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Independence Day Loop

I live in a wonderful part of the country. Within two hours of my home east of Portland, Oregon, I can visit the ocean, high mountains, deep river canyons, and high desert. Apart from the ocean, I experienced all of the above in a single day ride over the Independence Day holiday.

Ride Route
I traveled clockwise

My route started by heading through the east side of Portland onto I-84, then across the Columbia River via the I-205 bridge into Camas, Washington. I turned east onto SR-14, which parallels the river along the arguably prettier and more scenic side of the Columbia. The Oregon side has I-84, which is faster but far more boring.

I stopped at a wide spot of the road overlooking a cliff high above the river below. This viewpoint is just west of Carson, Washington and is definitely worth the stop.

Columbia River near Stevenson, Washington, looking eastward.
Columbia River near Stevenson, Washington, looking eastward.

My next break was in windy Bingen, Washington, just across the river from Hood River, Oregon. The public restrooms there are closed due to the quarantine — a common occurrence nowadays — so keep that in mind if you need a bio break.

Fortunately, the wind was at my back. The Columbia River Gorge is famous for its strong winds, and if it’s coming at you, you’ll definitely be fighting it. During my stop I saw some wind surfers taking advantage of the 20+ mph winds.

Continuing eastward, I pulled into Schreiner Farms (http://www.schreinerfarms.com/) in the community of Dallesport. It is a private wild animal farm or refuge, I’m not sure which, and they allow the public to drive up their 1/4 mile long entry road and view the animals through the fence. I saw zebra, bison, antelope, and yaks. I stopped and got some video footage and a few up-close photographs of some lovely Bactrian camels. One such camel, a cute lady with a fuzzy head, came right up to the fence and stuck her chin through, scratching it on the metal wire. I wanted to pet her but the signs said that was strictly forbidden.

Bactrian camel at Schreiner Farm
Bactrian Camels

I stopped at a wayside overlooking the river above Wishram Heights before continuing to the junction where highway 97 crosses the river. I crossed back over into Oregon and got gas and a lunch snack at the Chevron in Biggs Junction, the busy truck stop where 97 crosses I-84 and the Columbia.

Columbia River, Wishram Heights, Washington, looking eastward.
Wishram Heights, Washington, above Columbia River

I rode south on highway 97 past Wasco and through the remote ranching and farming towns of Moro and Grass Valley before taking a western right turn onto remote state highway 216.

This stretch of rural two-lane road zigzags its way across the prairie of Sherman County, heading toward the scenic Deschutes River (it’s pronounced deh-shoots for those out of the area). The highway descends down a gnarly and technical canyon hillside with some tight switchbacks and a noticeable lack of guard rails. At the bottom, it crosses the Deschutes at Sherars Falls. This rapid is so deadly, white water rafters port around it or risk almost certain death.

Sherars Falls, Deschutes River, Oregon

The air got noticeably warmer at the bottom of the steep river canyon (or is it a gorge? Canyons are wider than they are deep, and gorges are deeper than they are wide). Back up the other side, I rode past White River Park and into the tiny hamlet of Tygh Valley. I ventured onto another narrow two lane road and headed into Wamic.

Wamic is a tiny community near the resort and retirement community of Pine Hollow Reservoir. There is a single store with gas, and it was very busy as I rode by.

I continued west, riding past Rock Creek Reservoir, and headed up into Mt. Hood National Forest. I took a detour into Forest Creek Campground, a small, primitive campground along the old Barlow Trail Road. Although the campground was open and the pit toilet was unlocked, I could tell the place was not being maintained due to worker layoffs during the quarantine. Weeds were high in several camp spots, and I only saw a single camper occupying one of the sites in the back. I saw no vehicle or motorcycle, so they may have been bicycle camping.

Forest Creek Campground, Mt. Hood National Forest
2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650, Forest Creek Campground

Forest Service road 48 is one of my favorite routes for motorcycling and the curves and views don’t disappoint. At one point along the hillside above Barlow Trail Road, you get a wonderful view of Mt. Hood in the distance.

NF48, Mt. Hood National Forest
NF48, Mt. Hood National Forest

By the time I got home, I had ridden 270 miles and spent a little over six hours on the bike. I had fantastic weather, the wind through the gorge was at my back, and I had very little traffic or slow cars to contend with. It was a great way to experience the freedom of the open road on our nation’s birthday.

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