XCFeedsWest Side McKenzie

FasterSkier FasterSkierSeptember 11, 2010

Some days, training is easy. Everything about the day (the workout, weather, location, energy) comes together and training is not work, it’s just enjoyment. Those are the good days, and yesterday was one of them.

We rollerskied the west side of McKenzie Pass, which is something I’ve wanted to since I moved to Bend, but hadn’t managed to. Partly this is because the road was closed for the last two summers, and partly because the logistics are a bit challenging. We started at the junction of 242 and 126, which an hour and a half from Bend. From there, the climb (on 242) to the Dee Wright Observatory is 22 miles and something like 3700’ vertical. Time issues aside, the descent is twisty enough that it probably wouldn’t be a ton of fun to ski down. It’s definitely a ski where having someone drive the car to the top is a nice touch – the top is also a lot closer to Bend, so the drive home is a bit shorter.

Rollerskiing aside, McKenzie Pass is a pretty special road. Torin talked about it a little bit earlier this summer after our bike ride, but in case you missed that (or don’t feel like reading), I will indulge myself and give a description of what we saw yesterday. We started around 1700’ in the dense (mossy) forests of the western slope of the Cascades. The road is narrow (no bike lanes or shoulders) and windy, which makes it feel a lot more like the roads I like back east than the standard Bend highways (which are wide, straight and subject to the beating sun – they also have nice bike lanes). It was cool yesterday morning, and the road was covered in dew. For at least the first hour, we were skiing through the mist rising off the road. Around every other corner the sun streamed through the mist to create walls of mist I could not see through. If I’d had a camera, I would have stopped and taken a picture. The road climbs like this for 3000’ (and 15 miles) until it plateaus into a mixture of grass and scrubby trees. The last 7 miles are pretty mellow, but they roll into the lava flow and the views become spectacular.

Yesterday was as nice a day as I could ask for. In rebuilding the road over the last two summers, ODOT did a fantastic job. The pavement is perfect – new and smooth without a hint of chip-seal (which is all the rage in Bend these days) – and the flow of the road is fantastic. Actually, it’s fantastic on a bike. Climbing on rollerskis, all the banked corners are a bit unnecessary, but there is something pretty cool about taking the outside line around a U-Turn and being above the car on the inside of the turn. Rather, being above where the car would be if there were any cars (I think I was passed by about 20 cars, and half of them were going to Forest Service trucks going to fight the Scott Mountain Fire). Breaking out above the trees and seeing the sun dancing off the dusting of snow on the North and Middle Sisters was a nice way to finish. If only training was this easy every day.

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