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.

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