Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hells Canyon-110 Degrees F - Day 3

July 22, 2009 – Copperfield RV Park near Oxbow Dam (OR) to Cambridge, Idaho (Mountain Time) Hells Canyon-40 miles

Swallowtails and sweltering describes our day. It was another scorcher. The temperature in Hells Canyon reached 110 degrees! It nearly did us in with over 2,000 feet of climbing in a 7-mile stretch. We started out at 3 A.M. Pacific Time (4 A.M. Mountain Time-the time changed at the campground) to avoid the heat and enjoyed our morning cycling along the Snake River. It was a glorious morning and the river was like glass except for the fish nibbling at the surface for their breakfast. We were delighted when a passing Idaho Power worker treated us to home baked scones. Yum! We inquired with some folks beside the road who were picking fruit and it turns out they were picking choke cherries. Gregory and I tried some but they were bitter. Apparently they make fabulous syrup though. We found a cell phone on the road and about 10 minutes after picking it up it rang and was the owner on the line. He was also an Idaho Power employee and arranged for a couple of his coworkers to pick up his cell since we were on our ascent up to Brownlee Dam and there was no turning back. Jeremy and Leland chatted with us for a bit after they retrieved Darryl’s phone and we were climbing once again. The whole morning was one continuous climb and once it heated up it was brutal. We stopped to rest in every scrap of shade and we were on and off the bike continuously depending on the grade. 3-4% was doable but 7-10% was just unthinkable on our 3rd day of touring. Even though Mike and I both wear knee braces it was just too much for us. Pushing the bike is worse but we just didn’t have much choice. We were sizzling and Gregory was fading (not enjoying the walking at all) so we finally parked the bike and made our way down a steep embankment to the creek below. It was freezing and heaven! We dunked our heads and stripped off our jerseys and shoes and brought our core body temperature down a few notches. We did this a couple of times during the day and though it came from necessity we realized the importance of slowing down to enjoy things like a dip in the creek. We felt like kids again and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Also, amidst our walking/biking we ran into a couple of “road kill” snakes (one was directly in our path and freaked us out a bit as we thought it was alive) and we also saw tons of swallowtail butterflies. Gregory is pictured with one he found beside the road. After trying to climb this grade all day I began to get concerned about the heat and our ability to make it to the summit. We had a friendly driver stop and give us a bottle of water yet we were still low. (We had our water filter and if it came down to it we could have filtered the river water.) I think Mike and I were each praying for some assistance or a place to pitch the tent just off the road. If we could make it two and half more miles to the summit we could ride a mile off the road to a campground but that seemed very daunting given our day. Fortunately, the friendly folks of Idaho came through again. Bob and Chet came by in a pickup, filled us up with cold water and gave us a lift of 3 miles to the summit since they knew we’d enjoy the 16-mile downhill into Cambridge. How do you get a 10-foot bike in the bed of a truck? You’ll see from the picture that the trailer and panniers went in the bed, as did the front wheel. Mike and I balanced the bike and we took a slow cruise with the rear wheel (and our bike computer) still racking up miles! Our spirits lifted instantly and we counted our blessings as we enjoyed the 16-mile downhill to Cambridge. We promised ourselves that we’d camp as much as possible on this trip, however, the 110-degree heat and grueling day totally zapped us. Mike was on the lookout for AC (air conditioning) and we broke down and checked in to the local motel complete with pool, spa and a heavenly bathtub. I appreciate little things like a bath so much more when I’m touring.

1 comment:

  1. I was fortunate enough to meet you all this day, just after you got the lift to the top. You may remember my friend Ross and I (Matt), as we were the ones riding for the American Brain Tumor Association. I am so happy to see that you all have made such amazing progress. I look forward to following you on your adventure throughout New Zealand!