Starting on Wednesday morning August 16, 2000 Tom Myers and Zander Nosler, (both from Seattle WA) rode the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route. The route took five nights and turned out to be 950+ miles.
For an overview of the ride please see our BLOG
Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route (OBDR) 2000
Photo 1 of 41Day 1 Map Day 1, 140 miles We started the OBDR on Wednesday August 16 at 10:30AM at the Cave Lake Campground (see California connection). Cave Lake is in heavy steep forest, but after a few miles the road opens up winding along grassy meadows. The route eventually runs you thru a rock quarry near Lakeview where you get on pavement for awhile. Don't fret - there's not much pavement on this route. We missed a section near Coffeepot creek, where the turn had not yet been signed. Sadly we didn't have the GPS coords for this important left turn (important because it goes from gravel onto dirt). Oh well. (The turn was at 42deg32.908' 120deg39.331'). We went into Paisley for lunch and gas, downing large burgers and listening to the locals yuk it up at the "Homestead Cafe". First gas was at 113 miles from Cave Lake. The XR400 took 2.7 gal (for 113 mi), and the KTM 640 took 2.7 gal also (for 154 mi)! So the 640 gets significantly better mileage than the 400. Go figure. While in Paisley the local "trails coordinator" saw us at the cafe and somehow knew what we were up to. He walked over and asked how we were enjoying the OBDR! We told him about the missed turn and he explained that there was a question with the landowner (a timber company) for that section, thus it was still unsigned, but resolved thus open. After that, we never met another person following the route, or who even knew it existed. At this point (one year since the grand opening) we can assure you that the route is not "overcrowded". We left Paisley and climbed Slide mountain. On the way up Tom got a pinch flat jumping the little waterbars. Always a thrillseeker, he applied a 12 year-old patch (for sport). We continued on to overlook Summer Lake at the top, then dropping down to the Sycan river, camping a mile east of Boulder creek (on the Sycan river). Factoids: - there is an internet cafe in Lakeview. - the gas station in Paisley is closed on Sunday. - the gas station in Paisley has a mechanic and premium unleaded.
Day 1 Map
Day 1, 140 miles We started the OBDR on Wednesday August 16 at 10:30AM at the Cave Lake Campground (see California connection). Cave Lake is in heavy steep forest, but after a few miles the road opens up winding along grassy meadows. The route eventually runs you thru a rock quarry near Lakeview where you get on pavement for awhile. Don\'t fret - there\'s not much pavement on this route. We missed a section near Coffeepot creek, where the turn had not yet been signed. Sadly we didn\'t have the GPS coords for this important left turn (important because it goes from gravel onto dirt). Oh well. (The turn was at 42deg32.908\' 120deg39.331\'). We went into Paisley for lunch and gas, downing large burgers and listening to the locals yuk it up at the \"Homestead Cafe\". First gas was at 113 miles from Cave Lake. The XR400 took 2.7 gal (for 113 mi), and the KTM 640 took 2.7 gal also (for 154 mi)! So the 640 gets significantly better mileage than the 400. Go figure. While in Paisley the local \"trails coordinator\" saw us at the cafe and somehow knew what we were up to. He walked over and asked how we were enjoying the OBDR! We told him about the missed turn and he explained that there was a question with the landowner (a timber company) for that section, thus it was still unsigned, but resolved thus open. After that, we never met another person following the route, or who even knew it existed. At this point (one year since the grand opening) we can assure you that the route is not \"overcrowded\". We left Paisley and climbed Slide mountain. On the way up Tom got a pinch flat jumping the little waterbars. Always a thrillseeker, he applied a 12 year-old patch (for sport). We continued on to overlook Summer Lake at the top, then dropping down to the Sycan river, camping a mile east of Boulder creek (on the Sycan river). Factoids: - there is an internet cafe in Lakeview. - the gas station in Paisley is closed on Sunday. - the gas station in Paisley has a mechanic and premium unleaded.
Cave Lake Campground
We started at Cave Lake Campground in CA. N41deg 58.689\', W120deg 12.348\'
Tom & Chloe
It was great being on the bike for six days but this little girl made me homesick!
We knew we were gonna like the OBDR right from the start!
Beautiful scenery in the California connection. Zander ascends on a grassy road below.
Tom hasn\'t had a flat in two years. He bragged about it. Revenge came swiftly.
The view from the top of Slide Mountain, Summer Lake in the bright background.
Doubletracks cross a lush meadow towards the end of a great day.
We find a spot on the Sycan river.
It\'s clean, mowed by cows, covered with soft moss, and surrounded on three sides by running water. Zander gives approval to start unloading the bikes. We sit on the grass next to the campfire watching meteors. The CycoActive phone must\'ve rang today (but a man\'s got to assert his priorities..........).
Day 2 AM
(morning of day 2) Tom displays a coffee lump. Each day\'s pre-measured coffee is rubberbanded in a pleated filter. Use the rubber band to hold the filter around the cup and pour water into it. There\'s a trick to it. You must slip a twig under the paper to let the air escape.
Day 2 Maps
Day 2; 212 miles (352) We left our idyllic campsite on the Sycan river, heading north along the high Winter ridge, eventually dropping down into Chrismas valley for lunch. We ate a couple more monstrous burgers at the Trail Cafe, gassed up (107 mi) and crossed the desert valley. There is some sand in this valley, but it\'s heavy sand, which gives you time to prepare for the light sand and minor sand ruts ahead. Tom had fun on the \"light\" bike. Zander had a workout on the heavy bike. Lots of intersections in this section, but it\'s very well-signed (ooops 7/23/01 update: signs removed, rely on GPS!!). Sand finally gave way to rocks on the Wagontire road. Cecil Lake and Nordell lake were dry and beautiful in their own way. Amazingly there were no tiretracks on them, no donuts, no evidence of \"mudding\". Thankfully the intrepid travellers (who are dedicated enough to find the OBDR) know how to \"Tread Lightly\" on public land. Of course this is subject to interpretation, but making tire tracks on meadows and scarring vistas is rarely an acceptable way to use shared public lands. (....off soapbox for the moment) These rocky roads were rocky! Luckily for Z (who was quite fatigued by the sand) the rocks were mostly fixed into the ground and not a bunch of roll-ey babyheads. Zander was not sorry when we popped out on a standard wide gravel boring old forest road. We blasted for Delintment lake to camp. We jumped in the lake after dark, finding the lake water warmer than the outside air. It was great to rinse out the bellybutton lint after two days on the trail. Delintment lake is a large developed campground with pavement and pull-thrus etc, not really what we had expected so far out in the boonies. Delintment Lake is 132 mi from Christmas Valley. For the backcontry traveler I recommend Buck Spring Campgound over the crowds, crackling crushed rock, and growling diesels at Delintment Lake. Buck springs is a tiny camp with tables and crappers and tall green grass (photo). N43 47.305\' W119 42.561\'. Also, it\'s a long way to Seneca, so at the Hwy 20 crossing, go east 9 mi to Riley (at junction hwy 395) to gas up. This is an important fuel detail if your range is less than 200 miles. If you\'re tired, you can take the road north out of Riley to meet up again with the route. This other road starts paved, is mostly wide and smooth gravel for the RVs enroute to Delintment lake (in direct contrast to the main route, which is narrow, rocky and beautiful).
Loaded XR on Winter ridge. Summer lake is to the left (not visible).
Zander looks south, the KTM Adventure looks north. The high point on the horizon is Slide Mountain.
Barbed wire gates! We must have opened 30 or 40 gates. One was opened with my front wheel (it was in a shadow, and no ribbons, almost invisible). That was scary, but I had hauled it down to maybe 15 mph and luckily the wire broke as I crashed through. Notice the OBDR signpost near the gate. These signs were great, but some were run over, shot up, or just nonexistent. As you can see the route is signed in both directions. Guess who opened/closed all the gates? Zander\'s KTM Adventure had only a centerstand, and the OBDR has very little asphalt. It was a constant, recurring adventure to find level, firm ground to park it. Z got tired of me doing all the gate duties but I couldn\'t see wasting so much time \"parking\" a dirtbike on a roadie stand. For a country so mountainous as Austria, someone please tell me why KTM makes an offroad bike with no sidestand, not even optional (not a workable option anyway....).
We dropped down into Christmas Valley for some different terrain. Zander gets to learn sand!
Out of the valley into the high desert. Heading North after Christmas valley.
Tom zooms by on a sandy desert road.
Flat number two. One for each year of cockiness. The 12 year-old patch did not hold despite Tom\'s practiced application (ie: thrillseeker). Tom makes use of the KTM centerstand. Notice the front wheel of the KTM is supporting the footpeg of the XR, propping the rear tire off the ground. We installed a 3.00X21\" tube and continued onward.
Another \"GPS\" moment. The route gets sketchy at times, adding to the adventure - it\'s EXACTLY what we wanted! The sagebrush will wear all the paint off anything sticking out to the sides....
Coming out of Cecil Lake (dry lake). Zander climbs a rocky hill towards the end of the day. This section might be tough on a heavy bike such as a twin......
Cecil lake (dry) to the right. This section is a few miles north of Hwy 20 crossing.
A nicely sculpted dust cloud. Normally the photos on this site are in order of travel, but the photo ABOVE (KTM on the rocky climb) is actually about 500 yds ahead of this photo.
Day 3 Map
Day 3; 184 miles (546) Leaving Delintment lake 132 miles into a gas tank should concern a normal man..... But having the KTM supertanker along; I figured we could do a little gas transfer if necessary. The KTM carries 7.5 gallons, but only 7 are usable, which meant that if we both ran out of gas, the final half gallon was going into my tank. With an IMS 4 gal tank on the XR, Tom went onto reserve at 171 mi, then ran the left side out at 181 mi. The extremely low position of the petcock on the IMS tank allows only 1 quart \"per side\" which provides about 10 miles, then you have to lay it over to get the other quart. We transferred gas from the tanker and I ran out again at 211 mi. We transferred again and jumped on the pavement for Canyon City. During this last 17 miles, the KTM ran so low that Zander had to pressurize the tank while riding with the vent tube in his mouth. At the Canyon City Texaco (241 miles from Christmas Valley) the XR took 4.179 gallons (in a 4.0 gal tank) and Zander took 6.985 gallons. Either we were \'on fumes\' or the Canyon City Texaco \"has its finger on the scale\"..... In any case, plan your fuel for this section as you have to make it to Seneca (yes, there\'s gas in Seneca!). We ate lunch in John Day, and also bought a rear tube (100/110X19\") at the local Les Schwab tire dealer (!!!) We left John Day and blasted along the fabulous Sugarloaf Ridge road, intending to camp at the Malheur Ford. As we got closer, we noticed the OBDR route arrows pointing away from the ford sending us north on big, wide two-digit forest service roads. Tom smelled a rat and we vetoed the OBDR arrows. We figured either the ford was too deep, or maybe there was some sort of faux-environmental bullying where the route planners had to avoid the ford. In any case, we needed baths, so we headed for the Malheur, following the GPS to the ford. During this time Tom\'s GPS started to crap out, shutting off. This was not good, as the GPS had already proven to be essential to \"making the route\". Arriving at Malheur ford, we found the river was low, and would be easy to cross. Malheur ford is a great place to camp, with a picnic table and a crapper too! We had baths and a large burrito dinner. Tom removed the 3.00X21\" tube and replaced it with the 19\". Seneca Factoids: # the gas station/general store is open 9A-6P except 9A-2P on Sunday and 12N-6P Monday. # at the tavern you can get hamburgers cooked in a toaster oven. # Seneca has an ice cream saloon. # That\'s about it for Seneca but it\'s a friendly town, You can camp free right in town at the city park!
We located a 19\" rear tube in John Day at an automotive tire store. Off comes the rear wheel (18\") for the third time to install a \"proper\" tube and return the spare to the front fenderbag.
Day 4 Map
Day 4; 198 miles (744) Day 4 started with mechanicals; bolting on the rear wheel, then investigation as to why the GPS was failing. We found the problem quickly (described below for the gadget-oriented and trail-McGuyvers). We crossed the Malheur river and were instantly rewarded for following the original OBD Route! There\'s a little spur that takes you up onto a rocky bluff that\'s like riding on a moonscape, near the Monument Rock Wilderness. The track is difficult to follow because of sparse usage. Hopefully OBDR users will locate and preserve one main track and not mar the stunning lunar landscape across this ridge. GPS is essential for locating this part of the route. GPS can further protect the landscape because there\'s less messing around (provided your data is good, and you are paying attention......) Once again the ethic of following the existing track and not making new ones is important! This might be difficult when the OBDR is so new (11 months old at this time). We ate lunch in Unity and gassed up again (138 miles) and rode to Granite, where we bought more gas (83 miles) and dinner. We left granite at 5:00PM and arrived at our camp at Oriental Creek on the N. Fork John Day River at 7:00PM (52 miles). There was a sign on NFD5506 claiming road closure due to washout, but it was so vague, we went anyway, and the washout turned out to be just a trickle. There is lots of primitive camping along FR5506.
Tire iron or soldering iron?
Tom\'s GPS power supply crapped out but we found the problem and resoldered it with a tire iron heated on the camp stove. What a couple McGuyvers! We jettisoned the cigarette-lighter-adapter\'s plastic casing and wrapped the voltage converter circuitboard tightly with duct tape to prevent any further vibration failures.
Crossing the river at Malheur ford.
The KTM Adventure cockpit looks north towards Crane Crossing. ...Sainct is just ahead, the Z can smell his dust...... Zander used a motorized Touratech \"Roadbook\" similar to what is used by Dakar Rallye entrants. He printed pages from the Garmin MapSource CD (US Roads) with the GPS route overlayed and taped them together in four long rolls. This proved to be very useful. Between the two GPSs, the roadbook, the Forest Maps in the BarPack, and the OBDR signs, we were able to make CORRECT route decisions quickly, which is a must when you\'re on a schedule.
A fun road near Crane Crossing. (NFD 774). Zander\'s headlight and dust is barely visible on left. photo by Richard Sainct 2000
Zander crosses one of the many forks of the Malheur river. (Crane Crossing, which has nice camping.)
Zander quietly drifts across the suprising moonscape near the Monument Rocks Wilderness. It\'s just amazing what the Oregon parks Department put together!
The condition of this road worried Zander but he followed me anyway. Don\'t blame me I was just following the GPS!!! (and the OBDR!) If the OBDR is going to point me down them, then what do you expect me to do? These folks who agree to ride with me sometimes conclude that I\'m trying to beat them up. Thank the lord for excuses. I still can\'t get over how the Oregon Parks Department put such a great route together, they must\'ve had to fight to be allowed to use these adventurous roads.
This is what the GPS tracklog and routes look like when overlayed onto a scanned USFS map. The Blue line is our point-to-point prediction of the route we must follow, determined by looking at the OOHVA maps and finding the roads and intersection on the CD-ROM. This \"Route\" is then loaded by computer into the GPS. The red line is our actual path as recorded by the GPS. You can see that most of the time we went right thru the CD-ROM generated waypoints.
Day 5 Map
Day 5; 169 miles (913) Day 5 started on the N fork John Day River, at the Oriental Creek campground (at \"the washout\"). We crossed the trickle, and the first thing we saw was an OBDR route marker! Prepare for some flattrackin\' heaven as you climb out of the gorge. There was some funky routefinding getting to Meacham, near the Starkey Experimental forest (Waucup creek), but by now you understand our moral obligation to follow the OBDR and not take just any road. We stayed on the route whenever possible. There are not a lot of OBDR signs yet in the Wallowa-Whitman forest. IMPORTANT!!!!.NO GAS IN MEACHAM (near the crossing on I-84)!!!!!! Closest gas to Meacham is Pendleton (29mi) or LaGrande (28 Mi) on I-84. From Granite to Meacham is 144 mi, then it\'s 59 more miles to Tollgate, which has gas. (I\'d recommend going to LaGrande, then just go straight north out of LaGrande to pick up the route again.) Tollgate to Mottet Campground was 17 more miles for a total of 169 miles. Mottet was a nice primitive campground. There\'s a pipe poking out of the ground with ice-cold running water.
Near Waucup creek the route disappeared into a meadow that had just one set of tracks following the OBDR this season (semi-visible in this photo, curving to the left). It was difficult to follow this section, but the GPS once again proved to be worth its weight in gold!
Day 6 Map
Day 6; 43 miles (956 to Walla Walla) Day 6 started leisurely at Mottet Campground. It was cold - there was frost on the ground. Zander had a good down sleeping bag. Tom had a crappy old sleeping bag, and had to go to bed wearing everything but his boots (wearing Goretex Jacket!). Since the sun wouldn\'t break over the trees for another half hour or so, Tom decided to warm up with an out-and-back ride down a gnarly four-mile singletrack to the Walla Walla river. Even at 36 degrees, he had built up a nice sweat upon return. It was a shame that the ride was almost over. A few more miles of forest, and then the road winds down the valley to the river, and back to civilization, or at least to that place where they give you lattes and traffic tickets. We were ready to get off the bikes.......after 950+miles of off road nirvana, it was time to take a break. And it was time to give credit where credit is due ---BRAVO Oregon parks department!!!!
This trail goes from Mottet camp down to the Walla Walla river. (4 miles) It is not on the OBDR route!! I lowered my tire pressure to 9 lbs for this rocky sidehill trail. Repeat - this is not on the OBDR route! (but it is a gnarly picture....)
Walla Walla River
Back on the OBDR. This descent to Walla Walla river marks the exit of the OBDR. The road switches back down to the river in the distance. This marks the bittersweet end where we leave the forest, but at 900+ miles, we were kinda ready to get off the bikes.
Welcome back to civilization. Lacking chicks and booze, we decided against sounding our horns....... This biker camp was a few hundred feet on the Oregon side of the Washington border. One can easily imagine that if an outlaw biker made it across the line, he could escape the WA state Patrol. It\'s a LONG way (by gravel) from the nearest Oregon town.
The Asphalt starts at the Washington state border. Be careful on this road as the speed limit is 40mph (presumeably to bait the \"outlaw bikers\"?)
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