Our final group, after quite a few last minute bail outs, had four of us riding out and another three driving out due to schedule conflicts. It's really something special to have friends to ride bikes with, and I'm truly grateful to everybody who showed up for this. The format, I think, is something that I'll want to play with in future events, but it worked pretty well in the end.
The notion was to leave midday Friday, in case people couldn't get the whole day off, but could maybe knock off a few hours early. We would do a more spirited ride Saturday sans-bags, and then ride home on Sunday. This differs quite a bit from how I've seen others do similar events, and I think I like it better. For the Un-Meeting, they simply publish a location and let the riders sort all that out, and so the group is only really together on the middle day. On the other hand, it seems like most small groups and clubs that hosted a Swift Campout opted for a very short two day adventure. That maybe works a bit better in towns more nestled into the backcountry, but not so great in the Portland area with its sprawling suburban periphery.
Our route took us out through Battle Ground, to the small town of Yacolt, and then on to our camp 20 miles east of Cougar, WA. Eagle Cliff Camp itself was wonderful, and it was quite a surprise because details were very sparse on their website. In fact, they have a well stocked camp store (open Th-Su), a little pizza shack, showers, and the some of the biggest, nicest campsites I've yet encountered. We arrived pretty late, having left at 3pm and having ridden about 85 miles, but the drive-out crew had a fire roaring and cold refreshments waiting. We hit sunset just as the road opened up onto the expanse of Yale Lake. The wind picked up as we rode those final twenty miles, and the reservoir glimmered yellow in the light of the rising full moon. We stopped at a high perch for beer and snacks.
Day two had us climbing gravel roads toward the viewpoints on the eastern rim of the volcano. I didn't get many pictures, but to paraphrase my hero John Denver: some roads are diamonds. We didn't quite make it as far as I had planned due to a washed out road, but I definitely want to return to check it out again someday. If you want to explore yourself, the first stretch of 2560 is great, but it was washed out just after crossing the main paved road 25. It was probably hoppable, but who knows how bad it gets after that. On the other hand, the Forest Service map does list it as a improved gravel road, so maybe this was just a recent issue.
The paved descent back down to camp on 25 is probably one of the most fun descents I know of. It's perfectly snaky, with great views, and very light traffic. Doing the gravel back down probably would have been fun too, but we were ready to be done for the day. We then got pizza (important) and watched the sunset down under the bridge at what we think was the actual Eagle Cliff. Here we discovered unnatural talents, and contemplated the function of the fish water slide. Specifically, rider Chris is extremely good at stacking rocks, and rider James is extremely good at rock bocce ball. I do not know how the fish water slide works.
On day three, we opted to return via the same route we took on day one due to high traffic and a strong headwind on highway 503. I actually didn't mind it because you get a very different view riding the opposite direction. And the weather was so lovely I think I would have enjoyed riding just about anywhere (with the obvious exception of North Valley Road in Washington County which I absolutely despise no what context). Riding in high spirits, and thoroughly warmed up by now, we made pretty good time, getting home by around dinner time.
And that was it for the Cougar Campout. I think I might plan a longer event in August, and try to get some regular after work rides going.