Mounting the Hood (USA Day 98)
So, two out of two on the cascade camp scale so far, with one day remaining. The plan was to traverse the incredibly hilly terrain as painlessly as possible, get to Government Camp (awful name for a town) in time to wish Amy’s brother Harry a happy birthday and continue on to Mount Hood to find a final camp spot.
The hills, as ordered, were sharp and juicy with switchbacks galore, encased between a solemn avenue of trees that rolled on and on, parting only occasionally to reveal an endless horizon of yet more trees. The winding lanes fed into a rather busier highway, with the tantalising view of Mount Hood up ahead standing way above the world around it, streaked with glaciers, its craggy summit bathed in cloud. We laboured and freewheeled, laboured and freewheeled, only noticing the significance of each climb when the road proudly boasted the summit of this or that pass, standing at four-thousand-and-something feet.
Government Camp came sooner than we expected, but it had no sign of the government and you wouldn’t want to camp there either. We sipped at two overpriced buckets of coffee, called Harry and hid from the sun, all the while watching mountain bikers roll in off the side of the out-of-season ski slopes.
You don’t get flat roads in the Cascades. The final fifteen miles of the day dropped right down, then climbed two more passes (with another drop in the middle) around the south-eastern side of Mount Hood, clocking the total climbing over the past three days to 13,000ft. We’d set our target as Mount Hood Meadows, which sounded suitably camp, but as we plummeted down the other side of our final pass on a highway with no exit ramps and a gravel-trapped shoulder not fit for an ATV, let alone a bicycle, we realised that popping off the road when we saw a cute-looking brook wasn’t as easy as the previous two days.
Eventually we hedged our bets on a side road, wheeled our bikes around a big ‘CLOSED’ barrier and wandered down a sandy path which once had been a NFD (National Forest Department? Never Floss Dentures? Norwegian Fart Directorate?) road, until a muddy torrent of snowmelt off the glaciers of Mount Hood blocked our progress. With the setting sun, a patch of soft sand and some odd-looking lupins scattered on the path, it seemed as good a place as any to camp, so camp we did. Three out of three? We’ll see in the morning.