Eagle Point-Butte Falls route offers cooler bicycling

    Long summer rides in the Rogue Valley heat can be a real bummer, especially when there is little air movement except what you create while cycling along. Consider taking one of the numerous routes into the mountains where cooler temperatures and a breeze await you.

    When it's hot, the best strategy is to get out of town early (avoiding both hot pavement and traffic snarls). The half hour or more it takes to negotiate town traffic really cuts into the short early morning cool period. You can transport your bike to a starting point away from town which can save precious time.

    So, I will start today's ride in Eagle Point. Go southeast on Main Street, and turn left on North Royal Ave, which becomes the Brownsboro-Eagle Point Road. After passing the Butte Creek Flour Mill on the right, turn left on Reese Creek Road and stay on it until you come to the intersection with the Butte Falls Highway. Turn right and stay on this road until you arrive in Butte Falls.

    The 20-mile ride to Butte Falls can be a challenge, depending on your state of fitness, since it does involve some climbing (1,228 feet of elevation gain). The first 11 miles average a 2 percent grade, followed by three miles with a slight drop. The next five miles average a 3 percent grade, followed by a short downhill stretch into town. Near the midpoint of the trip, the Halfway Market has cold liquids and porta-potties.

    Watch for Ernest Smith Memorial Park on your right as you approach the center of Butte Falls. A park with large shade trees, it's a nice place to relax and cool down. Water and restrooms are available. Right across from the park are a grocery store and eating establishments where you can quench your thirst or refuel your body.

    If you want to extend this ride, I offer two options. The first is to continue on from Butte Falls on the Butte Falls-Fish Lake Road for about 10 miles to Willow Lake where you can take a dip in the cool water or camp overnight. After leaving Butte Falls there is a short steep descent before you begin climbing to Willow Lake (nine miles, 660 feet of elevation gain at a 3 percent grade). From Willow Lake you return to Eagle Point by the same route for a total of 58 miles.

    The second option is to continue on from Willow Lake along the Butte Falls-Fish Lake Road and return to Eagle Point on Highway 140. This route demands a good set of legs because of its long uphill grade to reach Highway 140. When you leave Willow Lake, turn right to go eastward. The first three miles have a steady 2 percent grade. Then the real climb starts, five miles at a five percent grade to gain 2,394 feet of elevation. Now things ease up a little; there are two miles of rolling hills, averaging a 3 percent grade before you reach the intersection with Highway 140. It's mostly downhill to Eagle Point from there (26 miles for an average drop of a 5 percent grade). When you reach the intersection with the Brownsboro-Eagle Point Road, turn right to get back to Eagle Point.

    A few years ago, it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit when several of us left Phoenix at 9 a.m., pulling our bike trailers loaded with our camping gear. While we sipped coffee in Eagle Point, the temperature climbed rapidly. By the time we got to Butte Falls, the thermometer read 100 degrees. We quickly found an air-conditioned place for lunch. After several gallons of ice tea and a sandwich, we labored on to Willow Lake in 108-degree temperatures. Boy, did the lake water feel good. That evening it was almost too hot for sleeping. The next morning we decided not to make the same mistake again, so at the first signs of daylight we were headed to Fish Lake for breakfast.

    We arrived at the Fish Lake restaurant so early that the doors were locked and the cook was still trying to get his eyes open. We settled in on the deck and watched the birds and squirrels wake up and the fish jump for their morning breakfast. The cook took pity on us, opened early, and served us breakfast before we headed back to town.

    If your legs are in shape, you will find this a great ride through the forest with little traffic. I do recommend one major modification from our trip. On hot days, start especially early.

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

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