DAY 3, July 11, 2012: Prairie City to Dunstan Homestead Preserve
Preparing for another day of hardship on the Oregon Trail
As we began our climb toward Dixie Pass, two cycle tourists from Ohio caught us and slowed down to talk. They were on their way back to Ohio from the Oregon coast, carrying only what they could fit in tiny frame packs and staying in motels. They had covered 118 miles the previous day. This is much easier when you are in your 20's than in your 60's, we concluded, as off they sped with mutual well wishes.
At the Conestoga Wagon viewpoint, we stopped to look back down on where we had started earlier that morning - Prairie City with the John Day Valley and the Strawberry Mountains in the distance.
Cresting Dixie Pass at 5277 ft elevation, it was a cool 6 miles downhill to Austin Junction.
We had been looking forward to our return to Austin Junction. Eleven years earlier, when we had arrived late, tired, and hungry on our TransAm bike trip to find Austin House closed for remodel, new owner Christy Keffer had opened it just for us to fix us a frozen pizza and hot cocoa. Austin House was again scheduled to be closed on the day we would arrive, but we learned that the Keffers had made an exception to open the cafe for the cycle club. And we were included.
In the last eleven years, the Keffers had transformed Austin House into a bicycle friendly oasis with warm country decor and good food. As I introduced myself to Christy and started to recall the kindness extended to us in 2001, I was overcome with emotional memories from our TransAm journey. Christy had already stumbled upon my online journal from 2001. She recalled many similar stories over the years in which she and her family had extended a service or kindness to cyclists arriving at Austin Junction in need. We were warmed once again by the hospitality. After a hearty second breakfast, we were back in the saddle.
Christy Keffer in front of thevintage 1864bar
Turning at Austin Junction, the route follows County Road 20 and the wild and scenic Middle Fork of the John Day River as it loses elevation over 40 nearly traffic-free miles. A microbrewery or an ice cream parlor would be appreciated here, but there are no services on this section of the route.
Dunstan Homestead Preserve
It was our good fortune to be invited to join our new friends from the Santiam Spokes at theNature Conservancy's Dunstan Homestead Preserve,13 miles from Austin Junction. They had received permission in advance from the Nature Conservancy to spend the night. This old homestead is in a beautiful and convenient location for a cyclist traveling through. The rustic barn has a community kitchen and the grassy grounds can accommodate many tents.
Our tent at the Dunstan Homestead Preserve
Sunset over camp, where coyotes serenaded us through the night.