Our second Stewardship Campout of the year—Bunchgrass Ridge—landed us in the middle of nowhere between Oakridge and Waldo Lake in the Willamette National Forest. Bunchgrass Ridge is a long, oft forgotten trail that also goes by the moniker Eugene to Crest Trail. But before that it was a primary trading route between the Klamath Tribes on the east of the Cascades and the Kalapuya and Molalla Tribes in the western valleys of the the range.
During high summer these tribes would ascend to higher elevations for cooler temps and more abundant game. As they left for the season they'd light controlled burns behind them to guarantee the alpine meadows weren't encroached upon by ambitious young fir seedlings. These semi-regular burnings ensured deer would be easy to find and the camas plentiful when they returned.
In the early 1900's a fire lookout was constructed on the remote Fuji mountain and once again Bunchgrass Ridge was the easiest way to connect pack animals to Oakridge some 30 miles away. In the 1990s the deep old growth stands flanking the Bunchgrass ridgeline were the site of the longest timber sale blockade in the nation. These days however, few use this long, remote backcountry trail—much less even know it's up there.
Although Oregon Timber Trail riders will be travelling in an uphill direction, Bunchgrass Ridge is one of only two connective mountain bike trails that cross the Cascade Range in Oregon. It's an important connector for riders of the OTT, but even more importantly it connects Oakridge to Bend and opens up a multitude of overnight or epic day-riding options.
The Oregon Timber Trail Alliance is happy to report that by next weekend the entirety of Bunchgrass Ridge should be mostly cleared from Eagle Camp (NF379) all the way down through Heckletooth to Oakridge. Hat's off to our group of 30 rockstar volunteers, our generous partners at Base Camp Brewing and Stumptown Coffee, the amazing support from Disciples of Dirt, and of course the Willamette National Forest for their continued assistance in developing the Oregon Timber Trail safely, smartly, and efficiently.
From where we camped at Eagle Camp it's about a 25 mile ride with over 7,000' of elevation loss. Don't let that fool you though, it's still a rugged, slow, and exhausting ~6-7 hour journey. For more riding information check out Cascade Singletrack.