The Harris Covered Bridge - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

June 30, 2020

The Harris Covered Bridge

With only one day remaining, we still have the same two rides on our todo list: Wendling Bridge, and the Berlin Loop.  We’re not doing either of them.  They’ll have to wait for a different visit, in a different season.

When I was reading up on the Irish Bend covered bridge that we visited yesterday, I stumbled again across the Harris Covered Bridge west of Philomath.  I discovered the existence of this bridge early on in our stay here, but disregarded it as a ride destination because it requires about five miles on busy Highway 20, the route through the coast range to Newport.  I’ve ridden this road once: in 1980, on a solo ride from Corvallis to San Francisco - my first ride down the southern Pacific Coast.  I didn’t care for Highway 20 then, and I can’t imagine that it’s improved in 40 years.

Still, an unvisited covered bridge within biking distance is a pretty big temptation.  I stare at the map for a bit and come up with a route that minimizes the time on Highway 20: I’ll ride it going west, but on the way back I’ll take a route I hadn’t noticed before: Cardwell Hill Drive.  beginning just north of Wren, it looks like a fine option: it follows Marys  River for the first few miles, and at the end drops down to the base of Bald Hill and ties into the multi-use path that becomes Campus Way.  Beautiful.

Just one catch: there’s about a three mile unpaved stretch in the middle with a 600’ spike in it.  I do some research to see how its surface is, but don’t have any success.  It’s listed as a very nice walking route, but I can’t find anything about biking it.  I decide to give it a go anyway.  Worst case, I’ll be doing a lot of pushing in those three miles.

There’s no way Rachael will want to join me though.  Between this and the couple of unpaved miles leading up to the bridge, it doesn’t seem likely to qualify as her idea of fun.  I bring it up with her when I return from breakfast, and she quickly agrees.  She’s quite happy to take off on her own again, and later will depart on a repeat of the 43 mile ride to Albany and Kiger Island that she took last week.  Before she leaves, she graciously loads the route to my Garmin and packs another salami and Swiss sandwich in my pannier.  What a gal.  So lucky!

So I take the ride.  And hey, guess what?  It’s great.  highway 20 is unpleasant, but maintains a good shoulder for this stretch.  And the gravel around Harris is better than expected - nearly semi paved, quite bikeable with my 28 width tires.  Harris bridge is great too, and well worth the trip out.  And best of all, the unpaved stretch over Cardwell Hill is much better than expected too.  About the same surface as around Harris, it’s not difficult  or unpleasant to bike at all, except for that spike, with its 10-12% grade.  I’m fine for the climb up, but downhill is a problem with my still maladjusted brakes.  I finally get embarrassed by screaming in the wilderness and dismount, walking down about a quarter mile of the steepest stretch.

And guess what else?  I’m out of time.  We leave for Corvallis in about 20 minutes.  I’ll wrap up what I can while I finish my cup of coffee, but that’s all you get.  See you in Bellingham.

On Chapel Drive, approaching the unnamed (as far as I can find anyway) low ridge south of Philomath.
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The same hill, seen from the north.
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More horseshoe art.
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For some reason I have a poor memory of Philomath from many years ago, but actually it seems quite pleasant. There’s this enticing spot, for example.
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If I’ve seen this fine structure before, I’ve forgotten about it. Nice to see, and nice to learn where Philomath got its unusual name without having to work for it.
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Westbound on Highway 20: 5 miles of type two fun.
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Nearing the summit of a small rise. Actually this stretch wasn’t bad at all. It’s nice there’s a passing lane and generous shoulder on this climb.
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Over the top, with a bit of a view to the coast range.
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South of Wren, on the back road to the covered bridge.
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Very nice, worth a detour. Maybe when I get time I’ll read up on it and say something more.
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Lunch spot by Marys River, next to the Harris bridge.
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The beginning of Cardwell Hill Drive. A dead end for cars, but not for pets and bikers.
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Not bad. Here, we’re basically level, following the river.
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No longer on the level, and steeper than it looks here. Beautiful though.
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On the descent. Squeal!
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A beautiful path, approaching Bald hill from the northwest. This approach skirts Philomath completely.
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The herd’s on the move. I should have taken a video.
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Irish Bend again. A two bridge day!
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The western gate to the OSU campus. Resonates nicely with passing through the bridge.
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Ride stats today: 30 miles, 1,800’

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Susan CarpenterSometimes a little stretch of gravel is worth the destination! Looks like a great ride.
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