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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 3 - Welches to Kah-Nee-Ta








We've now biked from the Pacific Ocean...








...up along the great Columbia River...







...over the Cascade Mountains...





...and into the high desert.




The words are so small...

The experience so great....




Today we start the day with a 12 mile climb....

up the western slope of the Cascade Mountains...






The rising sun haloes the rider in front as we make our way up the mountain.





This was the path of Oregon Trail through the Cascades...

the last of their challenges cross -country...

Climbing was hard enough, but the descent was the most dangerous.

They had to tie their wagons to trees to slowly lower them down the steep slopes...

..so they wouldn't go crashing to the rocks below...


I hope we don't crash...




At the moment all we can think about is the upward path...

The climb was long and steady...

...very long and steady.




Al at times was topping 3 miles per hour - hardly enough to hold her bike upright.

The "sweeps" - our guides who watch the last riders - kept a close eye on her.

...through the lovely town of Rhododendron...





Where the forest is lit by the brilliant flowers....

....reminds me of my favorite photo ever by Jim Brandenburg....




I catch glimpses of Mt Hood glowing in the summer sunrise....

..covered with seven glaciers.

 I see the snowmelt that will fill the rivers below.







Alex is struggling...

...those months in Argentina off- bike didn't prepare her for The Cascades...

...but she will get stronger...



- Mom - it's so strange. Every day I'm  waking up with a different body.

I tear it down one day...

and the muscle builds during the night...

..and each morning it feels different...






She needs a break at mile nine.






Beautiful views...





The sweep, Jeffery, gives her mountain advice...

- pull up with your back foot....

- lighten your load...

Inch by inch we make it up the mountain...





Finally...

 I can't believe it - that wonderful Budget truck marks the SAG at the top of the mountain.

We are now at 3, 630 feet above sea level....

And we have worked for every inch of that!







Now for the descent!

Bundle up! That wind will chill!

Twelve miles careening downhill....




Handlebars vibrating with the speed...

Hands gripping the brakes for life...




Views of Mt Hood peeking over our shoulders...

...like some mighty God of the Northwest laughing at our little fears.




-Keep drinking! warns Barbara.

You need to keep your hydration up before the desert.



Desert?




Look around us...

These lush forests are rich with life.






Green beyond belief, I have to stop and breathe in their fresh green beauty...



How can I imagine a lifeless desert so close to this amazing wealth of nature?




A small climb and we make the final turn...



...and in one moment - the trees fall away and in the blink of an eye we are surrounded by high desert.

The Cascades cut through the Northwest like a scalpel...

Rain-soaked forests to the west and dry deserts to the east...




I've read that fact many times in my books...

But to bike over the Cascades and watch the world change makes it real to my bones.

And this desert is far from lifeless...









...the wildflowers are amazing....

Yellows, whites and purples wash over the sides of the road...





Beautiful lupines remind us of our favorite children's book - Mrs Rumphius - who scatters the lupine seeds along the roads of New England.





The views are amazing as Mt Hood recedes behind us...




Thirsty and hungry we are so glad to find our SAG wagon waiting on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere...







Al's lunch...













Refreshed, we head into the Warm Springs Indian reservation....






Beautiful bluffs all around us...

Cliffs and buttes - we're in the old west now...

The rocks make me wish for Dave Egan from the Summit who makes geology so real and exciting.






... and hills.







Stopping at a little service station for my needed Diet Cokes we are greeted by an Indian puppy.





Slight climb through the silvery sagebrush and the soft greens of the desert plants...





Then we make a turn and WOW!



Down, down, down we spin...

Faster than Al has ever been on bike...

Sharp turns - hairpins!



Danger in the gorgeous views around us...

They can't distract us because we are spinning down this canyon road with our eyes blurring from the speed and wind!

Al spins on ahead of me out of sight....




I crush the brake levers for a moment of rest - to take in the views...

... and, of course, a picture or two....

Amazing how you can see the effect of the sun on this land...

The north facing slope full of flowers and brush...

...the southern slope burned by a constant sun is bare rock.



Now I'm back on bike - spinning wildly - each curve a new gasp of beauty.

My hands are aching...

my heart pounding - not from effort....

the landscape finally slows and I find Alex up ahead...



...in repose...

- What did you think of that, Al?

 - That was the scariest moment of my life!

I was so sure we couldn't both survive that so I thought about crashing my bike and dying so you could make it!




So nice to have a child willing to sacrifice for her Mother.




...one more steep hill slows us to a crawl...



The thighs are toast...

We will sleep tonight...




...under the high desert moon...

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