Over the weekend I took a day ride up Hillock Burn Road into the Cascade foothills. This road heads south and southeast from Highway 211, a few miles south of Estacada.
A few miles up the road I saw several Clackamas County sheriff deputies and a Forest Service law enforcement officer standing at a canopy on a wide spot on the side of the road. They were handing out flyers describing the rules and laws of target shooting in the area. After telling them I was only there for a ride, the deputy I spoke with told me the road got gnarly a mile or two up the road. I thanked him for the warning, and continued onward.
It had rained the night before so the gravel road was wet and there were numerous small mud puddles, but the road itself was in relatively great shape. I kept going and never came to anything that was a challenge.
Hillockburn Road soon turns into NF-45. It heads south to a W-shaped pair of switchbacks before turning north again. The highest point of the road is just below 4,000 feet, and this time of year should have seen the road under a foot of snow. I went there the same time last year and had to turn back because of snow; not this year.
My V-Strom with its Heidenau K-60 knobby tires performed wonderfully and I built up my confidence riding on the gravel road.
It was my hope that the road was open at the north end where it quickly descends to the Clackamas River and crosses to highway 224 at the Memaloose bridge. The sheriff’s deputy didn’t say anything about the road being closed, so I remained hopeful. The previous September “36 Pit Fire” had burned both sides of the river near where the bridge crosses, and was behind the road closure. Still, since 224 was open to local traffic, I hoped they’d let me through so I could loop back to Estacada and not have to backtrack all the way to 211.
Unfortunately, within a mile or two of the final descent down to 224 I came upon the road block. They had erected several concrete barriers and piled boulders on both sides. One side could have been bypassed if I walked the bike through and was very careful, but I suspected there would be landslides or other natural barriers further down the road and didn’t attempt to by past it.
I ate a protein bar and head back the way I came. This time I was able to go a bit faster and with greater confidence on the gravel road. When I eventually got back to the sheriffs, I told him the road was blocked. He said, “Yeah, I probably should have told you about that. There are several landslides just past it so you wouldn’t have made it through anyway.”
By the time I got home I’d ridden 120 miles, more than half of it off-road. The total route took 4 hours.