Bikepacking the Odyssey of the VOG
I’d eyed bikepacking in the Oregon coast range quite awhile, so I wasn’t TOO sad to pivot from a fall bikepacking plan from Idaho after a forest fire messed up plans.
Luckily, my ultra-endurance bike racer friend Ben organizes a race in the coast range called the Odyssey of the VOG. (VOG=Valley of Giants, an old-growth stand of Douglas firs along the way.)
The VOG it was! My friends Brady, Tyler and I changed plans and met in Salem, Oregon to pedal out to the coast and back via some steep forest roads. With no research except downloading the GPS route, we were off.
Overall, it was an excellent voyage starting in the hot summer of the Willamette Valley, crossing over the coast range to cool, misty coast weather up the Oregon Coast, and then reversing it. Nicely planned, Ben! (Also, thanks for hosting us the night before.)
Overview of the trip
Below is my trip report for bikepacking the Odyssey of the VOG. I wrote this as a resource for folks looking to bikepack this route, so free to skip to the specific sections below.
- Route description and overview
- Trip highlights from the Odyssey of the VOG
- Photo gallery
- Trip logistics: food, water, camping, navigation, etc
Bikepacking Route Description
We spent six days wheeling in a clockwise loop from Salem to Pacific City on the coast and back. The route covers a mix of pavement and dirt logging roads.
Fair warning that the logging roads are STEEP. We frequently ground up 15%+ grades. Pack light (I didn’t) and gear down (I did). My quads were pissed that I didn’t warn them in advance, although Brady and Tyler are unstoppable on a bike and were unfazed.
Also, those logging roads are used to, well, log. Oregon has a long history of clearcutting and we rode through our fair share of them. They aren’t serene forests, but I’m fine with seeing the reality of where wood comes from, and it further reminded me that clearcutting is so.incredibly.destructive.
Caveat: We diverged from the route at mile 236 to head straight to Salem because a) Tyler’s derailleur blew up under the force from his blunderbuss legs, forcing him to cut the trip short and hitchhike to Portland, and b) while we were still having fun, we were ready to have other fun. We’ve all toured so much that perfectionism ain’t the name of the game!
Instead, Brady and I headed straight south from Yamhill 50 miles to Salem on cruisy back roads. This cut out Hagg Lake and the final section through the foothills of the coast range.
Highlights of the Odyssey of the VOG
- The shift in landscapes: farmland, coast range, ocean. From Willamette Valley farmland to the forested coast range with plenty of icy streams to the Pacific Ocean and back.
- Eating at The Breadboard in Fall City! Amazing food, friendly, cheery owners and patrons. “Welcome to the gay Alps!” said the proprietor, something you nevereverever hear in a small rural logging town.
- Remoteness! Other than the coast and restocking in town, we saw basically no one.
- Hiking through the Valley of the Giants. (Tip: leave your bike at the top and hike down. Ask Brady how he knows.)
- Restocking at American Market near Grande Ronde. Mmm, junk food.
- The smooth, silky road north of Grande Ronde (offset by the grinder climb in the heat up to Lifesaver Lake, as I just renamed it).
- The OMG-biking-is-wonderful descent from Mt. Hebo over the top of the coast range. From 95 degrees to 60 in 20 minutes of swooping descending, grins plastered on our faces.
- Finding a still-burning beach fire in Pacific City and enjoying a misty fireside chat.
- Pedaling up the coast with ocean views the entire way…and not too much traffic!
- The small things: Watermelon. Fried potato wedges at a gas station. Coconut water. Conversation about science, photography, and how to live well. Uproarious laughter.
- Surviving a hike-a-bike in 97 degrees up the world’s steepest fire road with water running low. One of those “is this worth it?” moments for me.
- Kind strangers, always. The guy who came over just to show us his intricately carved walking sticks. The party-goers at The Breadboard in Fall City recommending places to camp. A goateed dude with two knee replacements who loves his ebike. The hunter who saved us with a gallon of water.
- Easygoing comradeship with Brady and Tyler, two excellent travel companions!
- Another injury-free, successful trip.
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Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip. Brady’s eye and skills are fabulous. Click on a thumbnail and scroll through to see them uncropped and larger.
Logistics for bikepacking the route
Following the Ride with GPS route, our days lined up like this:
- Day 1: Salem to Fall City (53 miles and 4,900’ of climbing).
- Day 2: Fall City to a few miles past the Valley of Giants. A short (but punchy!) day with lots of swimming, plus a hike in the VOG. (35 miles, 4,555’ climbing)
- Day 3: To the coast at Pacific City! (56 mi, 5,500′ climbing)
- Day 4: Pacific City to east of Tillamook (51 mi, 3200’ climbing)
- Day 5: Ass kicker of a day: broken derailleur for Tyler, steep af climbs (59 mi, 7,000′ climbing)
- Day 6: West of Yamhill back to Salem (56 mi, 2,300’ climbing)
Tips and suggestions for the route
- Swim in the rivers and streams whenever possible.
- You can camp for free in the city park just outside of Fall City. It’s worth pedaling back up the hill after eating at The Breadboard, which is a must-do.
- Bring a blinky tail light for the foggy coastal highway section.
- Be friendly when you encounter vehicles/people on private forest land.
- Stop at the Valley of the Giants! It’s worth it.
Getting to/from start/finish
Either drive or catch a train to Salem.
Time of year
We rode this around Labor Day of 2022. It was smoking hot, which is obviously just part of the game sometimes. I’d vote late May into June or September to catch cooler weather and avoid rain.
Navigation was straight-forward. I simply downloaded the route GPX from RidewithGPS.com and used Ride with GPS to navigate. The app is easy to use and you can use the paid, offline version for just one month at a time.
As usual, I rolled on a plant-based diet for this trip…and brought wayyy too much food. I’d planned for a 100% self-supported trip in Idaho and figured what the heck, I’ll bring a ton of grub for this trip.
Which was fine, except those roads are STEEP. And we were in towns every other day, so I did not need all the food. My self-imposed nickname was Chuuuuck Wagoooon (always yelled loudly).
Water is quite plentiful with streams or faucets on the coast. I used the Katadyn BeFree filter.
I brought my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 bikepacking tent, but slept out under the stars every night but a misty, almost-raining night on the coast.
You’ll have a signal up high, but the back roads of Oregon shut down any signal.
I rode my 2019 Why Cycles Wayward V.1 set up with Terrene McFly 2.6” front and a 2.6” rear Maxxis. I run a 140mm front fork, which seems to handle most anything I’d want to ride a loaded bike down. It was overkill on this trip, but sections of logging roads were chunky enough that I don’t regret it!
Still loving my 26T chainring on my Wayward to complement the 11-46 Shimano XT setup I’ve got. It’s AWESOME. Spinning is the name of the game while bikepacking! You’ll never mix your taller gears as much as you’ll wish for more climbing range, trust me.
Rounding out my gear was a Revelate front roll bag for sleeping gear and a custom frame bag. I ran a lightweight T-rack from Tumbleweed Bicycles instead of a dropper bag, ski-strapping a dry bag to the rack. The weight is basically the same as a big dropper bag and functions much better. Sure, dropper bags LOOK cool, but are they truly uber-functional? I say racks still have a place.
Two Salsa Anything Cages rounded out the kit, one with my cook kit, another with water…and my REI lightweight chair, which I love having on fire road trips!
And that…is a wrap. Thanks again for setting up the route, Ben.