Thunder and Lightning...Very very frightening...Day 3 of OTT
Running Away from storms:
I'll tell you what...there is hardly anything more frustrating than needing to go faster on your bike and just not being able to. Day three of the Oregon Timber Trail involved multiple bouts of thunder and lightning storms where we were caught out in the middle of exposed ridge lines with minimal tree coverage. The first was shortly after we woke up in the morning and were climbing up out of Mill Flat. The higher we got, the less tree coverage there was and the more ominous clouds rolled towards us.
We had the option to turn left to return to the OTT at mile 61, but since the day was going to be long we elected to descend gravel road and meet back up with the trail at mile 64. We then started our first big brutal climb of the day, but fortunately it was cool and the showers that had begun actually felt great especially compared to the heat we had felt on the first two days. We made it up to round pass around noon and while we had yet to experience any lightning and thunder, the clouds just kept getting darker and more threatening. We stopped for lunch at some point and as we were eating the thunder started booming. We decided to hunker down under a nearby tree to let the storm pass. We had phone service so were able to check the weather app and it showed that this storm cloud was going to be followed by many others after what looked like a brief break, so our timing for crossing the pass was important.
We decided to make a go for it during the break between storms. This meant that we had to ascend up what I remember as one of the hardest climbs of the trip. We kept going higher and higher up switch-back roads towards the top of the ridge. Much of this part of the trail was unridable to me as my legs were giving out and it was loose and steep. We came around the bend at one point and got a glimpse of the other side of the mountain and saw the massive storm cloud which was headed our way. We tried to book it up the hill, but alas, since I couldn't even ride my bike up most of it, it was inevitable that we would get caught in the storm before cresting the ridge and descending down the other side.
Just before we could make it all the way up and over the ridge, the storm was on top of us. We were out in the middle of a rocky exposed ridge, so we had to ditch our bikes and run backdown to the only group of tiny trees we had passed a few minutes beforehand. This time, we waited for about 45 minutes. Luckily, most of us had grabbed our warm clothes and bundled up. We ate snacks, made some bad trail jokes, looked at our phones at the weather and hunkered down until the storm passed.
Once the storm passed we had blue skies and climbed up to the Morgan Butte Lookout which had a spectacular 360 degree view. After that it was all downhill...well, kind of... It was really fast, pretty smooth, but sometimes loose single track. It was fun though I managed to fall over a couple of times because my clipless pedals failed to let go of my foot when I tried to put put a foot down. Overall, the descent was a much needed reprieve from all of the climbing and running away from storm clouds that we had done earlier in the day. We made it down to the Chewaukin river by 5:00pm afterwhich was seven mile road descent into Paisley.
We arrived in Paisley to find out that the market that had planned on getting some supplies was closed, as was every other business in the tiny town but the Saloon because it was a Sunday afternoon. As we sat at the junction of the main road and debating whether to catch dinner at the saloon or ride to the hot springs, the wind started gusting and thuge bolt of lightning cascaded from the sky not far from us. That made our decision for us and we ducked into the saloon for some food and a celebratory beverage. We called Dwayne at the Summer Lake Hot Springs where we had booked a tent site for the night to see if we could upgrade our reservation to a cabin rental. (Disclaimer: normally, I don't mind tent camping for multiple days in a row, in fact I much prefer it to a maybe-comfortable bed but after this long day and unforeseen circumstances, I gladly opted for a bed and a hot shower). Dwayne was more than accommodating and not only did he offer us the cabin, but he drove his truck into Paisley allowing us to avoid the six-mile full-bellied ride out to the hot spring.
Summer Lake Hot Springs was heaven! We stayed in the deluxe cabin which had it's own private natural hot tub where we piled in and enjoyed one of the most beautiful countryside sunsets I witnessed on this trip. This rejuvenation station was much needed and helped revive our tired bodies and minds preparing us for the next and most challenging day of the trip.
Things I learned today:
- Pay attention to the sky and the wind. Try to plan accordingly. Separate yourself from your bike in a thunderstorm. Find cover or roll into a ball.
- Sometimes there are things beyond your control (like how steep and brutal a hill is). Don't beat yourself up about it. Just do what you can and be happy with that.
- Sometimes clipless SPD pedals need lube and/or tightening. I know these things, but some people don't. Before thinking your pedals are just broken, try a little lube or adjustment. It makes a world of difference.
- People are awesome. The people in Paisley are awesome.
- The Pioneer Saloon in Paisley, OR is one of the oldest Saloon in Oregon at 134 years old!