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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

(Almost) Paradise: Yet another weekend overnight bicycle camping trip!

The Portland area is still in this peculiar pattern of "nice weekends". While the weekdays have been a mixed bag of some okay weather mixed with various levels of rain and tepid temps hovering in the 50's F (10-16C), the weekends have been sunny and warm. And the weekend of Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd of April have been the awesomest so far, as temps ranged from 75 to 82F (24-27C). Yes, we've finally hit eighty degrees!

So what better way to celebrate it by another bicycle overnight! Yep, this makes three weekends in a row. This weekend only the enigmatic Todd B. was available, so it made trip planning a bit easier. But the big question was: where to go?

I didn't want to go anywhere that we'd been recently, so that cut out the Columbia Gorge, Battle Ground Lake, and Sunset. Didn't feel like hitting Stub Stewart again (which we visited on New Years). None of the southerly destinations like McIver or Champoeg excited me, and I didn't feel like going up the Clackamas River. I wanted to keep the riding to 40 miles (70km) and under, so that cut out going to the coast or up to Seaquest. And I wanted to try somewhere new. But where would be new and within 40 miles? Scaponia was closed due to "water issues", Oxbow still closed indefinitely, and Clackamas County parks like Metzler and Barton did not open until May. This narrowed down the choices even more.

There were two contenders: Dougan Creek in Yacolt State Forest up in Washington along the Washougal, and Paradise Point State Park outside of La Center, WA. Dougan sounded interesting, and since it's maintained by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), it's free. But there would be no water available, meaning we'd have to haul it all in (neither of us have water filters). And the Washougal River has the highest concentration of recreational "yahoos" in the metro area. It was still early in the season so the likelihood that it would be infested with them would be lower than July. But was this the risk we wanted to run after biking almost 40 miles to get there? So Paradise Point it was.

Paradise Point has had a special significance to me over the past year. It was to be our stop for our first night bike touring on the Cross-Con Tour. But about three miles from the park April had "stem extender failure" so we got rescued by Todd B. instead. We got a ride to Kelso, 30 miles north of Paradise Point, the next day and continued riding. We never got to see the park. For the sake of completion I wanted to camp there at least one night at some point.

Paradise Point is also the bastard stepchild of the local camping destinations. If we were going to make an A list and B list of local destinations, Paradise would be at the bottom of the B, maybe even in the C list. And what's wrong with it? It's only a 20 mile ride from downtown Vancouver, WA. The ride is moderate: some suburban riding, some rolling hills, no real climbs. It's even got primitive campsites which are great for bicycle tourists. No, what pushes Paradise down the list is its proximity to Interstate 5, the highly trafficked highway corridor of the West Coast. Paradise Point is right on I-5. Now this isn't the park's fault per se, as the park came first. But having campsites about a city block away from a six lane freeway does not sound like "paradise" to most. But I was willing to give the park at least one shot, to know what was there, so I would have a concrete answer when someone asked me what my opinion of the park was.
Leaving Portland, heading on over the Interstate (I-5) bridge to Vancouver, WA
Since the ride was going to be short and easy, I did not even leave my house until about 12:30pm on Saturday. I met Todd at his house in the Hough neighborhood of Vancouver a little after 2pm. We chose a route that was serviceable: suburban roads with mostly bike lanes for the first half, quieter county roads through rolling countryside for the second half. Some nice scenes abound:
Mount Saint Helens, woot!
And for no reason, a replica of the Golden Gate Clark County! NE 10th and 209th.
After 33 miles of riding for myself (about 20 for Todd),we arrived at the park around 5pm and made a beeline for the primitive sites back into the woods. This is when we were let in on the big let-down: the primitive sites were closed for the season. I did not remember seeing anything about this on their website. (After re-examining it twice after getting home. I found the info but it was buried in the site. Therefore, I am burying the info at the bottom of this page.*) And this is why it matters so much: 1) The primitive sites were the furthest from the freeway and lousy with trees, so it would be much quieter back there and 2) The primitive sites were only $12, whereas the standard sites $21. Quite the difference. If I had known that the primitive sites were closed, we would have not come here.
Todd sets up his hammock.
So we made do with a regular site. Yes, it was noisier but I didn't notice the constant hum after awhile.** We made dinner and Todd pulled out ye olde shortwave radio, where we managed to tune in CBC and Radio Havana for awhile! (Radio Havana is big on the stamp collecting, if you are interested.) Since I had the bivy sack I hoped to catch a little of the Leonid meteor shower overnight, but alas, it clouded over.

In the morn we made our respective breakfasts and coffee. The only tragedy for myself on this trip happened when I didn't realize the "O" ring on the Trangia fuel cap came off the cap and rested on the burner. So I ignited the burner and ended up burning the O ring. Thankfully I was aware of what was happening and managed to yank the O ring off the flame in time so it didn't melt over the stove. Whew.

On departing the park we checked out Paradise Point's big selling point (besides disc golf, if that's yer thing): Its proximity to the East Fork Lewis River. This is the "Paradise" of the Paradise Point. It was indeed pretty.

Once you got over I-5 overhead.

And you can swim in the river...if you dare.

We took a longer, more meandery route home in order to check out the small town of Ridgefield. It's mostly bypassed by I-5 so "downtown" is pretty sleepy, but had stuff oriented towards touristas like us: a couple restaurants, a couple markets, a coffee shop/theater, and a wine bar. Too bad I was on a budget so I didn't really partake in much while there. Ridgefield also afforded some great views of the Columbia River bottomlands, which were resplendent in spring colors.

It was about 25 miles to Todd's house from the park, and we had a few beers before I had to depart for Portland. Despite the negatives mentioned above, it was a fun weekend trip. Would I go to Paradise Point again? Probably not, unless it was on the way to somewhere else. Just like we were supposed to do the first time!

More photos of the trip can be found here.
The route to Paradise Point here.
The route back from Paradise Point here.

*To find it, go to the main webage for the park:
you have to click on "Winter Schedule for Washington State Parks" link:
Then scroll down to what it indicates for Paradise Point:
"Sites 44 - 79 close Oct. 15, reopen May 1."
Well, what are those sites? Well then, you have to go back to the main page and click on the link for the "reservation system and online map":
and then you have to click on "sites 1 through 79" in step 3 to get you here:
and then click on EACH INDIVIDUAL icon to find which one are the primitives (hint: 71-79), or check the "Legend".
Yeah, really intuitive. Yeah, that's sarcasm. How many steps is that? Couldn't they just say "Primitive closed in off-season"? Nah, too logical.
**Thankfully we managed to set up away from the teens who got kicked out by the ranger early in the eve. They were drinking Bacardi and had a handgun on the table(?) I have a feeling that the yahoo factor at this park can get a little high in the summer.


  1. Still,even being underneath a major traffic artery (I-5...I knew it well in my former life as a long haul trucker...not a Surly tourer that is,LOL :P),count it a blessing that it's there. While there may in fact be some campsites in my neck of the woods,I haven't been able to find them yet (though I could in fact look a bit harder). A bad campsite is better than none ;)

    Wow,3 weeks in a row,I'm jealous,my friend! :)

    The DC

    1. DC, bit surprised about the dearth of camping options in your neck o' the woods. Isn't that supposed to be the mountains? Any State or National Forests in the vicinity? What about State Parks?

    2. What about this area in Cherokee N.F.?!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gDfxMDT8MwRydLA1cj72BTn0AjAwgAykeaxcN4jhYG_h4eYX5hPgYwefy6w0H24dcPNgEHcDTQ9_PIz03VL8iNMMgycVQEADoWIdk!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfME80MEkxVkFCOTBFMktTNUJIMjAwMDAwMDA!/?ss=110804&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&navid=110000000000000&pnavid=null&recid=34918&ttype=recarea&pname=Holston%20Mountain%20Zone%20-%20Home

  2. Gosh! You're having a lovely time of late :-) Shame about the 'primitive' campsites though. I always gripe a bit if I have to pay as much as an RV and camp near them.

    1. Oh, we did gripe. There will probably be an "official" response from me/us soon. I'm not much of a "complainer" when it comes to this type of stuff, but sometimes complaining works. We got overcharged at a campsite during our stay in Glacier National Park, complained, and got a partial refund.


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