Yes, friends, I have been threatening a three speed bike camping trip since SoTS was founded. I almost did one last year, but decided to go up to the San Juans during that timeframe instead.* (Sorry Dana and Steve!) But after getting back from my three speed camping tour in Wisconsin, not only do I know that it can be done, but I’m excited about doing another one!
Details are still being worked out, but it will happen Tuesday August 25 through Thursday August 27th. The destination will be Ainsworth State Park out in the Columbia Gorge, a ride of about 25 miles from the end of the MAX light rail line in Gresham. The Columbia Gorge is a beautiful area, and one of my favorite rides in the whole Northwest!
The general idea:
- Tuesday August 25: Meet up at the MAX station in Gresham (most likely Cleveland Ave.) and ride to Ainsworth, taking in the sights along the way.
- Wednesday August 26: The off day. People could either hang around camp, or continue east along the Historic Columbia River Highway trail to the fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam (Herman the Sturgeon!) and then on to Cascade Locks, Stevenson, and Carson, then turn around. There are brewpubs in all three cities listed above, though the one in Cascade Locks (Thunder Island) may not be open Wednesdays in summer. Going to the “cities” would mean a 20 mile round trip to-from Cascade Locks (the closest) to 35 miles round trip to-from Carson (the furthest.) Please note that there is the dreaded staircase on the trail before Cascade Locks, and to cross into Washington (Stevenson and Carson) we’d need to cross Bridge of the Gods, which has a steel-grate deck.
- Thursday August 27: Return home via the way we came.
Now more details will be coming, but to answer the questions you may ask:
- Yes, this is a self-supported tour, meaning you carry your camping gear, food, and other essentials on your bike. There will be no vehicle support, and I don’t want to see any vehicle support, so please don’t try to arrange it!
- Yes, you’ll need a three speed to participate, but I will allow hub gears from two to five speeds, and Bromptons if they promise to only use the three-speed hub and not that dinky derailleur. No single speeds, derailleur gears, or hub gears above five speeds, please!
- And yes, you can do it! 25 miles is not far. It’s a gradual climb on the Columbia River Highway from the Sandy River to Women’s Forum, but the grade does not exceed 5%, so it is manageable.** By comparison, I saw grades as high as 8% on my Wisconsin trip, and I climbed those hills with a full camping load, on a three speed!
- If you can’t do all three days, it’s perfectly fine to ride out to Ainsworth Tuesday and return Wednesday, or ride out Wednesday and return Thursday.
I want to book a campsite or two soon, so if you are interested, please let me know. Either leave a comment or email email@example.com
Hope to see you then!
*There’s no worry about that happening this year, since I’ll be going to the San Juans in July.
**There is one short steeper hill before getting onto the old highway, and the road into Ainsworth campground has a good pitch, but it’s only about 50 yards, so you can walk it.