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A Multisport Spin Through the
High Desert
by Richard A. Lovett

Day One
Map: Oregon
On your way from the Portland airport, pick up a bike at Fat Tire Farm ($110 for three days; www.fattirefarm.com). Cross the Cascades on U.S. Highway 26, beneath Mount Hood's 11,239-foot (3,426-meter) crag. Grab an Indian taco (imagine a fry-bread tostada) and a milk shake at the Warm Springs Reservation shopping center, then bridge the Deschutes River in its deep basalt canyon before climbing back to open horizons and views of five 10,000-foot (3,048-meter) volcanoes. Your destination: Smith Rock State Park (www.smithrock.com), a volcanic plug rising from tabletop hay fields just east of the tiny burg of Terrebonne. Famous among climbers, Smith Rock boasts nearly 1,300 routes, from 5.4s to 5.14s. There's bouldering nearby, and the easy hike to Smith Rock's 550-foot (168-meter) spine offers a panorama of the Cascades, as well as of athletes plying their way up the monolith. Sleep under the stars in the Bivouac campground ($4 per person).

Day Two
Gas up in Prineville and drive south on the partially paved Lower Crooked River Byway. Jog west on U.S. 20 to Forest Road 23, the gravel back door to Newberry National Volcanic Monument (www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/index.shtml). Then follow Forest Roads 25, 18, and 21, passing signs for volcanic features including China Hat and Fort Rock, before reaching the 6,800-foot (2,073-meter) pass through the crater rim. Below, twin azure lakes shine against the obsidian setting. There's paved-road biking in the crater, but a better option is to mountain bike 3.5 graveled miles up 7,986-foot (2,434-meter) Paulina Peak (a 1,700-foot/518-meter rise). Then rocket back to your car and pick one of the campgrounds ringing the lakes.

Day Three
Head to U.S. 97 and the Lava River Cave (541-593-2421). Rent a lantern ($3) to explore the mile-long lava tube, which starts out spacious but narrows quickly, pinching cavers into a duckwalk. Brush off and head for the neo-cowboy town of Sisters, where locals raise llamas as well as horses. You'll find art galleries and, on many spring weekends, music or cultural festivals. Drive the 150 miles back to Portland via U.S. 20 to I-5.

Map by Steve Turner

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May 2003

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