- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

MADRAS, Ore. (AP) - Each year around mid-January, I start to lose my mind.

The damp grayness of the Willamette Valley is firmly in place, and with no holiday lights to make it brighter, the thought of three more months of rain, clouds and fog starts to work its dark voodoo on my prefrontal cortex.

At these low winter moments, what’s needed is an injection of sunshine. And for that elusive cure, I decided to head across the mountains to a little-known corner of Central Oregon and ride one of the state’s best winter bike routes.

As rain soaked the state’s west side and snow fell in the mountains, I basked in desert sunshine, blue sky and 50 degree temperatures on a route known as the Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway.

The smell of sage and juniper drifts on the breeze during this 29.5-mile route with views including canyons, farmland and mountains.

Every Cascade peak from Hood to the Three Sisters - and especially Mount Jefferson - rises like a string of vanilla ice-cream cones above the tannish-brown horizon.

The route begins and ends at Sahalee Park in downtown Madras. It travels a mishmash of country roads through Metolius, Culver and Cove Palisades State Park before circling back on a route classified as “moderate” in difficulty.

“This is such an overlooked area, because when people think about bike riding in Central Oregon, they usually think about Bend,” said Alex Phillips, bicycle recreation coordinator for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “But with Madras being slightly warmer and with less snow, it really does make a great ride in the middle of winter.

“Plus, the mountain views are actually better than in Bend.”

In May 2013, the route was designated an Oregon Scenic Bikeway, joining a collection of 12 routes considered the state’s best when it comes to road biking.

Stan Nowakowski, who’s lived in Culver and Madras for 11 years, came up with the route.

“It has quiet roads and great scenery, but was pretty underused, pretty unknown,” Nowakowski said. “I wanted to share it with people, knowing not many people come to Jefferson County for tourism. I hoped it would bring a few extra dollars to the local communities.”

Even with the sunshine and beautiful views, the bikeway itself may not lure people all the way from the Willamette Valley, considering it’s a two-hour and 20 minute drive from Portland and three hours from Salem.

The good news is the route takes only two to three hours to complete and can be easily accessed from Highway 97. It makes a good place to stop and ride during a trip to or from Bend or Mount Bachelor.

A weekend trip could include a Saturday of snow and a Sunday of biking, and you’re still home in plenty of time for dinner and ready for work on Monday.

For those of us beginning to feel the early stages of rain-induced insanity, a sunshine-filled trip to Central Oregon is just what the doctor ordered.

ON THE ROUTE

The trick to a successful ride on Madras Mountain Views is watching the weather.

While it does offer a higher percentage of sunshine-filled days, a freezing fog sometimes invades the valley. If the weather isn’t clear and sunny, it’s probably not worth getting on your bicycle.

From the starting point at Sahalee Park, the ride exits downtown Madras and quickly heads into a landscape of farmland and high desert.

Multiple turns in the first seven miles are easy to navigate by following green pointers as you head into Metolius and then Culver. There are cafes and places to get snacks in both towns.

The scenery is good throughout, even while traversing residential neighborhoods, but really picks up west of Culver, as you head out to Cove Palisades State Park.

Seven major Cascade Peaks - Hood, Jefferson, Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and the Three Sisters - can all be seen here.

“One of my favorite things about riding out here in winter is that, with the lower-elevation snow, the mountains look a lot more impressive than in the summer,” Nowakowski said.

The route swings into the park at mile 14. Viewpoints just off the main road of Lake Billy Chinook make excellent spots for lunch at the ride’s halfway point.

After exiting the park comes the grand finale. The route’s steepest climb at mile 22 preludes a long, sweeping downhill run where the high desert spreads out below and you can gain wind-whipping speed.

All that remains at the bottom is closing the loop and heading back into Madras. The ride took me a little less than three hours, and to be honest, it finished so quickly that I regretted not spending more time at Cove Palisades.

The injection of sunshine was just what I needed, though, to stave off insanity for at least one more week.

If you go …

MADRAS MOUNTAIN VIEWS SCENIC BIKEWAY

Where: Madras in Central Oregon

What: A 29.5 mile scenic road bikeway

Breakdown: The route follows multiple little-used country roads from Madras to Metolius, Culver and Cove Palisades State Park.

Difficulty: Moderate for those with a decent road bike.

Elevation climb / loss: 1,158 feet

Trailhead elevation: 2,398 feet

Camping: The Cove Palisades State Park near Culver offers RV camping and showers. Please note that to access the park you’ll have to travel down a very steep, long hill from the bikeway.

Directions: The ride starts at Sahalee Park (7th and B Street, Madras).

For more information: oregon.gov/oprd/BIKE/docs/MadrasMapandCue.pdf

___

The original story can be found on the Statesman Journal-s website: https://stjr.nl/1Enl2hF

___

Information from: Statesman Journal, https://www.statesmanjournal.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide