DAIRY, Ore. (AP) - Pastoral fields and, whoops, a slithery bull snake, almost as long as the trail was wide.
Brilliantly colored thistles, and skittery marmots, salamanders and “squeaks,” ground squirrels that played impromptu games of chicken and narrowly avoided being flattened under our mountain bike tires.
The always welcome shade in Swede’s Cut, where the OC&E bike trail slices through a canyon carved decades ago by crews that built the Oregon, California & Eastern, a logging railroad between Klamath Falls and Bly.
And the always nerve-racking crossing of Highway 140 at the place where the former railroad overpass was removed. It’s a semi-blind crossing near a bend in the highway with cars zipping past at 55 to 65 miles an hour.
When the old bridge was demolished the Oregon Department of Transportation promised to replace it with a higher structure, one tall enough to allow tractor-trailer rigs to pass underneath. It’s estimated a new bridge will cost upwards of $800,000. Still, nearly 30 years later, it’s an unfulfilled promise.
The Highway 140 crossing is always an anxious time, but the rest of the ride is pure pleasure.
We rode our mountain bikes from Olene past Dairy, about 10 miles, before doubling back, on the unpaved, often uneven surface of the former rail line that was used to transport logs from the Bly, Sprague River and Sycan Marsh forests to mills in Klamath Falls from the early 1990s until 1990.
When Weyerhauser Co. discontinued the rail service, the company railbanked the right-of-way to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department for development of the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, the state’s longest linear state park.
The combined trail from OC&E Klamath Falls to Bly and the Woods Line from Beatty to the Sycan Marsh covers more than 100 miles.
While the 7-plus mile paved section from Washburn Way to Olene is heavily used, traffic on the other sections - bikers, equestrians, walkers and winter-time cross country skiers - of the other 93-plus miles of unpaved former rail line is limited. That could change if plans by Oregon State Parks, with support from the Rails-to-Trails group, to pave the trail from Olene to the Highway 140 crossing materialize.
I’ve biked the distance from Klamath Falls to Bly in a very long day, and other times pedaled or, during snowy winters, skied most sections of the OC&E. Favorites include the Switchbacks-Devil’s Garden area to the community of Sprague River, Beatty along the bubbly Sprague River toward Bly and, on the Woods Line, Horse Glade toward the Sycan Marsh, at least as far as the 400-foot long, 50-foot high Merritt Creek Trestle.
Mountain bikers wanting to know more about the OC&E Woods Line and other Klamath Basin routes, including the still-developing Spence Mountain Trail, dazzling-view plentiful Klamath Ridgeview Trail and the spaghetti-like network in Moore Park, can do so through Ride Klamath Ride.
Maps available through Discover Klamath - either at their 205 Riverside Drive office or the website at www.rideklamathride.com - offer basic details and, helpfully, elevation profiles.
Each tear-off map includes seven routes, with one map for mountain bikes and another for road bikes. The maps also include information on places for food and water, picnic areas and camping.
Along with the OC&E Woods Line, Ridgeview, Spence Mountain and Moore Park routes, the map’s mountain bike routes include the High Lakes Trail between Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake, the Brown Mountain Trail, and the Collier Park to Kimball Park “gravel grinder.”
The road bike map includes Hamaker Out and Back, OC&E Trail Out and Back, Triple Loop Running Y Ranch, Lake of the Woods Loop, Westside Loop, Airport Loop and Crater Lake Loop.
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