It was Independence Day, July 4th. In the trailer park town of Eagle Point in Oregon four of us took refuge and slept on the steps of the local church – intimidated by the general hoo-ha of the patriotic celebrations. On the concrete under the watchful eye of JC while fireworks exploded and smoke settled. My first Independence Day.
We were setting out from Medford and taking the Rogue River trail towards Crater Lake and onwards to Chemult, where we would join the famed recently cleared Oregon Timber Trail. Hartley of Hartley Cycles of London and Nelson (also a geezer) joined Mar-del and myself on the International Kook Exchange Program.
The Rogue River trail turned into a sketchy push through slippery cliff-hanging ledges of what might have been a walking track 500 years ago but certainly wasn’t anymore. We cut down branches with tiny saws and gave ourselves hernias heaving our bikes over 30+ large fallen trees over a couple of miles. We finally popped out the other side with scared looks in our eyes and a bond that was forged in the depths of the Rogue River Trail. Lest we forget.
We pitched our tents right on the edge of Crater Lake; the fresh water filled crater volcano popped its lid 7000 years ago. Now just sits looking amazingly beautiful with blue water filling its gaping hole. We had well and truly acknowledged there was a mosquito issue, the single bottle of repellent had become a bartering commodity. Mistrusting each others level of rationing we watched with suspicious eyes as each other applied it sparingly. We traversed down from Crater Lake following Nelsons GPS that haphazardly tore a straight line down the north side of the volcano – possible we mistook the GPS line for a snowmobile track. Lol.
After a zero-day in beautiful Chemult, we ground Timber Trail gravel further up the Cascade mountain ranges. That night we slept by Crescent Lake at the back of a boy scouts camp – sacrificial horns and yells sounded into the night by the congregated scout groups. The setting sun lit up snow-capped 8743ft Diamond Peak on the other side of the lake as we kissed the first night on the Timber Trail good night. So happy.
We parted with Hartley in Chemult – she was making her way back to London. It was Mar-del, Nelson and myself the next day as we turned off the gravel roads onto a forest trail and straight into an apocalyptic swarm of mosquitos hiding from the heat of the day. The next 4 hours were spent yelling and swinging our arms in panic, pushing our bikes up the mountain. Covered from head to toe in all our clothes and sprayed 100% Deet onto the only exposed bits, our ears, and eyeballs. We lost Nelson who was riding a single speed and shot up the mountain leaving us for dead…rightly so.
After two hours of the most panicked state of our lives, we pitched the tent in the middle of the trail for a moment of calm and nervous laughter. The relief was incredible. We had started to lose the trail. Snow Pack, that was hand raising the bumper mosquito season, was covering the upper parts of the mountain. Nelson was the only one with GPS and we hadn’t seen him for hours. Nelson’s tracks were melting in the snow and getting harder to follow, we saw an arrow here and there made from sticks or skids around corners by Nelson showing us the way. Our paper map helping slightly.
The trees opened up into a clearing at the peak. Flawless! Perfect! Immaculate! Turquoise lakes, snow-lined edges with gentle ripples beckoning us into the warm water. Oh, windy lakes, you so beautiful. We dived in and left the mosquitoes behind, and letting the cool water sooth our mosquito battled skin, letting the last of Nelsons tracks melt into the snow – we had found the afterlife. After a couple of hours, we put ointment on the savage bites to Mar-del’s face which got ravaged the hardest and kept on following the trail.
We found Nelson next morning and continued along the Timber Trail as far as Oakridge. We had moved so leisurely that we had only 5 days left before our flight home to Australia. We spent the remainder of our Program gleefully frolicking around the mountain bike heaven of Oakridge. Up and down the surrounding mountains to other slices of heaven of Oregon like Brian’s Lake, The Brewers Union, and Willamette Mountain Mercantile.
The Kook Timber Trail dream lives on. Maybe next year?