Two losers loop Eastern Oregon
Howdy all. It's the dead of winter and luckily I'd been too busy to post this until now.
My loser buddy Remarksman and I decided we needed to go on another trip. A shorter version of last years TAT trip but hopefully no less lame nor amateurish.
Originally we were planning on spending a week riding single track near Green River but we'd not really ridden much that year and thanks to Trailtech my bikes charging system reliability was somewhat in question, so we decided to stay closer to home and go explore SE Oregon. Losers!
We'd done a weekend trip once before a few years ago, just down to Paisley. So a plan was hatched, Bend to Paisley (day 1), Paisley to Fields (day 2), explore around Fields maybe head down to McDermott NV (day 3), head upto Frenchglen (day 4), err, yeah this is getting way too complex.
Brian (remarksman) isn't much of a camper, so we were to be in hotels but Fields Station was only available the first night, so the plan quickly became Bend to Paisley (day 1), Paisley to Fields (day 2), Fields to Frenchglen (day 3), explore around Frenchglen (day 4), Frenchglen to Burns (day 5), after this unknown.
The first order of business was to find somewhere we could leave our truck. Riding from Portland would be far too hard core, plus Brian lives near the coast. Brad21 was the obvious choice, we've staged out of his place in Bend before, but it turns out he's fled the state :eek1 Ok, Taco250 was another previous victim, what, he's left the state too. It must be Obama! Brad takes pity on us and hooks us up with Hanksmybuddy, plus he personally vouches for us. The fool!
Park (Hanksmybuddy) was gracious enough to offer to let us stay at his place in addition to letting us leave the truck, we got to his place Sunday night and had a nice time drinking a few brews and chatting. Fun, always nice to meet interesting new inmates.
My 07 450 before leaving, Brian would be riding his trusty DRZ400, so the same as the TAT trip:
Woke up fairly early Sunday morning. We're sleepy and when Brad vouched for us, he must have forgotten to append "for liberals" after "they're ok" so Park was unaware that we'd prefer a nice dose of DVR'd Daily Show with our coffee rather than Fox News.
Park recommended Palmer's Cafe in Bend for breakfast. We head out with Park assuring us that he's going to go get some Romney stickers to put on Brian's truck while we're gone :thumb We gas up and hit Palmer's for breakfast (good stuff) and soon we're on Ford Road (jeep trail) heading South towards Fort Rock.
Shortly after I found gas leaking out of the cap, turns out I'd lost the Acerbis gasket when I was filling up with gas in Bend, I dug out the receipt and gave them a call, they had it and would keep it until we got back. Funny thing was that the exact same thing happened to Brian the last time we took this route and he'd sourced a replacement gasket in Christmas Valley, so plan was to try that.
This time we stopped at Crack In The Ground, walked the 200 yards to take a look:
Uneventful ride down to Christmas Valley where I pick up a gasket that will work at the same tractor supply store as last time.
Restaurant we stopped at last time is closed (maybe for good?) plus we're not hungry so we fill up with gas and head South towards Fandango.
There are two Fandago tracks, the easy one with the cattle guard and the harder one. We of course take the rockier one. Both Brian and I noticed we've got a lot faster since the last time we did it. I really LOVE this trail, incredible fun, superb scenery.
Just after the right turn from easy Fandango to hard(er) Fandango:
Brian in the distance:
Middle section loses the rocks and picks up some easy sand:
We arrive at Paisley pretty early, around 4.30. Check in at the Sage Rooms, grab a beer. Later we stop for dinner at the Pioneer Saloon (Homestead restaurant is closed on Mondays). Turned out to be a good decision, new owners had just taken over, place was packed, great pizza and they even had one of those liberal-lovers IPAs on tap:
Tomorrow the plan is to get to Fields in the SE corner of the state via Hart Mountain hot springs, stay tuned.
Oh and the above was Monday October 1st.
Nice to see the "losers" on the road again! Looking forward to the rest of the story.
We had breakfast in Paisley, at the Homestead Cafe and then we were on our way to Fields. Plan was for all-dirt.
Just North of Paisley we turned East onto the dirt, running past the airport on Red House Road. Nice day, fast road.
After this we're on Fandango for a while before turning South onto some sandy 2-track. I don't have any pics of this section, maybe Brian does. I recall he was kicking up a ton of dust.
Then we rejoin county 2-06 which is a major gravel superhighway. Good views of Lake Abert to the South:
At this point we cross over US395 and start climbing up a powerline trail:
Views of Lake Abert again, this time looking SE
Turns into a cool track which eventually dissapears, we can see a road about 1/3 mile away so a little bit of cross country:
Then we're on a long straight powerline trail. Rocky but fast. Same trail Wachs and Brad21 rode here, but in the spring, amazing what a little spring color gets you:
Ran into a rancher herding cattle. Stopped and talked for a bit, lots of cows so we probably stopped for 5 minutes to let him herd them past the next fence:
allowing us to detour around them through the rocks:
After this the trail drops briefly down into a valley where we ran into more cows, went down slowly between them. Ranchers had trucks at the bottom loading up the cattle, i guess to take them to lower ground for the winter:
After this we climbed out of the valley and the powerline trail improves and then you start switchbacking upto the microwave tower:
Brian and the mighty Katoom at the top:
We stopped for a bit, took in the views then it was a long stretch of twisty 2-track, again which I don't have any photos of :cry. I remember finding it hard to get any kind of rhythm on this section. Maybe Brian has a photo he can post.
Eventually we join Hogback road and take it down to Plush:
We have lunch at the Plush General Store. Fox is blaring from the TV and everything is fried but it's a nice place to sit down and relax. We fill up with gas after sitting for a long time. I thought I had a pic of the Store too, but can't find that either. Loser!
Plan is to head up to Hard Mountain Hot springs, soak a bit, then push on to Fields. Ominously it's close to 2pm when we leave.
Approaching the hot spring:
Brian taking a soak:
Ok. So at this point it's kind of late. Probably 3.15pm when we leave. EXIF data of the soaking pics says 2.45pm. No problem, we'll just scooch right over to Fields, ok, so the lines on the map are so fine I need to squint to see them, but I'm sure it'll all be fine ....
We're on pretty easy 2-track as we head out:
Soon we come to where I think we need to start heading East on the GPS, there is a locked gate, it says it's seasonally closed Dec-June. Well, it's after that so I guess they just forgot to unlock it :D It's signed as heading towards Black Canyon:
Things quickly get rockier but we're still able to keep up a decent 3rd gear pace:
More disturbingly this dude keeps appearing over my shoulder:
Soon after we're on a less rocky section of sandy track approacing Beatty Butte Rd (which is the major upside down U road that runs through the area) when we see two bikes approaching.
We stop and chat. They've come from where we're planning on going, Fields via Domingo Pass. They tell us it's 70 miles, they've come from there and are heading to the hot springs to camp. We head off also. It turns out later that this was n2moto and his buddy out on a week+ trip. Interesting fact this; the hot springs is far closer to our present position than Fields is. I guess Park, Wachs and those guys got together back in Bend while we were still out riding and n2moto regailed them with the story of two losers they ran into who were planning on trying to ride to Fields via Domingo Pass with less than 2 hours daylight left :clap
Fortunately the 70 mile bit had tripped a switch in my brain. That reptilian, Danger Will Robinson switch. This combined with the fact that we had no real idea on how to get to Domingo Pass since the map was a mess of tiny lines led me to recalculate. Brian and I came up with a new plan to head straight East on Old Military Road, then South on Valley where we should be able to connect with OR202 where it makes the sharp 90 degree bend by Lone Hollow. Done deal, couldn't be simpler :thumb
We get to Beatty Butte Rd pretty quickly and then head North. We actually need to take a cut off heading East but that turns out to be slow going, so we go back to Beatty Butte and take the tip loop. It's longer but way faster.
Finally we join Old Military again where we need to make a left. Looks fairly decent:
but quickly the trail fades away, we keep going and still manage to keep up decent 40+ mph pace:
We drop down off Old Military and reach Valley and the first gate, no problem we're old hats at this drill:
At this point we're riding on the Catlow Valley, fast riding:
Cool pic of Brian with the sun setting behind:
We're tend to alternate opening/closing the gates to make better time, so Brian's behind now:
And then we run into another fence, this one a little more problematic:
We sit there for a while pondering, maybe drag the bikes under, looks too hard. In the end we can see another road paralleling this to the East so we decide to ride cross country and pick that up.
That turns out to be a pretty fast road. About 20 minutes of riding at I reach OR202, Brian pulling in:
Only one problem, big ass locked metal gate. We ponder for a while, seems pretty obvious we're inside private land but we never saw a sign. I spend some time looking at the gate, the fence and decide the easiest solution is going to be to remove the bolts holding the gate hinges to the posts. Just as I'm about to do this, two pickup trucks pass us on OR202 and perform a rapid u-turn.
Pretty soon they're on the other side of the gate, one of the guys is wearing a cammo wife beater and is covered with blood, like dip your entire arms into a vat of blood covered. I'm thinking Deliverance but it soon turns out these guys are the ranch supervisor and workers out hunting. They ask us a bunch of questions about what we're doing and convinced we're not hunting on the dirt bikes (quite with what I don't know) they decide they'll open the gate, if they have the key. Please have the key I'm asking myself. They do and they let us out. Turns out we've been on private land since we dropped down off Old Military, just no signage.
We ride the 20 odd miles to Fields on pavement.
This was the route, red arrow was where we skipped the fence just after the hot springs, blue where we ran into n2moto, green is Domingo Pass, where we were originally planning on heading, purple our escape route and orange where we actually reached OR202. I think it was about 7.00pm when we got to the highway.
I did have one genius moment, knowing that the cafe at Fields closes at 4pm I had them leave us some food in the room. When we got there the owner was stocking the ice box and let us inside to get some beers.
Fun day riding.
Tomorrow the plan is to head North and goof off on the Alvord, then loop back through Fields, head over Domingo Pass, then North upto FrenchGlen.
Forgot to add the GPS route for second day, 181 miles:
Can't wait to see the rest!
Ha, wife beaters covered in blood. Man I love south eastern oregon
Locked gates sure suck. :bluduh Where was that first locked gate on your Benchmark Map? I figured that would be an open route from the west side of Long Hollow heading NW past Coyote Gap and then west over to Beatys Butte. Guess not!
Looking good so far. Thanks for sharing! :clap
The entire Eastern valley section is private land (Funnel Canyon and OR202 being the Eastern edge). We talked to the owner at Fields Station about it the following morning, it used to be public land but was traded for (I think a smaller amount of) private land on Steins Mt to create a contiguous portion of land for the Steins Mt Wilderness. Did I mention I'm a liberal wilderness lover :lol3. I forget the name of the ranch that contains the land now, Brian (remarksman) may know. The guy at Fields Station wasn't too happy about it, I got the impression it creates a real access headache for locals.
The only other exits that could have worked for us would have been to the North (we went that way the following day) or to have gone all the way South on Beatty Butte Rd and then either loop back North on Funnel Canyon (fastest if your heading to Fields) or East to Domingo Pass.
The locked gate was after we had turned South (off Old Military) onto Valley, near the purple arrow by Coyote Gap. I should have taken a waypoint but I didn't. As I said, that entire valley floor is private land. There was a gate at the end of Old Military, I think that is probably the end of public land but it's not marked. The ranch people said people keep taking their signs but it's equally possible they just don't bother marking it.
The North route we took the following day was the junction on the map right at the tip of Beatty Butte (just above Rattlesnake Butte). We eventually ran into private land that way also (just south of the main east-west Rock Creek Rd). We just closed our eyes and rode through, it wasn't far, but it was clearly posted, first sign we'd seen. The route we wanted to go which we thought would avoid private land just faded to nothing/sagebrush.
It's possible there is a way out also on the other North routes (to the East), i.e if we'd turned North at the end of Old Military rather than going South, but that wasn't convenient for us that night, though it might have worked for the following day.
We bought the hunting map at Fields. I guess BLM sells a similar map which shows the land allocation quadrangles. It's pretty much essential out there as the Benchmark doesn't delineate public/private land, maybe it used to do, but it doesn't now. This map showed pretty much the entire Valley as being private and it's a miss-mash to the North, especially closer to Rock Creek Rd.
Hope this helps!
I camped there once in about 1970 in the early spring with snow on the ground. It was amazing laying in that pool with my head resting on the snowbank and seeing the Milky Way about as bright as you ever see it in the conterminous USA. Woke up in the early morning with a herd of antelope standing about 10 meters from my sleeping bag.
I camped there once again about 20 years later (on an R100GS) and was disappointed to see that they'd paved the big springs and put up walls.
BTW -- you misspelled "Hosers", it doesn't start with an "L"... :1drink
Thanks for the ride report and great pics. I was thinking of doing a similar route the upcoming year. I'm also in PDX and was thinking of riding from here to Eastern OR., but it looks like trailering the bikes over worked out well. I've ridden a lot in the Steens Mtn/Fields/Denino Junction areas but this route looks like a good one.
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