Glenn Charles had just broken his thumb bikepacking the Coconino. Conversely, Erik Mathy had a previous leg injury that had kept him off a bike for months and had only ridden about 15 miles before arriving in Klamath Falls. I had just barely healed from a gravel over pavement bike crash that left both of my palms without skin and rocks surgically removed. To this day, I still have one pebble left in my right hand and am an owner of bike gloves. All being photographers, it was obvious we should not try and speed ride the route, but enjoy it leisurely, taking photos and enjoying camp time and the beauty of the route. In the end, it was far from what we expected and an incredible journey, full of challenges. These are some of the standout moments. _MG_7997 EDIT_1
The first challenge is the gates. Lots of em. Some are hard to unlatch or swing open. And you have to close them. Both mean you must dismount your bike. Keep smiling or they will win._MG_8014 EDIT_1
This spot left me reflecting on Day 1, so far, and wondering what the rest of the route would be like.Oregon Outback A dark reminder of the harshness of the desert. Immediately after taking his photo, Erik began to pedal away and a long strand of barbwire became grape-vined around his front wheel and fork. Luckily, he caught it before destroying the entire front end of his bike. The first scars of the trip.Oregon Outback Big sky country isn’t just a thing in Montana. I loved this section for, if nothing else, all of the bird life in the fields, wetlands, and ponds. I used my bird app on my phone to point out different species to Erik & Glenn. In this first section of the route, Erik’s Surly ECR proved to be a great bike. The soft miles of Day 1 kept us a handful of miles short of the Cowboy Dinner Tree.Oregon Outback Attempting to be good trail stewards, we stop to let the horses pass and strike up conversation with the local cowboys and cowgals out enjoying the day, much like we were. A real treat in the day, both socially and photographically, for me.Josh Oregon Outback A rare moment for me: I joyously accepted this fast stretch of downhill pavement, having woken up on Day 2 puking my guts out from a breakfast sandwich with cream cheese gone bad. Ahead was a tiny town with a diner and greasy, grilled food. Adversity heightens appreciation.Oregon Outback Erik emerges from the dust of a passing car. In sections of the route, this is a common occurrence.Oregon Outback An alternate view of the dust. Ahead of Glenn, the road is lost. Be mindful of approaching vehicles and limited visibility.Oregon Outback I can’t imagine a more apt name for Fort Rock. This spot is a sight to be had. To not stop and take in the view or pass through under darkness would be a real shame.Oregon Outback I think we all had the same thought: “It’s like a movie set in an old western… but it’s REAL!”Oregon Outback Dry country. Leaving Fort Rock, have plenty of water.Oregon Outback A great night in a beautiful setting of tall but open pines before the unforeseen weather came. Don’t let the beautiful weather make you forget you’re in a high desert plateau that can create serious storms.Oregon Outback
I woke up to apocalyptic thunder and lightning, strewn with large hail. So large, I thought it would puncture my cuben fiber tarp. I stayed up and, thankfully, the tarp held strong, amidst the high winds that accompanied with storm. Bearpaw Wilderness Designs’ Canopy 2 tarp is legit.Oregon Outback
Through the forest. One of my favorite sections on the route. Watch out for tire-slicing obsidian chunks in the road’s soft dirt.
Oregon Outback One of the real highlights of the Oregon Outback is how the route is laced through the land. Since it is not a pure wilderness route like I am used to living in Alaska, the culture of the west was truly appreciated.Oregon Outback
After an amazing climb through a glorious forest leaving Prineville, followed by an even better descent with creek crossings at the bottom, it was time to climb again. Graciously, the scenery was supremely pleasing.Oregon Outback
Climb, descend, climb, descend. Expect it, along with fantastic scenery. Someone by the name of Nye owns some spectacular acreage.Oregon Outback You come to Alaska and gawk at moose. I go to Oregon and gawk at deer.Oregon Outback   Between Ashwood & Antelope is Divide Road. Stunning. Hit it in the evening for the golden light.Oregon Outback Divide Road in the evening. Letting the photo do the talking.Oregon Outback Cresting the Divide Road with Mount Hood in the distance.Oregon Outback Erik climbs the early morning switchbacks out of the half-ghost town of Antelope, after stealth camping just outside of town. It was recommended to us by a local that we not camp at the city park with the potable water spigot, as some town people would get angry. Best not to P.O. the locals.Oregon Outback Mount Hood plays peek-a-boo on your fast pavement stretch to the real western town of Shaniko.Oregon Outback Stop for ice cream. Oh, yeah, they have food, too. And they’re nice. All good things in a sun-baked location.Oregon Outback If you didn’t already realize you were in the cowboy west, there is nothing more telling than Shaniko (shan-i-ko, not sha-neeko).Oregon Outback Endless views of Mt Hood combat the painful miles of hot pavement and rough, slow gravel within view of the faster paved highway. A moral challenge to stay on route.Oregon Outback John Watson used more expletives than ever thought gramatically possible in describing the slow, soft, loose, rough, and large-rocked gravel roads between Shaniko and the route’s end at the Columbia River. If the roads’ surface doesn’t get you, the ENDLESS hills will. The. Climbs. Never. Stop.Oregon Outback This was one of the best climbs, not for it’s height or steepness, but for its unassuming nature. After miles of tough gravel climbing, you come to a brief paved stretch that makes you feel a sense of relief. Let it not, for it is a climb that still demands full respect, regardless of its relatively smooth appearance.Oregon Outback Rejoice in the little victories. They are actually huge ones. Fold, and you will have a hard time on the route. The GPS elevation profile speaks nothing of its difficulty. And you’ll want a lot of water. More than you think, as we found out.Oregon Outback In the middle of what you would think was Iowa farm country B-Roads, shit can get weird. Real weird. Like straight from a horror flick. Moving on…Oregon Outback Uppity up. You might want happy music.Oregon Outback OF COURSE you climb to the top of the hill with the tower on it. You see it for miles and think, “No way, right? We are headed down, towards the river. There’s NO WAY we will have to climb that.” Saddle up, partner. This one’s a doozie. I still did it in my 42T chain ring though, proving once and for all that it’s all in your head 🙂Oregon Outback Snakes. Don’t run em over like I almost did. Screeching halt on a screaming downhill. He looked angry.Oregon Outback Even when you descend from the towers and think there is no way you could possibly have to climb anything, as you can see the entire descent to the river in front of you, there is still climbing to be had, so don’t worry.Oregon Outback Five full days of beauty, smiles, and challenges, fully rewarded in every mile, right to the Columbia River. Huge thanks to Donnie Kolb and his Oregon Bikepacking efforts. And to Glenn & Erik, thank you for the incredible memories and companionship.Oregon Outback The Oregon Outback is a route you cannot miss. In our opinion, a 7 day tour would be perfect for appreciating every section’s beauty and personality. In the end, Salsa Fargo Ti’s proved to be a supreme bike for this route. You’ll want something capable of soft dirt & gravel, comfortable, and yet still fast for some of the sections.
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