The Oregon Back Country Discovery Route Tour begins at the Oregon Motorcycle Adventure offices in Phoenix, Oregon and ends 380-miles later in Sisters.
When Jeff Moffet, owner of Oregon Motorcycle Adventures, invited MotorcycleUSA to come along on his inaugural tour of the Oregon Back Country Discovery Route, we were happy to accept. This particular tour would lead us on an almost 400-mile long adventure through Section #3 on the Oregon Back Country Discovery Route (OBCDR). There are seven sections of the OBCDR and number three is easily one of the best.
We found out just how beautiful and rugged Section #3 can actually be as we navigated our way from Phoenix, Oregon to Sisters, Oregon over the course of the next 72 hours. It was long and it was grueling, but most of all it was great fun. So grab your favorite beverage and ride along with us on our two-night, three-day, 380-mile ride through the most breathtaking scenery Oregon has to offer.
The OBCDR is a 1000-mile road/trail system located in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. It starts out in Cave Lake, California and winds its way through the middle of Oregon to end in Walla Walla, Washington. The serendipitous route was mapped out by the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association during the early ’90s in conjunction with the Oregon State Parks Department and was officially unveiled to the public in 1999. It consists primarily of two-track trails and gravel roads – which are commonly utilized by snowmobiles during the winter months – that take you past Crater Lake National Park, Diamond Lake, Mt. Thielsen, Black Rock Lava Field, Twin Lakes, Wango Butte, Tumalo Falls outside of Sisters, Mt. Bachelor and countless other aesthetically pleasing natural settings.
Our group consisted of four Southern Oregon-based businessmen, two Hollywood stuntmen, a super-fast photographer, one DEQ agent, tour leader Jeff Moffet and a journalist on a big black MZ (Sung to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas). Quite an eclectic collection. Although OMA does offer bike rentals on their tours, everyone brought their own street-legal dirt bikes for this special VIP tour.
Our MZ Baghira 660cc ‘Einzylinder’ (Single) test bike pulled duty on the OMA tour. We put this bike’s off-road prowess to the test over the course of the next three days.
My machine of choice was a street-legal 2005 MZ Baghira enduro. Late last year I had a chance to ride both the supermoto and enduro version of this bike during the introduction of the 2005 MZ 1000S and now finally had the perfect opportunity to put this bike to task off-road. The Baghira is a big 660cc single that throughout the course of our ride became affectionately known by the rest of the riders as the ‘MZ Abrams’ (like the tank). Everyone else was on a barely-legal motocrosser or enduros, except for the OMA tour guides who were on their standard street-legal DRZ400Ss.
So there we were all diddied-up in our Sunday-best gear with water systems bulging and fanny packs spilling over with spare parts – it was early Friday morning and we were ready to get the show on the road.
Day 1 – Green Springs – Diamond Lake Resort
The first leg sent us out of the OMA facility and up I-5 to Ashland for a good 30 miles of on-road riding to start things off. There’s just something inherently entertaining about riding dirt bikes on the street that I personally cannot get enough of. From Ashland we rode up a portion of one of our favorite canyon roads to the start of the first off-highway portion of our ride. Since the beastly Baghira has Supermoto bloodlines it was an absolute hoot to ride in the twisties – even with the DOT-legal knobbies humming away on the asphalt below.
The MZ Baghira seemed to be right at home in the dirt. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was pretty comfortable over the long haul too.
The morning air was crisp on my face and goose bumps covered my body as we climbed beyond the 3000-ft elevation mark. I began to question my decision to wear a vest rather than a jacket, as the outside air temperature was hovering around the high 40s – without the wind chill factored in – and this was before we had even made it to the OBCDR trailhead to begin our ascent into the wilderness area. However, once we hit the dirt, my adrenalin started pumping and dispelled any concerns I had about gear and turned my attention instead to soaking in the scenery as we got our first taste of the OBCDR.
Our first objective was to make our way to the Prospect Pizza Parlor for lunch with the owner and former pro dirt track racer Craig Renfrow. Only a hundred miles of road, 100 cubic tons of dust, and a county full of trees separated us from our destination.
With glimpses of the pointed tip of 9182-ft tall Mt. Thielsen poking through the evergreen forest along the eastern horizon, we made our way to the former Gold Mining town of Prospect and the completion of the first of our many key objectives. This portion of the trip sent us through the heart of the Rogue River National Forest, past Mt. McLoughlin and into the Sky Lakes Wilderness area, where the pine trees filled the air with their distinct scent. This is what makes riding in Oregon so special: It not only satisfies the need for challenging terrain, but it provides plenty of substance for the senses of sight and smell as well.
By the time we reached Prospect we were all tired and many of the bikes were on reserve, mine included. The cool interior of the Prospect Pizza Parlor was a welcome place to rest and gather up our faculties before heading back onto the trail. Renfrow and his staff treated us to some excellent food and drink inside, while the OMA support team fueled up the bikes and generally made themselves very useful as riders took turns gushing about the journey thus far and nibbling on pizza crust.
After lunch a short jaunt up the highway led us to another trailhead, and before too long we were far, far away from any civilization and making our way to the beautiful Diamond Lake Resort where more food, showers, fresh linen, and (most importantly) chilled beverages of all sorts were awaiting us. Between here and there however was another 100 miles of roads that would ultimately lead us out of the Rogue River National Forest and into the Umpqua National Forest, home of the popular Prospect OHV trail system that we would ride for the next few hours.
Here I am on my first time across Bybee Creek aboard the MZ Baghira.I was a little worried so I took it slow the first time.
After a lot of flat tracking, down we came across the Bybee Creek snowmobile bridge; since it was designed for sleds, the entire team opted not to taint their tires and instead took the water-crossing route rather than go over it. Once everyone was across a funny thing happened – everyone decided to do it again. and again. until the bikes were totally clean. We were all soaking wet and Ty had taken his allotment of shower shots for the photo gallery. It’s so much fun to blast through water on a motorcycle, for those who haven’t had the opportunity – it’s very primal.
After our refreshing bathing experience, trail boss Moffett decided we would take this opportunity to stop for a snack. Mini-Moto Magazine’s own Tim Clark busted out some fresh fruit to share with us all. Tim showed us how they do it down in Mexico, so we all got a half a lime to chew on…mmm. so smooth. Before too long we were off and riding on one of the most technical sections of the day, which was highlighted by single track winding through fairytale-like lush green forest. It’s pretty interesting how the environment varies in such a short period of time and that is one of the most intriguing points of this particular OMA tour.
After a couple more hours of riding through the foothills of Mt. Bailey were in the books, we made our way down the final stretch of winding paved road to Diamond Lake Resort, the Mecca of snowmobiling for Oregonians in winter and the summer-time home of relaxed living, fine dining, and more fishing fun than you can handle in one weekend. Since this was my first time participating in an OMA guided tour, I was surprised to find that Bob the support driver already had the cabins ready to go so we could get out of our gear and begin the bench racing. A full spread of snacks and cold beverages for our consuming pleasure was a timely precursor to our evening dinner that followed about an hour or so later. It was a superb feast at the resort which, in combination with the rest of the day’s experience, set the expectations for the following two days pretty high.