SilkySlimJuly 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm #980
I just got back from an amazing tour down in the Steens, and thought I’d share a few notes on the trip. Mostly color commentary, as the guidance provided on site and the Cycling Sojourner (by Ellee Thalheimer) got us probably 95% of the way. Many thanks for taking a seed of an idea (“hey, let’s bike in south east Oregon”) and letting it grow.
To cover the very basics… We had three people riding and decided to stay in actual lodging rather tents, to lighten our loads and give some respite from the anticipated heat. We rode a clock-wise loops starting in Narrows, covering the circumference of the mountain in four days and having one bonus day of riding light up into the Steens. We all had cyclocross bikes with either 35mm or 40mm tires, some of us going with cx type tread and one with a less knobby choice. All performed admirably. Zero flats, knock on wood. I went with a rack and two panniers, the others with the handlebar/frame/seat bag trifecta. We used instagram tag #steenssteeds in case you want photo evidence!!
The drive down from Portland was a breeze, and we were able to park at Narrows for just $10. They have a pretty well stocked shop there, although we only got snacks at the end of the whole loop (and a souvenir growler!!). Prineville is a good mid point, with a simple diner for the way out and a brewery for the way back.
Day one ride was a breeze, about 35 miles east and then north to Crystal Crane hot springs. Great spot with a bunch of lodging/camping options, and a really nice big natural soaking pool. There is a store/cafe about 3 miles before CC that sells beer, but CC only has a few candybars in their shop. The gravel on this leg was really easy to handle. All the water there (shower/taps) is pretty sulfuric, which was kind of a bummer for filling our bottles the next day. Dropping electrolyte stuff in sulfuric water, ughghhg.
Day two was for real. We road 105 miles south to Fields, starting way early to avoid the heat (530am). It was actually pretty cold all morning. Great riding though, super smooth and scenic pavement, one big climb, and an awesome descent. We hit gravel at mile ~50, and it was really easy going for the first 20 miles of it. 70-90 was tough though. The gravel got thicker with way more washboards, and you kind of had to just peddle through it. Not to mention the accumulated fatigue and oncoming heat/sun. But we made it, saw some really neat gliders taking off from the Alvord Desert, and survived the final big gravel climb. I carried two bottles and 5-6L of water, and used all of it. Fields has little cafe with monstrous burgers (I had the double w/ cheese, and dare you to do the same) and an incredible list of taps and beers for sale. You have to be there at like 4pm to get cooked food though. We made it like 330 or so. Really cool proprietors (all packing heat, really).
Day three was a good ride, all road. Big climb to start the day, but very evenly graded (as were all climbs). Really great descent (I hit 47mph) and continued downhill until you reached the west side of the Steens. Ride north was on smooth and flat pavement, and we caught a mini rodeo competition. There is one tree on the right that offers some shade, but that is really it for the entire ride (the entire trip really). Stayed at Frenchglen the next two nights, which offers cute little rooms and three meals a day, including a solid 630pm communal supper. Mercantile shop has beers and others snacks and souvenirs. Try reading the really big Steens history book they have at the hotel while on the porch.
Day four ride was up into the Steens on the mountain loop road. First 3 flat miles was pretty sucky gravel, but once you start going up the road it is super smooth. Climb was very consistent, and deceptively steep. You can’t really tell based on the horizon ahead that you are going up, only based on the fact that you are going hella slow. Furthest spot reached was Fish Lake, which was splendid and worth a swim. Ride down was a blast, huge views and fast. You can get in the little stream at the bottom pretty easily to chill out before the last three miles of gravel.
And day five was a really nice ride north back to Narrows. Mostly flat early, winding through some beautiful canyons. A series of climbs for the last few miles, and a fun dive down back into Narrows.
I think that covers it. Bring sunscreen. Lots of water. As I always do, factor in that you may be covering only 10 miles per hour while touring (factoring in stops, photos, exploration, etc.). Read up on the history of the area, fascinating stuff.
Day 1 – Narrows to Crystal Crane: http://www.strava.com/activities/170510348
Day 2 – Crystal Crane to Fields: http://www.strava.com/activities/170894617
Day 3 – Fields to Frenchglen: http://www.strava.com/activities/171311419
Day 4 – Out-and-back to Fish Lake: http://www.strava.com/activities/171801747
Day 5 – Frenchglen to Narrows: http://www.strava.com/activities/172172736DonnieJuly 30, 2014 at 7:54 am #981
Awesome trip report! Thanks for sharing, we appreciate it. I’d been following your trip on Instagram, nice to know the trip went well!
Question for you – the store 3 miles before Crystal Crane Hot Springs, was that in the town of Crystal Crane? I couldn’t remember if there was anything there, so I didn’t note anything on the GPS route.
And I think you did it the smart way when it’s this hot – stay in lodging. Then you can ride early when it’s cool and have a place to hang out when you’re done for the day. I still remember sitting in the shade of the outhouse at Mann Lake all afternoon trying to stay cool, and ended up staying in a cabin in Frenchglen to avoid doing it a second day.
Thanks again!SilkySlimJuly 30, 2014 at 9:14 am #985
It was the “Crane Store & Cafe” on the left side of 78 just before the road bends to go NW. I suppose it is just west of the actual town of Crane.
Yeah, I really have a hard time imagining camping on this tour in the summer months, besides up on the mountain, which would actually be pretty splendid. This was my first ever non-camping tour, but it was definitely the right way to do it. Hope I didn’t spoil myself and ruin any future endeavors!UciqweJune 24, 2021 at 1:25 pm #102430
As soon as summer comes, the number of insects just rolls over. The trees are home to ticks that can be harmful to your health. You should definitely read the article about them, how to identify their eggs and how to protect yourself from them. Be careful and watch your health.
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