Hot Springs & Epic Swimming Holes
Weekend Getaway, ~50 miles
What would summer be without bike rides and swimming holes and you can double the experience by pairing the two together. Those who yearn to escape hot asphalt in Portland or nearby cities for an impromptu weekend getaway should look to the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway, one of Travel Oregon's 16 signed bike routes that offer "the very best of Oregon’s scenic, historic, natural and cultural experiences — from the seat of a bike."
Faced with a weekend of no plans, we seized the day last Friday after work and quickly packed our truck with our tent, sleeping bags, clothing, food, beer, wine, Burley trailer, Burley Piccolo trailer bike, Pedego electric mountain bike and my trusty Peugot single speed and headed to Estacada.
Our Route Map & Itinerary
After dinner in Estacade at Andale Andale (pretty good Mexican food), we crossed our fingers to find an empty campsite, but were optimistic with the numerous options. The first, Lazy Bend, was full, but the second one, Carter Bridge Campground had a "less desirable", small tent camping spot right next to the river. +1 for Team Bikabout for some white noise induced sleeping.
The next morning, we ate a breakfast of bagels and pre-hard boiled eggs toasted on the fire ring grill. I had also packed a food container full of butter, cream cheese, cucumbers, onions and avocado. We ate down by the river, cleaned up, packed up and left the truck in a day use parking lot across the river from Carter Bridge campground
The ride from Estacada to Detroit is a rolling climb, but I was only aware of one hill on my single speed when I had to get out of the saddle. Parts of the road are freshly repaved and there is a shoulder. Barring a couple of jacked up trucks with too much testosterone, people driving gave us a wide berth when passing.
Ten miles in, we were excited to stop at Ripplebrook Camp Store for hydration, gatorade, ice cream, turkey franks for dinner and some other snacks. They also have free wifi should you need to adjust your map or download a music podcast:)
After leaving the store around 2 pm, our next task was finding a campsite and there was plenty to choose from that we heard great things about (Ripplebrook, Rainbow, Riverside, Kingfisher, Bagby, and MANY legal "side of the road" sites), but we wanted to get as close to Bagby as possible. Pretty much all of them were full so we proceeded to Kingfisher, a campground that we later found out is usually booked 6 months in advance. We rolled up and snagged a highly desirable riverside site that someone had left early that morning.
We set up camp and proceeded to spend the afternoon sun relaxing in the sweet, clear-as-can-be, lagoon. Fellow campers let us use their inner tubes and we marveled at how lucky we were to find this oasis of beauty and great people.
Dinner of turkey franks and muenster cheese and pre-made slaw was on the table by 6 (love how all the fire pits have grills), s'mores by 7 and after some fire time, our heads hit the pillow by 9, again lulled to sleep by the river.
At 8 am, we threw on some clothes in the chilly morning and rode a gently 5 miles uphill to the Bagby trailhead. We paid the camp host $5 each and walked 1.3 miles down the trail to the hot springs. All the communal tubs were borderline non-functional, but we didn't have to wait long for one of the five private rooms. Still, our tub's stopper was stuck, so we couldn't drain the tub all the way to make way for fresh water. Luckily, we're not germophobes, filled up the tub full of gloriously hot water, tempered it with ice cold stream water and ever so gradually got in.
Bagby Hot Springs is an Oregon treasure, no doubt. However, it has fallen into disrepair and disrespect and could use lots of love. Someone had glitter bombed the entirety of the trail out to the springs, there was graffiti everywhere, unclaimed trash and clothing and the plumbing for the tubs was not maintained. To make it shine, we recommend the state increase the fee and use the revenue to hire a part-time staff member to be onsite a few hours a day and act as a steward.
Following a relaxing stint in the springs, we rolled back down the hill to camp, ate breakfast next to the river, pack up camp and hit the road to ride back to our truck, which was a rolling downhill.
Once the truck was loaded up, we decided to drive the other way around Mount Hood back to Hood River and passed what looked like to be a swimming hole that I now know is called The Narrows. Diving into the "take my breath away" cold water was absolutely the right way to end our weekend on the Cascading Rivers.