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Ten friends & I just returned from an adventure in the Fremont Nat'l Forest. We took 4 days to ride most of the Crane Mtn Nat'l Rec Trail plus about a third of the Fremont NRT, ending at the Chewaucan River 10 miles south of Paisley. This was a really fun experience and the trails are in great shape (thank you, NWYC & OTT Assn). We had support so "all we had to do" was ride our bikes -- no loaded touring this time.

The whole time we only saw one other trail user (a local trail runner who lives in Lakeview) plus three 4-person NW Youth Corp trail crews sawing out trees between Rogger Mdw and Crane Mtn's summit. We thanked them.

Because of pre-trip reports of lingering snow on Crane Mtn, we started at Willow Creek instead of at Cave Lake in California, intending to avoid miles of post holing by skipping the summit of Crane Mtn. But by the time we arrived Crane's snow appeared to be largely gone so we decided to aim for the top regardless. Day 1 started with a 2100' climb from Willow Creek to Crane's summit via jeep road. Our route up wasn't bad (though briefly the mosquitoes were). Views from the top of Crane were worth the grunt. We only lost the trail once due to a lingering snowfield; we eventually found it on the far side.

At the end of day 2 we avoided the 10 miles of gravel & pavement separating Mill TH and Cox Pass TH by shuttling this non-singletrack section (which includes 2.5 miles on Hwy 395). This may sound like somewhat of a decadent adventure but believe me, we spent plenty of energy and got plenty tired on these remote National Recreation trails. No e-bikes were employed during this tour. :)

It was all good, in fact we were blown away. Having the place to ourselves felt special. High elevation ridgetop riding through Ponderosa stands and elevated meadows felt so inspiring we often had to stop to ask ourselves, "Is this really happening?" I'm not even kidding.

NWYC built these trails and did an amazing job. For instance, along ridgetops the trail typically goes back and forth between upper slopes so trail users get great views into the valleys on both sides of the ridge. Often these views are breathtaking. A good part of our trip was spent above 7000' and most of it over 6000' -- less rolling sage-covered hills and more elevated forests up on these ridgetops. Day 4 ended with a multi-thousand foot descent from Morgan Butte (7200') to the Chewaucan River (4800'). An end-of-ride dip in the Chewy made for a nice finish.

On day 5 we drove up to Currier Spring near Gov't Harvey Pass atop Winter Rim just to take in the view and knock around. A couple guys in our group ended up riding the endless babyheads (more like monster heads) from Currier Spring to the Fremont Cabin and back -- 24 miles of that shite. The rest of us rode a little and relaxed a lot that final day, saddle-butts sated from the previous four days of pedaling.

Here is our route plus my stats (rounded):
Day 1: Willow Creek to Rectangle Lake via Crane Mtn = 18 miles, 3700' gain.
GPS track
Relive vid

Day 2: Rectangle Lake to Mill TH via S. Fork Crooked Cr = 28 miles, 3700' gain.
GPS track
Relive vid

Day 3: Cox Pass to Moss Pass = 15 miles, 2800' gain.
GPS track
Relive vid

Day 4: Moss Pass to Jones Crossing Forest Camp = 20 miles, 2900' gain.
GPS track
Relive vid

Really good stuff -- highly recommended. I'll try to add some photos.
=sParty
 

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Looks an sounds amazing. Probably not something I'd do. I would like to, but I doubt I would.

I'm glad you had this experience. I'm sure it was work, but also fun work. It looks amazing and beautiful.

Thanks for the Relive links too!
 

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I thought about you folks all week. Yep, guilty of some good natured jealousy. I am excited to get down there. Charlie says he has some ideas...
Thanks for the great report and pictures.
The "mopeds" were riding Cooks Meadow yesterday😡😡😡.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Awesome looking ride!!!

Was the "support" a commercial thing or courtesy of some really understanding friends/wives/sig others?
Let's just say we know our support crew intimately. :)
That said, they're paid -- it's hard work to move the circus each day.
Plus everybody pitches in. This was not our first rodeo. More like our 6th.
On this particular adventure there were 9 riders + 2 support crew.
Every meal was practically a decadent feast.
Cost came out to less than $600 p/p for 7 days.
The mountain biking was sublime but these adventures are about more than the riding.
Personally I haven't found a better way to squeeze fun out of a week than by doing a trip like this.
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Sa-Weet! Such amazing riding down there. I was at the first OTTA event down working on Yamsey mountain this year - and I was blown away. So bouldery and quite a fun descent. I just wished I had used my bike. Due to snow and such we walked as we cleared.

Did you ride yamsey at all? Or hagar? I didn't get onto Hagar but I hear it's sweet too.

Last year we cleared Crane area above lakeview and that was spectacular. Didn't see anyone the entire time.

hidden gem for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Did you ride yamsey at all? Or hagar? I didn't get onto Hagar but I hear it's sweet too.
We did not. Our original plan was to make a 9-day tour from Cave Lake to Farmwell but then in August 2018 the Watson Creek Fire burned the Bear Creek climb section between the Chewaucan River and Gov't Harvey Pass. So this plan was out for this year and we decided to shorten the trip by ending at the Chewaucan. Fortunately OTTA is clearing/restoring the Watson Creek burn section as we speak so maybe next year we'll go back and include that section. In any case I doubt we'd get as far as Hager or Yamsay.

How bad are the drives between spots? Could a group of riders self shuttle in a reasonable time frame or do you pretty much need a driver or two?
Driving distances between our campsites:
Day 1, Willow Creek to Rectangle Lake: 7.7 mi. (that's seven point seven)
Day 2, We rode our bikes from Rectangle Lake to Mill TH. We then received a vehicle shuttle from Mill TH to Cox Pass TH where we camped. Driving distance directly from Rectangle Lake to Cox Pass TH exclusive of the shuttle: 25 mi.
Day 3, Cox Pass to Moss Pass: There are options. Shortest route is 12.7 mi but road conditions unknown. Most secure route is via US-395 & OR-31 which is 50.8 mi. The latter is the way our support crew went but they also resupplied in Lakeview which was only about a 10 mile side trip via this route.
Day 4, Moss Pass to Jones Crossing Forest Camp: Shortest distance is via NF3510 & NF330, 17.5 miles (NF3510 is gravel, good road. NF330 is paved.) Another option is to go through Paisley via Clover Flat Rd which amounts to 28.4 mi.

The following locations will show up if you search for them using Google Maps:
  • Willow Creek Campground (which is not precisely where we camped, but very close).
  • Cox Pass Trailhead
  • Moss Pass Trailhead
  • Jones Crossing Forest Camp
Rectangle Lake does not show up in Google Maps (in fact we made the name up) but it's easy to find exactly one mile SE of Rogger Meadow Trailhead on NF3910. Should be right here. Nice spot to camp.
Mill Trailhead doesn't show up in Google Maps either, it's right here. To get to Mill TH from US-395, turn east onto Deter Ranch Road and go about a mile. Deter Ranch Rd is clearly marked with a sign at the highway. The miserable 10 miles of gravel and pavement between Mill TH and Cox Pass TH would be zero fun to ride on a bike.
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Dude!

Thanks for the pics and report.

As I approach the big six-oh, and knowing you're about five years "ahead" of me, you are my Old Guy MTB Idol.

I've got a sis in Lakeview. Gotta get down there and see that country!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Dude!

Thanks for the pics and report.

As I approach the big six-oh, and knowing you're about five years "ahead" of me, you are my Old Guy MTB Idol.

I've got a sis in Lakeview. Gotta get down there and see that country!
Thanks, my friend. Means a lot coming from a real deal cycling legend.

After two pre-trip recon missions (July '18 plus earlier this year) as well as the event itself, my [unsolicited] advice is this: timing is everything. We got sooo lucky this year due to the lingering effects of a heavy winter. I believe it's already too hot down there now. Yet a week earlier and we might not have been able to summit Crane Mtn due to lingering snow. Still, I believe slightly too early would be better than slightly too late. The desert dressed in green is really something, and the post-holing over Crane would have been worth the effort. The lush, green high meadows and rushing creeks are something else.

Obviously most people who do these miles carry their own gear. I've done the same thing many times in other locales but to anyone considering tackling this section of the OTT, I say wait a minute, the type of trip we did is worthy of consideration. During our adventure, participants mentioned the challenging terrain and how bringing a heavy, loaded bike would take so much fun out of it. I guess we all have to pick our own poison, so there's that. But as it was, I wouldn't (won't) hesitate to jump at the chance to do what we did again. It was 99% fun, 1% brutality instead of the other way 'round. And at 65, I've suffered my share of brutality. :eekster:

Okay, unsolicited advice over, do whatever ya gotta do! :) In the end, it'll be memorable and it's all good. Truly amazing country. Without doubt I/we will be back.
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Looks like a great ride, Davey. You know I love that part of Oregon. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to join you if you do it again next year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Looks like a great ride, Davey. You know I love that part of Oregon. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to join you if you do it again next year.
That would be awesome! Let's stay in touch about it. Meanwhile... see you in late October?
=D
 
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