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Route Talk With Ken Chichester

DAY 4            Tygh Valley to Madras

Cross DeschutesIn developing a bike route between these two communities, there really wasn’t much of a decision to make on which roads to use. Staying off the main roads, in this case Highways 197 and 97, offers a more scenic option with the benefits of not having to share the road with many vehicles.

An unavoidable 2 miles of climbing on Highway 197 just after leaving Tygh Valley leads to a little-used county road through Juniper Flat. After the first stop of the day, the route enters the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, home of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, consisting of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute tribes.We spend nearly half the day on the reservation, a distance of about 35 miles. This is a very sparsely populated area, with horses and cattle outnumbering people. Without any towns, there aren’t many vehicles either, just mile after mile of scenery, including some majestic mountain views.

After a fair amount of climbing (easier than the previous day), a long descent leads to the bottom of a canyon and the Warm Springs River. Then it’s a short jaunt along the river to the Ka-Nee-Ta Resort for lunch. The lunch site is at the resort’s day-use area, with acres of lush, shaded green grass across from a natural hot-springs swimming pool with two water slides.

Of course eating lunch in the bottom of a river canyon must lead to a climb after lunch. However, an alternative to the big hill staring everyone in the face just before turning towards Ka-Nee-Ta is available. This option takes this more moderate route to the top of the ridge above the river. Then after a few miles of relatively flat road and some downhill, the route leads to the unincorporated community of Warm Springs.

Every attempt is made to avoid using main highways for bike routes, and this is the case when leaving Warm Springs. To avoid busy U.S. Highway 26, the Warm Springs Tribe and Portland General Electric are allowing us to cross the Pelton Regulation Dam. This route allows riders to avoid all but less than a mile of the main highway and use little traveled county roads before and after crossing the dam. The regulation dam and Pelton Dam are two of three dams in the Pelton Round Butte project, the only hydroelectric project in the U.S. jointly owned by a Native American tribe and a utility (PGE).

Pelton Dam forms Lake Simtustus, which the route parallels for a few miles before climbing one of the steepest hills in Cycle Oregon history. It’s only 1.5 miles long, but has been measured at a hearty 14.5-percent grade in places. After successfully summiting the hill (some by bike and a few on foot), it’s only 9 miles and a little bump or two in the road before reaching Madras and a well-deserved layover day option.

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