Conde Creek route offers challenge

    As of yesterday, summer is officially here and we can expect warmer riding conditions. The cool rides of early spring are behind us and by now you should have built up some stamina. The accumulated miles in the saddle should have your cycling legs in good shape. Just how good are those legs? If you want to put them to a real test, I suggest you try the Conde Creek ride.

    To some cyclists in the valley, this is known as the Rogue Valley death ride. Yes, parts of it are pretty steep and you will get a good burn in your leg muscles, but the scenery and absence of automobiles on this paved forest route will take your mind off the pain.

    Starting in White City at the intersection of Highways 62 and 140, ride eastward on Highway 140. The shoulders along Highway 140 are wide, but occasionally collect debris, so pay close attention as you pedal up a gentle 2 percent grade. You should be cruising right along as you pass the Jackson County Sports Park and Stoneridge Golf Course.

    At mile six your legs should be warmed up as you start the first short climb followed by a nice downhill run, passing the Brownsboro turnoff as the road flattens out again (mile 8.5). The next four miles rise at a comfortable 2 percent grade, allowing a steady pedaling rhythm.

    Turn right at mile 12.5 on to Lakecreek Road, which takes you to the little town of Lakecreek (elevation 1,625 feet) at mile 14. You might want to top off your liquid assets there as it's the last place for potable water until you reach Ashland.

    After passing through Lakecreek, it's important to stay on the paved road all the way to Dead Indian Memorial Road. Follow the road leaving Lakecreek as it goes up the South Fork of Little Butte Creek. The grade now steepens to about 4 percent as you proceed southeasterly up the valley.

    At about mile 22 take a right and cross over little Soda Creek. You are now on Conde Creek Road (BLM Road 38-3E-17), heading southward, and are at 2,130 feet in elevation. I recommend you take a breather there, down some energy food and mentally prepare yourself for the steepest part of the ride. Shift into your lower gears as you start the eight-mile climb with an average 6 percent grade. The first five miles are the toughest, averaging 9 percent grade.

    Take your mind off your burning leg muscles and enjoy the views as you roll through the forest. Watch for deer and elk. Bicycles don't seem to frighten them while they graze and try to figure out the-two wheeled, humanoid contraption on the road. Grouse also are a common sight along the roadway. As you reach the higher altitudes you can see lush meadows salted with wildflowers.

    At mile 27.5 (4,800-foot elevation), you reach a half mile stretch with a gentler climb, which leads to another 4 percent climb of 5.25 miles. Mile 33.5 (5,230 feet elevation) should find you at the summit of your climb before you take the short four-tenths of a mile descent to Dead Indian Memorial Road.

    However, the climbing isn't quite over yet. After making a right turn on to the road, you still have three-quarters of a mile to climb, averaging a 7 percent grade, before reaching Buck Prairie Summit. Now you can relax and enjoy the 13-mile descent to the Ashland city limits.

    The Conde Creek road is narrower than the average city street with numerous blind corners. Although you may not see much traffic, vehicles will be approaching you at what seems a rapid pace when you are climbing. Stay out of the middle of the road. Enjoy the nice downhill on Dead Indian Memorial Road, but be cautious when you build up speed. Gravel is a common problem in the tight turns and drivers tend to cut corners. Stay in your lane and watch for rocks on the highway.

    Be courteous, share the road, wear a helmet and have a safe ride.

    Bicycling enthusiast Bob Korfhage of Phoenix is a former president of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club.

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