Thursday, August 21, 2014

Uphill - Both Ways

Troubadour was teaching a Team Oregon class last weekend so our only day off together was Friday the 15th.  The weather forecast was for a high of only 84˚F (28.89˚), which sounded nice and cool compared the temperatures we've been experiencing this summer.  Perfect for tackling the Row River Trail out of Cottage Grove.

We first heard of the trail when in search of covered bridges back in May of this year.  We saw parts of the trail on our ride and knew we wanted to ride it on bicycles one day since it is closed to motorized vehicles.

We also saw the trail in the book we purchased - Kissing the Trail.  It was listed as one of the beginner trails.

The Row River Trail is a section of the abandoned Oregon Pacific and Eastern Railway Line that has been paved over.  It runs through a portion of the Umpqua National Forest and skirts the north side of Dorena Lake.  There are several trailheads along the way, but we chose the trailhead at Mosby Creek by the covered bridge.  This would give us a 26 mile (41.84 km) round trip ride. An alternate starting point would have been in Cottage Grove itself and would have added an additional 6 miles of total riding.  That stretch paralleled the highway along some residential areas so it didn't hold much appeal.

We arrived at the trailhead a little later than anticipated, had some lunch, and got on our way about 1:30 pm.  The trail is all paved and a nice easy pedal.

(One of the many bridges)
At the start it is fairly level and then there is a long gradual uphill grade to the dam on Dorena Lake.  To get to the dam we took a short gravel road up and over a knoll which dropped us right down on the dam.  We couldn't go across the dam as it was blocked with a fence and razor wire.

(Dorena Lake dam looking West - Dam completed in 1949)

(On the dam looking southeast)

(On the dam looking southwest)

(Only 3 miles in - morale is still high)
Pedaling around the north side of Dorena Lake afforded some beautiful views.

(Dorena Lake)

There were a few forest trails that led to the waters edge and one actually had beach access.

(Troubadour pondering how deep the water was at the shore)

There was one area further down that a large gaggle of geese had claimed.  There were 2-3 grouping of them.

(Canadian Geese on Dorena Lake)
Part of the trail snaked through the beautiful Umpqua National Forest.  

And further towards the turn around point it meandered through pastureland full of cows, a few horses, and even old apple and plum trees lined the paths.

13 miles down.  We arrived at the turn around point.  The Culp Creek Trailhead.  No fanfare, nothing.  Just a gravel parking lot with one vehicle and a vault toilet stand.  Alrighty.  Head back, it is.

(Me at Culp Creek Trailhead - 13 miles down)
Now, all the way around the lake we'd been thinking we were riding on a slight uphill grade so we thought the 13 miles back to the car would be a little easier with a slight downhill grade.  We rode a little ways thinking out loud that we didn't remember that portion being downhill, so why were we now riding uphill?  And further uphill.

Oooh, did someone say plums.....  My favorite kind too - prune plums.

(Me with a handful of plums)

(The fruit right beside the path)

(Plums hanging on the trees)

(Troubadour picking plums)
After eating our fill of fresh ripe plums (only 8-10 each) hubby picked a few more to bring home. We'd drank enough water from his Camelback that he could fold the top of the water bladder down and create room for plums in the pack.  Smart thinking.

The view from the plum trees looking back at a farm.  Nice red barn.  

On the way out I noticed a creek running into the lake and made a point of stopping on the way back. Of course the sun's position had changed so the lighting wasn't quite the same.

At another stop Troubadour took the following picture.  The dam is in the center of the photograph and we knew we had 3 miles to ride beyond that.  Still riding uphill....

We didn't do too much stopping along the way back.  We were getting a smidge sore by mile 18 so we were focused on getting there.  Just keep pedaling.  And why is this uphill still?  We were really waiting for the downhill portion.  We did not expect the trail to be uphill both ways.  So much for a nice easy downhill ride to the car.  Did I mention the headwind?  By 4 in the afternoon the winds pick up from the west and clip along the valley at a pretty good pace.  We were now fighting a headwind on the homeward stretch.

By the time we reached the dam we found the downhill grade.  It wasn't as much as we were hoping for but it did provide some relief.  Unfortunately we still had to pedal because of the headwind.  No fair - we wanted to coast.

One more stop for pictures.  The orange bridge you see below crossed Mosby Creek about a dozen yards from the starting trailhead.  We stopped on the way back for pictures.  This is one of the Willamette Valley bridges that were used in the movie "Stand By Me" filmed in 1986.

(Me after 26 miles - and I am still smiling - or is that a grimace)

(Looking from the other side - different lighting)
Here is a still shot from the movie when there were still train tracks running through it.

(Kindly borrowed from Fishonland's Tumblr page)
A few other movies have been filmed along the railway such as "Emperor of the North" with Ernest Borgnine in 1973, and "The General" with Buster Keaton in 1926.

We arrived back at the car at 5:30 pm.  Tired and sore, but proud that we had actually ridden the 26 miles.  We had some snacks for dinner then drove the hour and a half home.

Would be do it again?  I don't know.  While the views were pretty along the lake and for part of the farmland, it was more of an exercise in endurance than actual fun.  We talked about it and came to the conclusion that we enjoy puttering through the woods on single track mountain bike trails a little more.  Shorter, but more intense and more exhilarating.

- Au Revoir

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills, and coast down them." - Ernest Hemingway 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dirt Riding - By the Numbers

Last Friday we headed to Portland to the Aerostich pop-up store.  While disappointed with the organization of the event, going to Portland was still a great idea.  Not only did we have lunch at Native Foods, but we also stopped at Beaverton Motorcycles on the way out of town.  They are one of the largest motorcycle gear providers in the valley.

I purchased a white HJC CLX-6 off-road helmet,  SPY Whip mx goggles in purple (they didn't have blue), and a white/black MSR off-road jersey to go with my motocross pants.  Unfortunately they only had 4 pairs of ladies mx boots and none were my size.  I also bought a sticker for the helmet and one for the bike.

Saturday was spent going to coffee, getting groceries, filling the car with petrol, and loading the bikes on the trailer.

Sunday was our planned day in the dirt so the helmet and goggles were necessary.  Because I didn't take as many pictures as I typically do or would have liked, I figured to do a by-the-numbers post to make it a little bit more fun.


5:00am - the time our alarm rang Sunday morning

6:30am - the time Troubadour and I left the house to meet PolarBear, SweetPea, and the PolarCub by I-5

2 - the number of hours it took to reach Huckleberry Flats Off Highway Vehicle Area

65 - the number of miles of trails in Huckleberry Flats OHV

5 - the number of riders and dirt bikes in our group

65˚ - The temperature Fahrenheit when we arrived at Huckleberry  (18.3˚C)

1 - the number of pictures I took in staging when we arrived and were unloading the bikes

(Huckleberry Flats staging area)
1 - the number of times I'd ridden the TW200 before Sunday

1 - the number of miles long the warm up track is.

4-5 - the number of loops of the warm up track I completed before PolarBear deemed me fit to ride on actual trails.....maybe not the ones I should have started on.

(Map of the full OHV area)

(A closer view - the red SA is the staging/parking area -
the squiggly 300 to the lower right was my problem area described below)
301 - the number of the trail we started on

300 - the number of the trail PolarBear turned left onto and where it was time to put me to the test.

3 - the number of times my bike took a nap in the large uphill ruts.

1 - the number of times I could pull it out of the shrubbery myself and get going again before they knew what happened.

2 - the number of times Troubadour and PolarBear had to finish the hill for me.

3 - inches taller I wish my boots were.

1 - How many times I showed off how clumsy talented I can be while falling over.  Grace will never be my middle name.

I managed to get stopped on the last large uphill section.  Troubadour had already been stopped half way up and managed to restart and power on.  I too got stuck in a rut and after stalling and restarting the bike 4-5, maybe 6 times I gained forward motion, only to have the back tire sucked back into a rut.  This in turn threw the front end to the left, which then swung the back tire out to the right. It happened quick enough I hadn't let go of the bars.  I knew enough to get my right leg up and out of the way but wasn't quite quick enough or my leg wasn't quite high enough.  The spinning back tire caught my right shin.  It stung a little at the time, but I kept calm and carried on.  Hence the wish for taller boots.

0 - tears were shed, but I may have swore a blue streak in between laughing and shaking my head.

I've never been so happy to see a gravel road as I was when that trail ended.  A little further up the road PolarBear made another left turn.

100 - the trail number he turned onto for the ride back to staging.  A much nicer newbie friendly trail.

PolarBear stopped for a wee break in the shade and I took a few pictures.

(Stopped on trail 100 heading back to staging with PolarBear)

(The trail ahead)

(TW 200 taking a break)

(The sticker I bought for the side panel - it's a little dirty now)

(Troubadour's XT 250 taking a break)
1 - the number of hours we were gone on the trail.

When we got back to staging we were so hot we took the chest protectors and jerseys off and had a nice relaxing lunch break.  Sandwiches,  potato chips, and fizzy water were consumed.  Yes, we were eating Tofurky sandwiches and drinking sparking water at an off-highway vehicle area.  What do you expect - we arrived in a Subaru.

At one point PolarBear went off and road another trail while the rest of us relaxed.  SweetPea and the PolarCub took turn on PolarCub's little 100 and rode the warm up track and another warm up loop.

When he returned we decided to go out for one last hurrah.  Just a quick jaunt down the 100 trail.

Parts of the trail were closed due to logging so we ended up on a gravel road before too long.   And then another gravel road.  Soon thereafter we came to a junction where the guys informed me the trail led to quite a technical area.  I politely, but empathetically stated my desire to just take the gravel roads back to staging.   It was frackin' hot and I was getting tired grumpy.

95˚ - the high temperature Fahrenheit for the day in that area (35˚C). 

We went directly back to staging and proceeded to change back into our street clothes and hang out with the PolarCub while PolarBear and SweetPea went on a trail.

2 - the number of riders in our group that never fell over (Troubadour and the PolarCub)

Not much later we were loading up the bikes and rounding up our gear.  We were all hot and worn out, but had a wonderful day with great friends.

We arrived home around 6 pm.  We unloaded the trailer, showered, had blueberry smoothies for dinner, and then held down the sofa before heading to bed early as we had to be up at 4 am Monday morning.

While PolarBear had his GoPro on for part of his solo ride, I don't know if he managed any footage. I did find the following video on YouTube filmed in May 2012.  It gives you some idea of the trails.  Since it is long, I don't expect anyone to watch it all, just skip ahead and see different sections.

It has been three days since our adventure and I am ready to go again.  We'll see if I can stay on the bike next time.

I want to say a big thank you to Troubadour for taking me out mountain bike riding several times prior to this adventure.  I really do think it helped me learn to choose my lines over rutty paths and also to keep loose on the bars and get used to a narrower trail.

5-6 - the number of times someone (usually me) said 'Never let fear and common sense stand in your way." - it seemed to be a theme for the day.

- Au Revoir

" You can totally make that....." - Anonymous

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Wee Walk in the Woods

Last Friday, August 1st, we had the day off together with no real plans except to try to avoid the 95˚F (35˚C) heat.

Mid afternoon Troubadour and I decided to head northwest up Kings Valley to the Beazell Memorial Forest to scope it out for possible future mountain bike rides.  For some reason we thought it might be cooler in the forest - not if you wait until 3 pm - the hottest part of the day.

We have a book on hiking and mountain bike trails in and around Corvallis and Benton County. The book calls this area the gem of Benton County.  Maybe back in 2006 when the book was written, but last Friday it didn't seem to be a gem compared to other area parks.

As you pull into the area, you are greeted by the 1875 farm house of the Plunkett family; one of the oldest dwellings in Kings Valley.  The exterior has been restored to reflect its time period, but it is not open to the public.

(Plunkett House as it sits today)
(As it looked back in the day - I took a picture of the information sign)
Beyond the parking area and restroom facilities is the 1930's era barn.  The barn has been fully restored and is now a rentable park facility and forest education center.  It was not open the day we were there.

The park has several trails to choose from.  There is a short loop for bird watching, the Plunkett Creek Loop, the South Meadow Loop, and the South Ridge Loop. Several of them intertwine together to create a longer hike.  To view a trail map click this ----> LINK.  Click on the picture in link to make it larger.

We started on the Plunkett Creek Loop.  A nice walk in the woods except for the heat.  While it was shady beneath the canopy of the trees it was quite humid and sticky.  It felt more like a tropical jungle than an Oregon forest.

The trail was a nice wide path with a steady incline.  Several bridges crossed over Plunkett Creek.

There wasn't much water in the creek.

At a junction we took a right hand turn onto the South Loop Trial and a steeper ascent with several switchbacks.  The trail narrowed and up, up, up we hiked.  Did I mention it was hot?  Did I mention it was steep?  Sure were glad we were not on the mountain bikes because of the narrow path and sharp switchbacks.

We reached the summit above the South Meadow where the trail opened up to a worn grassy road.

We took a short side loop to a viewpoint of Marys Peak.

(Viewpoint of the coastal mountains)

(Zoomed in view of Marys Peak)
There weren't many wildflowers, but the thistles were in bloom.

(Blooming Thistle)
From here we took another small side loop where we saw a huge old fir tree.  I think it was past its glory days.  I posed beside it for size reference.

We finally started our descent.  The path became an old logging road of sorts, with huge patches of deep very large gravel. The walk down was not easy on the knees.

(Looking back up the hill - the pic doesn't do the grade justice)

(Further down and another look up)

(I couldn't resist the bright leaf on the road - notice the size of rock on the roadbed)

(Up a short path - a huge water storage tank for unknown purposes)
We were almost back at the barn when we saw a set of stairs that led up to a freshwater cistern. Water was flowing in from an unknown source through a small metal pipe only to overflow out the top.  

A few yards later we were back at the car.  We used the restroom, guzzled another bottle of water and enjoyed the air conditioning all the way home.

We were only gone for a few hours, but it was nice to get out of the house.  The heat from outdoors made the house seem a little cooler too.

Another 3-day weekend coming up and hubby doesn't have to teach.  We have plans to attend the Aerostich pop-up store in Portland tomorrow as well as do a little boot and goggle shopping in the city.  Sunday (our anniversary) we have plans to get dirty on two wheels with PolarBear and his wife SweetPea. Should be fun times.

- Au Revoir

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T.S. Elliot