7 kids, 6 adults, and an unforgettable carfree camping trip

Heading out of town.
Slideshow below/Gallery
(Photos © J .Maus)

On the July 4th weekend, my girls and I joined two other families for a camping trip unlike any other we’d ever done. Instead of loading up the mini-van and driving for a few hours to the mountains or the coast, we loaded up our bikes and pedaled our way to family camping bliss.

We rode from North Portland to Champoeg State Park (south of Wilsonville). It was about a 40 mile trip (each way) and the journey was definitely just as much fun as the camping itself.

The folks who joined us had also never done a bike camping trip, much less one with their little loved ones in tow. There were six adults and seven kids. The kids ranged in age from three months to eight years. They were all troopers, especially baby Hendrik, whose sweet little cry hastened our pedals to the next rest stop more than once.

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Riding together, we were like an armada — a flotilla of families on bikes. Lined up wheel to wheel, we estimated the length of the whole crew was nearly 80 feet long. We had Xtracycles attached to tag-alongs, attached to trailers. One dad, Joe Hagedorn, pulled a tandem-tag-along with his two boys and a trailer stuffed with camping gear.

After a mechanical mere seconds from the start of the ride, we had smooth sailing. We rode along the Esplanade, then the Springwater, and then through Sellwood (where we stopped for our first break that included home made beef jerky made by mom of three-month old Hendrik, Hau Hagedorn). Before long we were in Milwaukie and enjoying the wide bike lane on River Road.

No shame in walking.

As we headed south toward Oregon City, a Burgerville beckoned us for lunch. We pulled into the parking lot (taking up two motor vehicle spaces) and devoured shakes, fries, and burgers. We needed the fuel, because our first challenge — the Oregon City Bridge and the climb up to Willamette Falls Road that followed — was just down the road.

As temps soared, faces soured a bit. A few hills were tougher than we thought. But there’s no shame in walking, so we did. Even the kids got off and helped.

The climbing made the breezy jaunt on the Canby Ferry all the more enjoyable. After that (and a glorious respite from the sun thanks to some farm sprinklers), we rolled into Champoeg State Park.

Riding the Canby Ferry was a treat.
Riding east on Champoeg Rd.

The hiker/biker campsite was nestled down a path away from noisy RVs in a grove of large oak trees. The hammock was strung. A fire was made. We made it! It was time to enjoy the park (Oregon State Parks rule) and settle in.

The next day we spent exploring. We played a bit in the river (although Champoeg doesn’t technically have any developed river access for humans), we learned about Oregon history at the visitor center, we tried to check out a local winery (nice place, but they were closed), and we hung out at the legendary Butteville Store. The store, operated by State Parks, is the oldest operating retail store in the state. It had old-timey music, microbrews, belgian waffles with berries, and plenty for the kids to do.

It’s important to stay hydrated.

Our way home the next day wasn’t as nice as the way there. Fearing those face-souring climbs, the group voted to take a more direct route. It was 99E all the way to Oregon City. We’ll never do that again. It’s a two-lane state highway with no shoulders. Luckily, the strongest rider in the group rode sweep and muscled cars out of our path with sheer will (and a lot of “get-the-f#$@-over-please” gesticulations).

But the not-so-pleasant highway riding experience could not dampen our mood. A few margaritas and fantastic Mexican food courtesy of Cha! Cha! Cha! in Milwaukie sealed the deal — family bike camping is an awesome way to spend the weekend. Where to next?!

More photos in slideshow below:

— Check out the routes we took to Champoeg and back home (courtesy of

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