Up to Galena - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 21, 2020

Up to Galena

Dogspotting

The pattern of our rides has been changing lately.  Rachael is still zipping up the road the minute I stop for photos, but then I’ll see her coming back my way a mile or so later.  It’s not that she’s just gotten lonely and affectionate and is missing my company though.  It’s because she’s come up to a farmhouse, suspects there may be a dog in the vicinity, and wants a pilot bike to steer her though the danger zone safely.  She’s developed a new specialty, that she’s quite proud of.  She’s now Team Anderson’s official Dogspotter.

Bite him first! is her new motto, apparently.  And why not?  After all, I’m already damaged goods anyway.

Dogs are a virtual nonissue today though.  Over forty miles we see exactly two dogs.  One startles me by barking at me from the window of his car as it passes by; and the other is one I never did see but Rachael assures me is coming our way from the hill behind one of the few roadside homes we pass today.  Here he comes! , she shouts and quickly speeds past me, leaving my injured calf as the nearest morsel on the road.

We don’t seem to be able to upload anything to Vimeo right now, but in the meantime until we can here’s a link to Rachael’s excellent evasion technique.  Note that you need to activate the play icon (small arrow in the upper right) if you want to enjoy the audio and hear the trace of panic in Rachael’s voice.

Today’s Ride

Today’s ride is the counterpart to the one we took four days ago, following the Middle Fork of the John Day downriver from Austin Summit to Galena.  Today, we’re starting at the other end of forty mile long Up the Middle Fork Lane, beginning at US 395 and turning back at Galena.  The previous ride was outstanding.  Today’s ride is even better - Outstanding And Then Some.

The drive to the starting point of the ride is outstanding too.  From Mount Vernon we turn north up US 395, first climbing up Beech Creek to Beech Creek Summit (a ride we took earlier this month).  From there it drops into a basin to the near-ghost town of Fox before climbing another ridge, topping out at Long Creek Ridge Summit.  Then another long descent, to Long Creek, followed by a third climb to Ritter Ridge, before finally dropping to the Middle North Fork.

It looks like the great riding just keeps going, though there isn’t any lodging after Long Creek until Ukiah, another 30 miles and one more pass to the north.  I wonder how the traffic is on the road when we aren’t under plague conditions.  There might be the makings of another great loop here someday, when Rachael can spare my presence for a few days.

Conditions are just as we hoped when we park the car on the shoulder of the highway at the foot of Up the Middle Fork Lane.  Sunny, warm, a brisk tailwind that will push us up the steep incline between here and Galena - a steady climb that gains all of 500 feet in 20 miles, for a punishing grade of roughly 0.5%.  Brutal, but it will be a thrilling descent on the way back.

I like to start off a ride with a photo of Rachael biking down our road, but today we’re held up while we wait for her to fiddle with her GoPro. So frustrating!
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Finally! Here we go, up the Middle Fork of the John Day. Right from the start we can see this is going to be a fine ride.
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Like I said, this end of the road is even better than the upper half.  It’s the more enclosed contour of the terrain that makes it especially attractive.  Even though the grade stays nearly uniform all the way to Galena, we’re regularly biking beneath rugged basalt cliffs that line either bank of the river as it snakes its way around one bend after another.  Moreover, the valley is narrow enough that the road closely parallels the river every mile of the way.  It’s almost always right beside us, close enough that we can hear its whitewater cascading over the rocks and through its  modest rapids.

And, it’s quiet!  Other than the bikes, the river, the wind in the trees and the occasional meadowlark, there’s hardly another sound around.  Very few homesteads, and almost no vehicle traffic at all.  I may have lost count, but I think we were only passed by four cars in forty miles.  And saw only one dog, well back from the road.

What’s the right number of photos to show from a gorgeous ride like this? We could have posted dozens, but we’ll just include a few to give you the idea and encourage you to come see for yourself.
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Along the Middle Fork of the John Day.
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Along the Middle Fork of the John Day. This is a typical stretch. No fences, no power lines, no man-made structures, nearly pristine country save for the road itself.
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Low profile basalt cliffs line much of the valley.
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Along the Middle Fork of the John Day.
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About an hour into the ride, we enter the National Forest and stop for lunch sitting on the base of the entrance sign.  Not long after, we’re back on the bikes covering the remaining few miles to Galena.  Rachael dashes on ahead, then doubles back to wait for me for protection when we come to a small cluster of houses; and then does so again when we come to the outskirts of Galena.  She adds quite a few miles this way, without ever getting far from sight.  By the end of the ride she’ll cover 48 miles to my 42.

The ride continues to be excellent all the way to Galena, but becomes less dramatic.  We leave the basalt cliffs behind, the valley widens a bit, small pools and marshes line the road.  At one point I’m delighted when a brace of wood ducks flushes right beside me and flies off into the trees.  Such a beautiful, colorful bird they are.

At the entrance to the National Forest.
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Rachael was excited to find that we brought the extension for her GoPro mount with us - she just stumbled across it this morning. It lets her elevate it enough to get that annoying GPS out of the frame.
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West of Galena.
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Along the Middle Fork of the John Day, just west of Galena.
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Galena was settled in the 1860’s and began life as a gold mining community.  Its post office was opened in 1865.  I had thought Galena was a ghost town, but I misread the Wikipedia article on it.  It was referring to Susanville, another gold mining community two miles up Elk Creek that really is a ghost town now.  The post office was renamed and moved from Galena to Susanville in 1901, and remained active there until 1940.  

So, Galena does have a few folks and a few features.  Not many though.  It doesn’t take long to survey the realm and head back to the car.

Nope, this must not be a ghost town after all. Residential Area ahead!
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Downtown Galena.
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In Galena.
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Not the most welcoming sign we’ve seen in these parts. Seems a bit of an overkill to me.
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Jen GrumbyOverkill .. ha!

As the saying goes, 'Twice shot, twice as dead.'
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1 month ago
Especially since this is such a Christian, God-fearing community.
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And why waste the lead anyway, when there’s this handy hangin’ tree close by?
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Jen GrumbyPlease don't shoot, sir!

I'd rather be lynched today.
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1 month ago

The way back is all downhill, and into the wind.   The wind isn’t such a big factor though - the road is curvaceous enough that the wind is pretty variable and broken up by the cliffs and bends.  And, that 0.5% gradient is a big help too.

The ride back is as good as it was coming up, and maybe even better.  The lighting conditions are excellent, the cliffs have a different look this way, and we still have the road almost completely to ourselves.  It’s a pretty staggered ride though: Rachael steams ahead then doubles back to wait for me to usher her safely past a potential dog zone.  Or she dashes off again and then comes back because she’s come to an especially scenic spot for a video that she wants to include me in.  And then we’ll go back and do it again, so I can include her this time.

A sensational ride, arguably the best of the tour.  Sorry we don’t have more video to show for it, but uploading video has gotten to be very difficult lately - nearly impossible, actually.  She’s posted a few shorter ones, but she’s saving the longer ones too.  One of these days, hopefully when we get to Pullman, we’ll upload them all and have a John Day Videorama.

In the meantime, we’re happy that Rachael discovered that we can upload them to Google Photos and share them with a link.  Take a look.

Video sound track: Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, by the Eurythmics.

Waiting for me, so she can get me in the picture.
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Down the Middle Fork.
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Down the Middle Fork.
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Down the Middle Fork.
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Down the Middle Fork.
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 900’

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Carolyn van HoeveHi Scott & Rachael!
Still keeping up with your journal and such a welcome distraction from the grim news otherwise.
So sorry about the nasty dog encounter and can understand you're more than a little nervous about dogs now. Another thing you might want to add to your arsenal are whistles if you can get hold of any. They worked like a charm for us in Italy. It sent a pack of dogs scattering before they got anywhere close. And at least you have the pepper spray for the stealthy assassins.
It's total lockdown in NZ and fortunately for us our numbers are low and improving daily. We have a wonderful prime minister at the helm unlike your buffoon. Hopefully no-one will start ingesting disinfectant. Surely he's self destructing. Here's hoping.
Stay safe and keep up the great work!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveHi, Carolyn. Nice to hear from you again, and thanks for your sympathy and suggestions about the dog attack. Now that the injury is healing well, it’s beginning to feel like a pretty small issue - which doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to soak it for sympathy for awhile. In a world gone mad, it hardly counts.

I, for one, certainly don’t intend to start ingesting or injecting bleach at this time; but thanks for the reminder. You don’t know how envious we are up here of you Kiwis and your impressive leader. But then, even a bottle of bleach would be an improvement over what we’re dealing with here. Stay safe!
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1 month ago