Beech Creek - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2020

Beech Creek

The weather is incredible today.  Sunny and even warmer than yesterday, it will top out in the low seventies.  It’s warm enough that we could start riding mid-morning, but we wait until noon for the big commercial action for the day - 1188 Brewing Company is open for growler sales again, from 12-3!  

Today’s big business decision - if we can only get refills once per week, should we invest in a second growler?  That works out to a pint per day for seven days, so the decision is easy.  Besides, it’s nice to invest in the local economy, and getting a bit of variety in my beverage diet is good too.

Nice to have some variety in the week ahead. The Axe Grinder again, and a tasty red IPA. Plus an assortment of first aid paraphernalia, my companions for the next eight weeks.
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For a nice change, today’s ride begins right from home.  We bike west along Route 26, a stretch we’ve never ridden before, and then turn south on US 395 to climb up Beech Creek.

The ride between John Day and Mount Vernon is probably the least interesting part of this highway.  It’s more developed, it carries more traffic, and we don’t really leave the outskirts of John Day for about two miles.  We ride the nine miles to Mount Vernon nonstop, not stopping for photos even once before reaching the turnoff for Route 395.

US 395 is a minor interstate highway, running roughly from the Canadian border north of Spokane to the Mojave Desert.  It doesn’t carry much traffic though, even in normal times; and today it is of course very quiet.  I’ve ridden this piece of it before, on a five day figure eight that began and ended in Spray and took in Condon, Heppner, Mount Vernon, and points in between.  Did I mention this short solo tour before?  I forget.  I think it’s the last solo tour I’ve taken.  I didn’t keep a journal but I think I have a few photos stashed away in our storage unit.  I should write it up some day.

May, 2007: The Spray Figure 8.
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So, once more up US 395, direction Long Creek.  We won’t go anywhere near that far today, and have only mapped a route on the GPS for as far as the low divide at the head of Beech Creek.  I remember the road further north though where it passes through Fox as being a great ride.  I’m sure we’ll be back up this way to cover that stretch before leaving town at the end of the month.

As usual Rachael goes on ahead, not to be seen for an hour and a half.  I do a better job staying on task today though, keeping a good pace and stopping less often for photos.  By the end of the day she’ll clock in with 43 miles but I’m not that far behind at 39.  Nearly a normal length ride, and the leg feels great.

The ride itself is very pleasant, if not quite up to the five star ratings the last two days earned.  Today it’s greatly enhanced by the balmy conditions.  It’s so warm that we shed all of our outer layers at the start, and we’re helped up the fairly modest climb along Beech Creek by about a 10 mph tailwind.

Just north of Mount Vernon, following Beech Creek upstream on US 395.
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Split-rail fence, along Beech Creek.
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Two derelicts.
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For a few miles we pass bluish outcrops like this and scattered signs of past mining activity.
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Beech Creek, one of the many lesser tributaries of the John Day, merges with the river at Mount Vernon.
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Popcorn tree.
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Jen GrumbyI've always wondered where popcorn came from!

This looks like it might be one of the caramel corn subspecies?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbySweet idea! Unless Andrea warns me that it might be toxic, I’ll pop one in my mouth the next time we’re out this way and let you know.
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1 month ago
An impressive ponderosa.
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Perhaps 90 minutes later Rachael shows up, a bit sooner than I’d expected.  She cut the ride a bit short of what we had mapped.  It stiffens toward the end and the road takes a sharp bend so that for a few miles she’s biking into a headwind.

We stop by the roadside for the usual set of breaks, enjoying sitting in the  warm sun and watching butterflies flit around us.  Then, it’s a relaxing semi-coast back to Mount Vernon, downhill but into the wind.

At Mount Vernon, we separate again.  I stop to take a photo of a cherry tree in bloom by the church, and she bikes on ahead.  I find a few more reasons to stop along the way back home, so it’s just as well she continued on or I’d have tried her patience.

Not far from John Day, I stop to photo an old house I’ve admired when we’ve driven past it before.  The house itself is interesting, but I’m also drawn by the overgrown rail fence in front of it.  While I’m standing across the road taking my shots, a male voice shouts out to me from behind the fence.  Uh, oh.  Someone doesn’t like this.

I walk the bike across the street to see who’s calling and explain what I’m doing.  He walks to a clearing where I can get a good look, and I see a big, brawny, shirtless guy with wall to wall tattoos covering his torso and a black squarish tattoo covering the crown of his shaven head.  In this conservative country, it’s just a tad intimidating.

It’s all good though.  He’s proud of his place, and likes the fact that I admire it too.  He’s new in the valley, having moved up from California a year and a half ago.  He said the place, built in the 1930’s and uninhabited for years, was a complete wreck when he moved in.  He’s been busy restoring it ever since he arrived.  He cautions me to be careful about the traffic on this highway, but I tell him the real risk is the dogs and describe my encounter last week.  He sympathizes, hopes the owner was well insured.  He asks where we’re staying, and immediately recognizes the place - one of those vacation rentals right by the fairgrounds.

When I state that dinner is calling and go to leave, he introduces himself by name - David.  I’ll watch for him around town now.  I’m sure I’ll recognize him, even with his shirt on.  Small towns!

Nature-break at the access road to Keeney Meadows campground. Thanks to Andrea’s helpful reminder, we’re seeking out side roads like this rather than walking off into the grass and trees and risking a tick bite.
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Just in the last two days, these have been our most common wildlife sighting by far. They must have just hatched out in the heat wave, and now we’re passing them all day long. Orange on the upper surface, brown on the underwing, about the size of a half dollar.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be a California tortoiseshell. From what I can find, color patterns are quite variable.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/49920-Nymphalis-californica
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltLooks likely to me also. I’ll see if I can’t get a photo of one with its wings spread.
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1 month ago
Heading back downstream toward Mount Vernon. It’s a comfortable 1-2% descent the whole way into a 10-12 mph headwind. Pleasantly cool on the way down, and a nice booster earlier while we were climbing.
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Video sound track: Let the Sunshine In, by The Fifth Dimension

For a short distance only we get a decent view of the Aldrich Mountains. They’re losing their snow fast, and already look much different than they did just a week ago.
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The Presbyterian Church, Mount Vernon. How lucky for us to get to enjoy the spring bloom twice this year!
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A patriotic windmill, Mount Vernon. We’re in very conservative territory here. I could post a whole album of Trump flags, Second Amendment rants and anti-Hillary screeds - Remember Benghazi! - but I won’t.
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Along US 25, between Mount Vernon and John Day.
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The view east from Mount Vernon.
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The John Day River.
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The valley is really taking on color fast. The willows almost look like forsythia.
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Uh-oh. A man calls out to me from behind the densely overgrown fence, and I wonder if he’s taking offense at me photographing his vintage home.
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Jen GrumbyThat's cool you got to talk with David.

Always nice to hear about encounters that soften our initial perceptions of people.
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1 month ago
Scott FenwickIn case you were having any post purchases dissonance, you made the right decision on the second growler. I am a bit envious as growler fills in our area are all closed for now. As well, meant to comment on finding your lost glove - such a great feeling finding something that is thought to have been lost - I absolutely love it. And finally, perhaps a bit strange, but I enjoying reading about how you and other people on their tours overcome the inevitable obstacles that are all part of ride. The dog bite is certainly big and maybe gruesome, but I am glad you include all the Anderson's ups and downs in your blog. It all makes for enjoyable reading.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Scott FenwickI’m feeling no regrets about the second growler decision. It’s midweek today, and I look forward to finishing off the red IPA and moving on to the Axe Grinder. I should have done this long ago. Among other things, it’s nice not having to deal with the empties. For years now I’ve just left bags of them in a prominent spot, confident that a canner will quickly swoop them up for the deposit. I don’t think canning is an essential activity now though, so they were starting to stack up.

Glad you can take some enjoyment out of our misfortunes! We’ll see if we can’t arrange a mechanical breakdown at a remote location to keep you amused.
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1 month ago