Post Fire Touring: Where will you ride once the fires are out?

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Enumclaw Powersports


Post Fire Touring 2017

Where to view the burns in the Pacific Northwest by motorcycle

As I write, I'm looking across the Puget Sound toward Bainbridge Island, the Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympic National Park range. But due to so many fires across the state and down in Oregon, I can't see a thing. Highly unusual. Even when it's a rainy day, one or all of these entities float in and out of view. On a clear day, it's a spectacular view.

Starting with the fires in BC earlier this summer, and now with the winds shifting, Seattle and Portland have now been buried in the after-smoke of all these fires for more weeks than we can count anymore. And it's not over yet. But it will all end soon. And when it does… There's going to be some interesting riding ahead.

If you're a Pacific Northwest Dual Sport enthusiast, you've no doubt watched all the photos fly across social media of others riding the BDR's in the region. And it's no oddity that many of those photos feature backgrounds in burn areas. We see just as many full leaved tree laden photos as we do in burn areas. When there's as many fires as we've seen this summer, that ratio will tilt toward the dry twigs even more.

But it's not just dual sport routes where the visual will change for riders. If you've ever buzzed around Oregon's Cascade Lakes on a street bike, you've seen all the damage from countless fires as well as natural oddities that take out lodgepole pines. At 150 feet, certain death occurs due to the freezing below in the pumice ash their roots grow into.

This all makes for some eerie riding indeed. And with Halloween on the way, October may well be an eerie month to ride. So, let's look at where the fires are today and what might be ahead for us as we take a trip across what will seem like the surface on the moon this coming fall.

As you read along, we make no promises that any of these roads will be open when you arrive. Use the Sound RIDER! Road Conditions page to find out more information. Use the NWCC Fire Map to pinpoint each location.

From north to south…

  • Ferry Point Burn - Chelan, WA : The cool air around Lake Chelan is inviting as fall settles in. Dual sport riders will be able to view this burn from FS 8200, the Grade Road.
  • Quarry Burn - Snoqualmie, WA: Nothing like a nice dual sport ride up the North Fork of the Snoqualmie in October to take in all the fall colors on a dual sport motorcycle. You'll locate the burn area at the north end of the road, just past the FS 5720 turnoff.
  • Jolly Mountain Burn - Cle Elum, WA: The epicenter of this fire is east of Cle Elum Lake and west of 97. Dual sport riders can experience its aftermath first hand by riding in on the County 970 road and riding the tentacles FS 9702, FS 9737, FS 9703 and FS 9738. For a bird's eye view (and a great view of Mt. Rainier), ride to Red Top and hike up to the fire overlook.
  • Norse Peak Burn - Mt Rainier National Park, WA: Once SR 410 is cleared, riders of ALL motorcycles will be able to pass through where the Norse Peak fire did its damage. Keep in mind there was work scheduled on this area of road this summer that may have been delayed so you may encounter a little extra time to view the burn.
  • Eagle Creek Burn - Cascade Locks, OR: Due to the size of this burn, you can expect some serious mud slides in this area this coming winter if rains are heavy. ALL riders may be able to view this burn by riding up the road that leads to the trail head, or by hiking the Pacific Crest trail out of Cascade Locks near the Bridge of the Gods toll booth.
  • Scorpion Burn - Detroit, OR: A ride along FS 46, the Breitenbush Road can be a chilly experience in the fall, so bundle up. The burn is located near the hot springs area.
  • Potato Hill Burn - NW of Sisters, OR: ALL riders will be able to view this burn which is located just east of the junction of SR 20/126 and SR 22
  • Milli Burn - Sisters, OR: This fire engulfed a large area west of Sisters along SR 242 that ALL riders will be able to view. If you're going to visit, be certain to continue west up to the McKenzie Pass Observatory. Never to be missed.
  • Rebel Burn - Blue River, OR: ALL riders can ride onto the north end of the Aufderheide from SR 126. Just past the Cougar Reservoir you'll encounter this burn area.
  • Horse Prairie Burn - Glendale, OR: This burn will be visible to ALL riders who venture in north of Grants Pass on the paved Cow Creek Road. Need a lunch stop? Try Nano's in Glendale.

At the time of this writing, none of these fires are even contained, let alone out. Be certain not to try to enter into these areas until their respective fire is out and the roads are open to the public.

These are just some of the burns that will be interesting to explore this fall. Use the fire map link above to find more.

Good news for dual sport riders - when a fire arises in an area of dirt roads, these roads are often graded so they tend to be in nicer condition just after the event.

Keep in mind that with wildland fires, the soil becomes rather unstable when the rain shows up. Burn areas give way to mud slides and some roads will get their fair share of damage when it happens. They can't all be fixed at once. Even without fires last year, the Olympic Peninsula experienced numerous rock slides and wash out, none of which have been repaired this summer. Often it takes several seasons to do a fix based on the evaluation of needs and, considerations of the effect the repair will have on the local habitats and finally the extended permitting process.

Patrick Thomas/September 17

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