Sunday, June 28, 1981

7. Ochoco Lake, Oregon

Day 7:  Sunday, June 28, 1981

McKenzie Pass to Ochoco Lake:  72 miles

It wasn't hard to wake up at the crack of dawn - we were freezing.  Getting out of bed was another matter.  The wash cloth I had hung out had frozen stiff, and ice drops flew off the tent fly as we took it down.  Luckily, it was too cold out for the mosquitoes.   Nevertheless, we decided to forego breakfast until it had warmed up a little.

McKenzie Pass was more like a meadow - in fact, its old name was Summit Prairie.  After the long climb up, the downhill on the other side was great - although not nearly as long, since we descended only about 2000'.  The change in climate was immediately apparent:  the Cascades trap moisture on their western side, and the central and eastern parts of Oregon are quite arid.  Whereas Douglas fir and hemlock dominated the western slopes, the eastern slopes held great stands of Ponderosa pine.

Several of the most active volcanoes in recent geological history are a few miles to the east of McKenzie Pass.  Their lava flows are hundreds of feet thick, and consist of the broken, porous rock known as "aa" lava.  The lava flows stretch for miles, and presented quite an obstacle to the pioneers' travel.  Vegetation on the flows is practically nonexistent - only a few dwarfed trees - and foot travel across the lava is treacherous.

lava beds
The lava beds stretch for miles

We breakfasted in Sisters, a small town at the foot of the Cascades which has become a tourist trap, then continued across desert-like central Oregon.  The contrast in temperature and humidity in the space of just a few miles was amazing.  Most Oregon farmers are heavily dependent upon irrigation - even grazing land is kept watered.  The principal crop in central Oregon seems to be hay - to feed livestock.

Crop irrigation in central Oregon
Crop irrigation in central Oregon

Our route took us through Redmond, then north a few miles to pass through a river valley to Prineville.  Although we had a few good hills, our elevation remained fairly constant, so we were able to put in a 72-mile day with little trouble.

Arid central Oregon
The mountains block the flow of moisture from the coast
Desert-like vegetation
The vegetation is much more desert-like

When we arrived at the campground at Ochoco Lake, about eight miles past Prineville, we had the surprise of our trip.  Hermon Hoffer, who had crossed from east to west last year, had decided to do it the easy way this time.  He and a buddy had left Astoria several days before we started, and had been traveling at a slower pace than we had.  Hermon is a retired farmer from Ashley, Michigan, and has ridden DALMAC almost every year, as well as many other rides.  Ten thousand miles a year is pretty good for a 76-year-old man!

Hermon Hoffer
Hermon Hoffer and his biking buddy

Most of our evening was spent in conversation with Hermon and with three other bikers who were also heading east.  One of them was Rick Perez, a 20-year-old former student from San Jose, who had already traveled several thousand miles and intended to make it to Boston by the end of the summer.  We shared our campsite and dinner table with him, and he ended up accompanying us for the next month.

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