Oregon Rode Trip - McKenzie Pass

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Photos & Article by Jen Sotolongo of Long Haul Trekkers
Steam floated from the road, like a fog machine at a haunted house as the early morning sun heated the pavement and evaporated the dew. It was the first time the sun truly exposed itself in over two weeks of our month long Oregon Rode Trip with our dog, Sora. Throngs of cyclists whizzed past us in pelotons on their carbon frames, as we chugged along, our heavy load dragging us back. We were transporting a 40lb dog, after all.
We still had at least a dozen miles to climb to reach the final altitude of 5,187 at Dee Wright Observatory, the iconic pilgrimage peak on McKenzie Pass for anyone who travels Oregon on two wheels. We grinded out revolution after revolution, waving to cyclists bombing down who had passed us only a couple hours earlier on their way to the top. The steep roads never seemed to flatten, yet, we felt such immense joy to be among so many cyclists on such a beautiful day.
After a stop to let Sora, play in a patch of snow still remaining from the winter snowpack near the top, we pedaled the last few miles to the peak. Cyclists ditched their bikes next to the volcanic rock lining the road and climbed the steps to the top of the observatory to soak in 360° views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Hood, Mt. Washington, Black Butte, and Mt. Jefferson. After traveling across Europe and South America for two years, we decided it was high time that we explore our own beloved state of Oregon. Sure, we’ve driven hundreds of miles across the state in all directions, but as we learned on our bicycle tour, to become truly intimate with a place, one must discover the untouched corners. Our journey would take us in a triangle that followed three Scenic Bikeway routes. We began in Portland and made our way toward Eugene via the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. From there, we traveled to the town of McKenzie Bridge where we rode along the bikeway with the same namesake to Bend. The last leg took us along the roaring waters of the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory and eventually back home to Portland. While we enjoyed traveling along all three of the well-curated scenic bikeways, McKenzie Pass delivered a combination of car-free riding, epic mountain views, and long climbs and descents. It was the flock of fellow cyclists, however, that made this our favorite ride from the Oregon Rode Trip.