Monday, January 16, 2017
Friday, January 09, 2015
Friday, September 09, 2011
Distance: 100 miles
Start: Forks of Salmon or Etna
The Salmon River Loop is a beautiful low traffic century in Siskiyou county. Here's a link to the Siskiyou Velo route description
We completed the ride in a clockwise direction starting at the Forks of Salmon Post Office. This is an easier way since you hit the toughest climb first. We also had the luxury of stopping for lunch at the Etna Brewery!
If you start in Etna you have to tackle the most difficult climb last after a long hard day. This ride rates as an epic, just like the Tour of the Unknown Coast. The scenery is spectacular and it is a must do for any north coast cyclist, even if the start is 2 hours from the coast. Traffic is generally light until you reach Highway 3, which you won't mind at all. In fact, at one time our squirrel count was higher than our car count!
The route would also make an excellent tour with several campgrounds along the way.
I have not provided a detailed route description because the ride can be started anywhere along the loop and there are few turns and lots of road signs. We started in Forks of Salmon, took Sawyers Bar Road to Etna, Highway 3 towards Callahan, and Callahan/Cecilville Road back to Forks of Sallmon.
|Forks of the Salmon Loop|
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Cumulative Distance: 93.65 miles
Cumulative Climbing: 14,768 feet
Type: Mixed, 37 miles of dirt roads
The Lost Coast Tour is an alternative to touring down Highway 101, the Avenue of the Giants, and Highway 1 between Eureka and Fort Bragg. The tour can be included in your coastal tour or completed as a fun short tour that can be made into a loop or a point to point. I completed the ride in the summer of 2011 as a counter clockwise loop from Eureka to Usal and returning via Leggett and Highway 101.
The Lost Coast is shrouded in mystery, myth, and adventure. This post provides a reasonable way to complete the tour including recommended equipment, distances, and stops. I'm sure a maniac could complete it in one day, but I recommend at least 3 days. I believe any experienced cyclist can complete the tour if you are patient and pace yourself.
Here are my recommendations for equipment. I'm sure you could complete the ride on most any bike, but some would be better than others. I would not recommend a road racing bike with narrow tires and overloaded rear rack. A mountain bike or touring bike with ample gearing and wide tires is mandatory. I completed the ride on a loaded steel touring bike with a triple crankset, mountain bike cassette, 650B x 42mm Grand Bois Hetre cushy tires, 40 pounds of gear, 4 water bottles, and spare parts. At times I wished I had ridden my 29er and gone for a superlight off-road setup. There were times when I really wanted to bomb the gravel road descents, but had to carefully pick my lines and control my speed to avoid crashing or pinch flatting.
- Make sure your bike is in great mechanical condition.
- Choose reliability over speed.
- Have extra water carrying capacity such as multiple bike bottles or a hydration pack. Water stops are critical strategic points. Don't pass one up without filling up. It's a good idea to bring a water treatment system such as a filter.
- Bring extra food. There are only two stores and they are located early in the ride.
- Don't rely on a cell phone for safety. I had poor cell coverage for most of the ride.
- Let someone know your route and stick to it.
- Bring enough clothes to cope with extremes in temperature. I experienced cold 47 degree drizzle to temperatures in the 90s.Don't do this ride in the winter. The Usal road is not maintained during the winter and would be impassable because of the sticky clay surface.
The following are some route recommendations and directions. I won't be overly-detailed, so the ride will still have some adventure left for the rider who chooses to follow these directions. The best advice I read was from John Zilly’s book “Wild Pigs: The Mountain Bike Adventure Guide to the Pacific Coast,” where he describes this same route. If you are used to 100 mile days on a road tour, expect only 30 mile days on the Lost Coast.
DAY 0- Eureka to Ferndale
Distance: 16.65 miles
Climbing: 694 feet
The real starting point for the Lost Coast is Ferndale. The ride from Eureka to Ferndale can be easily accomplished by riding down 101, taking the Ferndale exit and following the signs to Ferndale. However, if you want to avoid riding on the Highway as much as possible, follow this description.
0- Start, Herrick Avenue Exit, Highway 101
3.8- Exit 698 for Tompkins Hill Rd toward College of the Redwoods
4.3- Right towards College of the Redwoods
6.9- Right on Hookton Road, turn right and continue over Highway on overpass
7.2- Continue straight on Eel River Drive, don't get on the Highway
9.8- Loleta, Straight or turn left on Loleta Drive to the Loleta Cheese Factory or Loleta Bakery
11.6- Right on Fernbridge Drive towards Fernbridge
12.2- Right on CA-211 towards Ferndale
16.0- Turn right onto Van Ness Ave towards the Fairgrounds, or straight into town for supplies
16.5- left onto 5th street
16.65- Arrive at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds
The camping at the fairgrounds is simple and cheap, but there are warm showers and lots of good restaurant options downtown. Plus, this is the best place to start since it is only 3/4 of a mile from the start of the route.
REFER TO THE ROUTE SHEET FOR TURN BY TURN DIRECTIONS
DAY 1- Ferndale to A.W. Way Campground
Distance: 35 miles
Climbing: 4520 feet
The day starts off with a climb up the Wildcat/Mattole Road. The road is narrow, but there is little traffic and the drivers are polite. If this steep paved climb makes you doubt your fitness, you have not seen anything yet. You should consider turning around because the dirt roads in the King Range are much more challenging. There are two big climbs on the route within the first 20 miles. The first climb tops out at 1909 feet at the 7.2 mile mark. The descent into Capetown will challenge your brakes and descending skills. If you have weak brakes now, consider turning around or adjusting them. The dirt roads in the King Range are much steeper. The next climb isn’t as long, but there are a series of tough switch backs and uneven pavement that will test your bike handling and climbing skills. You get to bomb down the 18 plus percent “Wall” on the way down to the ocean. This is a nice treat if you are used to climbing the Wall during the Tour of the Unknown Coast.
After a nice tailwind along the ocean you head inland climbing towards Petrolia. At mile 29.6, stop at the Petrolia store for supplies. They have a small market with basic supplies, but can also make great deli sandwiches. You are in store for more climbing before you reach A.W. Way. At mile point 30.6 you will turn left after crossing the Mattole River. An alternative camp site is located down Lighthouse Road on the ocean at the Mattole Campground
As you head east along the Mattole River you will be challenged by the last significant climb of the day, the “Dump Hill” at mile point 33. There are a couple of tough switchbacks that will have you fighting your bike. From here it is an easy ride into A.W. Way Campground at mile point 36. The campground has recently been upgraded with a brand new bathroom and hot showers! Pushing on to the Honeydew Creek campground is a mistake. A.W. Way has a nice swimming hole and there are several river-front camping sites to pick from. In contrast, Honeydew Creek is smaller, less private, and has no potable water. There are no showers or flush toilets like A. W. Way.
Day 2- A. W. Way Campground to Wailaki Campground
Distance: 30.5 miles
Climbing: 4921 feet
Today you will get your first taste of gravel road touring. The ride to Honeydew Store at mile marker 8.1 is fairly uneventful with a couple of small climbs. Stock up on water and supplies at the Honeydew store before heading into the wild. The real challenge begins just after the 10 mile mark on Wilder Ridge Road. The road starts to climb and switchback at perhaps the steepest grade so far. A 0.4 mile gravel switchback section challenges you to keep you front wheel from washing out and your rear wheel from loosing traction. After 11.6 miles, the slope becomes more gradual, but the climb continues all the way to Kings Peak Road at mile point 15.8.
Now the real challenge begins on a steep gravel descent to Bear Creek. Your brakes and handling will be challenged as you try to avoid washing out on the tight switchbacks. I once turned back here afraid of what I was in for. Be happy that you don’t have to climb this beast of a road. The only car I saw on this whole dirt section was a Toyota Landcruiser. As I passed them I saw a curious look in their eyes as I bombed down the rutted road on a touring bike. The rough road will challenge you as you steadily climb above Bear Creek and cross several small creek fords. Pass up Horse Mountain Campground for Tolkan, where there is potable water. This is a great base camp if you want to ride the Paradise Royale mountain bike trail.
From here the climbing continues until you reach Shelter Cove Road at mile point 28.1. If you are short on supplies, it is a tough decision to ride all the way down the descent to Shelter Cove. It’s a little over 3 miles, but it means a tough ride back out. Turn left on Shelter Cove Road and head out Chemise Mountain Road to Wailaki Campground. The nice smooth pavement, shade, and gentle topography are a welcomed change. Wailaki is an important stopping point with nice camp sites along the South Fork of Bear Creek. This is a great place to rehydrate and rest before conquering the ride to Usal. If you choose to push on like I did, expect to spend a long day in the saddle, even though it’s only 22 miles to Usal Beach Campground. It took me nearly 4 hours at a meager pace of 6 miles per hour.
Day 3- Wailaki Campground to Usal Beach Campground
Distance: 23 miles
Climbing: 4025 feet
I had heard rumors about the Usal Road being the worst road on this whole ride. I also heard stories of vehicles getting stuck on the unmaintained road during the winter. The Usal Road lived up to its reputation, but it is totally rideable during the summer. The road varies from hard packed clay to loose gravel. Along the way you will have to pick good lines between ruts left from 4x4s and the small erosion gullies left from winter weather. The road is not maintained in the winter, but it didn’t appear like it was maintained during the summer either. If you are a mountain biker, this will seem like a normal fire road or logging road ride. Riding 23 miles on an unloaded mtb would be less of a challenge. But, it is demanding if you are trying to control a loaded touring bike. During this ride I saw only one SUV and two motorcycles. You will be out of cell phone range and away from help, so ride cautiously!
Chemise Mountain road sounds like a barren and hot ride. However, both Chemise Mountain Road and the Usal Road are covered by a nice canopy of second growth Douglas-fir and tanoak the majority of the way, which provides lots of shade.
At mile point 0.95 you will be greeted by a steep gravel descent. After this white knuckle experience you will love the paved rolling terrain for a couple of miles as you pass the community of Whale Gulch. The real peace and isolation starts when you ride up the narrow and twisting Usal Road 4.5 miles into the ride. There are few landmarks along the way as you seem to continuously climb on the narrow dirt road. After 19 miles of climbing and ups and downs you will bomb down to the Usal Beach Campground, part of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
This simple campground features private camp sites up Usal Creek, along the beach, or within a small prairie. There is no potable water here, but water may be available in Usal Creek if you have water treatment options.
Day 4- Usal Beach Campground to Highway 1 and Beyond
If you choose to push on or spend the night, you have 5.5 miles and 1300 feet of climbing to reach Highway 1. Fort Bragg is an additional 28 miles further.
Here are some more resources:
- BLM King Range Information HERE
- Nice BLM Map and guide HERE
- Sinkyone Wilderness Information HERE
- BLM Sinkyone Wilderness Information HERE
- Asana Cycling Surly Big Dummy Tour has a fun description of the ride and some video of the adventure
- John Zilly's "Wild Pigs: The Mountain Bike Adventure Guide to the Pacific Coast" published in 1995 details the route. I used this for my adventure. The only real changes are there are a couple sections of road that have been paved since 1995. It details mountain bike rides all along the west coast and is available at Amazon
- Amy L's Northern California Bike Loop Advice Blog where she road the Usal road from south to north and then headed east towards Redway.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Start: Nordeimer Campground
This ride is hard to categorize. The ride isn't hard because of the climbing or distance. The challenges are numerous including stream crossings, unrideable switch backs, hike-a-bike sections, skinny single track, mosquitoes, rattle snakes, poison oak, and true isolation. Once you drop into the Nordheimer canyon you are really in the middle of nothing where you would be in real trouble without a partner or survival skills. The best way to describe this is an adventure ride. All of the challenges are worth the beauty, isolation, and satisfaction of completing the ride.
If you are going to do this ride I have a few recommendations. First, don't do it alone. Once you drop into the Nordheimer canyon there are only two ways out and that is up or down the trail. Second, bring a few extra items like extra water, food, clothes, and a good map and/or GPS. The mosquitoes were swarming us in August so I recommend some type of bug repellent if you plan on staying in one place for a more that a couple of minutes. Third, plan on doing this ride in the late summer or fall. The stream crossing are difficult to negotiate in the winter and spring due to their large size and no bridges. You will be challenged to keep you feet dry even in the summer or fall.
The route involves 4 miles of road, 12 miles of fire road, and 8 miles of singletrack. Believe it or not, but the 8 miles of single track will take longer to ride than the other 16 miles even though you are descending over 2,000 feet along the way. The first single track section involves some steep narrow trail where you will be skidding your back wheel downslope. The next few miles involves narrow single track that requires intense focus to stay on track. The last 3 or so miles follow an old mining flume, which parallels the slope and rewards you after a challenging day.
0- Start at Nordheimer Campground. If you want to avoid the day use fee drive about 100 yards up the Nordheimer road and park in a turnout at the base of the Orleans Mountain Trail. Head up the Salmon River to Forks of Salmon.
4.0- Turn right onto Cecilville Road.
4.25- Turn right onto Forest Service Road 10N04. Stay on this main road for the next 6 plus miles.
10.7- Continue right onto Forest Service Road 10N03.
11.9- Turn right onto Forest Service Road 10N05.
15.54- ***Turn left onto the Nordheimer Trail. This is an important and difficult turn. The trail is not marked with a sign and it is not obvious. We piled some branches and rocks in the road. The only way Errin Odell found it was by hiking from the bottom. There are no intersections going down the trail, but there are a few places where the trail disappears near the stream crossings.
24.25 End at Nordheimer Campground.
Additional Trail Photos are HERE