Riding Bikes in Oregon – Part 2 (Smith Rock)

Turning off the highway and driving the final few kilometres to Smith Rock began an exercise in longing for my climbing gear that lasted until I began to realise that it was actually pretty fun to be riding here too. Smith Rock is one of THE North American rock climbing destinations. Birthplace of sport climbing? Maybe. Spectacular rock and views? Definitely.

The boy rode his bike for the first few hundred metres, then decided he’d had enough, and for the rest of the day it was just helping Alex with his resistance training.

Alex tried to sell me on the idea of starting off with an easy loop around the river trail, but I wasn’t having any of it, so instead we immediately started heading uphill, where the views are. Although of course this did involve initially dropping down from the parking lot, to the river, and then having to start the climb from the valley bottom.

We set out with a route description from an old mountain biking book. This book suggested that the trail we were headed for, Burma Road, was a pretty burly climb. Thus far, nothing we’d rode in Bend seemed to involve any climbing at all. So we may have underestimated this threat. It was indeed a burly climb, particularly with a singletrailer. Even without – there were pitches of loose, steep trail that weren’t easily rideable.

After that, things got a little saner though. We’d gained a lot of elevation already, and were spat out onto some doubletrack that was a more sensible gradient (something between the climb to the Pass in Canmore, with occasional touches of the Quaite Valley trail thrown in for good measure).

And then views! For some reason Alex was feeling a little tired by now, and felt like sitting down in the shade and eating some lunch.

From this point the route in the book described dropping down on fire road for no reason before climbing back up more fire road to reach Grey Butte. Alex was not enthusiastic about this option, so after lunch I did some scouting, and found some singletrack headed towards Grey Butte that was deemed acceptably not-uphill.

It turned out to be a great choice. In fact the only flaw to this piece of trail was that it was hard to avoid looking at the views. And when you did look at the views, it was hard to avoid falling down the side of the mountain. Aside from that, it was lovely. We turned around once we reached the butte though, rather than trying to ride around or up it, and headed back towards Smith Rock. Where there was more difficulty trying to look simultaneously at the view, and the narrow strip of dirt we were trying to balance on.

From here it was all smooth sailing back to the car, except for the one steep section of Burma Road, where the boy was booted out of the singletrailer. I walked him down the hill in stages, while Alex man-handled his bike with empty singletrailer down the hill.

But after ferrying my bike ahead through one piece of trail, I stopped after hearing an odd noise. After looking around, I realised the source of it was a little rattle snake sitting on some rocks just in front of me, rattling in a cranky kind of fashion. He was close enough for me to reach out and touch, and seemed so small as to be adorable rather than threatening (at least compared to Australian snakes I’m used to), but I backed away anyway, and advised Alex he’d be better off taking the high route at this point, as the low route had an irritated rattle snake on it.

And then it was time for icecream!

Distance: 17km return
Elevation gain: 660m

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