Joined: Jan 2007
Location: West of Seattle . . .
There are huge areas in Oregon that I’d not seen, apparently choosing to mis-spend my youth figuring out how to get away from the small town where I’d grown up. Today was to get me to more of those places.
Dawn was cold and frosty. Not hard frozen, but frost on some of the grass near my tent.
RockyRoad and I pored over a map, plotting courses and waypoints like Ancient Mariners embarking on voyages to the unknown . . .
Or maybe we just said “Heck I’ve never been to Christmas Valley, let’s ride south . . . “ So that’s what we did. RockyRoad, Easy-Z, S1Marks, and MortimerSickle. Although after the ride down Oregon 27 over miles of gravel, I think S1Marks should change his name to "90ongravel" or something like that . . . .
Out of the trees, into the desert, then back into the trees, and back into the desert . . . this part of central Oregon is absolutely amazing. We turned west on US 20 for a few minutes (and I could catch my breath from trying to keep up with another group of amazing riders. I was later to find out just how good they are).
I hadn’t been able to see the Cascades when I rode to the Crooked River on Thursday, and yesterday we were heading east, away from them and into the Ochoco’s. Cresting a slight rise, there they were in the distance, glorious in their spring snowcaps. From left to right, Mt. Bachelor or ski area fame, Broken Top and the South Sister which SweetBird climbed in her youth, and the Middle and North Sisters, which I’d climbed a couple of centuries ago . . . or so it seems.
A left turn on Moffet Road soon put us on volcanic cinders used for the roadbed. Dark red, the gravel was deep and loose, prompting S1 to keep his speed down to mere double digits—and also a suggestion to air down a tad.
Usually the transition from forest to desert is gradual; Ponderosa pine to jack pine to Juniper to sagebrush. On China Hat Road the transition was like a baseball bat—forest, forest, forest, and WHAM, desert!
Cabin Lake campground at the edge of the forest. (A portion of that mis-spent youth of mine was spent putting myself through college as a logger, mostly east of the Cascades. One of the secrets I learned about Ponderosa is that, if you get very close to the dark fissures in the bark and take a big sniff you’ll be overwhelmed by a pure vanilla odor—as if you’d opened a big bottle of vanilla extract right there on the spot. Another glorious scent of the forests of eastern Oregon).
Immediately after leaving the Cabins we break out into the desert and see Fort Rock in the distance.
Easy-Z stopped for his photo . . .
Fort Rock was our first real stop. I’d camped here in the 70’s when it was un-posted private land. The State now owns it and no camping’s allowed. If it was I’m sure the area would be trashed and that would be a shame.
The Rock itself is volcanic. Apparently, millions of years ago shortly before I was born, hot magma swelled up from the earth’s core, hit ground water, and started to cool even as it oozed out. It built a large cone which was later eroded by an ancient lake right about where our bikes are. Indians lived here for thousands of years and their artifacts, sandals and such preserved by the dry desert air, are still being found.
Settlers and ranchers apparently like it too—well enough to have established a graveyard here in the shadow of the rock. It’s still actively used, but many of the markers harken back to pioneer times.
Some of the newer markers spoke sadly of family tragedies; at least we can imagine so. Note the motorcycle and trophy, and the dates of death . . .
Others show both humor and faith. I suspect that ol’ Leonard was a real hoot in his time.
Lunch was at the Fort Rock Restaurant and Pub. (Anyone wanna buy a restaraunt)? Since there were five of us and the restaurant portion had only booths, we asked to sit in the bar . . . a fitting place I’m sure. Mortimer, Easy, Rocky, and S1, left to right.
We decided to ride to Table Rock. (I think it was a secret plot to expose my motorcycle ineptitude, or something like that . . . ).
So up we go. I had the best (only) map, so I was leading through a nice desert two-track . . . then it got steep . . . then steeper . . . then the switchbacks began . . . everyone stopped to evaluate the next portion . . . and I chickened out. The idea of dropping a 600 pound motorcycle over the side here just wasn’t appealing. The other four, brave and skillful studs that they are, went on and made it. I turned around at a flatter place in the narrow road. Carefully, but without much problem.
The road they did . . .
Some views before I descended.
I wound my way back down one switchback and stopped at a parking area at the first switchback. Beautiful views to the southeast.
Looking back up the road.
Here comes the crew!
Back at the county highway, on flat ground.
Fuel in Christmas Valley, then north on a fast gravel road to see Crack in the Ground. Literally!
Shadows were lengthening, evening was close, so we essentially hauled ass back north along China Hat Road to Highway 20 then north again to camp. Well, “90ongarvel” and some of the others hauled ass; I went pretty fast and spend a lot of time getting more comfortable at a good rate of speed—but still got to camp several minutes behind the gang.
Great day, absolutely lovely country, and the weather couldn’t have been better. And best of all, my fellow riders didn’t even get mad at me for going slow . . . Yea!
End of Saturday; tomorrow’s Easter Sunday.
Old . . . and . . . Slow