Powell Butte - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

March 15, 2020

Powell Butte

Before looking at today’s ride, please take a minute to view today’s public service announcement from Bill Stone, who gives us timely advice on the fundamentals of safe cycling.

Yesterday’s freak snowfall has passed, leaving in its wake a beautiful landscape - snow is low on the hills, the air is clear, visibility is brilliant.  

Today’s view from our balcony. It’s too cold and windy to stand out here long, but hopefully it will be calmer at street level.
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With a high in the low forties and a 20 mph east wind that gives the day an arctic feel, it isn’t the most promising day for a ride here.  Rocky and I are both getting out though, while we still can.  She’s off to Sauvie Island again, thinking that a north-south ride might work best against the east wind; but I decide to bike east to Powell Butte.  I imagine some dramatic mountain views from its summit, and I favor the idea of biking into the headwind on the way out and then getting blown home.

Rachael has a longer ride ahead than I do, so she’s out the door a bit earlier.  I wait around for another half hour, letting the day warm up as much as possible.  Once I finally leave though, I make a slow start of it.  I step out the door, start up the GPS, and it immediately reminds me that I forgot to replace it’s nearly dead batteries yesterday.  I don’t need it for navigation, but I would like to keep track of time and distance so I’m back in plenty of time for our joint birthday celebration dinner with Elizabeth tonight.  I lose five or ten minutes going back upstairs to swap batteries, but finally I’m off.

Ten minutes later, biking into a cold, strong headwind, I’m also reminded that I pumped up Rachael’s tires but not my own.  They haven’t been serviced since the day they came out of storage a month ago, and it’s well past time.  It’s a steep climb up Powell Butte, and I’ll never make it up on squishes like this.  I find a sheltered spot in the sun, fill ‘em up, and finally really get under way.

It’s sixteen miles to the summit of Powell Butte, along the Springwater Corridor the whole way until leaving it to curve around the butte to its entrance on the north side.  It’s pretty hard riding as I head east - I’m working pretty hard to maintain a 10 mph pace the whole way, and nothing tempts me to stop.  Finally I make it up to the butte, labor my way up to its parking lot, and then climb the final half mile to the summit among its narrow paved walking path.  Today the path is crowded, full of walkers.  I’ve never seen it this busy here.  Bikes are permitted on the path, but it’s a tight fit and I feel a bit apologetic and guilty weaving my way through a steady stream of walkers - families, children, dogs - until finally I break into the open at the top.

As I’d hoped, views are stunning today.  Visibility is amazing, the mountains are buried in snow.  And in fact even though we’re only up at 700’ there’s still a bit of snow on the ground here at the summit.  The wind is terrific too - terrifically forceful, that is.  It must be blowing 25-30 mph up here.  Cold, cold, cold.

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One of the best views here of Mount Hood is from below at the parking lot. It’s even better than the view from the top, which is more obstructed by other nearby buttes.
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The view north from the summit to Saint Helens.
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There’s even enough snow around to assemble a small snowman for Greg. There was enough so that I could have built a larger one, but it’s too cold to stand around.
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The view of Hood from the summit is still magnificent, but partly obstructed by Gresham Butte.
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Looking a bit further to the northeast, Larch Mountain is crowned by a blanket of low-lying clouds. If it were clear, we might be able to see Mount Adams in the distance.
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As I prepare to leave I look down and see that I have a small bit of company about five feet in front of me.
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Bill ShaneyfeltIt is a vole. Could not find a good web site to figure the species. The red tree vole is a species of concern, but I don't think this is one.

https://oregonwild.org/wildlife/red-tree-vole
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks. I thought it was probably a vole, but I don’t know these little guys so well. I was afraid he was distressed by the cold at first, but then he suddenly rustled up and disappeared before I could get a better shot.
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2 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltThat was quick!
No, they don't sit around. You were lucky to get that shot, which I thought was pretty good.
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2 months ago

By the time I’ve had my look and am ready to head home, I’m running short on time.  The wind will give me a boost, but I need to hustle if I’m going to be back home in time for our dinner date with Elizabeth.  I drop off the hill, then stop to put on my warm gloves when it becomes apparent that they’re essential.  Once I’m back on the Springwater Corridor I turn west, pick up the wind, and really fly.  I get home just after Rachael, who is cold and spent after fighting the wind all the way back from Sauvie.

Dinner with Elizabeth is a bittersweet celebration.  We’re celebrating both hers and Rachael’s birthdays tonight, doing it a week or two early while we’re still in town and while restaurants are still serving.  Who knows how much longer such a luxury will be an option?

The restaurant is nearly empty - it’s a large place associated with a hotel, but there are only three other diners tonight.  We have a conversation with the manager, who stops by to welcome us back.  This is the same Sicilian that we’ve spoken with a few times now, the one who impressed us last month when he remembered us from our visit a half year ago and that we’d been off cycling.  We ask about his family back in Palermo, discuss the grim news, and speculate on how much longer he’ll be able to stay open.  This could be it for a good long while.

We enjoy a fine meal and at the end both birthday girls are presented with a complementary dessert, complete with candle.  It’s not hard to think of what to wish for this evening.

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Jen GrumbyHappy (early) Birthday Rachael!

What's the actual date?
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks. The actual date is March 23.
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2 months ago