I woke up to the sounds of a pot being filled with water for coffee and the river flowing swiftly a dozen feet from my tent. Stepping out of the tent, Gabe pointed to a bald eagle soaring over our campsite. Seeing such a magnificent animal in it’s natural surroundings is always a treat, and in my opinion, a good omen of things to come. We took our time packing up camp, in no real rush to be anywhere other than in the moment. The sun was out and we were looking forward to a day of leisure.
As we saddled up, we noted that the wind was still just as strong as the day before, but today it was at our backs. We pedaled effortlessly along Hwy 402 towards Monument. The John Day on our side and the rolling hills and mountains surrounding us made for a memorable morning. We arrived in Monument around 10am and headed straight for the only store in town.
We hadn’t planned on taking a break, but upon seeing my fishing pole, the owner of the market clued us in on a local fishing spot just outside of town. There was a small boat tied up to the dock that was free to use, and with that, we purchased some tall cans and made our way to the pond. Upon arrival we found no oars for the boat, but a nice dock to fish off of. We cast a few times, but the wind was too strong for any real attempt. We drank our beers and enjoyed watching a Golden Eagle soar above us.
After leaving Monument, we found the first big climb of the day towards Long Creek, OR. With a generous tailwind, we climbed swiftly to the summit. We left the steep and colorful mountains behind and found ourselves in big sky country with plains surrounding us. Ranches with cattle, sheep, and llamas were a common sight as we kept lightly pedaling. We took care to not take our tailwind for granted though, should it decide to turn on us.
Arriving in Long Creek, we sat down for some hamburgers and planned our next step. If we stayed on route, we’d be heading north for the next 8-10 miles with a stiff crosswind. After the previous days 60 mile grind, we started looking at the map for another option. If we headed east out of town, we’d be cutting the course, but opening the possibility for more remote riding and adventure. County Road 18 was a red line on the map, and looked promising. And boy was it.
About 8 miles east of town, the road turned to smooth gravel and we entered the Malheur National Forest where we wouldn’t see another person until the next day. The wind was still very strong, but thankfully was still pushing us along nicely. We climbed past alpine meadows and springs until we found a small sheltered spot next to a small creek suitable for camping. At 5,500 feet, we were cold, tired and completely alone in the woods.
For the first day and a half I wondered if I had packed too many warm clothes, but as I cooled down, I was thankful for every last bit. We put the beers we carried up the mountain into the creek, made a small fire and started cooking dinner. As a precaution, we hung our food about 100 yards from camp to keep bears away.
The night was pitch black, and we eventually ran out of beer. The three of us each dipped a bit too heavily into our whiskey reserves, after which I fell asleep quickly. It was very cold that night, and my feet froze in my 30 degree bag. Adventure!
I’ll post Day 3 tomorrow. It’s a doozie!