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Eric Parsons
September 27, 2015

Oregon Bikepacking Middle Fork Willamette – Umpqua River Trails

Posted by Eric Parsons

Interbike 2015 is in the bag, we had a great time overall. We ll be following up in the coming weeks & months with details of the the new gear in the pipe. After Interbike I always feel the need to unplug from work and purge all that is vegas and stressful from the system. Basically go hide in the woods for a few days. This time around Dusty and I opted for a singletrack binge backpacking trip before visiting our production sewing shop near Eugene Oregon.

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Alaska has a bit of a shortage of long single track that can be linked up, so whenever the idea of a bike trip in the lower 48 shapes up it’s all about how much singletrack can be shredded. We pinged Scott Morris who has ridden extensive trail routes in Oregon for a GPS track with as little road riding as possible doable as a loop without a car shuttle. He set us up with a perfect loop outside of Oakridge following the M. Fork Willamette trail, climbing over a divide, then endless miles of Umpqua river trail to a 35 odd mile connector back to the S. Fork Willamette valley. Lots of trail, some sweet descents and a perfect loop.

Dusty and I woke up at 4:30 am in Vegas, got a flight to Portland. Put bikes together at my friend Eric’s place, got some camping food and hit the road. Being more or less fried from a busy week, we kept forgetting key things like stove fuel and other stuff.

Finally all loaded up we rode away from the car close to 7:00 pm, with less than an hour of daylight left and started a 16 mile climb up a forest road up to Moon Point for the 6+ mile downhill run in the morning. This could be easily skipped but we were game for a sweet downhill run to start the trip off right.

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Darkness fell and we were enshrouded in mist. Climbing and climbing by headlamp I finally ask myself where the fuck we were For a change we were solely relying on Dusty’s iPhone with Gaia GPS running, powering it up we saw we totally missed a turn, wasting over 45 min of climbing. Oh well. We put the high beams on, drop down, take the right turn and set up the beta mid in a gravel pull out.

Morning comes, we quickly get up to the Moon Point trailhead, super stoked to leave the road behind and hit trail. The little detour to moon point gives big views of the M. Fork Willamette valley.

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The descent is a ripper, I was stoked to be on my full suspension bike rather than my S&S coupled hardtail. Before we know it we re at the valley bottom and cruising along the single track river trail climbing gently.

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The M. Fork trail is great, flowy enough, but with enough rocks and steep ups & downs to keep it interesting. By mid afternoon we hit the spot where we could have continued up to Tippimungous lake, or hit the forest roads to cross over the ridge to the Umpqua. Already short on time due the late start we decided to save something for next time and hit the gravel road for the up and over.

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It was a hot day in the sun but we lucked out and mostly followed tree cover for most of the climb. At the bottom of the ripping forest road descent we filled up water at the springs and started riding the Umpqua trail through the recent Lemolo burn. Trail crews have been hard at work cutting through the felled trees. Tempted by burgers at Lemolo lake lodge we pull off the trail and head across the dam to the lodge. Alas it had closed 45 min earlier so it would be another night of mountain house pro-paks with instant potatoes. We roll into the woods off the lake to camp and call it a day.

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A cold morning got us moving and caffeinated early. A quick pop into the Lemolo store to grab some potato chips, the thermometer reads 36 degrees. We quickly get back on the Umpqua trail and warm up quickly. The stoke factor is off the charts, beautiful crisp morning and a full day of endless rolling singletrack in store.

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Dusty and I are continually blown away by the quality of the trail. Fast enough to have great flow while still keeping you on your toes.

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We were told to not miss! the hot springs in route, however when we rolled in to the trail junction all we found were dirty hippies, garbage, patchouli oil and ill mannered dogs. I ll pass thanks. We just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

The day wore on and we kept the pace up. We were supposed to be back to down on Monday night, we knew that wasn t going to happen but did not dilly dally either, we took one 20 min break in the mid-day heat for some face stuffing but that was about it. Go mode.

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The last few sections of the trail were just amazing, lots of climbing with screaming descents along tight trail. Finally we hit Steamboat creek and turn off onto pavement, an hour later as dusk set in we made camp and fell into our bags with throbbing contact points.

Last day, up at 6:00 am, riding by 7:00 to try to make it to the sewing shop by noon. Pavement gives way to gravel forest road as we climb a bundle over the divide back to the Willamette. Hitting the valley bottom we finish off the loop with a few wonderfully flowing miles down the Willamette singletrack closing the loop to the rental car.IMG_0618

Totally stoked, rejuvenated, Vegas and Interbike a distant memory.

Thanks to Scott Morris for the GPS track and the Oregon peoples of the PNW Bikpacking FB group for a few bits of beta which encouraged me to throw in the puff jacket. Dusty and I were totally impressed with the quality of the trails and can t wait to come back!