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.
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.This spot left me reflecting on Day 1, so far, and wondering what the rest of the route would be like. 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. 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. 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. 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. Erik emerges from the dust of a passing car. In sections of the route, this is a common occurrence. An alternate view of the dust. Ahead of Glenn, the road is lost. Be mindful of approaching vehicles and limited visibility. 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. I think we all had the same thought: “It’s like a movie set in an old western… but it’s REAL!” Dry country. Leaving Fort Rock, have plenty of water. 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.
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.
Through the forest. One of my favorite sections on the route. Watch out for tire-slicing obsidian chunks in the road’s soft dirt.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.
Check out the links for more photos and stories…
Erik’s start here: http://www.
My Salsa story: http://salsacycles.com/