Day 2: Troutdale, OR to Viento State Park, OR - A quick trip around the Columbia River Gorge - CycleBlaze

August 30, 2013

Day 2: Troutdale, OR to Viento State Park, OR

It was already warm and muggy when our tires hit the pavement. It had rained off and on the day before and we were lucky to avoid it on our rides to and from the train stations in Seattle and Portland. The dew lent an air of Northwest authenticity to the surroundings.

The route meanders along the Sandy River for a bit before it transitions into a steady but easy climb into the hills. The guard rails are wooden and painted white, and the milestones are just that: small pillars of rock with numerals carved into them. It was very lovely and peaceful, with little traffic.

We made a pit stop in the small town of Corbett before pressing on to Chanticleer Point, where one can easily spot the next must-see attraction, Vista House, as well as some spectacular views. Vista House is cradled within one of the first of many hairpin turns coming down the hill while traveling east. It's a beautifully-designed building. Its steps invite you to sit down, relax, and enjoy a well-deserved snack. Photo opportunities abound.

On a descent (after testing the brakes), for my money there's nothing better that having a car in front of me that isn't going too fast. If a car approaches from behind, it's clear to the driver that I'm traveling at a reasonable speed, and that little would be gained by passing. That's exactly what we got today: pure coasting heaven. At the bottom of the hill was a small bridge and the parking lot for Latourell Falls. We walked part of the way up the path to the upper falls but hiking wasn't really on the agenda for this trip, and we were starting to get hungry.

After a pretty dismal veggie wrap and some comparatively tasty French fries at Multnomah Falls, we were on our way again. The historic highway unceremoniously ends at an onramp to Interstate 84, whereupon we dealt with the vagaries of heavy traffic and trailer-trucks roaring by for a few miles. The sudden transition from the leisure-oriented road to utilitarian transportation corridor is a bit jarring. The shoulder is plenty wide, with no more than the usual amount of debris, so safety isn't a major concern.

The good news is that a bike trail is being built along this section of the route. We snuck onto it for a while in hopes of being able to cross the bridge at McCord Creek to join the existing trail on the north side of I-84 into Cascade Locks. The bridge was blocked off and justice was served to us as we were forced to backtrack to the highway. The trail is expected to open on November 1,2013, allowing bicyclists to stay off I-84 until Wyeth. These are the kinds of public works projects that make me feel that things are looking up for the cycling community.

When we arrived at Cascade Locks, we stocked up on food at the local market, and I spied a dairy freeze just down the road. It was still quite warm and humid, and although I rarely eat ice cream, the conditions were just right to enjoy it. The person in front of me ordered a small cone that I would have guessed was a large. Apparently, that's the running joke at this place: everyone orders a small (or an even smaller "kid's size" for the same price) and wonders out loud how tall a large must be. The cone was every bit as refreshing as I expected it to be. There is also a very nice park nearby.

The route then meanders through a thicket of trailer homes, past the KOA campground, across the Interstate, and onto a pleasant frontage road. When we neared the Interstate again, we searched for Wyeth Bench Road, as indicated on the map. It was nowhere to be seen. There was, however, a Herman Creek Road, in the exact spot where it was supposed to be. I was apprehensive because it looked like a pretty steep grade right from the start. In my mind, there is nothing more demoralizing than taking on a difficult climb, only to find that you've made a wrong turn. I double-checked the route on my phone to make sure that the road ends in a good spot for us to rejoin the Interstate.

Let me tell you, this road, regardless of what it's called, will have you panting and cursing under the load of your gear. It is a merciless climb to the peak, but thankfully, it's only about a mile or so. After a fun descent, it's back to the Interstate for another round of dodge-the-debris. Today's journey ended with an orphaned mile-long stretch of trail from Starvation Creek to Viento State Park. We didn't know at the time, but Viento's campground is divided into two areas. The trail ends just before the south campground, which lacks showers but is further away from the train noise. There is an unguarded crossing within the park, so the trains must blow their whistles, and they come by at all times of the day and night. We chose the north campground, but one of the southernmost sites, and it wasn't too bad. I got some sleep even though I wake pretty easily.

I wasn't sure if we'd have to pay the full campsite rate of $17. The campground host was out and about but he eventually found us, and according to him, four of the sites were designated for hiker/bikers and we only had to pay the $4/person rate. I've noticed that many parks like to keep their hiker/biker rates and policies on the lowdown. It feels like they're doing us a special favor because we're so cool and low-impact. And smug.

The route from Troutdale to Viento State Park
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While not technically either the modern or historic mile zero of the Historic Columbia River Highway, this arch makes it feel like the start of something big
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If you like trains, you'll like the Gorge
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Our trusty steeds tied up at the hitchin' post
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One of many wonderful views from Vista House
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Getting ready to move on to our next destination. Big fluffy clouds point to better weather ahead.
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Multnomah Falls, the Big Kahuna of Columbia River Gorge waterfalls
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Our camp site at Viento State Park
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Today's ride: 51 miles (82 km)
Total: 74 miles (119 km)

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