August 16, 2016
Photos and words by Leslie Kehmeier
They've been nicknamed the New Oregon Pioneers. For 16 out of 17 days they rode mountain bikes from California to the Columbia River covering over 683 miles and 112,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. They were the first people to complete the Oregon Timber Trail from start to finish.
When Kim McCormack and Sam Clark rolled their wheels into the refreshingly cold waters of the Columbia River, they had set the stage for the “OTT”, an iconic route that will be launched in January of 2017. Worthy of adding to any mountain biker's bucket list, this inspirational route covered a variety of climates, communities, ecosystems, roads, jaw-dropping landscapes. In the future, enthusiastic mountain bikers will enjoy their own Oregon Timber Trail adventures. Some will tackle the route in segments while others might ride it in its entirety and follow in the wheel tracks of Sam and Kim.
As an intrepid adventurer myself, I had the opportunity (and was honored) to become part of Kim and Sam’s journey. In the process, I witnessed the trip from two perspectives. For part of each day, I rode alongside the duo, seeing the route from the seat of a mountain bike. When I wasn’t pedaling, I was helping Kim’s husband Ben provide support. Although the three of them made it look easy, I came to understand that there were months of planning and preparation ahead of executing this extraordinary effort.
Despite taking on such a big, hairy, audacious goal, we all fell into the groove of living in the present and meeting each day with light hearts and a smile together. We filled our packs with food and water, reviewed the check points for the route and made our way north. Each day had its memorable moments and we hardly ever mentioned the end goal of reaching the Columbia.
On the final day, as we pedaled into civilization through downtown Hood River, I felt the emotion well up for Kim and Sam. I had followed these two people who set out on a quest and were about to achieve something bigger than themselves. It was finally ok to think about the finish, since it was just a few blocks away. The memories of the entire trip stacked up and I felt very proud to have been a part of the trip.
I look forward to telling the story of the first pass on Oregon Timber Trail to anyone interested in listening. These two ladies, the New Oregon Pioneers, are two pretty incredible people.
Photographer and writer Leslie Kehmeier followed Kim and Sam on their adventure across Oregon in July of 2016.
This story was originally published on Club Ride.