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  1. #1
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    Trip report: Drying out in central Washington [o]

    Oregon rider here ... not too well known on the WA forum, maybe too well known on the OR board. Anyway, like most folks living west of the mountains I got to feeling pretty moldy this spring. At least in Portland we had 8 inches of rain in March alone. I did manage to get myself some sunshine in Oregon's lower Deschutes country in March, but it wasn't quite enough.

    So 3 weeks ago it was time to go east again. But this time, also a bit north.

    Day 1: Seep lakes

    First destination was a bit of an oddball one for cycling, but for many years I'd wanted to explore the Seep Lakes area south of Moses Lake. Lots of little lakes interconnected by canals. There are a lot of little trails that go around the edges of these lakes. Mostly used by anglers, but bikes are legal so why not? I picked a spot at the south end of the area and started riding. Many of the roads and trails have these cool metal signs:


    Lots of doubletrack like this:


    End of the road for this one:


    Unfortunately, as I learned most of the trails are dead ends and don't go all the way around the lakes. And you do want to stick to the trails, because this is goat head country. I didn't see a lot of goat heads, but they were there in places and I somehow managed to get one flat.

    So with everything a dead end there's not much potential to stitch these trails together into a longer ride without logging a fair number of miles on gravel roads -- shared with a fair number of motor vehicles. Overall, not necessarily a place I'd recommend someone go riding, but the weather was nice, I got lots of sun and I sure as hell wasn't complaining.

    Day 2: Whiskey Dick

    Many years ago (mid 90s? When I still lived in Seattle) I'd done a short ride in the higher reaches of the Whiskey Dick area, but it was a somewhat ill-fated ride as it was January, the doubletrack was soaked with fresh snowmelt and I got my first introduction to desert gumbo packing up 2" thick on my tires.

    But after reading the Quilomene/Colockum Ramblings thread (these are the areas immediately north of Whiskey Dick) from a few weeks ago, I wanted to give it another shot.

    It can be hard to get into the area -- the above thread talks about driving in for miles in 4x4s, or possibly even boating across from the other side. And although the area is easily accessed from the old vantage highway, most of those access points have you starting at 2500-3000', then descending, with a big climb back out at the end. Not the most fun way to do it IMO.

    However, there IS an easy way in. Check the southeast corner of the map:
    On the very rightmost edge of the photo, about a mile east of the word "Hells", are two parallel doubletracks. Super easy to get to -- on the edge of Vantage, just west of the state park visitor center, you take the road down to the boat ramp (I think it's called "Recreation Access Road" or something like that), and the entrance to the parallel jeep tracks is on your left about halfway down. I think those tracks are normally open to motor vehicles, but in April they were closed to protect calving elk.

    Anyway, if you take the more northerly of those tracks, you quickly climb up a ridge into the Gingko State Park backcountry. Before long you have some great views. Here's one looking south towards the Saddle Mountains:


    Balsamroot and phlox were just getting going. By now they should be exploding, and the lupine and maybe also the paintbrush should be coming along well.

    I encountered a handful of hikers on this trip, but none once I got about 2 miles past the trailhead. I kept going more or less straight north on the road that hugs the right side of my map photo, above. After some climbing and descending you pass from the state park into the Whiskey Dick wildlife area. More great views:


    And another.


    By the way, as you enter this area there are numerous signs warning of criminal penalties for taking geologic treasures home with you. And for good reason. Somewhere along the way I discovered this lovely piece of the petrified forest, but you can be assured I left it in the petrified forest so future generations can enjoy it. "Take only pictures:"


    Then a big descent into the Cayuse Creek drainage. Once you get most of the way down into it, you come to a junction where you could head east down to the river. Being limited in time (loooong drive home) I didn't go that way, but would have liked to. Instead I headed "up" the creek to this oasis (the photo is misleading -- the oasis is actually slightly downhill from this point ... also, my camera didn't capture the dozens of windmills on the horizon up at the Wildhorse complex):


    Another view of the oasis, from just above it:


    There were quite a few bees buzzing about this structure, so I didn't investigate too closely and didn't figure out what it was:


    At the oasis are junctions that would allow you to continue north across the ridgelines towards the Quilomene/Colockum areas, or west and uphill, ultimately connecting with a whole network of jeep roads. The exploration potential is vast, and I shall return.
    Last edited by GlowBoy; 05-08-2012 at 10:50 PM.
    "People like GloyBoy are deaf. They are partisan, intellectually lazy & usually very angry." -Jaybo

  2. #2
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    Great ride report- thankful for the detailed info, beautiful pics, and so far a vicarious thrill; I hope to enjoy these areas all of you are exhibiting and continue to pioneer!! Cheers!

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    Awesome GlowBoy! Thanks for sharing! Spring may have been late in the mountains this year... but not in the desert. No major freeze's this winter and several record or near record warm days have dried things out quickly and left us w/ quite a few more tic's, yellow jackets and more "active" snakes than at this time last year.

    Really enjoyed your post! Thanks again! Only a handful of folks aspiring to ride these old, abandoned tracks out there... kind of a "Quilomene Club". Oregon's got some pretty vast area's of "out back" stuff to explore south and east of bend. Makes this area look small. Looking forward to riding fat bikes at and around Christmas Valley Dunes one of these days.

    Happy Trails,

    -ward

  4. #4
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    Yup, it's an amazing place. Mostly doubletrack but honestly some of the most remote riding I've ever done... it's easy to ride out there without seeing anybody all day besides at the parking area. There's also a lot of near identical up/down and very little water away from the Columbia, so I prefer to take a GPS, a full camelbak, lots of tools, and a certain sense of caution.

    I think the clockwise loop we've put together includes some of the stuff you were riding. I didn't get to do it this year because I was on kid watch, but husby and another buddy got to enjoy it for me.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  5. #5
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    Hey, verslowrdr,

    What's the approximate mileage and elevation gain on the loop you posted?

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    [QUOTE=verslowrdr;9294193]Yup, it's an amazing place. Mostly doubletrack but honestly some of the most remote riding I've ever done... it's easy to ride out there without seeing anybody all day besides at the parking area. There's also a lot of near identical up/down and very little water away from the Columbia, so I prefer to take a GPS, a full camelbak, lots of tools, and a certain sense of caution.

    I think the clockwise loop we've put together includes some of the stuff you were riding. I didn't get to do it this year because I was on kid watch, but husby and another buddy got to enjoy it for me.


    Right on VSR! Yah, sense of caution for sure! Our trip out there is coming up and the hotter than normal temps forecast for next week have me feeling a little anxious. We're leaving our route plan "open" 'till we get to the "Q" gate. There we'll have a little meeting and decide whether we "drop in" or stay up high along the edge of the forest. Now have a boat friend pledging to meet us at the dune on that Sat. if we end up there. Nice to have cell phones these days!

    BTW, plenty of water flowing in the canyons to the north pretty late compared to the south... from the snow melting in the Colockum. Day trips accessing the northern area's via Parke Creek Rd. are not that bad if you have a dirt worthy vehicle (i.e. SUV, 4x4 of some kind... Sooby Outback would probably make it). Northern gate is just past the wind farm. I need a GPS!
    Last edited by ward; 05-09-2012 at 08:52 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRSpalding View Post
    Hey, verslowrdr,

    What's the approximate mileage and elevation gain on the loop you posted?
    Looks like 21 miles and 3,600' vert.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

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    Thanks! That is a good long ride, and probably not one to start when it is above 85!

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    Fingerless gloves? You're not really a MTBer are you?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRSpalding View Post
    Thanks! That is a good long ride, and probably not one to start when it is above 85!
    Nice ride, but NO you do not want to be out there when it's hot. Note that "Hell's Kitchen" designation on the map that we ride through... great place, but even in spring noticeably warmer than down at the parking area. We basically ride down there until stuff up higher melts out, then we flee the ticks and rattlesnakes to the hills.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by GlowBoy View Post
    wtf?
    Just joking, lighten up. Looked like a fun trip. I was near Ellensburg a couple weeks ago, but forgot the stupid camara windfarms and snowy peaks would have made for great pis too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GlowBoy View Post
    If "mtber" means "person who listens to some idiot trying to dictate what everyone else should wear or ride," then no I am not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ward View Post
    Oregon's got some pretty vast area's of "out back" stuff to explore south and east of bend. Makes this area look small.
    True, and I've had a lot of great times exploring the big wide open in places like the Owyhee Canyonlands, Hart Mountain, the Alvord Desert and the Sheepshead Mountains. Here are photo reports (newer ones have better photos) of some of the trips I've done out there. Greatest one was a 4-day bike-camping trip in the Owyhee Canyonlands that Sparticus and I did back in 2003. Unfortunately, his photos were forever lost thanks to the mtbr upgrade and a failed hard drive, but it was still a great trip and we've at least got my photos.

    But even against the super wide-openness of SE Oregon, this smaller chunk of outback in Washington has some great things going for it. A lot of it is low elevation (unlike OR's outback, which is almost all above 4000'), so you can explore it earlier. In April and sometimes well into May, most of SE Oregon is often a cold, wet, muddy mess.

    Also, for Puget Sound dwellers it's only 2-3 hours' drive to the Vantage area. You guys are lucky. I could only dream of having a chunk of wide-open desert that close to Portland. In fact, even coming from Portland, it's quicker for me to get to Vantage than it is to SE Oregon. Christmas Valley is about 5 hours, but that's just barely getting to the edge of it. Most of the good stuff is 6-9 hours away.

    Quote Originally Posted by darthjamo View Post
    fingerless gloves? You're not really a mtber are you?
    Oh, for f****s sake. And I was wearing a white jersey too! Before Memorial Day!

    If "mtber" means "person who listens to some Victorian stepmother trying to dictate proper attire" then no I am not.
    Last edited by GlowBoy; 05-09-2012 at 01:30 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by darthjamo View Post
    Just joking, lighten up. Looked like a fun trip. I was near Ellensburg a couple weeks ago, but forgot the stupid camara windfarms and snowy peaks would have made for great pis too.
    Guess the Internet's famous humor filter got the best of you again.

    These things help let others know when you're joking: -->>
    "People like GloyBoy are deaf. They are partisan, intellectually lazy & usually very angry." -Jaybo

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by verslowrdr View Post
    I think the clockwise loop we've put together includes some of the stuff you were riding. I didn't get to do it this year because I was on kid watch, but husby and another buddy got to enjoy it for me.
    Yep, that loop completely includes the few miles I managed to ride that day. Thanks for the map and elevation profile. Glad to hear everything connects up as well as it looks on the map, and if I'd had more time that loop is what I probably would have done.
    "People like GloyBoy are deaf. They are partisan, intellectually lazy & usually very angry." -Jaybo

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