Mo Bettah

“Perhaps”, thought The Logging Road Cyclist, as he climbed a very tricky 15% slope covered with ball-bearing like 1″ gravel, “things aren’t so bad after all, TLRC-wise”. The climb required a nice judgement of balance, front-to-back, to keep traction on the rear and weight on the front, and a certain amount of torque just to keep things going. He felt strong, and the doing of it wasn’t causing him a lot of thought.

Moreover, earlier in the day he had managed to pack quickly and not forget anything. Further down the road, the weather deteriorated, and it was a lot like the old days: all buttoned up with all his gear on, munching a bar to keep warmer.

He had decided to climb up Bald Mtn from the backside, up the Luckiamute. The routes up Bald Mtn were vague in his mind for some reason. On almost all of his routes, TLRC could pretty much visualize the path, and could likely do fine without a map. Not Bald Mtn though. Funky BLM map in hand off he went to spiral around the peak, spin off to Valsetz and arrow back to the truck.

The first part, up the river to the first view of the summit was easy.

DeSalvo and Upper Luk


Upper Luk north of Bald Mtn

Looking SW across Luk to Bald Mtn

Beyond here, finding the way is a bit tricky, but there are BLM boundary markers and section markers that bolstered TLRC’s shaky memory. There are some great views east across the Valley and a high waterfall below the road that pops out of a culvert. The final part of Bald Mtn Rd. heads about west and is a lot steeper than TLRC recalled. There are good views south and west through here.

Mary’s Peak from Bald Mtn Rd.

Little Grass Man and Green Ridge

View WSW over Valsetz Lake, in the distance

TLRC had intended both to climb the peak, and then circumnavigate it. As to the former, the weather was deteriorating, and, having climbed up there a couple of times already in zero-zero, wet and cold conditions, he gave that a miss. This chink in the armor weakened his resolve and this is where he had the old self doubts. But maybe it was time to have a new, untortured TLRC, one that just had fun? That sounded fine, actually. But in this moment of pondering what to do, he noticed an old idea on the map, a direct route up from the west, certainly not something to be descended today in contravention of The Fundamental Axiom, rather A Project. He liked this. He felt some of his old energy return.

Heading back to the Luckiamute road, he found some some sketchy climbs, and encountered a family out for a day of fun in the clearcuts, wandering around in the rain with their rottweillers, both of whom charged TLRC from about 100 feet out. They seemed friendly enough, but…and they turned out to be. These people weren’t taking any chances: besides the livestock, the cute young Coast Range gal in the group was packing a 9mm (lefty!)

Driving back towards Hoskins, trying to get warm, TLRC noticed his friends The Little Black Pigs who had shamed him into eschewing ham last fall. Once again they came running to greet TLRC just as they had when last they induced so much guilt in him for his eating of pig. There were a lot more of them today. TLRC was glad that he was doing his part to keep them around and thriving.

After the Fall

Little things would slowly go askew.  Ian Drury and the Blockeads

In prelapsarian times, The Logging Road Cyclist had, he felt, some reason to be pleased with himself. He would fling himself into rides that in retrospect seem to have been done by someone else. Fifty miles with 10K of climb, ATCA with no shuttle. Grim winter slogs into the unkown. TLRC’s logistics were tight too. Seldom did he carry too much, never too little. Packing was done nearly without thought and efficiency was the rule. His time was spent planning the next ride, and chomping at the bit to do it. He lived for this stuff. He was squared away. His shit was together.

Last night, preparing for a ride he had done many times before, TLRC found himself overwhelmed by packing. He simply couldn’t face the uncertainty of the morrow’s weather, so he just dumped everything into a duffel. He managed to oil his chain and pump his tires. A nagging uncertainty about navigation entered his mind. He knew he could find his way to the top of the Grant Cr. divide, but what about down to Drift Cr.? What if new clearcuts in the area had rendered things unrecognizable? Should he bring a map? Was that demeaning? He knew that common sense and the peace of mind of The Long Suffering Girlfriend both demanded that she be left a route map. It says so right there in the website. So he did that, but couldn’t bring himself to print off one for himself.

In the morning, over breakfast with TLSG, it came to light the the SPOT, another agreed upon device had been left at home. On the drive to Harlan, TLRC simply did not feel the urge to go out and grind away that he once had. It would have been a nice day to walk Devil Puppy. Did he really need to abandon her to go out and sweat through clearcuts several times seen? Was it the case, horrible to contemplate, that after two years of fitful recovery during which he had dreamed of nothing more than riding these hills again, that TLRC had, not to put to fine a point on it, gone soft?

At the well-known start of the ride, TLRC found himself fidgeting about to no purpose. His old pre-ride excitement felt dim. Flogging himself into action, he glimpsed his frame that was not festooned with water bottles. Cursing, he hoped they had fallen out in the truck rather than been forgotten as it turned out they had been. In cold weather, this wouldn’t have meant much for the ride he was doing, but it was practically hot, and TLRC was overdressed. Damning the possibility of various dehydration-induced drug toxicities, he started anyway.

The last time he was here, the Grant Cr. road was in terrible shape, and TLRC predicted that in a year or two it would be overgrown and impassable. Someone has decided it should be otherwise, however, and the road is now preserved for cyclists (among other non-motorized types) and is in the best shape TLRC has ever seen it.

Upper Grant Cr. Road

Regardless, TLRC felt tired grinding up this initial grade. He had noticed this before in his new life: fatigue while riding that was not reflected in post-ride fatigue. Psychosomatic? Who knew? It oppressed TLRC at any rate. He felt that he might be compromised by lacking the strength to pedal back from anywhere, as he liked to imagine he once could. While he knew that this was likely as illusory as the fatigue itself, it served to occupy his mind less productively that he wished.

Breaching through the forest wall into the clearcuts that straddle the Grant/Savage/Drift Creeks divides, TLRC soaked in the views of snowcapped Mary’s Peak and Table Mtn.

The photos make clear the nature of the wasteland hereabouts.

Past the divide, the road began its plunge to Drift Cr. Indeed there were new clearcuts and this gave TLRC pause. He had noticed in recent years that his memory was failing, sometimes spectacularly, but not in the way he had expected it to. Rather than having memories fade into a gray shroud, or simply disappear, his memories were sharp, sharp as a photograph or a movie and very clear in his mind. They were just wrong. Completely inaccurate. He had learned not to argue with people, and to be philosophical about the whole thing. While perhaps not critical in daily life, the consequences out in the Coast Range were of another order.

TLRC did the best he could with the superfluity of features exposed by the new cuts. There was the branch road coming in from the north that he and D. had ridden once, he thought. There were the big outcrops of Tyee rock along the road, and they had a certain permanence, to be sure. The road also seemed to tuck into a snug little canyon as TLRC recalled. He pushed off.

Soon there was no doubt. He was plunging down a slope steep enough to defeat his brakes on a road covered by ping-pong-ball sized gravel. Was it wise, let alone fun to do this on 35 tires by one’s self? The jury was out. At the bottom of this little nightmare lay the well-recalled Drift Cr., a pretty and welcome sight.

Drift Cr. at Gopher Cr. Rd.

On the final stretch, TLRC humbled himself to beg for water from a VERY nice couple who have an aquaculture installation up Gopher Cr. Rd. This is certainly the most pleasant part of this ride, capped by the beautiful meadows at the 31 Road.

Meadows at Gopher and 31 Roads

So what’s the upshot? Well, a loop leaving from Harlan is about as intensive an immersion into the total Coast Range Experience as there is and this is still a pretty profound way to see it. TLRC finished his ride without undue thirst and headed home. He was happy. He felt like TLRC.