Middle Santiam Old Growth Loop

It has been a while since The Logging Road Cyclist did a bold exploratory ride, one of those real gut-busters over roads that he’d never seen. There had always been something within him that made him want to take something as simple and pleasant as a bike ride and turn it into something a little scary if not simply grim. Like a ride such that near the end of it on a very hot summer day there was one last steep part that had to be done before a long, long descent down a road that he was pretty sure went through and he was down to his last half bottle of water and the high calorie food he had been choking down all day to keep his strength up was starting to make him sick and the sun was suddenly glaring so much he could hardly see and he had to keep stopping just to rest a bit to get up those last couple of miles of climb. He was pretty sure the descent would take him back where he needed to go but he was also completely certain that once he had gone down a mile he’d never make it back up if he was wrong and had to retreat. That kind of ride. Oh yes, and it had to be long enough so that the part about not being able to get back up after messing up a descent? That had to be true.

TLRC used to eat that stuff up. Don’t misunderstand this as braggadoci. TLRC considers this a bug, not a feature. It is, according to DJT, what it is. He thought he’d finally gotten over this, but as with so much else in his life, restrictions of age and injury masquerade as common sense: TLRC just can’t roll as he used to and likes to pretend it’s because he has finally matured.

The doing of the 1509/15 loop the other day and the subsequent perusal of the Sweet Home District map got TLRC into the old mood. He found this: a climb up the Soda Fork on the 2041, whence a long descent into the canyon of the Middle Santiam; a hike through primeval old growth to the Middle Fork itself; a fording of the river (with spare shoes carried!); a climb out through a longer stretch of the primeval woods; the long middle ring climb of last week up the 2049; a final climb and long descent of the unknown 2043 back to the start. All the elements in place, and at a mere 30+ miles, perhaps even a senescent TLRC could complete it.

Early morning view down the Soda Fork

TLRC got an early start to avoid the heat, and was riding by 7. He had last gone over the 2041 road about 20 years previously and was glad to see that it wasn’t the lunar waste that he recalled. Maybe these guy are right about “growing forests”?

Like all roads out of the S Santiam, the 2041 is steep and it takes patience and persistence. Eventually one reaches the saddle and can glide down into the M Santiam canyon. There are great views across the way that encompass both the eponymous Wilderness and a high peak.

Mt Jefferson peeks over the Pyramid drainage
Looking across the M Santiam at the Quartzville divide; the bulk of the far slope is in the Middle Santiam Wilderness.
Another view up Pyramid Cr. with Jefferson.

In a little while, the road’s end is reached. TLRC walked most of the trail down past Shedd Shelter to the river. The trees are magnificent. Changing his shoes, he hauled his bike upstream and across, passing though a group of campers spread out along the trail.

Old growth along the Shedd Shelter trail
As above

Across the river, he kept pushing his bike. There are a couple or so miles of trail, and as trail goes, it isn’t too hard, but TLRC was worried about blowing himself out for nothing here, with so much road climbing left. The forest on this side of the river is still heavy, old and impresses itself upon the rider.

About half way up the 2049, TLRC’s water bag sucked dry. He had two bottles left, but cleverly had brought along a Sawyer filter he had rigged to fit inline in the water bag’s hose. The filter was blocked up like a bag of cement left in the damp, so no aqua por TLRC. Fortunately, a courteous man in a new F-150 that TLRC had chatted with a while before passed, and out of the blue offered TLRC a small bottle of water. Perhaps he saw all of TLRC’s gear spread out on the side of the road and intuited his plight. TLRC stuffed it in his pack, just in case.

Now the race was on. It felt like getting on towards 90 degrees, TLRC could really feel the difference between sun and shade along the road. He planned to get to the top of the 2049 and drink one bottle, and nurse the second up to the top of the initial 2043 climb. At the start of the final road he bolted one bottle. Not being able to help himself (and because he needed it) he also choked down half of the second. The climb up to the peak of the last road seemed endless and steep, The sun was suddenly painfully bright and stinging hyper-salt sweat got into his eyes. He stopped to whine for bit. Finally, and much sooner than expected, to downhill run began. Using the Sweet Home district map, with all of its numbered spur roads made navigation feel solid. With all that the 2043 is tough to ride down with long rough spots and very steep curves where road dust drifts 6″ thick. But there was no need for retreat, and TLRC had a half of one of his bottles and that of the Samaritan when he got to the truck.

This is an excellent adventure ride.

Upper Middle Santiam via Roads 2047 and 2049

The Logging Road Cyclist had been lollygagging about out by Valsetz and closer to town for the better part of the summer. Part of this was the result of TLRC’s excessive sense of public responsibility during the pandemic, which had lead him to places close to home (where they had been asked to stay by the authorities), and part of it was because he hadn’t felt up to the more substantial efforts required by some of the more distant and difficult rides. TLRC leaves it to the reader to judge how the reasoning was apportioned…

Like a lot of people, as the crisis dragged on and became more of a lifestyle, TLRC felt OK about wandering further afield. He also felt healthier and able to ride longer. This lead to a prosecution of the S Santiam Wagon Trail via the divide, and the more profound Blue River/1509/15 loop. An hour with the Sweet Home District map later yielded three pretty obvious routes into the region bounded by highways 20 and 22. Two seemed pretty severe, one pretty reasonable, so to the latter TLRC went.

The region is dewatered by 4 main rivers: S Santiam, Middle Santiam, Quartzville Cr. and the N Santiam. All of them contain some sections of prime whitewater. On the east lie the peaks of the Old Cascades; from them towards the west are the ghastly wastes of both private and public timberlands. Here also, in a desperate irony lie the Middle Santiam Wilderness, a profound remnant of pure old growth, and the Wild and Scenic section of Quartzville Cr., a section of river seemingly as pure and beautiful as any TLRC has run, as long as one ignores the savagely cleared-off slopes adjacent its banks.

For his first bicycle trip here, TLRC chose to climb out of the S Santiam canyon (always a lot of work) via the main 2047 road. It’s less than 3 miles and about 1000′ to the divide.

Looking down. Sheep Cr and the 2047 to the S Santiam.

From there, one drops down to the Middle Fork.

Old Cascade Peaks above the Middle Santiam, from 2047.
High on the Middle Santiam, 2047 bridge
High on the Middle Santiam, 2047 bridge. Note the cave.

From the bridge over the Middle Fork, a short steep climb leads to the junction with the 2049, the way back. With a bit more persistence, one could head up the the S Pyramid trail and look at some nice trees.

The 2049 is pretty heavily logged, but the extra length back to the divide means it’s middle-ring all the way, instead of the backtracking grind retreating on 2047 would entail. There are also some fine views of some of the Old Cascades Peaks.

Iron Mtn (right?) and other high peaks above Tombstone Summit, from 2049
Crescent Mtn from 2049
Chimney Rock above clearcuts and some forest, view from 2049

Blue River Loop

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For a long time now, the 1509 road along the S Santiam/Blue River (McKenzie) divide has been one of The Logging Road Cyclist’s favorites. He has done a number of rides described here that incorporate parts of this remarkable road. An obvious route that he has delayed doing until now traverses the 1509 from beginning to end and returns on the 15, the main drag along Blue River.

This is one of the best rides in the TLRC ouvre: easy enough to actually do, yet hard enough to ennoble the rider, passing by pleasant forest and spectacular views to distant peaks and down wild drainages, not to mention passing just beneath the impressive crags of  Wolf Rock.

View down Tibits Cr. early in the ride. 1509 can be seen clinging to the opposite canyon wall.

To start this ride go past Blue River on Hwy 126 to Blue River Reservoir Rd, the start of FS 15. Proceed up past the reservoir and Mona campground to the 1509 junction, where Tidbits Cr. enters Blue R. Gear up and climb for a good long time.

Sisters from 1509 road.

Looking down one of the Southside drainages at Cougar Reservoir.

 

Mt Washington.

Edge of Twin Buttes, near junction with 2044.

When you hit the 2044 road, you have done the serious climbing. Note this junction for possible further use as it heads down to House Rock on the S Santiam and Gordon Lakes. As the 1509 now rolls along the divide, longer views are had.

Iron Mt, Browder Ridge, Mt Jefferson between.

The tippy-top, elevation-wise, is is just past Latiwi peak. Glide down to the 15 junction and then float dreamily down to the pretty Blue River past impressive Wolf Rock. You’ll be happy you did this one.

Stott Mountain

From his early days of exploring around Valsetz, The Logging Road Cyclist has been intrigued by Stott Mountain. The most remote of the local, big (>3000′) peaks, Stott is served by a complex road network which uniquely may allow driving access (sometimes), clearcuts of a magnitude that even TLRC finds disturbing and their concomitant superb views (more below), and even has a USGS professional paper describing the sill upon which the very existence of Stott Mtn relies.

TLRC made a midwinter attempt on Stott many years ago that was thwarted by a poor understanding of the local geography and inadequate maps. Earlier this summer, while hors de combat, bicycle-wise, in an effort to get to know it, TLRC and Devil Puppy tried to walk to the summit via the shortest (steepest) road out of Gravel Cr, which bounds Stott to the south. They almost made it, but pulled the plug four miles up to avoid a longer slog, the better to keep both of them injury free. This was a valuable source of information, however, for it prompted Gnat to ride out there, knowing the way off to the south was not a dead-end. He summited, and in a bout of obsession that made TLRC proud spent the next four weekends out there filling in the roads, leading to a well-known Stott and some good rides. This is a spectacular area, with tremendous relief by local standards. Stott and Sugarloaf face each other across the NF Siletz, and each rises 2600′ above the confluence of that stream with the South Fork.

There are three roads up from Gravel Cr., (from east to west) up Stub Cr., NF Gravel Cr. and the third one which TLRC and DP walked up. Gnat also explored the easiest way up (shown here in TLRC’s loop) which climbs up from near the Valley of the Giants.

The picture below was taken from a previous TLRC ride up Stub Cr., and shows the steep upper portion of the mountain along with typical clearcuts. The road diagonalling through the clearcut is steeper than it looks and is the key to getting to the top from both Stub and VOG.

Upper west side of Stott from south, Stub Cr. Rd.

Art Loggeaux on the diagonal, Stott Southside.

Near the top, the views begin in earnest.

Big Tip

But more of the modern practice of logging thin little trees becomes apparent.

Harvesting pencils below the summit.

Very close to the summit, the ever-vigilant geo-TLRC literally stumbled on this outcrop.

The fascinating outcrop near the summit.

He found this on his first Stub Cr ride and became obsessed enough that the next weekend he returned and did his VOG loop with a geology hammer and hand lens. He thought initially that this might be an example of Yamhill sediment fragments being torn off and incorporated into the intrusive magma that forms the sill: an example of stoping (mostly because he wanted it to be this). Hammer and lens forced him to drop this hypothesis and left him with rarer speculations…

The Stott frenzy that gripped Gnat and TLRC lead to some profound geographical revelations. Excluding Marys Peak (4097′), all the highest peaks (twelve, +/-) in the Central Coast Range are between 3000′ and 3500′ in elevation. Five (Laurel, Riley, Fanno, Sugarloaf, Condenser) lie in what TLRC refers to as the Laurel Mountain Massif (why he does).  Bald Mtn and Stott lie adjacent. From the summit of Stott Mtn, five (including Stott) are visible, as is (to TLRC’s surprise) McCulloch Peak.

View E from summit.

The reverse view is even more productive:

View to Stott, etc. from near McCulloch, looking down Woods Cr. to Kings Valley.

 

A word on recent logging practices. TLRC strives to maintain an apolitical site here, but he has noticed an uptick in Coast Range logging activity over the last five or so years. Clearcuts seem bigger, more numerous and to be in smaller and smaller trees. Moreover, some companies are getting much more aggressive about keeping everyone off of their land and roads, even if those roads are the only access to Federal (i.e. our) land. He is scientist enough to know that this is just an impression, no matter how clear it is to him, or how disturbing he finds it. This recent story confirms his suspicions.