I have had this epic route on my bucket list since it came out 3 years ago. It was an Ambassador route on Ridewithgps.com and a well known route on Bikepacking.com. It would be a great route to shake down my gear, test my mettle, and give me some alone time I periodically seek.
Here is my experience.
Friday, July 12. Took the day off to take care of final preparations, food shopping, and a nice relaxing breakfast with my lady before taking her to work. It would be a 6.5 hour drive to Frenchglen and I didn’t want to get there super late or be exhausted by the trip.
The drive was rather uneventful, but it gave me some time to make some phone calls to family and friends to play catch-up.
Stayed the night at the Steens Mountain Resort campground so that I would be well rested and ready to ride first thing in the morning.
BTW, if you ever get out to SE Oregon, spend a night or two at the Frenchglen Hotel and get their dinner. Not to be missed.
Day 1 – Frenchglen to Steens
I slept poorly as mosquitos had been gathering on my tent all night. It only started with a few, but by midnight there were a few HUNDRED, at least. The steady buzz from a thousand pair of wings kept me up and had me worried that would be turned into human-jerky the moment I stepped out of my tent.
I had most everything staged the night before, so I just packed up everything in the tent, put on some long layer, then bolted out of my tent. A quick toss of my gear into the car and a run downhill to the restroom only delayed a few bites, but it wasn’t too bad.
Escaping from the campground with 99% of my blood, I rolled out from Frenchglen right at 7am. It was so lacking of human-caused noise. The birds were chirping, insects abuzz with life.
Even at 7am, our day star was beaming upon with me full ferocity.
Within a few hundred feet of the hotel, I was already on gravel and heading North through the first of many wildlife refuges. The whole stretch of road was quiet save for the crunch of my tires over gravel.
I stopped by the Hotel Diamond as it was listed as only 3 places along the route I would be able to get anything to restock my snack reserves. The place was completely empty except for one of the owners who was there cleaning up before closing shop for a week to round up hay on his ranch. He was so nice! He gave me some banana bread, a soda, and even made me a ham sandwich. I had to practically shove $10 in his hand as payment for the food.
It was a long climb from Diamond to Stiger Mustang viewing area. The further I headed East, the more rugged and more grown over. Although I did see some wild mustangs, they were so far they could have been any type of horse to the naked eye. There was a family along the way that were also looking for the horses, they were amazed to see a lone cyclist so far out. They were kind enough to offer water and some snacks, but I was still pretty fresh and well fed so I only took an apple as I knew it would be a few days before I would see fresh fruit again.
I love it when the roads start smooth then get progressively more difficult to traverse. It makes me feel like I’m escaping civilization and a guarantee that I would see fewer and fewer human beings in my journey.
Right after viewing the horses at Mustang Bluff, the road practically disappeared. I thought I should have switched from sandals to shoes, but my feet were already so dirty I didn’t want to get the grime into my shoes. So I toughed it out and just stayed in my sandals.
There were a couple of water sources along the way that were marked on my route, but they were dried out. Only one source still flowed. Along this source, I was getting tired and failed to pick up my 3 litre bladder that was normally used for dirty water. A first piece of lost gear during my journey.
Before starting my descent to end my day, I checked my seat bag at the top to make sure everything was secure, but as I winded down the steep road my shoes popped off the back. It was at least 2 miles back and up a huge hill. I did not have the energy to go back up and find them at this point. I could ride for days in sandals and as long as there weren’t a lot of thorns then my feet would be OK.
It was nearly dark by the time I set up camp by a stream. The hush of rushing water helped me get some rest, but the strong breeze that never stopped all night kept making the tent walls thwap against my head. Tomorrow should be better.
A quick check-in on my Spot Tracker to let Audrey know where I would be camping for the night and I was out. I only planned 30-ish miles for the day but ended up riding 60.
- Day 1 Stats:
- Total Duration: >13 hours
- Distance: 60.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 3,655 feet
- Number of people seen through the day: 25-ish
- Water consumed: >5 litres
- Gear lost: 1 pair of shoes, 3-litre bladder