Trip report by Native Eyewear Friend, George Terrizzi.
The sun-baked the back of my neck and simultaneously my face as we slowly mashed the pedals through, what can only be described as, miles of playground sand in the mid-day sun. I clenched my eyes shut from the stinging sensation of sweat that was pouring down my brow mixing with the sunscreen and dirt residue from the morning’s efforts. Closing my eyes for that second was enough to steer me off course and I washed my bike out again in that loose sand and loudly cursed.
“What the fuck are we even trying to accomplish here” I thought loudly; “I mean, fuck this sand, man!” I yelled for the 30th time that hour. Sure, I knew that bikepacking via MTB and predominantly on single-track trails would be challenging—but this is just dumb. Pushing through all of this sand…who the hell would ever want to do this shit can count me out I thought to myself as we inched our way down the endless stretch of trail.
A lone tall shady tree stood next to the trail and I pushed my way over and collapsed in an exhausted pile under it. A cool breeze came out of nowhere and put me at ease as Galen came up and sat quietly next to me feeling about the same. “How did we end up here?” I thought and closed my eyes again slipping into a semi dreamlike state.
It was about 8 months earlier that Galen and I came up with the idea for this trip. We wanted to find something that combined our love of mountain biking, fly fishing, and exploring wilderness areas into one big epic. Bikepacking has exploded in popularity and that seemed like a fitting place to start, but we wanted to avoid paved and gravel roads in favor of singletrack trails. Technology has certainly made the process of gathering information something that anyone can easily achieve, and after scouring several resources online we found a route that fit the bill to a T. A 330-mile route of mostly singletrack riding that followed some major river systems through Oregon. Done deal, a mountain biking and fly-fishing dream come true.
I was brought back to reality when Galen exclaimed that a huge hornet had landed on his leg and for me to take a look, but it flew off by the time that I managed to right myself. With miles left to go, we reluctantly lifted our bikes and saddled up to continue the battle with the sand. Despite my relentless complaining, we eventually found ourselves back into the deep lush forests that swept through my imagination when we decided to take on this challenge in the first place and all was right in the world again…until it wasn’t.
We had made it just over the 100-mile mark when it happened. We were shooting down a blistering fast descent with steep gully walls on either side of us that opened up into a dense old forest. Galen was in lead and hammered down leaving me in his dust, which was rising up from his rear tire to the point that I had to hold back slightly just to see where I was going. It was about this point that I made a sweeping left and turn and saw Galen laying in the middle of the trail groaning. It was a case of misfortune that caught him off-guard resulting in a nasty over the bars wreck where he landed on his head, neck, and back in a sandy rocky substrate. The wreck resulted in his helmet cracking in 3 spots, ultimately saving his noggin, and while there wasn’t an immediate medical danger, we still needed to pedal 10 more miles to gain cell service to catch a ride out of the woods and back to Bend.
After getting x-rays, a comprehensive checkup, and some muscle relaxers; Galen was okay but not fit to continue the ride and the trip took an unexpected change of pace. Laying in the shady lawn at Crux brewery with the convenience of a cold beer in hand and more just steps away, we discussed our options moving forward. We were planning on taking Galen’s truck out for a spin through the state where we’d have such luxuries as a cooler, cast iron, and a Bluetooth speaker…it felt like we were cheating, like we went to take a test only to discover that we had the answers written on the back of our hands and no one noticed. I felt like an imposter whenever I looked at my duffle loaded with ultralight gear sitting quietly in the back of Galen’s truck just steps away from where we’d set up camp. But then something changed as we lay there in the dirt watching the stars glitter and the silhouette of the trees gently swaying in the cool winds of the night, our minds racing as we begin to dream up our next trip. This particular genre of travel has gotten under our skin and we’re eager for the next mission of pedaling through that bullshit sand, lifting heavy bikes over downed trees, catching wild fish, and finding remote stretches of trail that provide endless flow.