Back in the early ’90s my good friend Mike Ryan and his buddy made it their mission to scout a trail on motorcycles that could be done by bicycle from Junction City to Cape Perpetua. It took some time but they eventually succeeded, and as a personal challenge, Mike promised himself he would ride this same route every year until he turned 60.
Each summer for the past six years I have been fortunate to join Mike and others for this two-day, 90-mile journey through the magnificent Central Oregon Coast Range. It has become a meter of my own skill and fitness as a cyclist, and a chance to share time with friends while experiencing the ever-changing beauty of the region.
While I am not a fan of industrial logging, the Pacific Northwest benefits from an expansive system of roads that have been built and maintained for this very purpose. Our ride follows a series of them.
Like all rides, my first goal is to have fun, though this can sometimes be challenging when faced with extreme uphill portions along the journey. The first such ascent comes just past the Long Tom Grange after turning onto Ferguson Road. This steep, 3-mile uphill slog begins just past the end of county maintenance sign and should be taken slow and steady with a break or two along the way. The elevation is not extreme (1,600 feet at its peak), but riders can expect a constant up and down as you meander off the “beaten path,” leaving most services, automobiles and cell phone reception behind.
The road travels through lush forest and open clear-cuts, between Junction City and Horton, where old-growth hemlock, cedar and spruce have been replanted with the harder and more profitable Douglas firs. Cyclists can expect a magical descent, as the afternoon sunlight filters through the trees, before reaching the Hult Reservoir; originally a log storage facility, the reservoir now serves as a non-motorized recreation area for locals and travelers alike.
Well fed and rested, and having visited Sandy, the proprietor and historian at the Horton General Store, we camp 3 miles up the hill. With our trusty road crew bringing our gear, we raise our tents, share our dinner and prepare for the next day’s ride.
Waking up in the forest is a treat. Packing my tent and enjoying the sounds and smells of the forest while also preparing for the day ahead, I feel grateful, anxious and excited all at once. From here we depart into the misty morning fog on a pristine and unique stretch of trail that makes any work involved worth its rewards in spades.
As we enter the Siuslaw National Forest, the moss and ferns and understory bless us with a bounty of fragrances, sounds and serenity that is absent in our urban environment. Vine maples, cascara, huckleberries, thimbleberries and blackberries are just a few of the plants that surround us. Birds greet us with their sweet calls, among the vast species that make the Coast Range their home.
Approaching the BLM 15-8-15 cutoff, the morning sunlight and cool air prepare us for the day ahead. Straight up and over the only unpaved and pebbled stretch of road on the journey, we ascend, up, up and over into Lobster Valley, a time-out-of-time wilderness area where the locals are few and seemingly solitary, their properties visibly marked with “No Trespassing” signs, lest outsiders forget. From here we ride up and over and through the valley to Preacher Creek Road, stopping to enjoy our lunch at the “Hulse Marker,” also known as Dead Man’s Curve, a lookout with views to the west that stretch for miles.
From here the road is a smooth and graduated downhill glide as we pedal toward the Fisher Covered Bridge, our last relaxation before the grueling final 23 miles to the Pacific. Years of tackling this old logging road have given me the patience, determination and confidence to ride most anywhere. I alternate pushing and pedaling, as the steep long stretches can be brutal in the afternoon heat. We see voles dart in and out of the trees. We listen carefully and move quickly as this is also the portion of our ride where we once encountered a black bear traveling the same path, darting into the brush just a stone’s throw from our bikes.
Excitement mounts as we begin to smell the ocean, and the air cools as we make our final uphill push to Klickitat Ridge. At 2,300 feet we have views of Mary’s Peak to the north and the ocean to our west. A cooling mist surrounds us as we prepare for the 5-mile descent.
These last few minutes of our ride are the pinnacle of the journey. Nearly complete, we carefully make our way down the mountain. One by one, we arrive in Cape Perpetua, the mountain now at our backs and the Pacific Ocean in full view.
I look to Mike and his smile says it all, a silly grin of accomplishment and of gratitude for meeting his personal challenge yet again.
EW is not giving specific directions in order to prevent potential cyclists from getting lost, but experienced riders interested in tackling the route can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.