On Saturday, July 26, 46 SRCC members (including support staff) converged on Ashland, Oregon for the club’s second tour of the summer: the Southern Oregon Tour. We've run approximately this same tour before at approximately ten-year intervals (1996, 2005), and it was as good this time as it had been in those earlier iterations.
It's a relatively long tour at about 570 miles for the week, riding for nine days straight. Several ambitious riders added bonus miles here and there and easily exceeded 600 miles. It was also a bit hot. Five out of the nine days topped 100°. But in spite of the miles and heat, most of the riders felt it was quite manageable, and we usually finished each stage with plenty of daylight to spare and at least a little energy in reserve. No one ended up trashed…at least not in the exhausted sense of "trashed." But two riders visited hospitals for crash-related injuries (painful but not too serious), and a few more were tormented by saddle sores. But most participants got through the long week in good shape, and the general consensus at the end was that this tour was about as close to perfect as a tour could be. In spite of those few hot afternoons, the weather was generally pleasant. The logistics unfolded smoothly, with nary a glitch from start to finish. Best of all, the chemistry of the group was great: no friction, no stress…just cheerful folks enjoying good rides and happy times in the camps along the way.
Stage 1. Ashland to Howard Prairie Lake: 22 miles, 3500' This was our prologue ride, knocked off on the afternoon of our drive day from Santa Rosa. (Our excess car pool fleet was left at the Ashland YMCA for the week.) Not too many miles, but plenty of climbing on one long slog into the Cascades east of town.
Stage 2. Howard Prairie Lake to Crater Lake National Park: 70 miles, 4000' First a rolling, up-and-down run through the mountain forest, with modest climbs and long, fast descents. Then a mildly rolling meander among the wetlands and ranches around the NW corner of sprawling Klamath Lake. Finally, a long but gradual climb into the national park, following pretty Annie Creek up the flanks of the old volcano. A thin scrim of cloud kept the heat down for this marathon climb. Camp in the woods at Mazama Village, below the rim of the famous crater.
Stage 3. Crater Lake to Horseshoe Bend: 66 miles, 2500' up, 7100' down After a long, not-too-hard ascent to the rim of the crater, we arrived at one of the marquee attractions on the tour: the deep blue jewel of Crater Lake. The clouds had blown away overnight, leaving the lake bathed in bright sunshine (which shows off its sapphire blue color to best advantage). Most folks stopped off at the grand old lodge perched on the rim of the caldera and also stopped at vista points along the rim, soaking up the panorama of one of America's most impressive sights. But that was only the beginning on this epic day. After dropping off the rim (hight point of the tour), we schussed downhill for most of 40 miles, heading north and west down the canyon of the Umpqua River, with the endless downhill broken up by visits to pretty waterfalls along the way. Several hardy riders circumnavigated the lake, ending up with a century for the day. We camped in a shady Forest Service camp on the river.
Stage 4. Horseshoe Bend to Camas Valley: 79 miles, 3000' Long, hot, and hilly pretty well sums up this run across the valley and up into the coastal hills west of Roseburg. The stage began with a fast and furious descent along the canyon of the river, but soon settled into a long, mildly downhill cruise, with the beautiful river almost always in view, next to the highway. A pretty side road through farm country delivered us to a rest stop in a shady city park in Roseburg. Four climbs and the descents between them wrapped up the day. The final two climbs were long and hot, making this perhaps the most challenging day of the tour. Overnight: the lawns (and showers) of a small town school.
Stage 5. Camas Valley to Sunset Bay State Park: 75 miles, 2500' Now over the first ridges of the Coast Range, we headed west down the canyon of the Middle Fork Coquille River. We began with another screaming downhill--same as yesterday--that eventually eased off into a mellow glide along the river. After a regroup in the town of Myrtle Point, we explored some tiny roads along the river. Unfortunately, a number of riders went off-course here and logged some bonus miles…a lot of bonus miles in a few cases. (Whether the riders got lost because of operator error or faulty route slips is something we will try to determine with a review of the maps and slips.) Eventually everyone made it to camp and to the wonderful final miles around the Cape Arago peninsula on the rugged coast, complete with beautiful gardens, barking sea lions, and spouting whales. We camped in a gorgeous, private group site on the cliff overlooking a spectacular rocky cove.
Stage 6. Sunset Bay to Powers: 65 miles, 2500' Probably the easiest full stage of the tour, with just a few climbs. The hilly Seven Devils Road to begin, then a cruise through the Bandon Dunes Resort (a lovely new alternative to riding on Hwy 101), and a rest stop in Bandon. Then a run back to and through Myrtle Point and south along the South Fork of the Coquille to a pleasant county park along the banks of an old mill pond. Nice showers and a snazzy kitchen-and-dining gazebo.
Stage 7. Powers to Glendale: 71 miles, 6000' One of the most challenging but also most beautiful days of the tour. Heading south, then east, upstream along the South Fork Coquille through a nearly perfect cycling paradise. A total of five passing cars in the first 50 miles, climbing and descending amidst firs, alders, and endless walls of ferns, with the rocky gorge of the river never far away. After two tough climbs over the Coast Range ridges, the road descended (almost endlessly) into the canyon of Cow Creek and the way out to the small town of Glendale. These last hillsides were burnt out in a forest fire exactly a year ago, so looked a bit bleak…plus, it was hot again (after the cooler days near the coast). So the final miles dragged a bit. But that did little to erase the golden glow of the preceding miles…a stretch that ranks near the top of any list of great rides.
Stage 8. Glendale to Cantrall-Buckley: 83 miles, 3700' The longest stage of the tour, and a hot day to boot. Some thought it was not too hard but others wilted in the afternoon heat. A short climb and another screaming descent to begin, then lumpy, up-and-down miles in wooded creek canyons leading down to Hellgate Canyon on the Rogue River. After several miles along the scenic river, we meandered along a series of quiet lanes skirting the city of Grants Pass, eventually ending up in the pretty Applegate Valley, rolling along near the river of the same name. Camp was a county park along the river, where diving in at the end of the hot day was a popular option.
Stage 9. Cantrall-Buckley to Ashland: 37 miles, 3000' A short ride ahead of our drive back to Santa Rosa. After a few mellow, downhill miles, we had to grapple over the stiff climbs along Sterling Creek Road, then bounce up and down among the wooded foothills west and north of Ashland…all nice miles. The last several miles were along the Bear Creek Greenway, a very nice trail leading right into Ashland. After showers at the YMCA, we piled into our car pool fleet and headed for our various homes around the west.
Thanks to everyone who participated. These are called cooperative tours for a reason: everyone helps…with everything from the prepping of meals to the shifting of luggage to the cleaning of camps, and especially including the prep work before the tour and the clean-up afterward. The positive energy of all the participants turned a good tour into a great tour.