The Bellfountain loop - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

June 21, 2020

The Bellfountain loop

It’s Father’s Day!  I’m a father as it happens, so I claim my right to choose the ride for today.  With a mild, partly overcast but dry day at hand, it’s a good time for one of the longer rides we’ve been considering: a loop south to Harrisburg.  On our way south we’ll stay on the west side of the river and follow Bellfountain Road most of the way, partially backtracking my ride yesterday to Finley National Wildlife Refuge; and on the return we’ll take the most direct route home on the east bank, sticking with Peoria Road.

With plans for a Father’s Day dinner this evening, we get an early start and are on the road by 9.

Video sound track: The Shadow of Your Smile, by Astrud Gilberto

Southbound on Bellfountain Road, approaching the first of several rollers we’ll encounter.
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I didn’t stop for many photos on Bellfountain Road since I was just here yesterday, but here’s a nice barn I missed the first time.
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About halfway to Bellfountain we stop at a summit for a nature break, and hope we don’t get busted for a parking violation.
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Can’t you read, mister? No parking means NO PARKING!
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Jen GrumbyDon't mess with Sheriff Rachael!!
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1 week ago
Looking east from Bellfountain Road. The attractive plume in the middle there draws your eye to the Georgia Pacific mill near Halsey. I’m not sure about the one to the far left, but I think Lebanon.
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Entering Bellfountain, we’re reminded that we’re following the historic Applegate Trail. Not for the first time this month either - we were following it in Kings Valley two weeks ago also.
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If you’re not familiar with the Applegate Trail, this helpful information panel in Bellfountain will fill you in a bit.
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Still thirsty for knowledge? This comes courtesy of the National Park Service.
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There’s not much to little Bellfountain, an unincorporated place that lost its post office over a century ago.  It does have a pretty heritage church though, and maintains a small county park (with restrooms!).  Also, it has a surprising claim to fame: its high school basketball team won the Oregon state championships way back in 1937, in the era when all schools competed together in the playoffs regardless of school size.  From the Wikipedia article:

In 1937 the basketball team at Bellfountain High School won the Oregon state championship. At this time Kenneth Litchfield was principal and Burton "Bill" Lemmon was the coach. That was an era when all schools, large and small, were grouped together for playoff purposes. Bellfountain H.S. had a total of twenty-seven students, and their basketball team consisted of eight boys, none over 6 feet tall. After taking the Class B Championship they beat Portland's Franklin High School (a school of 2100 students) in the semi-finals, then competed in the finals against Portland's Lincoln High School.  The Bells beat Lincoln by 14 points - their closest game of the season.

That’s a story that a great inspirational film could be made of.

Hollyhocks and house, Bellfountain.
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Heritage biker and tree, Bellfountain.
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Bellfountain Community Church, built in 1899. A Travel Oregon article describes it as the finest example of a 19th century church in Benton County, and notes that it has Queen Anne features.
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From Bellfountain we leave Bellfountain Road and angle southeast toward Harrisburg.  After dropping out of the hills we bike most of the rest of the way south on Old River Road, a route I was anxious to ride because the name sounded appealing.  It’s a quiet route, but actually not that interesting as it cuts a virtually flat path through the Long Tom River floodplain for the next ten miles, passing one grass field or hazelnut orchard after another.  Pretty enough, but undeniably just a bit monotonous in the end.  Truth be told, after three weeks we’re starting to tire a bit of this look and are starting to look ahead to Bellingham and a change of scene.

Dropping west from Bellfountain on Dawson Road.
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The Long Tom River, from Stow Pit Road. Both interesting names that probably merit some research.
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On Old River/Noraton Road, looking back west to the more interesting foothills.
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Miles like this.
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Finally we come to the end of Old River Road, are dumped on busy Highway 99E, and immediately miss the quiet farming road we’re just leaving behind.  Highway 99E is quite busy and it takes us a while to find a gap large enough for us to dash across to the other side.  Once there, we ride on its wide, safe shoulder for a short distance until we approach the bridge across the Willamette.

I’d forgotten about this bridge, which we’ve crossed a couple of times long ago on overnight rides from Salem to Eugene.  This narrow two lane bridge and the short stretch on this highway were the only really unpleasant parts of that ride.  It’s been so long that I’d forgotten that there is only a shoulder on one side of the bridge - the north.  Had I remembered, we wouldn’t have bothered crossing the highway and just biked against the traffic for a few hundred yards until reaching the bridge.

I find a gap and cross back over to the north side and experience a safe, sheltered river crossing.  Rachael doesn’t stick with me though, stays on the right side, and makes me anxious for her when she crosses in the traffic lane.  Fortunately she times it well and somehow finds a huge gap in the traffic that lasts for her entire crossing. Lucky this time.

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Crossing the Willamette into Harrisburg on the right side, on the left side.
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Once safely across, we pull up once more to Riverside Park and enjoy our cheese and salami sandwiches watching the river rush by.  It’s the natural spot to stop down here, and it’s the third time we’ve done so this month.

The rest of the ride home is familiar territory by now, on Peoria Road the whole way.  With the day warming up and a significant headwind developing, we just keep our heads down and grind out the miles until finally coming to Peoria Road Farm Market, just a few miles from home.  We’ve passed this market three or four times now and keep saying we should stop in for strawberries and cherries, and finally we do.  Cherries! Happy Father’s Day to me! 

At Riverside Park in Harrisburg, our new favorite pit stop.
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The barn at Peoria Road Farm Market. I’ve been wanting to stop for a photo of this and its fruit ladder but thought we should wait until we were stopping in to give them some business.
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Ride stats today: 58 miles, 1,400’

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Jen GrumbyHappy Belated Father's Day!
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1 week ago