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Lazy days at Lake Creek

It's happened.

Spring has snuck up on us once again, catching everyone by surprise.

Sometimes, you want to just take a slow, easy ride, drop a few gears and enjoy the scenery. That's exactly how I felt this week when I explored Lake Creek, a bucolic detour off the beaten path for most bikers.

It's also a mere 30 minutes from downtown Medford, about 13 miles up Highway 140. 

The hamlet is notable for its energetic historical society and preservation of its heritage, which includes Oregon's shortest covered bridge, built in 1881.

It's also a place of rich, open ranchland — a picturesque green at this time of year —  and oak savannah, with its fair share of encroaching Ceanothus, or buckbrush.

Road cyclists often travel through Lake Creek via the connection to Dead Indian Memorial Road, which is made through Conde Creek Road, an 11-mile paved, single-lane route through the Cascade foothills.

But if you're like me, you like the grinding of gravel under your tires. The unpaved Lake Creek Road makes the connection to Dead Indian in a more roundabout way, and the scenery from the first few miles from Lake Creek is well worth the ride alone.

Lake Creek Road runs directly south, beginning just east of the Lake Creek General Store. Take a chance to look at the map at the kiosk at the start of the road. 

The wide, well-graded gravel road cuts through the sprawling Cascade Ranch, and mostly follows the namesake waterway.

When the scenery offered to the Southern Oregon mountain biker often consists of dense forest, the pastoral setting is a welcome change.

It's the environment for cloud-gazing and cow-watching: rolling hills of verdant green in the spring that are reminiscent of a scene from the British Isles.

At mile 4, the road curves around Lake Creek Reservoir, one of a cluster of man-made lakes in the area. I disturbed two Canada geese and a great blue heron as I passed, likely having been the only noisy visitor in a while. 

Views of Mount Mcloughlin, the highest point in the Rogue River watershed, steadily improve as you climb.

At mile 5, the road splits. The main road curves to the left, while the detour straight ahead leads to a BLM gate.

Past the gate, there is ample opportunity to explore snaking and branching fire roads in the hills above Cascade Ranch, but you'll eventually be coming back down the same road, as there are no connections.

It's 16 miles from the start of Lake Creek Road to reach Dead Indian Memorial Road, but it's up to you how far you want to go. If you go farther than 5 miles, be sure you have a GPS, as the tangle of fire roads can be disorienting.

New trails to ride

In Rogue River, progress on the Mountain of the Rogue trail system is proceeding rapidly. International Mountain Biking Association trail builders have brought in heavy equipment.

Once complete, the specially built flow trail will be the first of its kind in Southern Oregon.

More help is needed, though, to get the system ready for the prime season. RVMBA is calling all volunteers to come out Saturday, March 21, to the Seventh-day Adventist church at 4300 North River Road. Arrive at 9 a.m., and bring your bike so you can ride and provide input.

There are even opportunities available to adopt a turn. Design it, build it, name it. How cool would that be?

Forrest Roth can be reached at froth@mailtribune.com