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Day 3 with Treo Bike Tours: Hardman to the Columbia River

Posted by on July 17th, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-38
Mike Bernard rides in the mirage just a few miles south of the Columbia River on Highway 74.

This is the third in a series of four posts on riding in eastern Oregon with the support of Treo Bike Tours. See the other posts here.

Perspective is everything in life. Bicycling through the canyons of Morrow County in eastern Oregon in summer heat can feel difficult at times; but when you consider the experience of pioneers on the Oregon Trail it seems downright easy.

On day three of our trip with Treo Bike Tours we continued our educational tour with a focus on that famous east-west route once traversed by families on wagons with wooden wheels.

The group rolled north of Hardman via Rhea Creek Road, made a stop in the small town of Ione (where Treo owner Phil Carlson went to high school), then continued north on Heppner Highway along Willow Creek to the Columbia River Gorge. Along the way we made a stop in Cecil, known to Oregon Trail users as Willow Creek Campground.

Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-28
Nestled in the foothills of Willow Creek Canyon, the Cecil Store — a re-supply stop on the Oregon Trail — still stands.

According to local history, as told to us by Carlson, in 1862 William and Mary Cecil’s wagon broke down at a nearby spring and they camped at Willow Creek. William ended up staying and becoming a wagon mechanic. He later built a store that still stands today. With keys from current owner Maureen Krebs (a descendent of homesteaders who have farmed this valley since the 1800s) we got to go inside the store, which has much of its interior still intact.

A mile or so north of Cecil we crossed the Oregon Trail itself. No sign of the wagon wheel tracks remain near the highway (apparently you have to go about 15 miles into the valley on a dirt road to see those), but we still stopped and paused at a roadside memorial that marked the old campground.

Our own adventure continued north to the Columbia River Gorge, where — after a grit-your-teeth climb — we were met by the Treo bus which was waiting for us with cold drinks and wet towels at the junction of I-84. From there, Carlson drove us east to Boardman where we visited the new SAGE Center, a very cool agricultural museum that highlights Morrow County’s food processing and farming industries.

Check out more photos and notes below…

Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-3
All smiles as the group rolled out of Hardman.

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Rolling down toward Ruggs en route to Rhea Creek Road.
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Rhea Creek Road north of Ruggs.
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-10
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-12
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Ione is hard to miss with its several large installations of grain elevators.
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Now defunct, these old grain elevators sit on the west end of Ione as a reminder of earlier, busier times.
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The city park in Ione is a well-kept gem that makes for a great rest stop.
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Leaving Ione on Heppner Hwy.
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-22
Cecil was a popular stop for pioneers on the Oregon Trail and the Krebs family still lives and farms the ranch.
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-27
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-29
The group sits outside the old Cecil Store, built in 1909 (after the original burned down in 1899).
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-30
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-31
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We are here.
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We knew the Columbia River was close when we saw the windmills.
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Jered grimaces through the big climb of the day out of the valley and into the Gorge…
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-37
And it was all worth it! (Those hills in the background are in Washington.)
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-39
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-40
After the ride it was time to test shooting skills at the Treo range.
Treo Bike Ranch trip day 3 - Hardman to Columbia River-43
Courtney nailed the target and blew up this propane tank, sending it a hundred feet into the air.
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Well-deserved high-fives.

Thanks for following along on our trip with Treo Bike Tours. Tomorrow we’ll wrap things up with the group’s first gravel road experience and one of Oregon’s most spectacular downhills.


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Comments
  • ALynch July 18, 2014 at 6:34 am

    What a great adventure! This is going on my list.

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  • SilkySlim July 18, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Been there, loved it, also shot the propane tank, made a righteous PING sound, but it certainly didn’t fly several hundred feet up in the air! Bringing more than a 22 next time.

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  • MaxD July 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Jonathan,
    do they make any accommodation or preclusions for families? Are there age minimums? Are there non-bike options near/at the lodge? I looked through the website bit and didn’t see anything, what is your take?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 18, 2014 at 9:51 am

      hey MaxD,

      This is something I’ve talked to Phil about. There’s no age minimum and Treo would certainly welcome people of all ages. It would take some planning to keep little ones occupied as the ranch itself is 45-hour drive from any attractions/destinations. That being said, it could be a great base camp for exploring the John Day River valley (lots of trails, geology, and so on) and historic/cool towns like Heppner, Fossil, etc. Your best bet would be to email Phil and see what he can help set up.

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      • MaxD July 18, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I was thinking this would be fun thing for a few families; include the kids on some shorter rides, then take turns on longer rides (with rotating parents with kids in the sag bus or on side trips). This was a great series and worth looking into!

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