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Bend-Hart MT-Alvord-hot springs route

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by ganski, Jun 7, 2021.

  1. ganski

    ganski Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2018
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Oregon
    First I'd like to give credit to Primal Outdoors for posting the GPX link for this route even though we made some changes and additions along the way. Also I'm not much of a photo taker.

    Most of the track out of Bend is a mix of gravel and sandy rocky double track. We decided to depart at 5:30 am due to the high temps that were forecasted for the day. The first section of trail was familiar as we recently rode it last month on the Riley 250 rally. Fredricks Butte road is one of the most rutted roads in Central Oregon due to the fact that a wilderness program for adolescents operates in the area and drives trucks out there daily to resupply the campers. I actually used to work for this program and so returning to this area brought back a lot of memories of when I first moved to Bend for the job. This is why you'll see a group of adolescents hiking with backpacks twice the size of them along the road.

    The first interesting stop along the route was the lost forest research natural area. The lost forest is an ancient stand of ponderosa pine trees in the desert that is isolated from nearest forest by 40 miles.

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    Departing from the Lost Forest, you enter into the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes. If you want to ride into the area you'll need to bring a flag with you. We tried to ride closer to the sand dunes but actually ended up riding further away toward the town of Christmas Valley. There is a store there with gas if you already need to fill up.

    Next we headed out the HWY and went through a fence (with a boot on it) to a road that would lead you to the A6 crash site. My riding partner Tom has already seen it and it is about a 3 mile hike round trip to check it out. I passed on viewing it due to the amount miles still ahead of us to Plush and heat. We turned on a power line that was the least eventful road of the whole ride. This road cuts through Poverty Basin and now I know why it has this name. Toward the end there are nice views of Lake Albert and steep sections to keep you on your toes.

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    Lake Albert

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    We crossed 395 and hopped onto Hogback Rd (fast gravel) all the way into Plush. In Plush we stopped at the Hart Mountain Store where we got gas and burgers. It was nice to sit inside and feel the cool air of the overworked air conditioner that was halfway across the dinning area. Try not to get distracted by the bathroom.The store owner was helpful in providing us with camping suggestion even though he compared the recent frenzy of people coming to the area as locusts. We rode out of town and ascended Hart Mountain where we found available camping at the hot springs campground.


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    Hart Mountain was a lot more prettier and grand than images that I was viewing online before we went there. Note our bikes are tucked behind the bushes because this was in the walk in only camping area since all the pull in spots were taken, but we did "walk" our bikes in technically.

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    The next day we departed from the original track that was created by Primal Outdoors since the road wasn't open yet. Tom created a route that crossed Flook Lake, passed a
    nuclear fallout shelter and reconnected at Shirk Ranch. This route started off fairly rocky but gave to some amazing gravel roads with expansive views.

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    After some lunch and wandering around the Shirk ranch property we headed east to cross the Spaulding wilderness study area. The Spaulding starts out with a short rocky climb and then continues to be rocky for the next couple miles. Standing and clutching through the rock field left my arms sore. It finally eased up and the route returned to smooth roads on this high alpine flat.


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    Note you don't actually ride this road but we missed a turn and I took a photo of Tom riding down it, this what the Spaulding looks like. We climbed up a little more, descending down and crossed a valley where we entered the Rincon wilderness study area. This area had significant rock formations that would have been fun to hike around. Tom and I both agreed that the landscape entering the Rincon reminded us of being in Utah. The climbing through the pass is steep and rocky. On the little WRs it wasn't too much of a challenge but on a bigger bike I could see it being difficult.
    #1
    bomose and liv2day like this.
  2. ganski

    ganski Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2018
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Oregon
    On a side note the timing of this route was perfect for wildflowers blooming. Everywhere we looked there were dashes of blue, yellow and purple scattered across the sage fields. The high desert foliage was peaking green.

    We descended down, found some shade against some rocks in canyon near robbers roost and had lunch. There were a handful of obsidian shards that appeared to be worked by natives along the canyon walls. Pressing on with the heat and wind we continued to Domingo Pass on the north side of the Pueblo Mountains Wilderness Study Area. This pass had the most elevation gain and loss of the day but was also an easy going gravel road.

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    We made our way to Fields Station where you can find gas and milkshakes. Upon arrival we ran into the Giant Loop rally that was riding in the same area. I wanted to do this rally and couldn't get the time off from work until last minute and by then it was sold out. Seeing all the KTMs and BMWs I might have been a little out of place. I ran into a buddy that was doing the rally and was able to get some beta on road I mapped out for the next leg up and over Steens Mountain. The wind was so strong that Tom and I abandoned plans on camping on the Alvord desert. There is camping at Alvord desert hot springs which I was looking forward to after a long day under the sun. We ended up finding some free camping out of the wind and in the shade behind Red Mountain not that far out of Fields.

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    Waking up early was a theme of this trip. Heading back on route the Alvord desert was our next stop. If you wanted to test the top speed of your bike this was the place to do it. Stretching 12 x 7 miles the Alvord is a unique and stunning arena that awes you with its vastness.

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    Continuing on we motored to Stone House Creek Road that climbed up on top of the northern tip of Steens Mountain. This part of the route on was laid out by me looking at maps and aerial photos. There was some speculation if the route went through as we headed out on roads that looked like they haven't been traveled in a couple years. We were brought to a valley with the most impressive views of the whole trip, sorry no photos but also no spoilers. Riding on top of Steens Mountain was refreshing to see the lushness of vegetation and running water. What a stark contrast to the desert of the last couple days.

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    when stopped here we saw a juvenile mountain lion running in the distance

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    Coming off the Steens we were back in farm land civilization in the small community of Diamond. We cross through the Malheur Nation Wildlife Refuge and continued on our way to HWY 395 back to Riley. Some notes about the track after Malheur is that it gets very rarely traveled. At times we were just riding through grass following the track on our GPS with no defined road. The route did go through without difficulty to 395, trust the track! After refueling in Riley we took 20 back to Bend as our time was up. If you have more time you could loop in the northern segment of the Riley 250. This ride was one of the most remote routes I have ever been on with some the least disturbed high desert scenery.

    Attached Files:

    #2
  3. bicycleweed

    bicycleweed Twistin' Throttles to get to Pedalin' Places

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    23
    Location:
    Bellingham, WA
    Cool ride!
    #3
  4. wingam00

    wingam00 Formely AKA Wingam00

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2009
    Oddometer:
    584
    Location:
    SouthWest GA and Western NC
    Thanks for sharing your ride.
    #4
  5. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,837
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Outstanding @ganski! You're riding through my happy place out there man; killer to see a couple WRs doing it right too (at least, I believe they're WRs).

    I need to get out there and ride again. There's even more to explore and enjoy if you head further east from Fields. If you're bored, here's my RR from doing 7 days out there last June.

    Good on ya for getting out there and thanks for posting the pics and story! I look back at my pics from various visits out there, but always enjoy the view from other folks who've taken the time to go out.

    And I had a hard laugh at the locusts comments from the Hart Mountain store owner. Quite a character, he does make a good bacon cheeseburger.

    Enjoyed it man, hope you're able to get back out there and explore some more.
    #5
    ganski likes this.
  6. ganski

    ganski Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2018
    Oddometer:
    39
    Location:
    Oregon
    Thanks @liv2day! I started to read through your RR and yes theres a lot more stuff I want to check out east of fields. It's such a beautiful remote area that is hardly traveled. Yup we were on a couple WRRs, a great bike for the trip especially with the rocky pass around juniper springs.

    I think I would like to plan another route riding on the top of winter rim above summer lake, heading south east and coming up the albert rim into Plush. We were too early to check out barnhardi rd and blue sky rd which both look like options to get to Shirk ranch. Coming up stone house creek rd we dropped into Paddle meadows. This place was gorgeous with all the wildflowers and pronghorn in the distance. We spotted a rd that kept heading south that I would like to explore as well. It looks like it connects to Mann creek ln which I believe might be private property.

    Thanks for the inspiration in your RR.
    #6
    liv2day likes this.
  7. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,837
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    I posted cleaned GPX track somewhere in my report if you're in need of ideas. Nothing that heads down winter rim above Summer Lake in that file, though a fubard ride from '19 did have us head up into the Fremont NF out of Paisley and head south into CA before turning east into NV (where things went sideways).

    Have only approached Shirk Ranch after climbing Fischer Canyon and then traversing by the Hunter's Cabin - that route is in the GPX file from my RR. Don't know the names of the roads you mentioned, but definitely plan to check them out on a map :D
    #7