Tour de Fronds Route Description
Tour de Fronds extends special THANKS! to Bill Oetenger, Santa Rosa Cycling Club,
for allowing us to share his description from a 2005 ride.
This article provides a glimpse into several of the
Tour de Fronds rides.
Stage 7: Powers to Glendale
71 miles, 6000’ up, 5000' down
Crater Lake may be spectacular and memorable. So too may be Cape Arago and its rugged cliffs and coves. But for pure biking enjoyment, for epic adventure of the cycle-touring sort, this stage may stand out as the best of the week. It is really something special.
This is the day we climb back through the Coast Range and drop into the inland valleys that will eventually take us back to Ashland. The Coast Range mountains are never huge, but like their counterparts in Northern California, they are a busy, steeply folded landscape of ridges and river canyons...up and down, early and often.
Our camp was on the north side of the town of Powers, so we begin today’s stage by riding south, into and through the little town. Heading south from Hwy 42, Powers Highway down to the town of Powers is a nice two-lane with solid, contemporary engineering, as seen in the earlier photo from yesterday’s stage. South of Powers, it stops being a “highway” and becomes simply Powers South Road (above). It narrows and wiggles about more, as it becomes more intimately entangled with the South Fork of the Coquille. The river narrows too, or its gorge does. Great masses of rock fill the stream in decorative ways. Birch, alder, and aspen crowd the banks in lovely profusion. This really is one of the prettiest roads I can recall riding. It approaches perfection. The photo [right] is the only one I have for this 16-mile stretch of road. While a pleasant image, it hardly begins to do justice to the scenery.
But wait...there’s more. It gets better. At around mile 17, after a tight hairpin in the bottom of a pocket canyon, the road begins to climb. Turn east at mile 18 and pick up USFS Road 3348 and continue the climb, to a total of about three miles, up into the high hills (still along the Coquille, which turns east with the road). Now we’re climbing in earnest, gaining around 3000' between mile 17 and mile 40. Those first three miles are hard work, followd by 13 miles of gently uphill rollers and false flats. If the run along the lower river canyon was beautiful, this run may require some other adjective that tops “beautiful.” How about sublime? There are several spots where the river, now more of a mountain cascade, can be seen from the road, often doing fancy, show-off bits with glassy green pools and waterfalls, including Upper Coquille River Falls, where it might be worth getting off the bike and visiting. (See photo [below].)
They have a local bike ride up here called the “Tour de Fronds.” Fern fronds...get it? It’s a good name. You’ve never seen such a mass of green and fuzzy ferns in one place. The little road is like a tunnel through them. I almost felt as if I were riding in the belly of some great green beast. See the photo[s on the next page] to get a better appreciation of this verdant world.
Road 3348 is also known as Kelsey Mule Road [on the BLM side], although the signing can be a bit vague out in the boonies. Whatever it’s called, it’s a fantastic road. At mile 33, that long, gently uphill run ends with a modest descent of a mile and a half. That little drop into a creek canyon brings us to the real climbing challenge of the day: four and a half miles up with around 1600' of gain to a summit at 3789'. That works out to an average of around 7%, but there are a number of spots on the high side of 10%. It’s butch. We’ll try to place a sag somewhere on the climb or near the summit. [Rest Stop at Arrasta Saddle]
Once over the top at mile 39, the roads tilt downhill for most of the rest of the stage. In most exquisite particular, between miles 39 and 47, bold descenders will be in heaven: 2400' down in eight miles...nothing but one slinky bend after another, down and down [left]. [TdF 2014 turns left onto BLM 32-8-9.2 at mile 45.9. Bold descenders will still be in heaven, albeit a slightly altered one: 2330’ down in 6.3 miles.]
Good pavement. Great scenery. Added to the wonderful run along the Coquille in the first half of the stage, this downhill quite literally puts the stage over the top in terms of biking delight. It’s about as good as it would be if you drew it up as a fantasy of what a great stage could be.
Stage 7: Riding along the South Fork of the Coquille River
Stage 7: Coquille River Falls; riding in the “Tour de Fronds”