Avid readers of this blog (greetings spambots!) may remember the overnight bike camping trip I did in July to Stub Stewart State Park. On that post, my friend Lily commented that I should also try the wintertime cabin camping trip to the same park. Her suggestion was intriguing, and rolled around in my head for the next six months, until last week when I deliberated heavily over whether or not to actually do it.
In the end, I did.
Day 1: Rain
The weather screamed “It’s January, and you’re in Oregon!” The sky was completely overcast, the unmistakable light gray of the Pacific northwest rain forest. The temperature was 45 degrees. It rained. ALL. DAY. LONG. The world was muddy and soggy.
After experiencing some TriMet fail, I arrived at our start location at 12:25pm, to find a palpable lack of bicyclists. Hoping that the ride hadn’t left without me, I suddenly remembered to check at the Starbucks a block away, where most everybody was chatting while waiting for our delayed ride leader. Turns out he biked all the way from North Portland to Hillsboro–because he was bringing a 24″ computer monitor for everyone to watch movies on–and had gotten a flat en route. Once he showed, we set out.
Meandering along the same rural roads as in July, my heart sank when I remembered how particular farms looked at the height of summer compared to rainy January. Waving fields of wheat were now giant mud pits. A friendly blue sky with a view of Mt. Hood in July had turned into a drizzly gray backdrop. After the obligatory food stop at the Thriftway in Banks, we started heading for the woods.
Fortunately, the time spent on the Banks-Vernonia Trail was much more pleasant, as evergreen forests become more charming with the rain. The color of the trees was enhanced by the drizzle, and the decaying plant matter on the ground was more hopeful than depressing. Lichen-covered branches on the trail kept navigation interesting, and the deep green moss thrived on rotting stumps on the forest floor. Over about 1/4 mile, I spied several newts crossing the trail–undoubtedly the high point of the day.
There was some confusion amongst the group once we got to the park, resulting in me getting to the cabins after dark after having waited outside the visitor center for about 30 minutes. Once at the cabins, I stood outside a while–otherwise I probably would have started biting people’s heads off. Because I was the second to last one in, everyone had already claimed beds. This meant I was to sleep in a futon bed in the “front room” of one of the cabins…a small area that ended up holding our entire group of 15 people that evening. Not an ideal arrangement.
While our raingear, gloves, and shoes were draped on doorways, curtain rods, and windowsills to dry the group started gathering to chat. There was much alcohol, and the option for a cosmopolitan even had me partaking a little. This was probably for the best, as it mellowed me out for the evening.
Day 2: Holding Pattern
My scalp feeling like a petri dish, I took a delightful, though lukewarm, shower Saturday morning. By 1pm a group of people took a side trip into Vernonia for Chinese food, two of my favorite people on the trip decided to go back to Portland (SOB!), and almost everybody else was in the “movie cabin” watching movies with the large monitor. Time to myself! I swept the cabin floor (already very dirty), worked on a New York Times Crossword, then took an hourlong nap as the heater finished drying my shoes and the sun shone brightly through the cabin windows. After that, a short hike with Matt where we counted the clearcuts you could see from one of the park’s designated viewpoints (below) and discovered a recent burn area. During the evening, I ended up in the “movie cabin,” where we watched a hilarious 1986 movie with Kevin Bacon as a NYC bike messenger–Quicksilver.
Day 3: Home
It was a great morning. A hot shower, along with thoughts of going home and thoughts of my birthday energized me. Ominous rainclouds in the park changed to less threatening clouds once we were out of the mountains, and taking my rain pants off in mid-ride made the ride even more enjoyable. The transit ride from Hillsboro to home went off smoothly. Once home, my parents took me out for a birthday dinner, after which I chatted with my friend Heather on the phone for a while, stirring up questions in my brain around how I interface with the bike community. It made me sad, as it seems most people view my need to slowly warm up to people as a personal failure, whereas I view it as the community’s inability to adapt to people who aren’t outgoing and gregarious–which has left many of us who participate in many events feeling like outsiders despite our involvement.
After a little unpacking, I retired for the evening. Nestled in my own bed, I slept gloriously.