Sumpter, OR is a tiny town with a lot of gold mining history. Derek planned a gravel loop that took us up from camp through some back gravel logging roads to Sumpter where we stopped and toured the Dredge. Then we crossed over and climbed around some gravel roads on the lake side of the valley before dumping us back at the start. Our ride was 28 miles with 2468’ of climbing. We rode mountain bikes for this because the gravel is in pretty rough shape in several spots.
First we climbed up through McEwen and took a side trip to the cemetery. The gravel roads back here are old logging roads that see little travel. We passed two quads and a couple trucks before we turned off on a lesser dirt road. This was our sustained climb of the day and it was very quiet. It’s bow hunting season so we were alert but never saw anything. I guess that’s the point.
We stopped in Sumpter to have a look at the dredge. The dredge is a huge but simple machine for mining the river bed for gold. Miners used to call the dredge a “goose” because it is “fed” at the front end, “digests” the soil inside while keeping the gold it collects, and expels the excess soil out the back. The dredge floated in about 9 feet of water and dug a pond for itself as it went.
After heading out of Sumpter on gravel, we crossed over to some forest service dirt and gravel roads that went up into the hills on the other side of the highway. This section had a few one mile climbs and the road became less and less until finally it was but a path. It was fun and twisty on mountain bikes but would suck on a gravel bike. All of a sudden the dirt road shot straight up a rutted steep hike a bike and then continued down a double track on the back side. We climbed up to a few impressive viewpoints. Here we could see across to the entire Elkhorn Crest. Magnificent.
There isn’t much back on this side of the mountains except trees and rocks. The whole ride ended on a bombing descent down another gravel road, past some cows and ranches, past Mason Dam, and back to the highway.