Cycle Oregon XVI

Sept. 6-13, 2003

Cycle Oregon XVI Tourbook

Day One: Baker City to Farewell Bend, 50 miles

Saddle up. As we bid adieu to Baker City, renowned for its magnificent collection of 19th century homes, our tour opens with a glorious ride through Pleasant Valley. Along the way, we skirt the base of the soaring Elkhorn Mountains. At day’s end, we pitch riverfront camp at Farewell Bend, the first of Oregon’s crown jewel state parks that we will visit this week. Enjoy the acres of deep, green grass but don’t be surprised to see ghosts around the campfire. It was on this very site 150 years ago that thousands of Oregon Trail pioneers bade farewell to the Sanke River and set out for the Land at Eden’s Gate.

Day Two: Farewell Bend to Cambridge, Idaho, 57 miles

Yes, the swimming hole will be open for those intent on a dawn dip. But don’t linger too long by the beach. This morning we must say goodbye to Farewell Bend…and to Oregon. For the first time in its 16-year history, Cycle Oregon crosses the border into Idaho. After wetting our whistles in Weiser, home of the famous Ol’ Time Fiddlin’ Festival, we turn north, winding through bucolic farm country to the town of Cambridge. This community, population 350 and home to the first newspaper published in Idaho, is the gateway to the majestic Hells Canyon, and all the glory waiting for us there.

Day Three: Cambridge, Idaho to Halfway, 56 or 101 miles

Carving its thundering path, the mighty Snake cuts a gorge deeper even than the Grand Canyon. Our road, on which you’re more likely to see bighorn sheep than big-horn trucks, affords spectacular views. We’ll enjoy lunch at the verdant oasis surrounding Oxbow Dam. Feel in the mood for a century? A paved road meanders on along the riverfront promising up-close encounters with soaring canyon walls and ready access to great swimming holes. Or riders eager for their first glimpse of the Eagle Cap Wilderness may proceed directly to a warm welcome in Halfway, the place so pretty its founders felt they were halfway to heaven.

Day Four: Halfway to Wallowa Lake, 78 or 84 miles

Somewhere in America there may be a more rewarding bicycle ride than this climb from Pine Valley to the High Walllowas. If so, we have not found it. Our path today rises through the pine-scented shade of the Walllowa Whitman National Forest then summits at the spectacular Hells Canyon Overlook, one of the most breathtaking viewpoints in the entire United States. On a clear day, they say, you can see Chicago. Rejuvenated, we roar in the pristine Wallowa Valley, ancestral home of Chief Joseph, the place his Nez Perce people call “The Land of Winding Waters.” Beneath a star-spangled sky, we sleep on the shore of postcard-perfect Wallowa Lake.

Day Five: Wallowa Lake Option Day, 0 or 101 miles

The Wallowa Valley is so beautiful we felt we had to linger. No need to move your tent from the grassy splendor of Wallowa Lake State Park. Today is filled with choices. Should you mount your bike and ride out along Starvation Ridge for awesome views acrosss the prairie and down into Joseph Canyon? Or should you swap that saddle for a seat and ride the gondola to the summit of Mount Howard, vantage for great hiking? Or stroll. Or swim. Or do it all, then relax in Joseph, one of the prettiest towns in the West. Visit the art galleries, the world-famous bronze foundries and don’t miss the totally cool hardware store in this land of lattes and lassos.

Day Six: Wallowa Lake to LaGrande, 85 miles

Rivers like going downhill. So do bicyclists. We follow the flow of the winding Wallowa to its confluence with the Grande Ronde. A day just wouldn’t be perfect without one little climb, so we’ll cross the ridge at scenic Minam Hill. Fom there, its free-wheeling all the way to our destination on the campus of Eastern Oregon University. We’re not sure exactly how big a welcome the folks here are intent on providing. All we can tell you is that Main Street will be closed, the bars will be open, and the mayor says we won’t leave without seeing that there’s still a Wild in the West.

Day Seven: LaGrande to Baker City, 60 miles

Stay up too late last night? Don’t worry. No hurry today. And no hills. After leaving La Grande, we head first for Catherine Creek State Park where we’ll sit around in the shade while gazing up at the huge and remote Catherine Creek drainage, home to one of America’s largest surviving populations of cougar. Then it’s on our winding way, following the backroads of Baker County, passing the kind of homes where people still have front porches and still sit out on them to wave to passersby. At tour’s end, enjoy a Finish Line Celebration staged by citizens determined to lure you back this way again.