Introduction - The Lost River to Bonanza 2020 - CycleBlaze


This is a 6-day motel bike tour in the Cascade range and high desert of southernmost Oregon, USA.

The start/finish is 130 miles southeast of my house near Ashland, Oregon. Only a 2 hour drive on I-5 but the terrain is much higher and drier than what I see at home.

I live at 450 feet (137 m) elevation. The tour starts at 2150 feet (655 m) elevation and promptly climbs into the Cascade range.

Annual rainfall is 39 inches (99 cm) at my house but only 22 inches (56 cm) in Ashland and 16 inches (41 cm) in Klamath Falls.

The Route

The backbone of the loop is the two southernmost paved roads that cross the Cascade range in Oregon.

The tour starts on OR 66, also known as Green Springs road. A state highway but it has very little traffic because the 1920's alignment is extremely winding and hilly. The road has a rich history-route of the 1846 Applegate emigrant trail and an 1873 Stagecoach road. The road has four summits higher than 4300 feet (1310 m) elevation but the grade is only 5% or less. I drove the road once but had never biked it.

The tour ends on a National Forest and Jackson county road called Dead Indian Memorial road. It's the higher of the two roads with two summits above 5150 feet (1570 m) elevation. I go up the east side which is only 5-6% grade and down the west side which is mostly 8% grade. It's the Sierra Cascades bike route-I pedaled up the steep side in 1999.

The eastern half of the route is mostly flat high desert above 4100 feet (1250 m) elevation. The loop east of Klamath Falls takes me to two remote desert rivers that I have never seen. East of Klamath Falls I go up the Lost river to the farm town of Bonanza. Then 19 miles north on Bliss road to the tiny farm hamlet of Sprague River and down the Sprague river to Chiloquin.

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Lodging is rare in this sparsely populated region. Days 4 and 6 are much longer than I prefer because no other lodging is available. To compensate, days 3 and 5 are short semi-rest days.

I investigated possible routes that go farther east and south into the high desert but lack of lodging is the problem once again. That's okay because the Lost river and Sprague river loop is an excellent low-traffic sampler of the high desert.

On the map it's easier to visualize the route if you click the drop-down box in the upper right and select "Terrain" view.

This 6-day loop almost connects to my previous 9-day route in the Rogue river valley. I could easily combine the routes into one longer tour but I decided to do it as two separate tours to reduce the exhaustion factor and optimize the weather for both routes. This tour is higher elevation, so I did it later in the summer.

The Times

This is my second tour since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Both tours are close to home in a region that has few reported cases of COVID-19. Same as the previous tour, this route merely travels through two counties (Jackson and Klamath) that share a border with my home county (Douglas). I didn't fear for my safety and had no major problems with closures.

The map below shows the incidence of positive COVID-19 tests in the U.S during this tour. Darker colors indicate higher per capita rate of infections. I am fortunate to live and tour in rural southwest Oregon which has a low infection rate.

COVID infections reported during this tour. Darker color indicates a higher per capita infection rate.
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This tour seems relatively safe for now but I wonder how quickly the red circles will spread to the rest of the nation in the next few weeks or months.

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