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Plan B: Corn utopia, your own backyard, and the Metolius challenge 


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"The best laid plans of mice and (wo)men often go awry," wrote poet Robert Burns. If you are anything like me, you feel a welling sense of panic as winter suddenly tranforms into summer on the High Desert. The anxiety revolves around a desire to maximize our short summer by packing each weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day with as many adventures as humanly possible. If a weekend gets lost to poor planning, or unforseen circumstances, I suffer from a condition my friends and I have dubbed "ADD" (Adventure Deficit Disorder). As far as I know, the only cure for a sudden bout of ADD is Plan B.

Fortunately, like a drugstore pharmacist, Central Oregon offers up a vast array of antidotes, especially this time of year. Sometimes we forget how much fun it is to just play in your own backyard.


For the three-day Memorial Day weekend, I was really stoked to do a river trip on the North Fork of the John Day. It was a perfect weekend for the 44-mile Class II-III trip from Dale to Monument. The friends I planned to go with, however, went with Plan B at the last minute, deciding it was an even more perfect weekend to run the Umpqua and crust cruise at Crater Lake.

I guess I can't blame them as it's "Corn Utopia" time. Win Goodbody's report from Crater Lake:

"Perfect conditions. I'm surprised no one (that I know of) skis there. The landscape is perfect for high speed, lightweight exploring in spring. It is truly amazing. What you do is start at the North Entrance road at the intersection of 138 near Diamond Lake. From there, you can skate up the road to the rim of the Crater. It's an easy (and fast!) nine-mile climb. You gain about 1000 feet. You can skate in any direction for miles! There is another patch of open terrain north of the crater. That is the Pumice Desert-the road goes right through there and it is another place where you can skate wildly across endless horizons of crust. From the rim is a continuous five-mile downhill, where you can just point 'em. It's incredible. I have not seen such a wide-open expanse of mild terrain for skating anywhere except Yellowstone. If you have not skied here, I guarantee you will be involuntarily singing 'The Sound of Music' as you descend. It's a mind blower. Maybe we need to start a new Northwest nordic tradition - the annual Memorial Day Crater Lake Crust Cruise!" Another friend who has been frequently climbing Brokentop and the Sisters and skiing Thayer Headwall on North and the Prouty Glacier on South said simply, "Oh, to be a corn farmer!"

As for me, I ended up playing in my own backyard with some friends from Seattle who were visiting for the weekend with their two-year-old son. A weekend of the Terrible Twos was not the adventure I had envisioned, but I salvaged the weekend with some beautiful crust cruising at Todd Lake, a nice 50-mile bike ride past Cline Buttes, and some paddling on the Deschutes. And, you know, watching little Daniel and my dog Sprocket become best buddies was pretty damn sweet, afterall.


The next weekend I was registered with a friend for Gap 2 Gap, a run-bike-paddle-bike-run race in Yakima. On Friday morning, the Yakima River was at flood stage, so the paddle leg was cancelled. A mid-race car shuttle in 94-degree heat sounded like a sweltering cluster, so we invented the Metolius Challenge instead.

It goes like this: Camp at Perry South Campground on the Metolius. Leave your boats there and put your bikes and running shoes in the car. Drive the dirt road back toward Billy Chinook until you hit pavement. Stash your running shoes in the bushes. Continue to Cove Palisades. Park the car and ride 18 miles back to your running shoes. Hide the bikes in the bushes and run 2.6 miles down the gravel road to your boats. The best part, especially on a 94-degree day, is the 14-mile paddle back to Cove Palisades. There, load the boats and return to camp. Don't forget to pick up your bikes and stop at the Chinook Village store to buy a half-gallon of Eberhard's French Vanilla ice cream and some cold root beer. The Metolius Challenge concludes with a rope swing into the river and a frothy Root Beer Float.

Plan B rules again.


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