Beyond Yellowbottom

Distance: 55.5-mile out-and-back
Elevation gain: 5680 ft

A couple of people wrote to me about the Quartzville Road ride saying, “You stop the ride just when it starts to get good.” So I checked it out. My judgment: Yes and no.

Beyond the Yellowbottom campground, which is the turn-around point of the Quartzville ride, the road changes dramatically, and which ride you prefer depends on what you like and what mood you’re in. The new ride is on a road that’s smaller, less developed, less lush (but still pretty), much more isolated (3 cars in 32 miles), and much more up and down. Usually that’s exactly Bestrides’ cup of tea, but there is one downside: the road contour. For a skinny mountain road, it’s surprisingly straight—so straight that both the climbing and the descending lack a certain drama. So, because it’s prettier and swoopier, I’d still do Quartzville first. But this one’s very good too.

First, a disclaimer: I only rode to the summit and back, 16 miles each way. But I’m assured the rest of the road is also good, so I’ve mapped it all and am recommending it all.

Begin at Yellowbottom campground. There is plenty of turn-out parking along the road. At the large “Yellowbottom” sign on the creek side of the road is a pretty little trail that will take you down to the water—either a little falls or a large swimming hole just downstream—if you want to cool off after the ride.

The first mile or two of the route is exactly like the road you just drove on to get there, a wide, developed two-lane road through gorgeous Oregon canopy. Soon you cross a large bridge over the creek and the road forks, both forks looking equally good, just like Robert Frost said they would. Go R, onto FS 11 (it’s signed).

Somebody doesn’t want anyone using FS 11, because there is a fair amount of “All hope abandon”-type signage, all of it lies. First a sign reading “One lane with turn-outs.” Not really. There is no centerline, but the road is plenty wide enough for two cars. The next sign reads “Rough road ahead 25 miles.” I guess Oregonians are a pampered lot. In fact, the surface is flawless save a few cracks here and there, which run lengthways on the road and are easily avoided. Any road with a surface this good in Butte or Sonoma County would be celebrated in story and song. Then you get to a spot where someone has written “BAD BUMP” on the roadway. It marks a pimple in the road so minor you would never notice it if someone hadn’t drawn your attention to it. Don’t let any of this deter you—it’s a sweet, smooth, unthreatening ride, at least as far as I got. Streetview suggests things may get a little more frayed further down the road, but still nothing worrisome.

At first the surrounding foliage is just like Quartzville Road—stunning mossy maple forest, with a nice, noisy creek beside you whose constant rush is guaranteed to mellow out your wa. But as you climb above the creek the landscape gets drier and you’re into alders, ferny walls, and rocky outcroppings—very pretty, but different. Finally near the summit you’re in the solid green of conifers (less interesting).

There is some weird stuff on this road. For instance, there are mileage markers painted neatly on the route, but they were done by someone who was insane, had OCD, or had an agenda invisible to me, because they mark mileages like “24.76” and “32.99” (see photo). Almost never are they round numbers. Sometimes the markings are 1/100th or 2/100ths of a mile apart, so you’ll get to answer that question that plagues all cyclists: What’s your time in the 1/100th-of-a-mile sprint?

Weirder still, at one of the many bridges crossing the creek you’re following you’ll see what appears to be a section of freeway, cast aside and lying on the far bank of the creek (see photo). Anyone who has any idea what it’s doing there, or how it got there, let me know.

Mid-ride, it gets rockier

Just before the summit (at mile 15.6 for me), there’s an unexpected fork with no signage at all and each branch looking equally good. It’s only a momentary worry—the R fork turns to gravel almost immediately.

The psycho mileage markers

If you’re like me and you use Mapmyride’s elevation profiles to estimate your work load before heading out, you will be cruelly misled. MMR shows a profile of fairly constant pitch, steepening only slightly in the second half, and it says the climb to the summit averages 3.3%, which is next to nothing. So I expected the pitch to go from 2% to 4%. My experience was nothing like this. The first miles are almost flat, climbing at a pitch so mellow that when the first stair steps, around 5%, appear you welcome them as a diversion. But the steps get steeper and longer, until the final 6 miles are downright labor, with pitches of 7-10% one after another. Or I was just having a very bad day.

Shortening the route: Ride to the summit, as I did. If you want still shorter, ride until the scenery or pitch fails to please and turn around. It’s only going to get worse.

Adding miles: Ride Quartzville Road, the ride this is a continuation of.

The mystery freeway

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