Off To See The Wizard

The Logging Road Cyclist was in a somber mood, and dearly needed a good ride to set up his spirits. Saturday was absorbed by attending a memorial service for another passed kayaker. This one, B, hailed from the earliest days of TLRC’s paddling career. Along with his older brother C, B was a fixture in the early ’70’s whitewater scene in the Bay Area, when TLRC barged into it at eighteen years old. B, C and TLRC were about the same age, but the former were both already very accomplished paddlers. They provided inspiration for the flailing TLRC; in return he provided them with much amusement as he variously missed rolls, swam, broke boats, bent paddles, etc etc, the usual antics of a hyper-enthusiastic, under-skilled novice paddler. B went on to Olympic-level flat water racing and a stellar academic career, C to slalom and ever more hair-raising whitewater on much of which TLRC joined him along with fellow teenagers R and Heathcote. While TLRC only knew B during the ’70’s and drifted away later, B  formed a part of the pattern in the fabric of TLRC’s life at an important time: for TLRC whitewater was formative and sustaining for his entire adult life, and B was there at the start of it.

Aging is tough. As Philip Caputo put it in one of his novels, 50 is the age when a man’s friends start to die. At nearly 60, TLRC finds this true, and it is especially unnerving when the friends are younger and arguably as fit or fitter than he. B was 57, still an athlete, a student of heart physiology: he did all the right things. Heathcote, the friend of TLRC’s life, went 5 years ago in his early 50’s from a fast, hot cancer that was never figured out. Thus TLRC, R and C are left, and at the goodbyes to their friends and brothers they find themselves together in the midst of grief, wondering why, sharing the past, sheltering with each other in the now.

Thus the need to get out. Coupled with the flail along the North Siletz before the big snow and rain shut down the backcountry rides for a few weeks, TLRC wanted to actually accomplish something.

Fortunately the steadfast D was available. He too needed to get out. A lobbyist for fish, D had been doing a lot of fish-saving lately, and while much of what D does mystifies TLRC, it is apparently fairly sedentary.  D is a good companion in times like these. He empathizes as much as is needed, but not more, and refuses, in an amazingly diplomatic way, to allow TLRC to wander down into the dark cul-de-sacs of the TLRC mind. In short, he gives TLRC exactly what it is that TLRC needs at these particular times. Plus, D infused the day with an undeniable spiritual energy. While TLRC was down in Eugene grieving, D was up on the Necanium catching his first wild steelhead on spey gear. The fullest meaning of this may escape TLRC and other civilians, but since D carried what looked suspiciously like a halo all day, TLRC figured it was a Siginificant Life Event, as it were. At any rate, it cheered things up.

Check this out:

The red line is the first 13 or so miles of the Luckiamute River, which flows from high up on Bald Mountain, down through Kings Valley and Pedee to the Willamette, 50 or so river miles away. TLRC had first sort of noticed this a few years back, but with all the recent riding activity in the Valsetz Triangle, he went back to his maps to see if it was really true that the Luckiamute actually spiraled down off Bald Mountain like this. It is impossible that this is a unique sort of watershed, but TLRC can’t recall seeing one himself. It brought to mind certain other spirals:

Unique or not, it certainly beckoned, both to D and TLRC, and they were drawn to it, that and the fact that they had both stumbled around on the east side of Bald Mountain a year or so ago and were looking for another opportunity to go back and connect some dots, fill in some blanks.

So Sunday’s project was fixed. From the Hoskins-Valsetz road, up the spiral along the upper Luckiamute, around the east side of Bald to the Summit, back around the west side and then connect north to the Valsetz Road. A swoop down the South Siletz (site of recent spawning studies by D and dedicated Bluebacks) to Valsetz and then back over to the Luckiamute. This ride would allow a lot of connections to be made between the various watersheds recently explored by our team.

The upper Luckiamute is a pretty stream, and maybe kayakable, just.

Luckiamute at the second bridge. Note handmade bicycle in British Racing Green.

Upper Luckiamute

View W down the Luckiamute. Fanno Peak in the distance.

Bald Mtn from the North, looking across the Luckiamute.


Pond at the origin of the spiral.

Once past the headwaters, there are spectacular views from the east around to the west, like this one into the Valsetz Triangle.

Valsetz Triangle from Bald Mtn.

The largest clearcut in the distance on the right side of the photo lies above Valsetz Lake and the exit of the SF Siletz. The indistinct low ridge in front of it is the Siletz-Luckiamute divide. Note the hummocky, dissected terrain that forms the upper part of the Luckiamute watershed. A point of interest: As if the Siletz basin hasn’t been insulted enough already, there are plans afoot to rebuild the Valsetz dam to for water storage purposes. Apparently Polk County intends to sell water to thirsty coastal towns and use some for itself. Avid Siletz steelheaders are not pleased….

Finally, from the summit of Bald Mtn are spectacular views of the Willamette Valley and Cascades that the cheap camera and poor skills of TLRC cannot do justice to:

View E from summit of Bald Mtn.

The route around the west side of Bald is straightforward, as is the connection north to the Valsetz Road, which is a fun slide down to the lake. An easy climb leads back to the start of the ride.

This is a moderate (26 miles, 3600′) ride that takes in a lot of country, has some beautiful stretches of forest (on BLM lands), great views and connects a lot of the watershed topology of the area. Highly recommended. The ride is here: ignore the last few miles with sustained speeds in excess of 20mph. The ever-helpful D loaded up TLRC’s bike before the GPS got turned off.


Big Reorganization!!!!

The Logging Road Cyclist was  initially conceived as a simple catalog of bicycle routes  through the Oregon back-of-beyond. The original structure of the site reflected this: organized geographically, rides were listed by regions set down by TLRC himself. At the time, the notion of a serious blog had not surfaced. As time has passed, however, TLRC finds himself more drawn to the blog format (god help the world, a pontificator with an IP) , wherein the latest adventure is memorialized in a post. More energy is going into blogging at this point than into cataloging, mainly because most of the “established” routes have been cataloged, and also because most recent adventures have not risen to the level of catalogable rides. Not that the rides aren’t interesting…

Of late, TLRC has felt burdened by the old format, that his creativity is being stifled by an outmoded structure, albeit one of his own devising. Thus, he is ushering in the new: henceforth, rides will be blogged about, and in the “Rides” section of the site, still organized geographically, links to the blog entries will be provided. Hopefully this will allow TLRC maximum freedom to pontificate, while retaining a measure of the geo-spatial organization that has undoubtedly proven so useful to the scores of adventure cyclists that TLRC is sure have come to rely on the site as a source for inspiration and guidance.

The Big Reorganization will be an ongoing, organic process. TLRC begs patrons for their patience.


North Fork Siletz

The Logging Road Cyclist was feeling frisky last Saturday, so he took off for somewhere new, namely to attempt Stott Mountain. This was an old idea of D’s, but since he wasn’t around, TLRC decided to go off and have a look for himself.

Stott is high by Coast Range standards at just over 3000 feet. It looms over the NF Siletz across the way from Sugarloaf Mtn. and the chasm between the two peaks is something to behold. Also beholdable, as it were, are the truly massive clear cuts that have been visited on this whole drainage. In spite of that, the NF Siletz is a beautiful stream that hides away in the peaceful remnants of its valley.

Not all is gone. At the head of the North Fork is a little set-aside of old growth, the Valley of the Giants, which the BLM holds as an artifact of what once was the nature of this region.

The road net around Stott seemed, on the maps and Google Earth, to be pretty complex. TLRC’s  plan was to head up the NF and then find his way to the summit by one of a couple of roads that was clearly marked on all his sources. Descent down the south side seemed pretty straightforward, given that there are some pretty distinctive loops and junctions that TLRC thought should be pretty obvious.

Driving in from Hoskins is a long 40 miles, a 20/20 split of pavement and gravel. Crossing over the Luckiamute-Siletz divide, TLRC saw that the high peaks had snow, and heard a huge engine roaring down towards Valsetz, perhaps a big helicopter. Just to be on the safe side, he wasted another 45 minutes going up Gravel Cr. to check that his planned descent road actually existed, and it seemed to. Returning to the base of the NF road, he set off upriver.

TLRC had been here before. Once, with #2 wife, he had run the river in a tandem open boat, and then later with kayaks he returned with his buddy Dan Coyle (maker of fine custom wooden helmets/objets d’art). That trip turned into a minor epic. Dan forgot the front wheel of the shuttle bike, so once the run was done, they walked the shuttle, up to Valley of the Giants. On the way back TLRC’s truck blew a tire on the steepest part of the road, so they changed the tire in the precarious dark (no flashlight). Mobile again, they couldn’t find where they had stashed their boats (no flashlight). Navigating by the sound of side creeks, they found them after what seemed like a long time. They got lost on the snowy road net on their way home, and after another long time of almost complete bewilderment, stumbled into Falls City, a long way from the target, Hoskins, but at least somewhere they could get home from. TLRC bought one of those big cop flashlights the next day, along with a new tire.

The ride up the river is quite pretty, and as it was yet another of the fine, very cold January days, TLRC enjoyed himself.

Ledge, NF Siletz.

Boulder Cr.

After the steep climb above the bridge, one comes to the Valley:

Valley of the Giants kiosk.

Beyond there, it seemed simple enough: follow the road along the river for a couple of miles on the clearly designated road:

Dead End #1.

which actually runs into this bridge not far from VOG. Being loath to cross this decayed log bridge while alone and spend the next hour bushwhacking only to have to cross it again, TLRC opted for the other clearly designated road, which, after a couple of steep and rocky miles ended thusly:

Dead end #2.

If nothing, else, these are prime examples of The Fundamental Axiom: had TLRC foolishly gone up what appeared to be the simple south side roads, hoping to have dropped down these, he would have been in a fine kettle of fish.

On the way back downriver, TLRC stopped to admire and photograph this scene. A new clearcut into the small, dense, second- (third?) growth that predominates here reveals what once was. As if emerging from a receding sea, the forest floor has been exposed, revealing the huge, dispersed stumps of the original forest that, like Valley of the Giants, ruled before man.

Atlantis Rises.