Fox Valley - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 28, 2020

Fox Valley

Rachael and I have biked back and forth across beautiful Fox Valley twice now in the past week, on our way to and from biking destinations further north.  Each time we crossed it I’ve been reminded of the time I biked through here 13 years ago and have taken note of the picturesque wooden pioneer structures decaying in the sun.  It’s the last destination within driving distance of John Day that I strongly want to bike through before leaving town.

Fox Valley lies in an east-west orientation, bordered by Long Creek Ridge on the north and Beech Creek Ridge to the south.  Roughly five miles across and fifteen or twenty miles wide, at its 4,300’ elevation it’s a treeless upland basin covered with cattle ranches and grassland.  Its only population center, such as it is, is the tiny unincorporated community of Fox; its only paved access is US 395.

Our ride plan for the day is to park the car in Mount Vernon and bike north up 395 to the community of Fox, and then double back.  We have gorgeous, almost summery conditions today, the warmest we’ve seen since arriving here.  It’s in the sixties already when we park our car on the street in Mount Vernon, and will top 75 by the time we return five hours later.  We park on the street in front of an attractive house with a low fenced yard with three agitated dogs on the other side running back and forth across their grass, barking and leaping against their fence to ward us off.  If we’d see the dogs when we pulled up, we probably would have picked a different spot to park.

The first fifteen miles of the day’s ride are up Beech Creek, a repeat of a ride we took a few weeks ago.  We keep a good pace, biking to the top without a break, and stop there just long enough for the obligatory summit shot.  On the way, Rachael spots a cluster of four deer off in the trees, not far from the spot where we almost ran into four deer in the middle of the road a few days ago.  Possibly the same crowd?

Northbound on empty US 395, with the Aldrich Mountains behind. What a fantastic day for a ride!
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It’s a steady but relaxed climb up Beech Creek for sixteen miles to the summit.
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Rocky reigns again!
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On the other side, it’s a very relaxed descent into the valley.  The road stays at nearly summit elevation for about a mile and then gradually coasts down to the valley floor.  Once we break out of the trees we bike into a very evocative, old west setting.  Abandoned and weathered log cabins, grazing cattle, rusting implements, split rail fences.  Lots of reasons for me to lag behind, while Rachael glides far ahead of me and rustles up a small cattle stampede.  Eventually she’ll double back to meet me and we’ll bike the rest of the way to Fox together.

After biking for about a mile on the plateau-like summit of Beech Creek Ridge, we gradually begin dropping into Fox Valley.
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Still gliding into the valley.
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Video sound track: Rawhide, by Frankie Laine

About a mile south of Fox is a cluster of old homes and structures like this. I wonder if the original community was centered up here.
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South of Fox.
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South of Fox.
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South of Fox. I like this one, with the spiffy, modern wing pasted on to the original log cabin.
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If I hold really still and keep my yap shut, I’m sure nobody can see me in here.
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Approaching Fox.
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I think of Fox as being a near ghost town, but there are definitely folks living here.  Its post office closed in just 2002, some of the old commercial buildings are still standing.  The town feels a bit like an open air museum.  The non-denominational Fox Community Church (established 1893) is still active, and would be holding Sunday services if it wasn’t closed for the Coronavirus.  We take a pass through town to take in the sights and then return to the church to eat lunch.

Fox Community Church, established in 1893. I like it’s gothic style - it reminds me of the beautiful old abandoned church at Locust Grove, near Wasco.
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Rachael was excited to discover that the Fox Community Church has rustic outdoor facilities.
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Looking across from Fox Church at the surprisingly modern looking school.
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Fox school, which I assume closed some years ago. It’s surprisingly well maintained though. Looking in the windows, you can see that it’s swept out, has a few desks, a few books on the shelf, some art work on the walls. I wonder if it’s being maintained as a museum piece.
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Fox Church, reflected in a window of the school house.
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Fox Store has gone downhill since I saw it thirteen years ago. When I dive back into storage I should find my photos from that tour and include them here.
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Out of gas.
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Weathered.
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When your chickens come home to roost.
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Crusty tires.
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Another relic, on the outskirts of town. Nice cinder block chimney!
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Finally, we’ve had our fill and head south again.  Once again I lag behind as we leave the valley, first to admire a small flock of curlews swirling and keening above a wetland meadow; and then, thrillingly, when I spot a pair of sandhill cranes stalking their way through the grass seeking out a meal.

From the top though, it’s a delightful fast coast back to the car, the grade gradual enough and the road smooth-surfaced enough that you can just relax and glide for the next solid hour and watch the Aldrich Mountains gradually grow nearer.

When we return to the car the same three annoying dogs are still there, racing around and warning us back.  As we drive off, we’re creeped out by seeing a young man, apparently the owner standing in the yard, taking our photograph through the open window of our car.  What’s this about?  Does he hate people parking in front of his house and wants to intimidate us so we won’t come back?  Does he object to our twelve year old, fading Obama/Biden bumper sticker that Rachael thinks we should consider removing or covering over?  Does he think we aren’t taking the plague seriously enough and should stay indoors?

Whatever.  We don’t doubt that he snapped our license plate too when we drove off.  For the rest of the time we’re here we’ll be careful about where we park it, and hope we won’t come back to it only to find our tires slashed or the windshield smashed in.  It must be about time to get out of Dodge.

Leaving the valley, climbing back toward Beech Creek Summit.
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Synchronized stalking.
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Jen GrumbyWhat a nice treat for the already great ride! Did they do much vocalizing?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNary a peep - Er, croak. I imagine they hold they hold their tongues when they’re on the prowl like this.
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4 weeks ago
Another fine relic of the past, at Beech Creek Summit.
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Ride stats today: Scott, 44 miles. 2,400’; Rachael, 47 miles, 2,500’

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Bob DistelbergLove the video, and the soundtrack was of course the perfect choice. Thanks for posting about all these daily rides. They've definitely kept me entertained during our 'sheltering', especially since I've only managed to get out for short 4 or 5 mile rides in our local neighborhood during this last month. Hope the transition to your next place goes smoothly.
Bob
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob DistelbergThanks, Bob. Your comment made Rachael’s day. She loves hearing that her videos are appreciated.

Hopefully you’ll be able to get out more regularly again soon. We’ve been so fortunate here in Oregon to be able to continue exercising. I don’t know how either of us would cope with being total shut ins.
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4 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanI'm glad to see you are making yourselves useful by rounding up cattle. Great video and accompanying music.
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4 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonGreat pics, great video, great music!
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3 weeks ago