Linn County, Oregon has an abundance of covered bridges, and most local bike clubs schedule annual "Covered Bridges Tours." So do motorcycle clubs, car clubs, and pretty much any other kind of club you can imagine. I decided to do my own covered bridges tour recently, but with a cross-terrain twist: I would ride a 22 mile loop around Rogers Mountain, about 5-6 miles of which would be gravel logging roads.
I started the ride at Larwood Bridge and rode southeast on Fish Hatchery Road. As the name implies, this road passes Roaring River Fish Hatchery which produces steelhead salmon and trout.
I continued past the hatchery and veered north on Tree Farm Road. At the end of the pavement the road is gated by Weyerhauser, but the area is still open to non-motorized traffic. The climb began immediately, the grade in some areas exceeding 20% by my estimation. In these areas I had to walk the bike because my 700x32 Panaracer Pasella tires - although adequate on flatter gravel - could not purchase on the steeper climbs. I passed through recently logged areas on the way up, with clear cuts giving away to dense forest at the higher elevations.
At the top of the ridge I caught a view of the Willamette Valley below. Riding along the top of the ridge was sublime, with no sounds but my bike and no human presence to speak of. Sadly the level riding of the ridge gave way too soon to a steep descent down the north side of the hills.
"Sadly" I approached the descent? Yes. The north end of Tree Farm Road winds steeply back down to the valley floor, and I didn't feel confident in my riding abilities and brakes as I careened down the snaking, twisting road. In some places the descent was so steep that even walking was treacherous. I had to walk the bike for about half a mile down the hill.
Near the bottom I came upon an active timber falling operating. If you come upon timber fallers - the trucks, chain saws, and occassional thunderous crashes are difficult to miss - it's a good idea to announce your presence and ask permission to pass through the area, lest they "fall" a tree on your head.
Tree Farm Road returned to the pavement at the valley floor, and shortly I arrived at Hannah Bridge. The creek running under Hannah Bridge was a stunning shade of aqua, a nice contrast to the otherwise gray day. From Hannah Bridge I followed state highway 226 east to Shimanek Rd., which is a quite lane passing between farms and a creek. Shimanek Bridge is one of the most attactive on the loop, but not terribly old. The red bridge was built in 1966. Crossing Shimanek Bridge I rode due south on Richardson Gap Road, which is busier but has a good shoulder.
The last stretch of the loop was Larwood Bridge Road, another low-traffic lane which is mostly flat, but with some easy rollers near the end including a brief but fun descent back to Larwood Bridge.
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