My 1st Real Spring Ride in the Willamette Valley
Spring in Oregon is always interesting and our first ride of the season proved that. Sure we have ridden the fun trails close to Oakridge- trails that are a short distance from our houses (like Salmon Creek and Flat Creek). But today we wanted to hit Alpine Trail, my personal favorite. This was going to be a fun ride because we had a fun group together. It was nice out and we had some brand-new, giant demo bikes provided by Collins Bike Shop in Eugene. They had provided these bikes to me for their customers to test ride, and also for my Oregon Adventures tour clients to demo if they wished. John and Jake help me out with tours so I wanted to make sure they had a chance to get a feel of the bikes.
Because it was so early in the year, our best case scenario was to ride half the trail. At 11am on April 29th, Ben Beamer, John, Stephanie, Jake and myself were driven up to the ½ way point off 1911 RD by my soon-to-be future wife Paula, who decided to till the garden instead of ride. We left Oakridge and it was nice, sunny and in the low 60′s (that soon changed, however). By the time we got to the trailhead it was cloudy, with lots of fog and in the 40′s. Some of us had extra clothes and some of us didn’t think about it like myself (bad move). Needless to say we posed for one quick picture and then started moving as quickly as possible. About ½ mile up the trail (which started with a 1-mile climb), it got colder and wetter, but by the top of the climb it had stopped raining in the second meadow.
The fog was amazing; we sat there for about 15 minutes, and I had never seen fog move so fast. It was clear, and then 20 seconds later we were in total fog (that happened repeatedly). It was really cool to watch. We let another couple of downhill bikers pass us (a man in jeans and a woman decked out in full-on downhill gear). The trail was in great shape thanks to all the hard work of the local Mt Bike club, Disciplines of Dirt (DOD). They put in thousands of hours each year working on the trails in the Oakridge/Westfir area.
The farther we went down the trail, the better the weather became- by ½ way down it was sunny and in the 60′s again. Alpine is an amazing trail. Lots of large old growth trees can be found there. The whole trail is about 15 miles long. It starts out with a two-mile grind out to Sour/Bear Grass Meadow; the view up there is awesome! It is not uncommon to see all kinds of wildlife on this ride, including elk, deer, bear, all kinds of birds and we have even seen a cougar a couple of times (that was kinda scary). Alpine is a true single-track trail; the trail is hard packed dirt and hardly ever wider then 1- ½ feet, it really is the true definition of single track.
After the meadow you descend for about 2 ½ miles. The next section is shorter (about 3 miles) and is called “Jedi” by the locals. There are a couple of climbs through the trees and then a clearing, but the descent is incredible. It is called Jedi for good reason; it is a fast curvy downhill ride that weaves in and out of the trees. It reminds me of the part in “Return of the Jedi” where they are flying around the forest on those “Speed Raiders” (I think that is what they were called) hauling fast around the trees. After Jedi is a ½ road transition to the trailhead where we started our ride. Now back to our ride. About ½ way down as I said it started to get really nice and the rest of the ride was beautiful with great views of the area and of the blooming foliage and flowers. I will have to ride again in about three weeks to see the rhodies in bloom.
The great part about Alpine is if you are into viewing flowers you get to see four different blooming cycles. Because the elevation change on the ride is about 4000, you can view the blooming of the rhodies four times starting close to Westfir in May and the last blooms in late June or July near Sour/Bear Grass Meadow. Speaking of that, Bear Grass in bloom is an amazing site, that meadow is full of thousands of big puffy blooms. There are also many other plants to see along the ride, such as Indian Paint. Another great place to view flowers is Tire Mountain trail off Alpine.
After we finish a ride, we normally turn and take the Westfir Tie Trail back to the covered bridge because there is a trail portal there with parking, restrooms, water and all that good stuff. But since the Tie trail has not been cleared of poison oak we rode the last couple miles of Alpine (I forgot how fun the last couple of miles are). After that we rode the roads back into Oakridge and stopped at the Trailhead Coffeehouse (a popular spot for mountain bikers), we split a pitcher of Terminal Gravity IPA (Oregon Beer) and chatted about our ride with some of the other riders.
We decided it was just too nice of a day not to ride more, so Stephanie decided to head home and we grabbed Ken and rode to my house and grabbed my van and drove up to Larison Rock Trail. It is only about a ten-minute drive from town. We grinded the ¼ mile up to the top of the trail to sit on Larison Rock- the view was great. We sat there talking about our earlier ride and how we sat on Larison Rock 15-20 years ago and had a 360 degree panoramic view. Now 60% of that is gone and in about 10 years there will be no view because the trees are getting bigger. Larison Rock, like most Oakridge/Westfir trails, is a true single track. This was not only a fun ride for us, but also a scouting mission to see how many trees needed to be cut off the trail (about 15). Luckily this year, most were smaller sizes.
Chad, (also known as chainsaw Chad) whose pictures and videos are used in most of my bike promotions (including the amazing Mt Bike Oregon helmet camera video (www.backcountryproductions.com) helps clear area trails. Last year we spent 2 /1/2 hours cutting out a tree on Larison Rock. We counted the rings and found out that the tree was 535 years old. Larison Rock is a fast, curvy downhill, with lots of blind corners, but it is my favorite downhill trail in the area. It is not technical in the sense of roots and rocks, but technical because it is fast and narrow. If you miss a corner you are MAYBE rolling down hundreds of feet. It is not like a strait drop off, but it is still intimidating to many people the first few times down. There are many big old growth trees to see along the trail, but I highly suggest you stop to look at them and try not to look while riding. About half way down Ben’s front shock locked out and it flipped him over the bars and skinned him up a little, so we stopped and fixed his bike. Jake and Ken were off the front, and Ken was at the bottom of the trail, bleeding pretty good. He said he went off the trail, but was ok. It was a great way to start off the riding season, hitting my favorite two trails in one day with my friends.
After the ride we went to the Trailhead Coffeehouse to catch up with another group of hard-core riders we knew were out on a training ride for the Cascade Cream Puff 100. This is a 100-mile race with 20,000 feet of climbing all done in one day. I will write more about the Puff in the future. After beer at the Trailhead it was off to Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant for dinner and more talking about the ride; a perfect way to end the day.
For more information on mountain biking the gorgeous trails of Oregon, please visit our Outdoor Recreation section.
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