Day 10: Baker City, OR to Halfway, OR (54 miles)
After a rest day in Baker City, we were on the road again this morning. It kind of feels like our Monday, even though it is Saturday. It is hard to come up with words to describe the landscape we are riding through. Today was Hells Canyon. Apparently, the deepest river gorge in North America. We spent today seeing it from a variety of perspectives. The first 40 miles were essentially descending into the canyon. These descents were long and open and offered sweeping views of the land. Then just as I thought today would be all about those vast open spaces surrounded by mountains the hills/mountains started to come in closer to the road and we were within their walls that felt quite close and there were no more views beyond what went up on both sides of us.
We had our second SAG stop at mile 41. It was warm and many of us she%%d layers and applied sunscreen. We knew we had a big climb ahead. It was a 6 mile climb that was in full sun. The cue sheet said the grade was 5-7%. It was actually only 5% for about a minute on its way to 7%, which it held remarkably consistently throughout the 6 miles. I actually don’t mind a 7% grade at all. It is totally doable, though holding for 6 miles proved to be a mental challenge. I wanted there to be some change, a little flatter for a moment would have been nice. I kept envisioning an engineer with a big angle measuring 7% exactly and saying: “Yes, that’s good, let’s keep that incline FOREVER!”
I was dripping in sweat in a way I haven’t on this trip, because the climbs have tended to be in the shade and while they have certainly been work, they have not involved baking in the sun. Today felt a bit like that - and it wasn’t all that hot. I can’t imagine that climb during peak summer heat!
The descent was also exactly 7% but only for 2 miles. Then it leveled off and we could either pedal or coast into Halfway, OR, a very small community of approximately 300. Bigger than Mitchell, but far smaller than Baker City where we spent the last two days.
While Halfway is apparently halfway between a few things, including the north pole and the equator, it is not halfway across Oregon and tonight is our last night in this state. Tomorrow we will cross the line into Idaho and say good bye to all that Oregon has offered to us as we traveled from the coast to the eastern border. On this our last night, we are housed in two different establishments. My roommate and I are in a very old cinderblock/metal motel that seems to be mostly used by Elk hunters. About half of our tour is here. The rooms are old and out of style, but fully functional. The other place seems much more interesting. Each room seems to have its own character and idiosyncrasies. I am looking forward to hearing about them at dinner tonight.