Astoria loop tour – Day 3

Monday, August 5 – 53 miles today/149 miles total

A most wonderful camp

A joyously quiet night with only the crickets, frogs and lazy river making any noise. As we expected, camping just above river level meant a rather moist morning. While the rain fly, sleeping bags and a few sundry items air out, Jay fires up the Trangia stove and tries to make pancakes on an alcohol burner for the first time.

Blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes....what a start!

Blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes….what a start!

We’ve made pancakes and hundreds of meals on various Whisperlight stoves over the years, but only recently have we begun to experiment with alcohol stoves. Last year during our Wales trip, we brought both types of stoves but only used the Trangia for boiling water. In past trips using the Whisperlight, we’ve taught dozens of people to make pizza, calzones and lots of other tasty, non-processed fresh meals. During each of our upcoming trips, we’ll continue to test and refine new and old gear.

Note to self, don’t forget the small spatula next time. It is possible to flip pancakes with a spoon, but it’s not the easiest thing to do.

Even the sign was made of beer cans

Even the sign was made of beer cans

During the ride out out towards the pavement we passed both of the campgrounds we’d researched prior to the trip. The ODF ranger we spoke with was right. The two campgrounds were home to large numbers of RVs, large family camps and more than a few party spots.


We continued to cover miles of steep ups and downs until we regained the pavement and headed towards US 26, looking for our second breakfast. During previous trips to the coast we’d noticed a little coffee kiosk, Sunset Coffee, just west of where we met the busy world. A short, downhill ride later we discovered Sunset also served food! But so many choices aren’t always the best thing for a hungry cyclist.

What to choose?

What to choose?

In the end, we each chose a bagel and egg type breakfast sandwich, some fruit and more tea for our impromptu, roadside picnic.

Second breakfast!

Second breakfast!

Next up was a 2 mile section of US 26 before heading north towards Clatskanie. OR 103 is a quiet, rural highway connecting us to points north. Before we get there we have to cross the Nehalem River once again. The bridge is short but old and narrow. Fortunately, for us, it also has a raised shoulder just wide enough for a loaded touring bike.

Crossing bridges, we rarely leave the roadway but this time it felt like a good idea. With all the truck and RV traffic, we decided to cross up on the shoulder. About mid-span an old RV crossed the bridge with only a few inches of clearance to the shoulder. Then we noticed the foot step that was not retracted under the RV. It would have taken us both down if we’d been on the roadway instead of on the shoulder.

Lesson learned – Remember to always trust your spidey sense!!!

Wonderful touring on the backroads north of US 26

Wonderful touring on the backroads north of US 26

We turned the corner from US 26 to OR 103 and continued our journey northward, following the Nehalem River upstream. OR 103 is the wonderfully quiet, low traffic rural roadway that makes touring on pavement so attractive. While slowly gaining elevation, we crossed back and forth over the river, passing serene farmland and tree-covered foothills.

It didn't seem that warm

It didn’t seem that warm and what’s up with that date?

Our next stop was the crossroad town of Jewel where we planned to replenish our water and snack supplies. Here we would turn east on OR 202 and continue along the river. Unfortunately for us, the ‘town’ isn’t much more than a group of houses dispersed in the general area and the school seen above. Unless we missed it, there isn’t a gas station, market or even a bar around.


This wouldn’t be a problem on most days but we were beginning to run low on water and it was a bit warm. No problem, we thought. We’re following the Nehalem and crossing it every couple of miles or so. We should have lots of chances to fill our bottles in the next few miles.

OR 202 takes us through the towns of Birkenfeld and Mist before we head north to climb directly over the hills separating us from our destination, Clatskanie, on the Columbia River. We already know that, like Jewel, Mist is only the intersection of OR 202 and 47 and there are no services around.

Rolling east, we continued to cross the Nehalem multiple times, but each crossing was high above the water with no reasonable access to the water. If we had been desperate for water, we would have taken our chances at one or two of these crossings but we wouldn’t need to resort to being foolish, just yet.

As we continued to ride through the heat of the afternoon, we passed a family set up along the road, lounging in the shade having a picnic. Their Jack Russell terrier decided to run across the highway to introduce himself. This led to lots of screaming at the dog from lawn chairs to no avail. We stopped and led the dog back to his family and asked them if we could top off our water bottles. We hadn’t noticed they were actually camped by the side of the road and had massive tarps stretched out for shade. One of the kind women brought an armload of cold, bottled water to us as there was no running water around. We offered to pay but she insisted on helping us out. Another example of kindness between strangers living very different lives.

Shade but no cold beverages

Shade but no cold beverages

After drinking a bit and filling our bottles, we pedaled on toward the town of Birkenfeld. As we climbed toward the obvious Birkenfeld Country Store, visions of Popsicles and Chunky Monkey went through our brains. I made a comment to Janet about cold drinks and it was overheard by a man working near the road who commented that he didn’t think the store was open.

This store has been known as the “longest continuously running store in Oregon.” However, they’ve made changes recently and the store is now only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in addition to live music and dancing on Saturday nights.  Our little water gift was becoming more valuable as our big climb of the day steadily approached.

...just the start

…just the start

Continuing on to Mist, we turned north once again and, within a mile, began the short but sweet climb over the mountains forming this part of the Columbia Gorge. Mist sits about 700 feet above sea level and Clatskanie is right on the Columbia. In between these two is Misty Mt pass at 1370 feet, just over 2.8 miles from Mist and 8 miles from Clatskanie. This is a steep climb in any condition but in the heat of the day and with much less water consumed than we’d like, it was a slow but steady slog to the top. Large trucks crossing over are diverted to Apiary Rd, a bit east of here, due to the steepness and tight turns.

A panoramic view from the pass

A panoramic view from the pass

The descent began with a loud yell as we dropped nearly 400 feet in the first mile. Much to our surprise and dismay, we then started to climb again. In the next 1.5 miles, we regained all that elevation loss and found ourselves back at 1370 feet. The following 6+ miles of downhill were gloriously smooth with wide turns as we were cooled by the airflow as much as the drop in temperature. We rolled into Clatskanie with huge grins on our faces ready to make camp, shower and eat.

JP enjoying the ride down

JP enjoying the ride down

We set up camp in the city park, just off US 30. The $5 fee included our grassy tent site, covered picnic table, nearby clean bathrooms, free hot showers and we even found an outdoor power plug on a light pole to recharge camera batteries. The host was very gracious and helpful in getting us checked-in and, since we decided not to cook, with dinner options. What a great little spot!

JP and JS

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