for the past several weeks. When I got home, I had been gone a mere 18 hours, but had learned a few things for the next time I intend to camp off of my bike. I’ll take more sleeping bag than I think I need. When I go on longer trips I can camp every other night and stay in motels in between to save money. I don’t need to take any cooking tools if I don’t want to, and I shouldn’t expect to get much sleep when in the woods.