Words by Mike Wingertsahn
The Cascadian Crossing Route’s inaugural Grand Depart took place this September, starting and finishing in downtown Bend, Oregon. The CCR connects some truly outstanding trails through the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests in Central Oregon. The backcountry landscapes, pristine waterways, immense old growths are highlights throughout the route, while the sheer diversity of riding you get to experience on both sides of the Cascades is hard to describe. The conditions proved to be quite the challenge this year, only three riders completed the loop in its entirety of the eight that started.
Congratulations to Ben Salthouse, who finished in 66 hours 43 minutes with an impressive and consistently fast all-day / all-night effort. Mike Wingertsahn followed in 68 hours and Sean Lerner in 77 hours 24 min… on a 26” singlespeed nonetheless! Phil Stiff was within 20 miles when his lights died shortly after nightfall, forcing him to complete the final leg on the highway, a solid effort that should be noted as he was leading or co-leading through 270+ miles. The final statistics of the loop were 325 miles and 36,000 of vertical gain (Ride with GPS Estimates were only 7,000 feet shy), likely approaching 70% on singletrack.
With deep sand, rugged trails, and remote forestry roads barricaded by 100+ downed trees, the CCR tested everyone’s equipment, bike handling, and mental fortitude this year. The most challenging sections were typically followed by some of the highest quality and most rewarding trail riding a bikepacker could ask for (i.e. North Fork to Trail 99, Tire Mountain to Alpine Trail or Bunchgrass to Mt. Fuji followed by the Cascade Lakes).
When I asked the group after the ride was over for some feedback and advice for future riders, here’s what they had to say about the first-year event:
- Advice For Future Riders: My advice is to have fun. If you feel your mood slipping, eat more food.
- Three Words to Describe the Route: Hypnotic, Green, Ribbon
- Advice For Future Riders: Wear shoes that are comfortable for walking. Treat yourself to a milkshake and fries from Sno Cap in Sisters.
- Three Words to Describe the Route: Rough, Worthwhile, Saucy (that last one more describes how I felt at the end rolling into Bend wearing just my boxers and half-buttoned linen shirt.)
- Advice For Future Riders: My advice for future racers would be to service their hub! In all seriousness, I am still amazed my hub failed. I’ve never given it much thought. I guess it makes sense then. You have to think about every little detail and if possible clean or maintain every piece of equipment. Still, I don’t know if you can totally prepare for the moon dust that gets into every single component.
- Three Words to Describe the Route: Heinous, Remote, Wild
- Advice For Future Riders: I’d say to abandon your expectations of how fast you can go on this route. Just looking at the RWGPS file and the route description doesn’t convey how difficult the terrain can be, how much hike-a-bike you’ll engage in, and just how slow going the race will be, regardless of fitness level. With that in mind, make sure you have more than enough supplies to repair mechanicals, know of a good bail option (if it comes to that), and don’t expect to always hit the resupply points when stores are open. We seldom did.
- Three Words to Describe the Route: Challenged, Exhausted, Thrilled
Thanks to all of the folks who encouraged the Cascadian Crossing to get off of the ground. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for this ride. A special thanks to the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance and the volunteers, stewards, and donors who support the mission. The CCR utilizes portions of this incredible trail, including the infamous Bunchgrass Ridge and Cascade Lakes region. It is truly some of the best trail riding you can find anywhere, though I’m biased.
Just a few days after everyone was safely back in Bend, several wildfires spread throughout Oregon, causing losses of indescribable magnitude. The CCR passes through the area of the Holiday Farms fire in the McKenzie River Valley, which grew to 150,000+ acres in a matter of a few days. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to all of the families impacted. We wish the firefighters and first responders our absolute best and our deepest sympathies to those impacted.
Final Rider List
- Ben Salthouse 312.2 miles / 2:18:43
- Mike Wingertsahn 312.1 miles / 2:20:01
- Sean Lerner 312.2 miles / 3:05:24 – Singlespeed record!
- Philip Stiff 312.2 miles / 2:17:31 – Lights died, completed final few miles on road
- Gordon MacMillan 223.5 miles – Hub exploded
- Alex Thompson 207.7 miles – Wheel exploded
- Jeff Liu 114.5 miles – Dropped after completing McKenzie River
- Jeffrey Taylor 105.7 miles – Crashed on the deep sand descent on Santiam Wagon, get well soon Jeff!
For those interested in supporting the Oregon Timber Trail, they are currently running a campaign that makes it very easy to donate. Head over to OregonTimberTrail.org to learn more.
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