Cow Camp Revival – Day 1

9/15 – Home to Finley Creek Cow Camp

In the summer of 2011 three of us, Andy, Norm and myself rode a good portion of the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route OBCDR). We missed a few sections due to snow in the mountains (Tiger Creek Rd. to Kamela, Norm getting injured, and me being chicken about crossing Crane Creek.

We started outside Walla Walla, WA on Tiger Creek Road which is about 73 miles from home. Tiger Creek was fairly easy gravel up to and including FS-65. We had to cross through a couple of snowdrifts with me gently going down on one, but at the intersection of the Kendall-Skyline (FS-64) and FS-65 we ran into impassable snow. We were blocked from getting to our first camp site at Cow Camp and Mt. Emily the next day. We rode back to Walla Walla, took WA-204 to Elgin and rode into Cow camp from the east.

This year Norm and I decided to wait until September to do the Tiger Creed Rd-Finley Creek Cow Camp-Mt. Emily-Kamela portion of the OBCDR. Our CBO, George, volunteered to support us in his truck and Tom rode with him, “…just to see us bounce off the rocks.”

Tiger Creek Road was as we remembered it, but as soon as we hit Kendall-Skyline, where we left off in 2011, we were through with the easy stuff until we got closer to Tollgate on WA-204.

Travel on Kendall-Skyline was hindered by sections with deep ruts, deep talc, and rocks. Some of the road is expectedly uphill and downhill. There are some smooth sections further down FS-64 but at one point Skyline departs from FS-64 and becomes moderately difficult again.

We had gassed up in Walla Walla and the distance to Tollgate was only 35 miles so we took a left on WA-204 to FS-31, about 7.5 miles south. FS-31 was all paved to Ruckle Road Junction with FS-31. Ruckle Road, however was about 5 miles of embedded-rock strewn, tooth-rattling road to Cow Camp.

After setting up camp we headed into Elgin for dinner, about 13 miles. On return we relaxed in camp on the chairs George had brought with him, having a few drinks and laughs around a non-existent fire.

9/16 – Cow Camp to La Grande

After breaking camp the next morning we returned to Kendall-Skyline via Ruckle Road finding it even rougher than the afternoon before. As we jumped back onto it we stopped to watch a cowboy (shepherd?), his horse and dog herd a hundred sheep or more sheep down Skyline. Fortunately they were going the opposite way we were.

Most of today’s ride was easy until we took Mt. Emily Road to the lookout. That road had several sections of ruts, large rocks and outright rock gardens. The ride was worth it as the lookout has some great views of the Grand Rhonde Valley. There are also several dry-camp spots, toilets, and fire rings.

We returned to the Mt. Emily/FS-31 junction taking a left toward Kamela and the I-84 on-ramp which was about 22 miles west. The rest of the road was easy gravel with Norm leaving me in the dust not know he was doing 60.

George’s wife had arranged a motel for us in La Grande. We had a good evening visiting the Sportsman’s Bar and Grill, eating nachos and drinking a few brews. Afterwards we had ice cream and snacks back in Tom and George’s room then all hit the rack.

The next morning, after breakfast at the Smokehouse Restaurant, we headed home.

OBCDR Outakes

I have so many videos from the Oregon Backcountry ride, largely taken by Andy, that I’ve had a hard time determining a way to put them together. I finally had an inspiration; a video of our bloopers, outtakes, misteps, misfortunes, mistakes, and other misses. Although some situations were not funny at the time, we laughed at all of the day’s buffoonery over a campfire each night.

The video quality is poor at times and I apologize for that. Andy was using a new camera which did not work well for us and did not adjust to light and shadow. The video is backed up, however, with Yakity Sax as a humorous background which should make up for some of the unsatisfactory visual.

For better quality you can click on the 360p and change the video to 480p or 720p HD. The video quality is much better at 480p and loads well. 720p hd is even better quality but loads slowly with several pauses during the video.

“Here, hold my beer!”

A Name for the Trip

Recently, Norm commented that we don’t have a name for this summer’s Oregon Back Country Discovery Route (OBCDR) ride other than the acronym. The full name is unwieldly and the acronym is meaningless. He pointed out that all of our previous rides had a meaningful name:

  • Sturgis
  • Chicago
  • Ride to the Wall (Vietnam Memorial)
  • Hemingway Quest (Keywest)
  • Haul Road (Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay)
  • Trans-Lab (Trans-Labrador)

After a few moments thought he suggested the title, “Here, hold my beer,” in reference to famous last words of risk takers who have had too much to drink, “Here, hold my beer. This will be awesome!”

Many of you already know that Norm and I are pretty much teatolalers (compared to Andy), so that part of the reference may not hold true because our decision to ride the OBCDR was not made while drinking nor will we be drinking and riding while on the OBCDR.  We both, however,  feel trepidation about the trip as we do not know that our skills match the demands of the ride. We joke that we may have made just as foolish a statement by choosing the OBCDR for this summer’s ride.

Norm has a history of dirt riding but it was many years ago. I have very little experience in dirt except back in my early teens and the recent PSSOR Adventure Camp. We’ve done the Haul Road and Trans-Lab together and each of these had some technical stuff but both were largely flat. The OBCDR offers up some technical stuff which includes mountains, jeep trails, desert, and water crossings. Gulp!

New Video for OBCDR and WABDR

Tourtech has made some serious changes to the Washington Backcountry Disovery Route (WABDR) web site. They now include GPS tracks for the WABDR plus video for each section of the route. You will also find video done by Hodakaguy of his OBCDR ride in 2009. All can be found on Youtube but here’s the introduction to the WABDR. After watching each video, more choices pop up below for the next section and, eventually, Hodakaguy’s 2009 OBCDR.

OBCDR Update

Many of you already know that we rode to the hills outside Ellensburg, about 130 miles from here, to a camp ground called Rider’s Camp. I documented that on the blog. It was in preparation for the OBCDR ride this summer. The area around Rider’s Camp replicated some of the worst we might find on the OBCDR. We’ll probably do some of that again this spring. I’ve got to get better at steep rocky hills, deep sand, and crossing water. I’ve never crossed significant water before but have dumped it in deep sand several times. I’m a veteran at sand.

The trip dates will not firm up until early spring as work schedules are confirmed. So far there are three four saying they will go: Norm, Dustin, Andy, and me. 

I’ve already ordered Route 5 sections 3 & 4 from OOHVA and become familiar with where things are. You can’t quite pinpoint trouble spots as roads change and documentation on these is sketchy. I have identified campgrounds, the two major water crossings, services, and gas where it’s available for sections 3 & 4. I just ordered sections 1 & 2 this last week end.

If you are interested, You can see the overview map at Treknow. The home page has a small, general map with two routes shown. Click the Overview link and you’ll get a large, more detailed map of Route 5. The other links show detailed maps of Routes 2, 3, and 4 and all four sections of Route 5. I don’t know what happened to Route 1.

Once we have a decent GPS, we’ll purchase the way points here. All those who have ridden the OBCDR say a GPS is a must. Even with GPS there is a lot of back tracking due to missed roads, paths, and paths that do not look like paths and a maze of roads through the area. It’s possible to ride for days and not see anyone so getting lost can be a real problem.

Here is a link and a video I’ve found regarding the OBCDR. There’s tons more but these are particularly good examples.

Cycoactive OBCDR account

Crane Creek crossing (One of two this size)

Rider’s Camp – Saturday

Saturday – October 16, 2010

We had a late start Saturday due to the late night before. There was frost on the bikes and they were all hard starting due to the cold and high elevation.

After a breakfast of instant oatmeal and fruit we decided to ride to the top of Quartz Mountain first. It was a good ride going up. We stayed on forest service roads which were dirt and gravel. Although a bit bit cool with frost and snow patches in the upper elevations it was a nice ride with some great views. One patch of compact snow was close to 100 yards long but we got through it without any problems. Norm and I had changed from street tires to TKC-80s prior to departure while Andy had full nobbies on the KLR.

Coming back down we initially followed the same route. We hit the same long patch of snow and ice when all of a sudden my front tire caught an icey rut and, BAM, I went down. I landed hard on my hip. Andy got to me first and from a distance asked, “Are you ok?” I was laying there in pain slowly doing a fault check on my ambualtory systems. Although I didn’t feel anything was broken I was a little worried how, at my age, my body would take the fall. Through gritted teeth I said, “I think so.” Andy replied, “Walk it off while I check your bike.”

After limping around a bit I was actually in good shape, although limp stayed with me the rest of the day, it was gone by Sunday. Andy got my bike up, we mounted and rode off. That’s when things started getting hairy (for me). 

Andy was definitely the best rider of the group so he would ride ahead and check questionable trails out for us. Even then we followed too close behind on one trail which was a one track, very narrow, and difficult to keep the bikes on. We stopped after about a 100 yards and Andy rode ahead to see if it got any better.

Norm and I lost site of him as he disappeared into the forest but could hear the bike revving off and on caught glimpses of him as he was going and coming back. After a few minutes we caught sight of him again, but, he was walking. When he go back to us he said it was definitely too difficult and had buried his rear wheel trying to get turned around. He and I walked ahead to his bike which was down in the trees, off the trail, and definitely stuck. We muscled it out and he road back to Norm and the two GS’s.

There was no place to turn around as it was a single track trail on a fairly steep hillside so we pushed Norm backwards to a flatter spot where Andy took over and road the GS down and back up on the trail facing the correct position. We did the same for my bike and we all ended up back where we started but safe.

We continued on the two lane forest road a ways until Andy found another single track and explored it for us. He said it was a little rough but only a couple hundred yards long and led back to the main Fire road. Norm and I followed him up it and both had a little trouble. I got off the track several times, banging over rocks and roots while Norm became high centered at one point. He got himself out and we found a service road.

We got a little lost traveling back and forth on the trails but Andy eventually led us out to the main trail.  During the back and forth of tryiing to find the main trail Norm and I both dropped our bikes one right after the other while turning around. We had a good laugh about that, especially Andy. By then it was well after noon so we rode back to camp and had lunch.

Lunch was followed by, what I thought was going to be, an easier ride. We picked the service road going up to

no images were found

Rider’s Camp – Friday

 Friday, October 15, 2010

We met at Andy’s house Friday about 5:30pm to load the bikes, groceries, wood, and refreshments. While waiting for him to organize the trailer I took this video.

We got to Rider’s Camp late after stopping in Yakima for sandwiches and ice on the way. After finding a good spot, we unloaded the bikes, dropped the bunk beds down for Norm and I, unfolded the table and couch, and basically turned the inside of a utilitarian looking trailer full of motorcycles into a living room. It’s an amazing transformation.


The rest of the evening and early morning was spent sharing personal histories and riding experiences. There was a lot of guffawing coming from that trailer. We hoped nearby hunters weren’t too perturbed.

Rider’s Camp

Norm, Andy and I have been threatening a weekend adventure ride for several months now and we are finally pulling it off. Andy has a 5th wheel RV which carries ATVs so we will be loading the two GS’s, a KLR, and Andy’s 200cc dirt bike for a trip into the foothills of the Cascades. We (Andy) have selected Rider’s Camp as our destination. Andy has been talking to folks at his work and they recommend the area. Want more info? Click HERE. Want to see a map? Click HERE.

I was assigned food. Norm was assigned beer and wood. He wasn’t sure about wood but was pretty sure he could find beer. Andy did the most with getting the RV ready and passifying his family.

We ran into a couple of snags. When I removed the Metzler Tourances on cast rims and swapped spoked rims (with TKC-80s) onto the bike I discovered the rear lug bolts were different sized. I discovered this on Sunday. I had to order the spoked rim bolts from South Sound BMW. All the bike shops were closed Monday so had to wait until Tuesday to do the actual ordering. They arrived Thursday so now have the nobbies on the bike and I’m pretty much ready to go.