Drive a few hours south of Portland on the I-5, then go coastal, and you'll reach an old growth forest that is home to 600 year old sitka spruce trees that can grow up to 40 feet wide. The first ride in the Oregon Sweet 6 series guides riders up into the Siuslaw National Forest from Florence. This route is designed for many pit-stops to catch your breath, and to pause and listen for all the life that calls this forest home.
When we suggest to ride in the Siuslaw National Forest...
We did the classic route in April when we saw a 'break' in the rain one weekend. We had a summer ahead of us filled to the brim with bikepacking, so we jumped on the opportunity of a dry-ish weekend in the early PNW spring.
While April will likely have some rain breaks in the forecast, everything will be wet... and it will probably still rain. Candidly, we would not recommend doing this ride when we did it... Unless you enjoy cold/wet riding, followed by cold/wet sleeping, and then more cold/wet riding.
The coastal range stays temperate through the summer season, so pedaling on these roads between late May and late October would be a safe, dry bet. Basically, we just recommend riding with a clear forecast.
If there's snow on this route, you're most likely to encounter it towards the top of NF-5694; the highest point of the ride at 2,100 ft. If you’re clear here, you can assume you're in the clear everywhere else. The best place to get the info on the snow conditions is contacting the Central Coast Ranger District - Waldport office.
Whatever season and whatever roads you ride in Siuslaw, do make sure you stop into Yachats. Green Salmon Coffee Co. has our vote. Their vegan breakfast burritos and Dirty Chai’s saved our lives.
What the Siuslaw National Forest taught us...
Mother Nature decides the fate of the ride.
We became aware of an engrained mindset from our rowing years: in the face of adversity, just work harder. We (now) feel that the essence of adventure riding is about preparing for and adapting to variables that are out of our control; conditions of the road/trail, weather, wildlife, etc. There is no sense in mindlessly committing to a path because you’re attracted to the ‘hard work’ it takes to complete it. It's dangerous and can get you into some sticky situations. We found it’s about working with Her: preparing pre-ride, being aware of changing conditions, and not being so attached to the outcome so that you can re-evaluate a plan at a moments notice to prioritize safety.
Building community to share natural environments will have a greater impact than just doing and sharing performance focused rides
We want be able to come together as a KOMPAS community and share the experiences of these rides. We don't want this to have any hint of exclusivity. Designing rides as difficult as this one is inherently exclusive. People don't want to ride this hard all the time (including ourselves). This reflection became a key theme for the summer and helped shape the remainder of the OS6 series.
Bags and bikes packed for a somewhat-unknown adventure ahead, we left Portland for Honeyman State Park with butterflies in our stomachs. The first ride of our self proclaimed Oregon Sweet 6 series. It's happening. We arrived in Florence and spent the evening meandering quietly through the dunes, retiring to our campsite once the sun set and clouds let out an all too familiar drizzle. Tomorrow, OS6 officially begins. A huge milestone for two dreamers, to everyone else, just a normal Saturday morning.
Saturday, day 1 of 2 - 65 miles/8,000 ft climbing
We pulled up in a quiet Florence neighborhood and got ourselves organized. Our bikes were ungodly heavy with all the extra cold weather gear we packed, but we were riding free guided by the carefully planned arrows on our Wahoo. We left the car headed up into the Siuslaw National Forest, soon to be amongst ancient sitka spruce trees.
Luscious maple forests made way for sitka spruce groves as we meandered up and into the Siuslaw National Forest. Overwhelming silence was momentarily broken by the rush of coastal winds and small streams. Moss danced in front of us while the smell of sea salt flooded our nostrils. On the horizon, through the trees, we could see the deep blue of the ocean. Towering forests against expansive ocean - a landscape so unique to the Oregon Coast. Now mid-April, there is still no sign of spring. This dormant forest teeters right on the edge of two seasons, ready to burst any moment with sunshine and spring energy, but kept locked into winter by the conspiring black rain clouds chasing us into the forest.
Miles, hours, and lots of climbing pass... We’re getting hungry and in need for a sit down. What's between us and a hot meal in Yachats is only one climb. All we needed was to get to Yachats before the kitchens closed in an hour or so.
We were making good time so long as we didn’t run into any slow downs... We began the climb, a snow dusting turned to an inch, still rideable. Two inches, rideable. Three, to four, to six inches, quickly we found ourselves hiking our bikes, minds set on the top. 45 or so minutes in (yeah... that long), some sense somehow came across us. What are we doing? As if the snow will clear at the top and we’ll be able to ride the route down to Yachats.
Emotionally and physically exhausted after our extended ‘sled push’, we back tracked and re-routed to Yachats. An important lesson learned: Mother Nature decides the fate of these routes and rides. We can’t outwork her.
We rolled into the Green Salmon Bakery in Yachats depleted and were the last people served that day. I’m sure we were a site to see: two emotionless, cold, but sweaty, guys covered head to toe in cycling kit with snow and mud in some hard-to-reach places. The burrito and coffee hit like nothing else and raised our spirits to save the ride.
After Yachats was an hour or so of pedaling to get us to our home base for the night: Canal Creek Campsite. Riding up to the campsite felt like a homecoming. We had the entire site to ourselves. Spirits were as high as they could be with our fatigued, maybe delusional, energy level. Cracking jokes that would usually be zero’s followed by slap happy laughing seemed to be the cure for just about anything in the moment.
The towering sitka spruce trees felt like elders watching over us as we set up our bivies, changed out of our wet clothes, and started cheffing up our dehydrated Pad Thai dinner (a favorite). The trees emitted a sense of calm. We were exhausted, but felt safe. All we could do was take in where we were, and there was a lot to take in.
Sunday, day 2 of 2 - 54 miles/ 6,000 ft climbing
It takes about 4x as long to pack your bags when you can’t feel your fingers. It took us several hours to crawl out of the wet bivies, pack up camp, and eat breakfast that morning. Still wet from the day before, the extended climb to start the day was welcomed. I've heard cold water exposure will wake you up in the morning. I think riding a 50+ lbs bike up pitches going only fast enough to stay upright will do the same trick.
The cloud's burned off that spring morning and we were there to see the sun's light dancing through the forest. We took a few breathers to take in where we were and how we got here. What kept us moving forward was a sense of delusion; personifying climbs that we saw coming up on our 1x1inch Wahoo screen. Turns out that cracking zero’s and slap happy laughing makes the miles tick away a bit faster.
We were tired. We were hungry. We were cold and dehydrated, but its safe to say we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Getting back to the car in Florence we threw our bikes on the rack and took off back to Portland. The car ride allowed time to reflect on what just happened. What we got ourselves into. The gravity of what this ride meant.