I had a 24-hour window of opportunity this past weekend to go for a quick bike camping trip. I loaded my gear on the V-Strom and set off by noon. The sun was shining and it was in the upper 60’s, quickly climbing into the lower 70’s. I fueled up in Estacada, then headed up the Clackamas River highway to Ripplebrook, where I continued east on NF58 past Harriett Lake. The road turned to gravel for about 10 miles before crossing the earthen dam at Timothy Lake’s outlet.
I followed the road around the southern shore of Timothy Lake before hitting Skyline Road (NF42). It was a quick 8-mile jaunt to a brief run south on Highway 26 before continuing east onto NF43. This road connected to NF48, and soon was I zooming past Rock Creek Reservoir and hitting the long straight into the tiny community of Wamic.
I grabbed two snacks, ate one and saved the other for later that evening, then chatted with two guys from Hood River riding tall off-road bikes with large home-made sidecars as they stopped to fuel up. Soon I was backtracking to Rock Creek Reservoir where I followed some narrow forest service roads to a particular campsite within the Mt. Hood National Forest.
There was another group set up about 75 yards away, but despite smoke still coming out of the campfire, no one was home. I wanted to ask permission first before I made camp, just as a courtesy, but in their absence I made the decision to go ahead and set up anyway.
I soon had my tent erected and my gear stowed inside. I propped my bike up on its center stand, sat aboard, leaned back against my top case, and pondered the sky while listening to several different species of birds arguing about the various disposition of seeds in light of recent changes in the world economy.
Weary from the ride and mentally relaxed from contemplating the heavens, I retired into my nylon and aluminum structure, struck a face-down horizontal pose, and remained inert for over an hour. My slumber was disturbed by the return of my neighbors. I decided it was dinner time anyway so I emerged and began making dinner.
The freeze-dried beef stew was unappetizing but wasn’t foul, either; it served its purpose. Once I got my mess kit cleaned up, I returned again to the comfort of my tent and pulled out my iPad to watch a movie. iPads are fantastic for travelers and I highly recommend them. You can watch a movie, read a book, play a game, compose a blog, etc. When you have Wi-Fi or 3G access you can plan a trip’s route or check the weather forecast.
By this time it was getting dark so I brushed my teeth and prepared for bed. Just as the last hint of light was fading, I heard “Huff! Huff!” outside my tent. Thirty seconds later I heard it again. I figured it was a cow, although I had never seen any cow pies in that area. I wondered if it was an elk, as the noise was fairly loud and actually seemed pretty close by. I heard the creature stomp the ground twice, then walk around. It sounded as if it was close to my bike, parked about 20 feet away from the entrance to my tent.
I grabbed my small flashlight, unzipped my tent, and peered outside. I saw nothing. No bodies, no glowing eyes. I knew I had heard a large animal of some kind but couldn’t find any physical evidence of it, so I zipped the tent back up and crawled back onto my sleeping bag for some iPad solitaire. Less than 5 minutes had gone by before I heard another “Huff!” accompanied by a large animal walking around close by. I grabbed a different flashlight, with a broader, brighter beam, unzipped the tent, and looked outside. Standing 20′ away was a female deer. She was grazing on some grass on the edge of the creek and seemed completely unfazed by my sudden emergence from my tent.
I was getting annoyed by the interruption at this point so I began to make my own huffing noises back at the creature. She gave me a look bordering on contempt, then returned to her grazing. I grabbed a pine cone and threw it at her, but it wasn’t very heavy and fell short. The deer remained unimpressed. I put my sandals on, stepped out of the tent completely, and began looking for a rock. The doe adopted more of a “Bring it, homeboy!” expression. The rock I found was at least as big as a grapefruit. I heaved it underhanded toward the doe. It struck the ground a few feet short, bounced up and smacked her in the rear flank. She leaped at least three feet straight up, then bounded a quarter of the way around my camp before heading into the woods up the hill and out of sight. That will teach her to mess with a top predator!
I brushed the dust off my hands, took off my sandals, and crawled back inside my tent. I put my iPad away, undressed, and crawled into my sleeping bag. Another five minutes went by before I heard two different deer walking around outside my tent. One even pawed at the corner of my tent fly, as if to say, “Oh, no you di’nt!” I decided to ignore them, treating them like I would a semi-crazy person trying to engage me in conversation about UFOs on a crowded subway train. Eventually they wandered off and I fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke at 5 AM, daylight beginning to filter through the trees. Although I normally get up around that time, I had no reason to this particular day and didn’t want to disturb my neighbors (who had stayed awake quite late into the night playing music and even shooting guns). I allowed sleep to return and awoke again two hours later. The sun was hitting my tent broadsided and lit it up so bright I had to squint.
Once up, I made coffee and ate a granola bar as I took my time packing up. I refilled my water bottle with my Katadyn filter down at the creek, checked that everything was tied down on my bike, then mounted up. I rode back up the same gnarly, rocky, dirt road that brought me there, fortunately without any mishaps. Back on the pavement, I boogied back into Wamic where I had a more substantial breakfast at the Sportsman’s Pub-n-Grub. The decor was nasty and the waitresses were friendly but slow. The food wasn’t half bad, however. Fed, I mounted up again and headed west along NF48. I passed the spot where my wife and I had gotten stuck in a snow drift just a few weeks earlier, this time the pavement was dry and clear. At the junction with Highway 35 I was flagged down by one of six riders parked nearby. He spoke with an Australian accent and wanted to know if the road to Wamic was clear. I assured him he and his BMW-riding buddies could make the route just fine as I had just come from there. He thanked me with a smile, I wished him a “Shiny side up!”, and I merged onto 35 and headed back over the mountain to home.