China Hat Road - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

September 6, 2019

China Hat Road

Today is the opening day of the Sisters Folk Festival.  We need to be there in mid-afternoon to pick up our passes and then find a meal before the first show, but we have the whole morning free for a short ride.  We choose an out and back on China Hat Road because we’ve never been there, it’s got a good reputation as an easy ride out of Bend, and because it looks like we can bike as far as we want before turning back.

We have an early breakfast in our small hotel room and start biking at 8:30.  The rains passed in the night, and this morning it’s clear, a bit breezy, and slightly cool.  Perfect.

It takes us awhile to escape Bend, because we take a roundabout route recommended by a local biking website.  It’s a good route with a comfortable bike lane the whole way, but we don’t leave the last subdivisions for nearly six miles.  Actually, I find Bend frustrating.  It’s such a sprawl, with one ranch house subdivision after another gobbling up the wonderful landscape that I’m sure people moved here to enjoy in the first place.  The city really missed a bet decades ago, I think.  It could be so different if they had established and enforced a good urban growth boundary for themselves. Too late now.

When we finally reach China Hat Road though, we’re really out of town and in the high desert again.  It’s not the most dramatic ride, with views blocked by ponderosa pine forest most of the way.  It’s still a fine ride though - peaceful, clean, quiet, with the occasional surprise that stops your heart for a second.  At one point I’m taking a photo down the road, and a Cooper’s hawk flies straight down the road, flying in from behind my back and gliding low above the road before veering off into the ponderosas.  It happens so quickly I feel a bit shocked by what I’ve just seen.

As usual, Rachael gets well ahead of me because I stop for photos - one of the great things about out and back rides.  She turns back when she comes to the end of the pavement, tests the washboard gravel that comes next, and soon finds it wanting and turns back.

I haven’t seen Rachael for nearly an hour when I get a text from her that she’s at the end and turning back.  She texts her distance, so I know just where she is ahead of me.  Texting each other like this is a new practice for us, that we began once Rachael discovered how to integrate our Garmin devices with our phones.  When we receive a text, it shows up on the device so you can’t fail to miss it.  It’s really a great feature, and one that makes us both feel more comfortable about getting separated on the road.

Off to the festival!  No riding for the rest of the weekend.  We’ll be back Monday, when if we’re lucky with the weather we plan to climb McKenzie Pass.

After about five miles wandering through Bend’s sprawl of ranch houses we finally get out of town. Heading east on Knott Road there’s still substantial traffic, but it should die out once we turn off onto China Hat Road. If we don’t miss our turn.
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We (or at least one of us) miss our turn and have to double back. This is one of the reasons Rachael would rather I don’t stop for so many photos and lag behind her.
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Much better. On China Hat Road, the traffic drops to almost nothing. In another quarter mile we’ll pass the big golf course on the right, lose the last of the traffic, and enter the national forest. After that it’s just us and the high desert again.
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Throughout Central Oregon you see sights like this, burned out ponderosa pines struggling to recover. Two years ago the fires here were so terrible that the Sisters Folk Festival and Cycle Oregon were both cancelled for the first time ever because the uncontrolled fires were so terrible.
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For most of this ride the roadsides are bordered by bands of gold. Two species predominate and provide all the color.
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Here’s one. Suggestions welcome.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMaybe some species of rabbitbrush.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ericameria
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltFunny. I was thinking rabbit brush too, but for the other one.
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3 months ago
Here’s the other.
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We see now where China Hat Road gets its name.
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Well, so I’m wrong. The real China Hat is another thirty miles down the road, east of Paulina Butte. This is Bessie Butte, a much smaller formation. If the road stopped here I suppose this would be Bessie Butte Road, or perhaps Limpet Road.
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Still though, even if it isn’t the real China Hat, it’s scenic enough for us. It’s so symmetrical, and surprisingly green for this late in summer.
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South of Bessie Butte, we come to a large open area, apparently cleared by a large burn in the past. It’s sad about the forest of course, but we do get expansive views.
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Looking to the northwest, we see Mount Jefferson and I think Black Butte.
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Back in the ponderosa forest again. In a few miles we’ll come to the end of the pavement. The road continues on all the way to China Hat and beyond that to Fort Rock, but it’s a pretty rough washboard surface from the bit we tested.
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The road is. Good quality chip seal, comfortable to ride on. Not as smooth as pavement, but I like the appearance it’s texture gives in the photos.
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Up above four thousand feet, we start finding a few isolated paintbrushes here and there.
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I don’t know what this small vocanic Butte is, just beside the road. It’s unnamed on our map.
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Horse Butte, another small cinder cone nearby. They’re exposed because in the past they were mined to use the red cinders to provide traction on icy roads in the winter.
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On the way back to Bend. Straight on are the Three Sisters, but they’re still cloud bound this morning.
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Together again! We got our signals crossed a ways back when Rachael pulled off onto a short side road to get a closer look at the red butte. Separated and unsure where each other was, we communicated through text messages that pop up on our GPS because we’ve integrated them with our Garmin devices. This is a great feature that we’re just beginning to make use of.
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Video sound track: Let it Slide, by Shawn Colvin

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Ride stats today: 34 miles, 1,000’

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