There’s been a major discovery among the vast golden wheat fields surrounding Hardman, Ione, Heppner, and other cities here in eastern Oregon: gravel roads. Typically considered second class citizens to their paved counterpart, gravel roads are fast becoming the toast of the cycling industry and all lovers of bicycle adventures.
And for Phil Carlson, proprietor of TREO Bike Ranch in Hardman, gravel roads might just be the claim to fame he’s been looking for. Carlson has owned and operated his TREO Ranch since 1988. Over the past few decades, he’s built it up as a bird-hunting business and now it’s one of the most well-established “fee hunting” lodges in the state. But as we’ve reported in the past, his new focus is bicycling. At first, he figured the hundreds of miles of paved roads criss-crossing the towns and valleys where he grew up would be perfect for cycling enthusiasts. Recently however, thanks to a random meeting with Beaverton resident (and gravel riding veteran) Dan Morgan, Carlson is starting to see gravel roads in a new light.
Morgan and his crew of riding buddies ride the gravel roads of Washington County every Saturday. This weekend they were at TREO Bike Ranch to sample some of eastern Oregon’s finest. And they weren’t disappointed. Since hearing about TREO here on BikePortland, Morgan has become a student of the area. He’s become a de facto right-hand man of Carlson’s and he’s committed himself to learn every road out here like it were his own back yard.
TREO itself if located on a gravel road, a few miles off of state highway 207. Our daily adventures begin and end on gravel. Most of it is relatively easily to ride; hard-packed with clear lines worn in by truck and farm equipment traffic. Other sections are more demanding with either larger and bumpier rocks or squishier gravel that turns your bike into a hovercraft.
That’s part of the appeal of gravel. Unlike pavement, which never really changes, gravel is something that has to be read, like a kayaker who reads currents of a river. Another appeal of gravel roads is that they take you off the beaten track. There’s a section between Liberty School Road and Ione-Gooseberry Road that Morgan has coined “the canyon of sorrows.” The road winds through a cabin with 3-4 homesteads. Most of the buildings still stand; but they’re completely gutted and long-since abandoned. You can’t help but think of the former residents’ broken dreams and their hard-scrabble existence.
Carlson’s ranch is perfectly situated to introduce people to the charms of gravel riding… And there’s always more to discover.
Check out a few of our discoveries over the past few days…
All those great gravel roads, and I haven’t even mentioned the perfectly paved ones! There’s so much great riding out here it will take me a few posts to share it all.
Phil and his crew here at TREO are welcoming bike groups through September. At $200 per person per night, you’ll get an all-inclusive experience that’s hard to top. Fully supported riding in an unforgettable landscape, all the food and drink you can handle, and experiences you’ll cherish all year long (until you come back again of course). I simply can’t recommend this place highly enough. Stay tuned to the Front Page for more on TREO and check out TREOBikeTours.com for bookings and more info.