PORTLAND, Oregon — I participated in the 2019 Swift Campout* with a solo overnight ride from headquarters in the University District of downtown Portland to the foothills of the Coastal Range where L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park lies in the Banks-Vernonia Trail.
I left my apartment and made my way through downtown Portland to NW 23rd Avenue and Thurman St, stopping for snacks at the Thurman Street Market. I made my way to the end of Thurman, up the hills, to where it becomes Leif Erickson Drive at the gated entrance to Forest Park. Up Leif Erickson Drive to Saltzman Road to the top of Tualatin Mountain, the western edge of Forest Park.
I stopped a few times for the view into and across the valley to the foothills of the Coastal Range where my destination lay. I descended the western slope down from the summit of Tualatin Mountain — “summit,” and “mountain” are relative — and traversed the flat valley on straight roads that bifurcate the landscape into farm fields, sawmills, and homesteads. Those fields gave way to a repurposed railbed, which ran mostly straight and rail-grade flat to where the valley met trees to begin the route’s climb into the verdant mountains. The top of that climb is the edge of the Coastal Range, which creates a rain shadow in the Willamette Valley. The paved path continued past where I turned left onto the curving singletrack that leads to a hike-in camping area at the park.
It’s a mix of grunting, slow climb and push up the hills.
Given I was there on Memorial Day and wasn’t able to make a reservation, I had to roll the dice that a campsite would be available. Well, one was; not in the hike-in areas I prefer, but in the full hook-up RV areas on the other side of the park. The hike-in areas are small and surrounded by trees with no big driveways — or any at all, really. The park ranger told me that the RV sites can hold 8 people, so they’re actually a pretty good price and can make for a nice site with a large group.
Camping alone in such a huge area wasn’t ideal, but not miserable by any measure.
Unlike on other bike tours, for the most part, no one seemed to be interested in the person on the bike with the camping gear. Maybe because it was people in RVs who aren’t used to talking to strangers, I don’t know. I kept to myself in my oversized campsite, reading or wandering around a little.
I took some time setting up the tarp over my bivy, which I really didn’t need. Since this wasn’t exactly the most epic of adventures, I took the opportunity to try out the bivy and practice setting up the tarp. If it were raining the tarp would have made getting in and out of the bivy easier, whilst allowing me a dry place to store my gear.
It worked pretty well, but it seemed like it would be too bulky to bring on a longer bikepacking trip unless I had a less robust bivy and shorter and lighter poles.
This was a fun trip and I plan to camp here again, maybe next time instead of a single-speed Troll, I’ll ride a brakeless fixed gear.
*The Swift Campout and Swift Adventure websites appear to no longer be online. It may be a temporary outage, an issue with pop-up and tracking blockers with my browser, or something else. I linked to Swift’s main website in the mean time.