Oregon Backcountry Adventure

Oregon Backcountry Adventure
I hear a loud CRACK just outside the tent and bolt upright from a deep sleep. My sudden movement sends the visitor thundering away through the brush. With my heart doing double-time, my hands fumble around the tent for the headlamp. Once in hand, I switch it on and shine it out the mesh opening. The yellow beam of light reveals nothing but a thick forest of pine trees with dense underbrush.

Guests in the Wilderness

It's late July and we're on the first day of a motorcycle trip on the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route (OBDR)  -  the start of our nine-day adventure. We're in the Blue Mountains just southeast of Walla Walla, Washington, where we arrived at the Mottet Campground after dark.

Preparing clam spaghetti at Indian Lake Campground.

In the distance, I still hear the sound of sticks cracking and brush rustling. As the sounds get closer, I hear an animal bellowing and snorting, the type of protest a bull makes when you walk through its corral uninvited. Finally, when I feel it's too close for comfort, I smack the tent with my hand. The visitor bolts away through the brush sounding like a deer or an elk bounding through the forest.

This scenario repeats itself a handful of times over the next few hours. By now it's 2:45 a.m., and I'm rethinking my aversion to hunting wild animals. Realizing I have a few hundred miles of off-road riding to begin in a few hours, I decide to relocate. Climbing out, barefoot, I drag my tent with all of its contents about 60 feet across camp, and I position it between the campfire and picnic table. The visitor continues to protest off in the distance, but never gets close enough to bother me while I again find sleep.

A pre-loaded GPS route is essential on the OBDR.

When morning comes, I anxiously ask my three friends if they heard the animal harassing my tent. To my chagrin, they were all fast asleep and heard nothing. They do, however, still find ways to make deer-snorting noises for my benefit.


2007 BMW G650X Challenge
2006 BMW HP2
2005 BMW R 1200 GS
2009 BMW F 800 GS

The animal encounter last night was a clear reminder that we're in the wild  -  gone are the controlled environments of civilization where humans are in charge. We're in the wilderness now, where animals, terrain, and weather hold the cards. I have the epiphany that the animal last night was not the visitor… the visitor instead was me. With my attitude now properly adjusted, I'm ready to spend the next week as a guest in this Oregon Wilderness.

Descending from the 6,800-ft elevation of Tower Mountain Lookout, in the Whitman National Forest.

The Players and Our Bikes

My cohorts on this adventure are Tom Myers, Sterling Noren, and Helge Pedersen. Tom is my colleague and President of Touratech-USA. Sterling is an award-winning filmmaker who specializes in documentaries on adventure motorcycling, and Helge is the founder of GlobeRiders®. As for me, I'm the new General Manager at Touratech-USA. I have a background in the off-road motorcycle business, but am new to adventure motorcycle camping. I'm trying to absorb the expert advice from the seasoned adventure veterans who are with me for the week.

The author fording the Malheur River at Crane Crossing.

For this trip we have an assortment of BMW motorcycles including Helge's HP2, Sterling's R 1200 GS, Tom's F 800 GS, and my G 650 X Challenge. Each of the bikes is outfitted with Zega panniers, Touratech oversized fuel tanks, and other protection items to ensure the bikes stay in good working order on this challenging terrain. Each bike is also fitted with a Garmin GPS unit secured with a Touratech locking mount.

Having ridden from Seattle the day before, our mission for the next week is to ride our motorcycles from Walla Walla, Washington, to Dorris, California, on a route managed by the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association (OOHVA). This 1,200-mile track is what's known as the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route or OBDR.