Last practice trip: cabin camping at Stub Stewart!

The breathtaking Banks-Vernonia Trail

Well, my third and final (I think!) practice trip is now complete. This past Wednesday and Thursday, I biked out for a one-night vacation stay in a lovely, cozy cabin at Stub Stewart State Park, about 50 miles northwest of Portland between Banks and Vernonia.

The trip was physically challenging—as I suspected and hoped it would be—so I think I got a good taste of what may be in store for me, physically, as I set out on the coming year’s journey.

I’ve done 50-mile days on a bike before, including most recently about a year ago when I went out to Estacada, southeast of Portland, and returned the same day. But I’ve never done it with a trailer before. The Chubby towed my belongings like a champ, and never felt uncomfortable to pull. However, I was rather surprised and chagrined to note that it took me an entire day (9:30 am to 7:15 pm) to make it from my door to the cabin’s door. In the past, that distance has usually taken me about seven hours, including lunch, snack, and photography breaks. This time, though, I did climb a total of at least 2000 feet—which I believe is a personal record—so that probably contributed to the time.

My trusty companion, at the start of the Fanno Creek trail in Beaverton.

This time, too, there was one extra delay: after arriving at the BG Cartel Beaverton food cart pod I’d heard so much about—and ordering some Buddhist Delight to snack on for lunch and then save most of for dinner at my destination—I discovered to my consternation that I had managed to forget my bike lock! (You may recall that on my previous practice trip, I forgot my helmet. I don’t like this pattern.)

Fortunately, a quick Google map search revealed a bike shop just a few blocks away, so after lunch I headed over there, wheeled in my entire rig, and purchased a new U-lock, which if I’m honest was overdue anyway, so perhaps my forgetfulness was a blessing in disguise. I was also able to use the restroom at the bike shop, so all in all it was a worthwhile stop.

I got back on the road, and the temperatures continued to climb as I found beautiful farmland scenery, but sadly quite a dearth of shade. After an hour or two of riding in these conditions—continuously sucking down water from the hydration pack I learned I would need by taking my first practice trip—I found a small spot of shade and pulled over to rest a bit. I was soaked in sweat. My weather app told me the temperature was 93. I estimated I had about another 25 miles ahead of me, including 906 more feet of elevation to gain.


But I did it! And after just a few more miles, I blessedly reached the Banks-Vernonia trail, with its ample shade, abundant blackberries, and countless sweet cherry trees which—remarkably at this point in the season—continued to drop their bounty of fresh and “sun dried” fruit all over the path and the grass surrounding it. A good chunk of my delay can probably be attributed to my resultant fruit feasting!

Those extra 906 vertical feet turned out to be almost entirely spread out over the 15 miles or so of very gently inclining trail. I didn’t get to any real hills until I actually reached the park, found the welcome center, and then had to ascend for another half-mile or so, though I admit I was thoroughly spent by that point, so I walked/pushed the bike up much of that last hill, pausing a few times to rest and then occasionally ride another short stretch.

I found the cabin nestled down in a hollow (as I descended, I thought, “this damn well better be the right turnoff! I’m not climbing back up out of this place tonight!”) and was the perfect haven to rest and relax.

There were families in most of the surrounding 14 cabins in the “village,” but the noise was manageable, and the kids next door to me were adorably friendly and exuberant to be camping.

Helmet hair alert!

I showered. I unpacked. I took in the view from the porch. I took a brief walk up a hill to sit at a picnic table and watch a sunset over stunningly beautiful wooded hills.

Sunset just behind my cabin

I wolfed down the rest of my food.

That night was one of my most restful nights of sleep in recent memory. All of my (numerous!) stresses about everything I need to take care of in the next month before I leave seemed to melt away in the wooded oasis.

The next morning, I awoke slowly, at a luxurious pace, and then went for a walk in the wooded trails. The light on the greenery was breathtaking at times.

Around noon, I packed up my things and wheeled up out of the hollow. The next 15 miles or so—back on the trail—were now on a slight downhill, so I was able to glide easily through the shady woods. I feasted once again on the cherries, then made my way back to Hillsboro, taking a different route through dry August western Oregon fields. Once in Hillsboro, I hopped on a light-rail train back to downtown Portland, saving myself at least 20 miles of pedaling. Just a few stops before I was to disembark, I noticed another passenger deboarding the train with his own, folded-up Brompton! Wow. I cross paths with people riding Bromptons around Portland maybe about once a month or so, but it was quite a kick to see someone who had been on very same train with me.

August in western Oregon. I rode past miles and miles of this terrain. (I love all the oaks!)

I biked the three or four miles back up a slight hill to get home, and soon set about diving back into “everything I need to do to get ready for this journey,” including packing up a few more boxes to take to my storage unit. I was back in the “real world,” and there was work to do.

But I’m so glad I took that trip! The escape from “reality” was so welcome, and the physical challenges of the distance, the heat, the hills, and the forgotten lock all showed me that I’m ready to do this.

One more month!!

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6 thoughts on “Last practice trip: cabin camping at Stub Stewart!”

    1. Thanks, Alison! Yes, it was the perfect practice run: challenging but doable. I’m so excited to begin next month! Thanks for your support. 🙂

  1. Hi Maren! Do you remember the route you took to the Banks Vernonia trail? I’ve been interested in a longer ride out there, but have been intimidated by the roads out that way. I just found your page and it’s awesome to hear about your year long trip.

    1. Thanks, Isaac! Let’s see… that was a while ago, but I do remember going through River View Cemetery, in SW Portland, and then being in Beaverton (I remember going to the Trek store there to buy a new lock and use the restroom!) I don’t remember specifics after that, but I almost always just use Google Maps (on “bike” mode, of course) to plan my routes, so I probably did whatever they recommended. 🙂 Enjoy your ride! It was beautiful. In July, I bet you’d find a lot of cherries on those trees like I did!

      1. Rando here that this popped up in my news feed.
        I grew up in vernonia and lived in Portland through my 20s(then back to Vernonia and now camas). I taken the trip a few times(even before the wash co side of the trail was finished so from the county line you had to ride the highway).

        I can’t say any routes from Portland to Hillsboro as I normally maxed out to Hillsboro TC and then rode from there or rose from Vernonia to Hillsboro TC.
        Working in Portland as a bike messenger and general commuting/only source of travel, I was pretty comfortable in traffic so any route I’d take from Portland to Hillsboro would be main arteries.

        I was writing out the test but ended up writing a lot about my individual experiences, so quickly the TLDR version
        From Hillsboro TC I just rode tv hwy down to Forest Grove, then 47 to Banks to the trail. I am sure there may be back roads between Forest Grove and Banks that could be better than 47. I didn’t have a smart phone when I rode it(2008?)so I just took the routes I knew.
        The path goes over the road into stub Stewart or you can push onto Vernonia.

        From Hillsboro I just took TV Hwy to Hwy 47 to Banks and onto the trail (though the last time I rode it, it still wasn’t finished between manning and banks, so there was a bit of hwy travel.)
        The ride between Forest Grove and Banks on 47 is sometimes a bit sketchy. I’ve also only rode it in a fixed gear bike so all that flat pedaling on a gear ratio for getting around downtown Portland is a bit tedious. Most drivers gave me plenty of room and I just rode the white line as much as possible. The semis give you some air pull which is harrowing.

        From banks to Buxton it is pretty flat, then you start the gradual climb.
        The trail was built on an old rail line so the climbs are bad either direction. The first time I rode it from Hillsboro to Vernonia, as I said, the Washington county side wasn’t finished. I believe there were small parts done, like a short section from Buxton to a gravel road and some from manning to banks, but not all the way. I had to ride 47 to manning, then assumed I could get on there but the section still hasn’t been released by the land owner, so I was gravel roading it on 23c tires until the trail picked up again. Once into Buxton it wasn’t paved past there. I knew some friends had ridden it on their cross bikes and mountain bikes. I had rode it from Vernonia to Hillsboro before and it turned to “pit rock”(baseball sized rock put down on new roads for logging and what not)so I wasn’t going to ride that. I rode 47 all the way to beaver Creek trailhead ( the county line ended between trail heads and the first time I rode v to h I had to ride about a half mile of pit rock before the old railroad trestle trail head). I had no issues with any drivers while riding on 47 between Buxton and Vernonia. Everyone gave me plenty of room.
        The trail goes right over the Stub Stewart entrance so you can’t miss it.

        1. Thanks for this, Josh! I’m not sure when I might go out there again, but this is good info for that time, or possibly to help others.

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