Derek found another gravel exploration option for us to explore close to where we are boondocking. We road mountain bikes on this lollipop ride since we weren’t sure of what we would find. Our ride was 23.6 miles with 2019’ of climbing.
We started on a wide gravel road called National Development Road 031 that goes out to National Forest, a campground, a climbing area, and lots of logging roads. There is a cross country ski snopark out the road in the winter and miles and miles of forest and open grasslands. The gravel road does have some car traffic on it and some don’t slow down much as they drive by so it can get dusty if you’re here on a weekend. The route is rolling with 6 smallish climbs, the longest of with is 1.1 miles with an average grade of 5.4%, so nothing bad.
Have you heard of the Whitman Route? We hadn’t either until we stumbled across a sign board showing we were riding right through the area. After turning right on gravel road 3109 we came to the Whitman Overlook where we rode a short trail out to a view of the steep canyons surrounding the area.
American missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman traveled across the country and through the Blue Mountains in 1836. Apparently they crossed the US at the spot we were riding. In her diary, “before noon we began to descend one of the most terrible mountains for steepness and length I have yet seen. It was like winding stairs in its descent and in some places almost perpendicular”. Luckily we weren’t following that exact route!
After this short side trip, we continued on our little loop and wrapped around to where the road ends for cars but you can get through on a bike. It’s rough and chewed up with rocks and boulders, downed trees, and a gate for motor vehicles. The forest is rugged back here and we didn’t see anyone. Our loop part of the lollipop completed, we retraced our way and headed back to the start. Interestingly, this main gravel road goes all the way through to near where we rode the other day when we tackled Umatilla Rim Trail!