Words: Guest Author | Date:
On August 26th we rode the Alsea Falls figure-eight, one hundred and ten miles, in 5 hours and 55 minutes. We averaged 18.5 miles an hour and climbed 5100 feet. It was hot and sunny in the sun and cool and perfect for almost the entire ride. The Alsea Falls climb is magical and the Valleys are incredibly scenic and fast. Thanks Sam and Ryan.
Met at Albina Coffee Press in Northeast Portland because they open at 6.30. Drive to Corvallis, it takes roughly 45 minutes.
Park on the Oregon State University campus somewhere on the east side of it all and near Campus Way. Ride starts easy and light through the back of town. Within minutes you’re on a paved path, the kind with fast but slightly annoying and sometimes entertaining athletic traffic. On the other side of a very small hill and on the edge of town, you take the 34 to Alsea, both rural highways with large shoulders and light traffic, south and east to Philomath. Philomath is small and uneventful and easy to navigate through.
Eventually and slowly Alsea highway begins to roll and gain elevation. At some point the road bends up and right and then up and left, and then up and right again. The climb comes on fast and completely. It’s a typical northwest forested coast-range climb, green, shaded, cool (even when it’s hot) and sweepy. It finishes, just over 1200 feet, with a mile long grind. At the top is a pullout and parking lot and a road that goes to Mary’s Peak. Mary’s is an 11 mile march to the top of Oregon’s highest point in the coast range – 4097 feet. If you add this, it’s a 22 mile out and back, up and down to add to the one-ten figure eight.
Drop down a wide, fast, straight, hand’s off smiling into the sunshine, wind and trees rushing by, decent rolling into the valley on the other side. The valley is gorgeous and fast, the road is smooth and traffic is non-existent. At 23.5 miles stop at the Alsea Market. The ride is a figure eight crossing through and passing by the market twice. The market has benches out front, a stuffed mountain lion above the coolers in the back and it sells a wide variety of ammunition and related sundries. Motorcycles, monster trucks, farm rigs and small tired purple or yellow two-door American sedans are in the parking lot. The market is essentially an outpost in a small boarded up un-town. It’s quiet and easy. Buy something cold and fill-up on water. Eat an early lunch or wait to eat a late lunch.
Take Alsea Deadwood highway out of town. The road vaguely climbs and rolls through the same beautiful valley as before. You move up the side of a mountain and the landscape changes drastically to nothing but those hills and folds and ridges with trees and those, aggressively, without. You’re in logging country and it’s very much a work in progress. On this second climb you twist, bend and reach quickly to the top of a ridge before dropping completely into Lobster Valley. The descent is twisty and rough but super fun.
Lobster Valley is lush and green and wet. It’s a lazy river valley with one lane bridges and vines and rapids and, of course, densely wooded hillsides. About half way in you pick-up Alsea Highway again (much further down the road), cross the Alsea River, and head back towards the market – the speedy down river tempo coming to an end as you’re forced to stomp up back up what you just came down. It’s still a seductive road with little traffic and great road conditions. Back at the market, refresh and revitalize and eat lunch if you haven’t already.
Roll through a bucolic wonderland for several miles on south Fork Road before slowly heading into a forested hillside and the start of the fastest, prettiest, and third climb of the day. The road is narrow, smooth and has almost no traffic. You’re in a green tube and canopy as the sky is completely blocked out by trees. The light is dappled, unicorns are born here. The pace and pitch are super fast but the climb is constant and persistent all the way up to the 1300 feet top. Near the top is a left turn for Alsea Falls. At the top you immediately plummet vertically into a screaming smiling descent with driving corners and banking turns.
At Bell Fountain Road, 86 miles in, if you’re out of water there is an abandoned building on the northeast corner, and outside where the front door used to be, is a pump well. It may or may not work.
The next twenty miles is a series of rollers each just shy of climb status. They bump and roller coaster one after each other leaving you to stand and sit, up and down, tricked and tired. They’re mean. The country returns to rural farmland and the traffic picks up a bit, there is a good shoulder. The rollers end and the roller road is now a flat salty boring farm road. The headwind and dust suck. A few turns and miles bring you back to Corvallis at the campus where beer can easily be found.
Part 1 – Albina to the University
Part 2 – Alsea Mercantile
Part 3 – Lobster Valley
Part 4 – Alsea Falls