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Thread: Portrait of a Road: Lower Nehalem

  1. #1
    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Portrait of a Road: Lower Nehalem

    Welcome to a favorite local road.

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    Click on images for larger view.
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    Part 1:
    I giggled behind a foggy face-shield. It was raining yet again. I rolled on the throttle, giggled, and shot around another lazy oregon driver. Through low hanging clouds I headed west out of portland towards the coast.

    The work I'd left at home was stressful enough, there was no reason to push it out here. I slowed and dropped in behind a white pontiac that was following a blue mini-van. Moments later, I spied the lights of a local police cruiser that had pulled someone over. The pontiac and I played the game and slowed a little bit to the speed limit. As I passed him, the officer jogged back to his car. With a spin of the wheels, he pulled out and passed me. Sliding in behind the white pontiac, his lights lit up. "Please...please...please..." I was surprised he didn't grab me as well.

    And there it was, the other cruiser, a half mile ahead with another victim. He dashed out and grabbed the mini-van.

    Somehow I had escaped. Nervous that my turn was next, I let traffic overtake me. Not more than a mile ahead, another car was parked in front of yet another cruiser. I tried to keep an eye on both the road ahead and the cruiser receding in the mirror. I was lucky. I giggled behind a foggy face-shield.

    Past the summit of the coast range, I turned left onto Lower Nehalem Road. It winds for some twenty five or thirty miles or so along the Nehalem river. The river drains a small weathered and rumpled piece of the coastal range, a total of about 310 square miles. All but a few scraps of the forest is new growth. Before the lumberman came, the spruce and hemlock and fir of this area were amongst the most majestic in all the northwest. It isn't what it might have been centuries earlier, but it still has a particular damp and moss wrapped charm. As the forest tries to return to what it once was, the steelhead and salmon, sheltered and fostered by the mighty forest of the past, also try to return from record low numbers.

    Moss clinging to Quaking Aspen.


    As generations march along, we gradually lose touch with how it once was. These trees we see everyday, and see as wilderness, are young and small and crowded. Time has taken away even the remains of most of the ancient groves. Amongst the spindly new growth, this remaining stump and a few others were shockingly massive.



    Don't doubt that I do support most environmental causes. At the least, I see them as a balance to our ever urgent needs of the moment. But my need on that day was to ride - a not altogether altruistic and environmentally friendly thing to do.



    I was eager to be welcomed into the dark tunnel of trees with branches hanging low from the weight of waterlogged moss, the sky barely filtering through. The first time I saw it, I was taking up the rear of four GS's, their red brakelights looking like christmas ornaments in the gloom.

    Coming around the bend, I was shocked to see the gaping white sky. Those welcoming trees had been cleared back from the road, striped and piled, ready to be hauled away. The reddish wounds in the bark bright against the gray and vivid green.





    part 2 coming soon...

  2. #2
    El Dookey loves to ride. 99007's Avatar
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    Bravo

    Very nice story and pics. Glad you missed the dragnet!

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    Click on images for larger view.
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    Part 2:
    It was a classic Northwestern winter day. The rain had stopped and been replaced by blanket of tiny droplets that hung in the air. The chill, with the humidity so high, cut through the layers of riding gear and clothing. I flipped the heated grips to high and checked the switch on the electric vest. I was cold. To help my body catch up, I slowed down.

    As the road transitioned to gravel, the trees again leaned close to the road. The surface was slick but hard packed. This is what I'd come to ride.



    The Nehalem River was swollen with the last snow melt and nearly constant rains. The frequent rapids mellowed in the deep water. Again, I tried to imagine the river as it once was, under a high canopy.



    The hills showed the signs of the regular harvest of lumber. All of the hills in this area do. I wonder where the wood goes and what it becomes.



    The further south it goes, the rougher the road gets. As the hillside pressed closer to the river, more and more rivulets and waterfalls appeared. The moss envelopes every damp surface, ferns burst from every crevasse.



    Here, possibly recently repaired after a recent mud slide, the road was soft, the gravel like icebergs in a sea of mud. This would have been a terror on my old bike. Even with the round street oriented tires, it's silly fun to see what happens on the big GS. The trick is simple; keep your head up, roll on the throttle, out spins the back tire, feel the rear wander around.



    It's a favorite road for good reason. Each season, each day, it seems a little different. Sometimes it's a steeped tea bag; wet, soft, and slick. Other times stretches of it are hard and dusty. Potholes appear and disappear like acne. Slides from the hillside adding their bulk to the road, or taking it away. Rapidly decaying, always the surface is a little different.



    part 3 coming...

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    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Part 3:
    The higher it went, the narrower it got. Here and there small clusters of cabins or homes huddled in the gap between the river and road. More regularly, gated logging roads led up a steep slope and disappeared into dense woods. I made a mental note of the few that were open.

    I wouldn't want to slide off the edge (this is one of the less steep stretches).


    For a particularly fun few miles, the road loops up and down, sometimes just dirt, sometimes patches of broken pavement rounding off chunks of angular bedrock. It's the perfect environment for this bike. Trusting the rims and suspension, standing on the pegs, I hammered through. You too would have howled manically with joy.



    A ruddy speckled shape slipped out of the branches - a large falcon. With wings steady, feathers barely fluttering, it glided ahead of the bike down the corridor cut by the road through the trees. Everything else dropped away into the periphery, the beautiful bird crisp and solid. I do love this road.



    Always, the moss, the ferns and the river are your companion.



    Nearing the dot on the map known as Salmonberry where the river with the same name joins the Nehalem, I explored a small side road. Mud. I stopped to consider my options. Do I go ahead and hope I can stay upright or do I turn around? I hate turning around. I suffer from eternal optimism - if I just keep going, I'm certain it will get better. But I also hate picking up this big bike. Not wanting to give up an opportunity to get the bike even dirtier, I scouted ahead on foot. Sometimes the mud in this soggy world has no bottom and is impassible.



    Luckily the mud sat on a bed of firm rock and roots. I plowed through, up on the pegs, mud and water flying out of puddles deeper than I realized, the bike moving loosely under me. It would've made a great photo. Yes, I'm that vain.



    part 4 coming...

  5. #5
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    Part 4:
    At Salmonberry, tracks cross the river on an old steel bridge. It's almost a town, a few houses hide in the trees and some fellow sporting a glorious mullet mowed the lawn between picnic tables.





    The rain picked up again. Through the briefly heavy shower, I sped, giving the bike a bath.

    This isn't the desert.


    Green is the color of western Oregon. While places like New Orleans and Philadelphia might get more rain in a year than Portland, a scant 50 miles or so behind me, here in the Coastal Range, 120 inches or more is normal. Through the wetter winter months, it's a never ending gray drizzle. The dimmed winter sun allows the arctic cold to sweep down from the north across the pacific, picking up moisture along the way. This never ended wet gets wrung ouf of the clouds first by the coast range and then the Cascades.

    Moss and ferns are everywhere. A sheen of running water down the wall that was the left side of the road.


    What are the physics of a pot-hole, even on an unpaved road? Who cares. This was fun. Slaloming around them on the slippery road is more fun than you'd ever imagine. Sometimes they work together to push you off the road, with the gaps closing off with softer road and mud the only path. Bang through the holes.



    With the moisture and rugged terrain come waterfalls. One of the larger waterfalls. Note the small floral bouquet placed neatly on a cluster of rocks.



    part 5 coming...

  6. #6
    leave my monkey alone LORAZEPAM's Avatar
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    You go dude, Great pics and descriptions. How fast do you go on those roads? I ride gravel like that sometimes. In fact I just got in from a ride which included a short streatch maybe 2 miles of that kind of road. Looks like fun on a GS, not so much on an RS.
    Gale Smith
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    1999 R1100RT

  7. #7
    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Originally posted by lorazepam
    You go dude, Great pics and descriptions. How fast do you go on those roads? I ride gravel like that sometimes. In fact I just got in from a ride which included a short streatch maybe 2 miles of that kind of road. Looks like fun on a GS, not so much on an RS.
    Thank you.

    How fast depends on the day. It is the kind of road where you could get into serious trouble quickly - especially since the road conditions vary so much from day to day, mile to mile. I don't think I ever got into 4th gear.

    The road would be easy on any other bike as well, just not as much fun as the GS. It is, IMO, the exact kind of road the GS excels at.

  8. #8
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    Click on images for larger view.
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    Part 5:
    Why do I need to take so many pictures of The bike?



    Even the smallest waterfalls enchant.





    At the end of the wet season the thinner mud rises to the surface of some roads, disguising the conditions beneath. Under the slippery skin, the subsurface shifts. The tires start thinking for themselves, choosing their own path. It's an unnerving feeling. I might have giggled some more.



    What makes them in such prodigious numbers? As I stood to take this shot, a jeep shot by, drenching me in brown water.
    (did I really take a photo of a cluster of pot-holes?)



    Nearly at the end of the unpaved road, a well cared for campground (Nehalem Falls?) was gated and its sign taken down. If it opens, I see a gathering of riders in the making. Wouldn't you like to camp along this river?



    Your host, with squished cheeks.



    The end of the sloppy fun. It's a wonderful road. The scenery isn't that spectacular. The road isn't clean perfection or rugged inspired madness. But a great road nonetheless. One of it's greater charms, as I mentioned before, is how much it varies from ride to ride, depending on the season and weather. Since I was first introduced to it last fall (thank you Rubber Cow and the pdxgs guys), I've ridden it countless times. With little traffic and the unspoiled feeling - however mistaken - it's one of my antidotes to regular life.



    part 6, the conclusion, coming...

  9. #9
    leave my monkey alone LORAZEPAM's Avatar
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    I can handle the potholes without much problem. It is the washboards that form in uphill and downhill sections that give me the most problem. I have ridden a bicycle with 700x23 tires on gravel roads, and I much prefer the motorcycle to that activity. After thinking about the bicycle, one place I would love to ride would be Vermont. The roads were really great, low traffic, well maintained and for the most part, traffic free. There was a B&B I stayed in called the Creamery that was fantastic. It had a tiny trout stream at the bottom of a long hill. I would love to go back and stay there and do a shamrock tour and trout fish. Guess I will have to look them up. I feel a trip report coming.........
    Gale Smith
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    1999 R1100RT

  10. #10
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    Part 6, Conclusion:

    Back on pavement, I let the bike run free. Out along the railroad track, through the drizzle, we carved corner after corner. Past the gravel quarry, over the tracks that cross *twice* at an acute angle (they were very disconcerting the first time), around some strolling pick-ups, and out towards the coast.

    What are these cylinders? They dot the length of the tracks. Inside were metal railings that looked like the rungs of a ladder, but the bottom was solid concrete.



    Where do the machines go to die?
    In the rampant nearly jungle like growth, anything parked is soon swallowed. Our footprints might be on the moon for eternity, but here nature wins all battles.

    A few dollars and she'll be running like new.





    More than two years since moving from Reno, I still miss the expansive landscape of the high desert. in the warmer months, I can head to the east side of the Cascades. But in winter, the easier choice is to run to the ocean to fill me need for a horizon. I smelled it before I saw it. Near the modest town of Garibaldi, OR, I arrived at the water and the sound of gulls. The big sky and open spaces a relief to the claustraphobia of the forest.



    I had made a wrong turn at some point. I hadn't meant to be as far south as I was. I only had an hour or so of good light left. South or north, which is the faster way home? The choice was easy. North would put me on Necanicum Road (OR 53), a fun little snake of road.

    Calling the the tiny rocky outcrops islands seems a bit of an exaggeration. But in the white dimming light of the late afternoon they are undoubtedly beautiful, like little slices of Japan. And moving around on an upper branch was a bald eagle. The camera's batteries nearly drained, I dashed across the tourist traffic to take a few photos. These will have to do.





    Families were everywhere. Everyone quietly enjoying the sublime view. South of Rockaway Beach, a haystack rose out on the horizon - does it need to be shaped like a haystack to be called one? The light was stunning on the rough surf. The crisp horizon what I needed.





    I needed to get home. My many stops to take photos had dramatically lengthened what is otherwise a modest ride. But I also wanted to take one more photo. Before me lay the delta and valley of the North fork of the Nehalem river which split a lumpy ridge split from the larger range. It's hard to believe that the tallest peak on the ridge, Neahkahnie Mountain is only 1630 ft tall.



    Necanicum Road left the flats and would up into the mountains. After escaping a few sluggish drivers, the road was mine. The clean pavement was even dry in patches. I leaned the bike over and enjoyed turn after turn.

    200 miles. A good day. A great road. In a couple days, I'll be playing out there again.

    -scott


  11. #11
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Nice work, Scott.
    David Brick
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    Thumbs up Awesome!

    What an excellent ride report Scott. Your detail and pictures are superb. Gosh, with roads like that I'd love to have a GS to play on. All those ferns and moss really makes the land look unspoiled, just like mother nature wanted it to be. Next time I'm at a dealer I might just be caught test riding one of those GS thumpers. Ironhorsecowboy

  13. #13
    ian408
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    That was a great ride report. Liked the beach photos.

    If you find out what the tubes are/were, do let us
    know.

    Ian

  14. #14
    REBECCAV
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    Thanks for the report and great pictures. The velvety moss on the trees is especially beautiful. Such a contrast to our landscape here in the midwest.

    Did you happen to go into one of the 'cylinders?' In a video game or sci-fi movie they would have a secret lever that if pushed would transport you to another world. Who knows, maybe one of the cylinders will dump you in downtown Milwaukee. I'd avoid that particular cylinder if I were you.

  15. #15
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    Dood. I'm just digging this.

    So completely.....

    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

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