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Bike Camping!

Posted by Peter W on August 19, 2007

The deer at Oxbow are probably too tame!

If you haven’t been bike camping yet, you need to go! I’d recommend Metro‘s Oxbow Regional Park — it’s close, it’s huge, and it’s super cool.

A couple weeks ago I took off with friends from the Rock Creek Bicycle Alliance and a few others, and we biked to Oxbow. Jenny and I actually took off early and got there Friday afternoon, which turned out to be a good idea – there were only 5 spaces left when we got there. Saturday we went back into town and met the rest of the group at the last MAX stop in Gresham. Mat and Erin couldn’t make it, so the group was Jenny, Thomas, Stephanie, Janel, Chris, Tyler, Andrea, and myself.

We took off from there and promptly learned why I do not lead rides… instead of turning left from the parking lot onto 8th and then taking Cleveland to Division, I figured we could save a couple minutes by turning right on 8th. Well, that 8th runs into Burnside and from then on there is no easy way to turn north and hit Division – Burnside in Gresham is a hideous, noisy, fowl smelling road full of suburbanites driving tanks. So after a couple blocks on Burnside we turned around and found our way back to Division. When Division became a quiet 2 lane road a few blocks later, I insisted that my roundabout way of getting us there was just to make us appreciate the quiet road all the more.

Division is pretty nice, especially for experienced cyclists, but I would be worried taking small kids or trailers along. There isn’t a lot of traffic, but the traffic that does go through there is pretty fast. The only place the road goes to is some farms, a few houses, and the campground. We noticed that the campers (folks in minivans or Subarus with clamshells on top and kids and gear in the back) slowed down and gave lots of room, but the locals and farmers (the guys driving the roaring, nuclear powered, Ford F5000’s) would pass at three times the speed limit and some would push the limits, trying to pass as close as possible without actually hitting you (this must have been their mental challenge for the day). I’m actually exaggerating a lot – it really wasn’t too bad – but it would be really nice if that road had bike lanes. One thing that helped was we put Tyler in the back; Tyler has a “pocket guitar” which looks very much like a shotgun when sitting in its black carrying case at the back of Tyler’s custom made bike panniers (yeah, his panniers have a pocket designs specifically to fit his guitar).

Within less than an hour from when we left the MAX station, we were at the top of the hill. The “hill” is this giant decent from the plains down to the campground which is near river-level. It is an absolute blast going down – you do about 35mph for 5 minutes along this twisty tree lined two lane road. The only problem is going back up (someone from the SHIFT email list called it the “hill from hell” and said it is hard to get groggy, hung-over cyclists back up it Sunday morning. (I’m sure they were kidding though – because there is no alcohol allowed at the campground.)

We got to our campsite (#37 I believe – the one in the gravel loop), flopped down, and then eventually set up camp. That particular campsite is great because there is room for probably 10 tents and 20 people (although you’re not allowed more than 6 people). We had five tents and eight people (sssh).

Net Bungies Rock.

At about 2pm, we decided to bike back up to get more firewood. We would have walked, but it is 2 miles to the entrance to the campground where the wood is sold (seriously, the campground is 1200 acres!). It was pretty funny when we got the wood, the lady working there was wondering how we could carry it back, and we just said “on our bikes!”. By splitting the load between four of us and using some clever packing techniques (including securing wood to a rack by using a bike lock, since we were low on bungies), we were able to carry it back.


At about 3pm we decided to go for a swim in the Sandy River which is just a short walk from the campsite. “The water’s warm, I swear!” wasn’t quite convincing enough coming from me, in to my thighs and shivering. Nevertheless all but three of us got in and swam around for about an hour. I think kids must have higher metabolisms, because the Sandy was full of the little river rats, swimming around like it was no big deal. Kids also don’t have any sense of fear, because all of them would swim across and jump of this 20 foot cliff into the river. Janel and Chris went hiking and found a quiet spot further down the river where they went skinny dipping. I know this not because they intended to tell us, but because we came floating downstream a few minutes later on some overinflated bicycle inner tubes. It was quite awkward for all parties involved. It was also completely made up, but the part about them finding a quiet place to swim was true.

We used Tyler’s dinner plate as a Frisbee and threw that around for a while, then went back to camp (actually his dinner plate is a Frisbee – its a space/weight saving thing he does). We cooked up two batches of spaghetti (we brought a big gas stove in the SAG wagon) and roasted a loaf of garlic bread on the fire. After dinner we played Apples to Apples, where the winning create-your-own-card always seemed to be “George W. Bush” (or “Bushish”), just because he’s easy to make fun of. It was getting dark quickly, but luckily we had our trusty hand cranked LED lantern. Unluckily, it dimmed quickly if you didn’t keep cranking it so we modified the game to pick both a best and worst card at each round. New rule: looser cranks.


No camping trip would be complete without smores, but fortunately Stephanie brought the key ingredients (namely, a box of graham crackers, 13 bars of chocolate, and 2 bags of marshmallows). We didn’t quite use up all the chocolate, so Sunday morning we had chocolate chunk pancakes. We were low on plates, but luckily Jenny had brought her Origami plate set. Between that and Tyler’s Frisbee, we were set!

Shortly after breakfast we packed up and headed back to civilization. Janel and Chris took the rugged way out, hiking and biking some off road trails up to the main road, while Tyler, Thomas and I road up the hill from hell. The hill wasn’t really that bad, it only took 15 minutes to get up. Of course, I had no load at all, while Thomas and Tyler were both carrying a full load. Jenny, Andrea and Stephanie beat us to the top, but they took the SAG wagon, so thats fair. About half an hour later we were back at the MAX stop.

All in all we had only one bad crash – Tyler’s bike fell of the roof rack (we were giving him a ride back home), broke his rack and bent his handle bars. Lesson of the day: Never forget to clamp the bikes on the rack!

Heres the obligatory group shot, bikes included, taken before we left:

You can view the rest of the photos on Flickr.


One Response to “Bike Camping!”

  1. Jen said

    That was a fun trip!

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