Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oregon Outback - Day One

It was 10:30 pm in Klamath Falls, Oregon. My brother John and I retrieved our bikes from the Amtrack baggage car, loaded up our panniers, and rode to meet my son, Geoff, at the hotel where we would spend the night. Our train arrived late for the 4th of July fireworks show at the nearby fairgrounds. The after‐party fireworks flashing randomly around town served as our welcome to the launch point of the Oregon Outback route.

The next morning, after our free continental breakfast, we struck out on the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, a rail trail, heading east. We passed walkers, joggers, and other cyclists as we gobbled up the nine paved miles on bikes weighing about 70 pounds with gear and water. 

In less than an hour we reached what we sought—rough and rugged trail. For the next 60 miles we rambled through ranch land with countless cattle, pastures with horses, and some wetlands whose vegetation grabbed at our panniers and threatened our rear derailleurs with destruction.

We stopped and took turns opening and closing the 40‐50 gates apparently used to keep cattle from crossing property lines. Several times there were cattle on the rail trail. Young calves were alarmed by our presence and didn’t know which way to run. Cows grunted as they dashed away lest we get too close. Bulls behind the fences snorted and a couple even pawed at the ground. We carefully got by one large bull on the trail who seemed to pay us no mind. But we still looked back a couple of times to make sure.

An abandoned snow plow train engine greeted us at the 55‐mile mark. Resting on a small length of abandoned track, it stands as a testament to works achieved during a different time. Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” came to mind. “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” 

We ground our way through the loose gravel for a couple more miles when we noticed the gravel road running parallel to us offered easier riding. That didn’t last very long as the trail veered away soon after. After a careful study of the map we decided we could link back up to the trail “just ahead.” We stopped by a lone house and got permission from the homeowner to refill our water containers with their spigot. After turning onto two
different forest service roads we found we had to get past a barbed wire fence to get back on the trail. A loose spot gave us enough room to squeeze the bikes through sideways and we were back to grinding through the loose stuff again. 

Seventeen miles later we found a suitable camping site alongside the trail on the outskirts of the Fremont National Forest. We watered up at a nearby creek.

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