Conclusion - Waterfalls of Calapooya 2013 - CycleBlaze

July 2, 2013


Trip statistics:

9 days
8 nights, camping every night
June 23 - July 2, 2013

Distance on bike: 326 miles (522 km)
Average daily distance: 36.2 miles/day (58 km/day)
Unpaved roads: 79 miles (126 km), 24% of the total
Climbing on bike: 18,900 feet (5727 m)
Average daily climbing: 2100 feet/day (636 meters/day)

Hiking: 26.5 miles (42.4 km)
Average daily distance on foot: 2.9 miles/day (4.7 km/day)

Waterfalls: 25
Covered Bridges: 8

Waterfalls of Calapooya was my 27th solo bike tour but this was easily my "most solo" bike tour. Very frequently I was alone on the road. I almost never saw people on trails or at waterfalls. Most of the route has no wireless phone service and no stores. Few reminders of a world outside the forest. I spent 6 days in the forest and quickly got into a mindset where the only thing that matters is the forest here and now. When nobody was around to dispel the illusion, this was a tour of my private forest, my private roads, my private trails, and my private waterfalls.

I'm sure that most people would prefer this route as a car or motorcycle trip. It's fairly strenuous even if you drive to all the trail heads.

The weather was unusually cool and cloudy for the first 3 days of the tour. Highs in the low 60's F. Then the weather rapidly warmed. Day 4 had a high in the upper 70's, about normal. Days 5-9 had highs in the low to mid 90's which is warmer than normal. The heat didn't bother me until the afternoon on day 9, the hottest day, when I entered the Umpqua valley and suddenly the road was mostly in the sun.

I had no flat tires, no mechanical issues, no injuries, only a few insect bites. Nothing lost or stolen. An eyeglasses screw came out, but I was able retrieve the tiny screw and put it back in.

The first night's campground at Cottage Grove reservoir was the only one with a shower. The 4th, 5th, and 7th nights' campgrounds were the most primitive, with no water supply. The other 4 nights were at typical "developed" forest campgrounds with drinking water and flush toilets.

This route has many steep gravel descents that require long periods of continuous braking in dirty conditions. Disc brakes would be preferred to avoid scouring the rims. My previous rims lasted only two years because they endured multiple steep slow gravel descents like I also encountered during this tour. My frame has disc brake mounts and my new wheels have disc rotor mounts. But I haven't upgraded the bike to disc brakes.

I only locked my bike twice during the tour. Once for lunch in downtown Cottage Grove and once for grocery shopping at Safeway in Cottage Grove. At trailheads I parked the bike a few steps down the trail, out of sight from the road. Nobody will steal a bike they can't see, and nobody was there anyway. I didn't lock the bike for my lunch stop in Roseburg because the bike was visible from a window.

I've now seen all 24 waterfalls described in the Thundering Waters brochure. All but 3 during bicycle tours!

Regrets? Long after the tour it occurred to me that on the first day I could have taken a 10 mile longer route to visit a 9th covered bridge, Pass Creek covered bridge in Drain.

My hiking kit consists of Keen sandals, a big Mountainsmith Tour lumbar pack, two water bottles, and a sun hat. On this tour I never used socks during the hikes because the hikes were relatively short. I never used the hat because my hikes and campsites were all under the forest canopy.

Hiking kit.
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My photography kit is fairly simple. Canon S100 camera, neoprene case, spare Canon NB5L battery, Lenmar PPUCLIP charger, and an 11-ounce Tamrac Zipshot tripod. Total weight is 21 ounces (597 grams).

Overall I think my waterfall photography project was successful. Only one waterfall had an extremely bad sun angle. And only one waterfall had a blurry picture because of operator error.

Photography kit.
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Camera batteries drained faster than usual because I used the tripod so often. The camera typically stays on much longer when using a tripod compared to taking handheld photos.

The Zipshot tripod has no provision to adjust the length of each leg, and most of my photo spots were on very steep terrain. I often had to hold the uphill leg of the tripod with my hand to prevent the tripod from tipping over. Less than ideal, but a standard adjustable tripod would be triple the weight and bulk.

This tour had almost no access to AC power and I didn't carry a solar panel. I charged camera batteries from a USB power pack using a Lenmar PPUCLIP USB-powered LiIon charger. This minimalist clip charger weighs only 10.8 grams, 1/5 the weight of my AC-powered Canon charger. I charged a battery twice during the tour, but the charger didn't work when I tried to charge the third time. Consequently, one battery had to last for the final 4 days of the tour. I used the PPUCLIP several times previously and was surprised that it died. I bought two replacements and may carry both on future tours.

I seldom used my LED flasher because most of the roads had no traffic. I only used the flasher on days 2 and 9, near the towns of Cottage Grove and Roseburg. You don't need a flasher when a car goes by every 10 minutes and winding roads force the cars to drive slowly.

My Petzl camp headlight wasn't used much because the days were so long. Sunset was at 9 PM. It didn't get dark enough to see stars until about 10 PM.

With very little Verizon Wireless coverage, my smart phone stayed in airplane mode most of the time. I only charged it once during the tour, using the USB power pack.

I carried a big bottle of sunscreen but never used it. The first 3 days were relentlessly overcast. After the weather became sunny I was under the forest canopy most of the time. I got a lot of sun exposure during the afternoon of the last day, but didn't bother to use sunscreen. I carried a sun hat but never used it. I only used my sunglasses a couple of times.

During last year's tour I developed an aversion to camping. This tour forced me back into a camping routine because there are no motels. The mild weather made it easy. Never super cold or warm at night. Hopefully I can continue camping most nights during my next tour.

I designed this tour as a personal challenge, to invent and complete a unique bike tour very close to home. A multi-day ride through the forest would be boring without some other aspirational theme, so I decided to visit as many waterfalls as possible. That choice led to two other unique themes: hiking and time-exposure photography. The theme evolved further when I discovered the route could easily pass many covered bridges.

This journal is intended to be a challenge to readers. Get out your back door and do a theme tour that visits something unique about your local area. If you don't know of anything unique about your home, do some research and be creative. Everything is allowed: historic sites, religious shrines, geography, architecture, farms, ethnic culture, sports, art, music, bird watching, mushroom hunting, hot springs, nude beaches, ferries, islands, Superfund sites, anything! Don't be afraid to combine your bike tour with other activities ranging from peak-bagging to spelunking to drawing. Finally, take lots of pictures and make a journal of your unique theme tour-I want to see it.

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