Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Oregon Coastal Mountains

Bear Camp Road

Searching for quiet, beautiful backroads with amazing views, moderate temperatures, and good roads? Look no further than the Oregon Coastal Mountains! Want a side of blackberries and clouds of mosquitoes on the side? Once again, you're in luck!

These roads are some of the least-traveled I've ever found. Save for a few logging trucks rumbling around the hillsides, you can go a whole ride without seeing more than a dozen cars. Advance ride planning is very difficult unless you're willing to travel on many rough gravel roads. While there are great paved routes, every road is so small pavement can be hard to distinguish on satellite images. Fortunately, along with the routes I provide, this blog has a few routes in the area and many more in the greater Oregon/California region. Read on for insight on lodging, climbing, and eating blackberries.
Bear Camp Road 
Climbing: Bear Camp Road receives universally glowing reviews from my polling group (n=3). Whether you want a huge climb (over 4500 ft), wildlife (I saw 2 black bears and 2 falcons), or amazing views, this road has it all. The west side is a fairly continuous climb of 5.3% for 16 miles. The east starts with a challenging section of 6.8 miles at 7% before mellowing for the last 1500ft of climbing. With little shade, try to avoid the steep east side on a hot, sunny day. Doing both sides of the climb in a single day is a massively difficult but enjoyable undertaking. Make sure you have plenty of food and water as none is available anywhere on Bear Camp Road and requires a detour on both ends.

If I only had time for one side, the west has a better climb for pacing, better views, and more shade. But this road is worth taking some time for.
Bear Camp Road

Tour de Fronds
 Lodging and Eating: If visiting in mid-July, stay at the Foster Bar Campground. With plentiful wild blackberries and few fellow campers, this is a place you could spend some time. Stock up on berries every morning, every trip to the bathrooms, every dinner, whenever you're hungry, when you're not hungry but see a nice berry... Delicious, ripe, and one of the highlights of our time in the region. There is also the Cougar Lane Lodge a bit south on Agness Road.

On the eastern side of Bear Camp Road, the Galice Resort has water and ice cream. Stock up on calories if heading back over Bear Camp, you'll need some energy to repeat that climb.

In general, small campgrounds litter the area and all supply water and a place to set up camp.

Ghost Town: From Galice, head north on Galice road and continue onto Lower Graves. Follow the route to the ghost town of Golden. While I haven't had the chance to ride this route myself, the bestrides site regards it highly.
Tour de Fronds
Isolation: The Tour de Fronds is a route I borrowed from Jay Rawlins and it is a beauty! There are a variety of rides in the area all under the Tour de Fronds umbrella but many include gravel. Surprisingly, this route is entirely paved, though road quality varies. Bring water, food, and a flat repair kit - there are no nearby services. Besides a few clear cut slopes, the area is full of dense forest and mossy roads. Make sure you have a good map of the area or a route on your GPS before heading out, this is not a good place to get lost. Warnings aside, these roads are the most isolated riding I've ever found. Forget about staying to the right, the whole road is yours. In areas, ferns cover the ground and a clear river flows alongside the road.

If you miss your qualification for the big race in France, it's Oregon namesake is a ride that will provide ample time for reflection and meditation. Just ride faster than the mosquitoes!

Tour de Fronds

Cougar Reservoir on the Aufderheide Highway
Descending: McKenzie Pass is one of the better descents I've ridden. With a number of switchbacks and swooping curves, it presents a technical challenge.  Add in the lower section where I neared 50 mph and this descent has a little of everything.  Starting at the bottom (on either side: Route 126 or Sisters, OR), enjoy a long climb for around 20 miles. At the top, take in the view atop the strange black tower built of the local Igneous rocks. Peering out across the lava fields, many mountains are visible including the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Washington. Then, head west down the descent to Route 126 and after a few miles of slowly rolling descent, the real fun begins!

Note: This road is about 100 miles north of the rest of these rides and while the roads are still beautiful, expect a lot more traffic.
Switchback on McKenzie Pass

McKenzie Pass Summit

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