Nick on the bike 2005: Oregon to Virginia
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Day 4: Cougar Reservoir to Sisters via McKenzie Pass
July 18, 2005, 10:08 PM
Where am I now: Sisters, Oregon (44 17.307N by 121 32.526W at 3198 ft)
Today's distance: 60 miles

Last night's camp was actually about half a mile below the Cougar Reservoir dam, and I was too tired last night to ride up and check it out. So today's ride began with a jaunt up to the Cougar dam...3 miles and 700 feet worth. I don't know why I pulled BOB up there except that the two of us don't like to be separated.

Cougar is another USACOE project. An old guy named Fred Kesey brought my family up here to look at the dam construction in the early '60s while we were visiting Oregon. Fred was father to author Ken, and an avid fisherman. We all fished the McKenzie, and went Ocean fishing out of Florence on Kesey's boat. I caught a fish bigger than I was at the time.

Anyway, Cougar reservoir has played havoc on the downstream McKenzie River fisheries, as have most of the other COE dam projects on their respective rivers around the country. And now the Corps is trying to fix the situation. To their credit.

The problem has to do with the temperature of the release water. The Corps has designed a new release structure that is gated at multiple levels, so that in theory, water of an appropriate temperature can be released downstream. Sounds good so far. About 3 years ago they drained the lake and began constructing the new release tower, which is now just about complete.

Trouble is, when they drained the lake they used an old conduit that had not been opened since the dam was built. Massive siltation of the McKenzie resulted, and the river still hasn't recovered. Maybe we should devise some benign make-work program for the Corps....

Much of the above comes from conversations with locals over breakfast in McKenzie Bridge, which was the next event of the day.

Then ensued the 22 mile climb to McKenzie Pass. (All this McKenzie stuff is named in honor of a world-class biker-journalist who currently has a column in the Charlottesville Daily Progress). The ascent was sort of like doing two Greenwood to Raven's Roost climbs back-to-back, which is to say it was somewhat ass-kicking with BOB and all. I don't want to put him in a bad mood by insulting him, lest he retaliate, but sometimes he's just a drag to be associated with.

I was able to commune with the lava fields, and photos will appear shortly. But the campground up there had no water, so I just kept rolling downhill into Sisters, where I'm camped at the city park. It is hot here, but very low humidity.

Ran into two west-bound cyclists from Belgium who had left Virginia in May, plus a few other west-bound riders I exchanged wave with but didn't talk. Have not met any east bounders yet, but rumor has it there are several within a day or so of where I am now.

I'm going to go find a restaurant.

Photo of the day: