Vernonia Lake - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

March 22, 2020

Vernonia Lake

Today is the last ride we’ll take from the Portland region for awhile.  After today the long spell of fantastic weather will end for a bit, and on the day after tomorrow we decamp and head for our next temporary home, The Dalles - if they’ll let us in, that is.  It’s unnerving to us homeless types to hear that places like Astoria are abruptly slamming their doors and tossing all guests out to help their community self-isolate.  Hopefully we don’t find ourselves living out of the back of our Jetta one of these days!

Our ride today is the Banks-Vernonia Trail, the 20 mile paved path that runs from Banks up to Vernonia, finally ending at a loop around Vernonia lake.  The entire ride to the lake and back is 45 miles, but it’s an easy cycle the whole way - except for one short but steep V that drops and climbs out again at 10-15%, negotiating a few sharp hairpins along the way.  Other than that it’s a lazy cruise, seldom gaining or losing elevation at more than about 1%.

We’ve selected this ride partly because it’s gentle, and shouldn’t trouble Rachael’s still healing elbow too much; and partly because it should be very quiet, a place we shouldn’t see many folks and will have an easy time keeping our distance.  Like Sauvie Island though, we arrive in Banks and discover that great minds think alike.  The parking lot at the trailhead is completely full, as is the overflow parking lot.  We resort to parking on the street in Banks’ small commercial center, and then bike the few blocks back to the trailhead.  As we pass through, the owner of Hop Cycle Brewing Company is working down the line of cars in the parking lot, putting flyers on windshields and telling bikers to stop in for a take-out meal and brew when they return.

In Banks, ready to ride.
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It’s a bit disconcerting to see all of these cars, but a twenty mile ribbon through the woods can hold a lot of folks.  Once we get past the first mile  the path is mostly empty, with only an occasional cyclist or hiker to swing wide of.  We don’t see anything that looks like a real gathering all day, with the largest groups we encounter being obvious single family units.  It’s not a total isolation, but the next best thing.

We were here last year, but a bit earlier: on March 1st.  We were forced to turn back then when we encountered snow at the high point of the ride.  We shouldn’t have that to cope with this time though.

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In bucolic Washington County. The trail passes open scenes like this for a mile or two before entering a fifteen mile tunnel of green.
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The trail begins at an elevation of 250’, gradually rising to 950’ at the midpoint of the ride before dropping the rest of the way to Vernonia. The vegetation changes along the way, with the lower elevations passing through alder stands like this.
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As always, Rachael (the furthest biker here) keeps her own pace when I stop with the camera. I’ll catch up with her ten miles down the road when she stops for lunch.
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Scenes like this are what I think of with this trail. I love the way these alder stands catch the light.
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First trillium of the year, and probably the last for us. They’ll be long gone by the time we see Portland again.
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No idea what this delicate thing is. Pretty though.
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Bill ShaneyfeltIt took some digging, but here it is! Indian plum

http://measurable-photos.appspot.com/?name=Oemleria+cerasiformis
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltWow! That’s amazing, and obviously it. It’s a characteristic plant of our region, but I’ve never heard of it before. Good job!!
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2 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltThanks for posting! I learn a lot due to your photos. Now, if only I can remember a fraction of it.
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2 months ago

The trail ends at Vernonia lake, a small pond behind the town of Vernonia.  Today it’s strikingly pretty, girded by pink fruit trees in full bloom, widely spaced fishermen lining the banks, and with few skiffs out on the water.  It’s the only place all day that we see people in significant numbers, but they’re all well spaced.  It occurs to me that Vernonia might not be a bad place to weather the storm.

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Vernonia Lake has never looked more idyllic.
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Rachael cautions me to not lag too far behind as she bikes on ahead. I comply, to the best of my ability.
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I can’t move too fast though. The banks are lined with cattails, and I want to find a male redwing to match the female from the last post. I like this one - I’ve never noticed before that they hunch their shoulders when they sing.
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Jen GrumbyGreat shot!

Nice to imagine how he puts his whole being into that song, with nary a worry about the woes of the world.

A good role model during this season of darkness.
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2 months ago

Cycle365, where I also post many of these entries, is currently sponsoring posts with a musical theme.  With that in mind, we’ll start including tunes I like for the time being.  Here’s what’s on my mind today, for some reason:

The ride back to the car goes quickly.  It’s more downhill than up, and we’ve seen it all before anyway.  Still, there are reasons to stop here and there.  By the time we make it back to the car it’s about 4:30 and starting to cool down.  The parking lots are nearly empty, and it looks like we’re about the last ones out today.

Homeward bound.
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The green wall.
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What is this - the third or fourth time I’ve posted a photo here of the Buxton Trestle? Oh well.
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Back in the valley.
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Now she’s getting it! Nice to see a smile on our young lady.
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