Zen On Dirt

Hot Sisters Day 19 – Making it up as we go

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I think this is a little bit what it would feel like bikepacking without a set goal, route, or timeline. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do…but have yet to do it. Today’s talking to people, looking at maps, and ummm…slight lack of food has led to some bonus trail, a bonus dinner tonight, and a bonus breakfast and resupply tomorrow.

And a kick ass campsite next to a babbling brook, a bench, and more space than we can cover with all of our crap.

It was good, warm camping last night. The type that when Scott starts to move and work towards getting up, I say, Nooo, just one more snuggle. And then we sleep for another half an hour.

We packed up quickly and scored ourselves breakfast at the Clear Lake Resort along with coffee that was more water than coffee. We ordered a round of french toast to take with us to complement the sandwich that we’d gotten to go the day before, a bag of cookies, and some candy. Pickings were slim.

A lovely mile of McKenzie River Trail took us to the start of the Santium Wagon Trail. We’d been warned that it was sandy and maybe only good in the other direction. We are poor listeners and tried it anyhow. It was actually pretty good. Then once on ‘road’ and not trail, things turned to shit. Knee-deep sand.


‘It’s only 1.8 miles to the turn-off, even if we have to walk the whole thing, it won’t take that long,’ Scott said encouragingly.

We walked the whole thing. It was like those nightmares that you’re trying to push your bike through deep sand and it doesn’t go anywhere…except it wasn’t a nightmare.


But, the goal was to access the Sand Mountain Lookout, and this was the only non-highway way to do it. We ditched our gear at the turnoff, rode up the closed lookout road until trail, swapped to running shoes, and walked the rest of the way. We met Brian the Lookout. He’s got a pretty sweet little hideout up there. Stove, kitchen, bed, and ah-MAZE-ing views of the Three Sisters, Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Jefferson, and Hood way off in the distance.


We took some pictures, did a lap around the summit crater, and headed back to the bikes and then coasted down to packs. It was a super-cool little side adventure.


We hoped it would be fast going to Big Lake through the OHV area. It wasn’t. It would have been if we had a throttle and sand was no big deal, but we have two feet, and sometimes sand can feel like a big deal.


We did make it eventually and immediately went swimming during the hottest part of the day.

Leaving the lake, we decided to follow the track that a local had sent us, bringing us north on the maze of roads sooner than we’d planned to. But the roads were sandy, and we figured he knew best. It would have been perfect terrain for a fat bike…which made for good Should Have Brought The Fatbikes joking. It was actually plenty of fun on ‘skinny’ tires.


We took the map out at an intersection. ‘Is that a trail that goes down to that lake?’ We were in a new section of the map that we hadn’t even considered. ‘Let’s try it.’

Loosey-goosey, it was a good time and we ran into a group by a lake. ‘Is there any food nearby?’ Scott asked. We were entering super-campground land. ‘Yep. There’s a marina at Suttle Lake.’


Score. More trails down to the lake and around it brought us to a spa where they not only let us in but served us dinner.



Epic lodge door

Pointing at the map in front of us, I said, ‘While we’re making shit up, should we just take this trail to Camp Sherman with the grocery store icon, and then cut back to Black Butte?’

The lady at the lodge confirmed that there was breakfast at Camp Sherman and we were sold. The trail, thus far, has been land-speedery and fun, and when we came across this campsite, we couldn’t pass it up. Luxury camping, or something like that. Tomorrow, we’ll get breakfast plus a resupply, go climb to a fire lookout, and then cruise into Sisters for the night. Then only a few more days left of this little adventurita


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