Umpqua National Forest

While looking at a map, I noticed that there’s a National Forest about half an hour east of where I’m staying. After a rainy Monday, the weather cleared up yesterday afternoon, so I hopped on the newly refreshed motorcycle to go check it out. It was amazing.

The ride there was easy and fun, out past Dorena Lake. The KLR is running beautifully with fresh oil and a fresh air filter. It’s a bit chilly, so I wore my cold-weather gear, including the Kemimoto heated gloves that I haven’t given a proper test or review yet because Arizona was too warm. The batteries were dead after sitting for a few months (that’s normal, not a design flaw) but even without the heat turned on they kept my hands warm and protected from the wind on the 55 mph back roads. With temperatures in the 50s the heating wasn’t necessary, though I probably would’ve turned them on low power if I’d had the option. They’re recharged now, so I’ll be able to test them.

The paved roads are great, but the real fun is on the vast network of National Forest roads that squiggle all over the place. These differ from the trails I rode in Arizona in that they’re actually maintained roads, not just paths that people have tromped or driven over a bunch of times. That means it’s pretty easy riding, which is what I’ve decided I prefer rather than throwing my bike down trails just for the challenge of it. I’ve learned what I needed to learn about dirt riding by doing that.

Even better, these roads are all in my Garmin GPS. So I can venture out there and explore, then hit that “Home” button and know I’m going to get back to the main road. I also have a pretty good sense of direction and can backtrack if something was to happen to the Garmin. So I just kicked back and enjoyed the ride.

There were a lot of trees down, perhaps from the late-season snow I’m told they had here a couple of weeks ago. I’ve seen this in New England, too. Trees start blooming, or still have their leaves in fall, and then the weight of both snow and leaves is more than they can handle. The Forest Service has done a great job keeping the roads open, but I wouldn’t want to take my van up here, especially the trailer. Some openings are just too narrow for them. But on the bike, I can boldly go where no van has gone before.

Another interesting sight along the way was this burnt-out RV. There’s virtually nothing left of it except the frame and the engine. It would’ve been difficult but not impossible to drive it up here when the road was more open. I wonder if they’re waiting until later in the year for the road to be less squishy than it is right now before bringing the heavy equipment up to remove it.

Another reason I wanted to come exploring out here was to check out the dispersed camping opportunities, like this one. Since I’m staying with friends just half an hour away, I don’t need to do this right now (unless they kick me out for some reason). But what I see here will likely be similar to what I’ll see in other places around the northwest that I might want to visit. National Forests, like BLM land, typically allow you to camp for free for up to 14 days. So I could park by the road, go exploring on the bike, find a spot, and bring the whole rig out for a couple of weeks if I wanted to. That’s definitely a good option to keep in mind.

The National Forest roads go up, down, and all over the surrounding hills, with some significant elevation changes. I was following one road in particular, up over 3,000 feet, when suddenly I saw snow on the side of the road. A little bit farther, at 3,800 feet, the road was covered in snow as well. This is where I tapped out and turned around. The view back the way I came was nice, though.

I did so well avoiding snow all winter, only to run into some now, in May! Still, it’s not like I had to shovel it. It was also a very short ride to get out of it completely. Down where I’m staying, it was rainy with lows in the 40s on Monday. Temperatures were probably in the 30s up here, which meant that the precipitation could freeze into snow. Fortunately, we’re not likely to get any more snow where I’m staying.

And then there was this view at the bottom of the gravel road where I’d run into snow. I haven’t retouched this photo. The greens really were this bright. The moss-covered trees only added to it. The one stretching over the road made this place feel magical, like something straight out of Lord of the Rings.

All this was just barely a few miles into the Umpqua National Forest. I haven’t even seen most of it yet. I’m going to have to come back and explore more of it.

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