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 


  1. Wow, a bike track that is entirely paved ... we only have those in the big cities around here. Funny how a road can be up hill both ways ... I live in just such a place! Any smidge of down hill relief is never enough to compensate for all of the up hill agony. Great scenery and free fruit bonus!

    1. We seem to have a lot of the paved bike paths in Oregon. Rails to Trails. Lucky I guess.
      The free fruit was a really welcome bonus. We each had an small apple on the way out too.

  2. Lovely photographs, truly stunning but on a bicycle?! I gotta admire what you do but couldn't you ride a scrambler through there? I haven't ridden a bicycle in at least a thousand years!

    1. Hey, thanks for stopping by. Yeah, a bicycle - call us crazy. Would have been easier with a throttle but then it wouldn't have been as peaceful.

  3. Nice photos and it looks more like a smile than a grimace. 26 miles is pretty good especially with all of the hills. And, yes, on a bicycle the downhills never make up for the up hill sections. Unless you go as slow downhill as you do up. I've never heard of those plums before. Based on the color, you could pass them off as monster Oregon blueberries.

    1. Thanks Richard.

      As kids I always knew the plums as Italian Prune Plums, but I don't know their official name. Sweet and yummy and yellow on the inside, and their pits usually pop right out. Imagine blueberries that big - yumm!

  4. I very much like that rail to trail concept. We have it all over the place here.
    Good job on the 26 miles. Not sure that I would have had the endurance to pull through with all the hills involved. I like it shorter, with less hills...
    Thank you for the movie reference. I am not only a King fan but also a fan of that specific movie.

    1. The hills weren't bad, it just seemed like one long gradual one. We were thinking "are we done climbing yet?" The green bridge from Stand By Me is in Brownsville about 20ish miles away. One day we'll have to get a pic of it for you too.

      When we were picking the plums I was thinking of you out on your bikes and eating the fruit when your mom was visiting. It was the same kind of thing.

  5. What a nice day, even with uphill both directions. I remember that there were some plums much like those in various places around here and it was always a treat to discover the trees, especially so when they were in places that weren't private.

    All nice photos but my very favorite is Brad right down at water's edge. The sparkly wave-tops and water just ooze summer to me.

    Actually quite a few paved bicycle trails around here and I/we should be taking more advantage. These rail/trails are the only place that I'd still find joy in bicycle riding these days. Hope you two get to go out again, maybe half way instead of the entire length?? :)

    1. It was a good day. Surprisingly the trail wasn't too busy, but maybe it is because we were there on a Friday and not a Saturday or Sunday.

      We were lucky the fruit trees were on the trail side of the fences. Maybe birds pooped out the seeds years ago or they are old leftover pioneer trees. You see those around quite a bit. Someone throwing pits out the train windows perhaps.

  6. Trobairitz,

    I've never been to Oregon but your pictures make me want to visit. I'm always impressed by the natural beauty in your photos. I'm also impressed that you rode 26 miles on a bike uphill in both directions.

    I like to experience Mother nature at her finest but I'm not sure I'd go that far to experience it...once it started to feel like work I wouldn't enjoy it. You guys must be in great shape. :-)


    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy.

    1. There sure are some pretty states in this Country. Well, I am sure all states have some wonderful things about them. For some reason we just love Oregon. Although it would be fun to see Texas too. Think of all the hidden gems you know about Texas that the tourists don't know.

      The ride did feel like work by the end, although there wasn't much we could do about it. We needed to get back to the car. Our butts and thighs were a little sore though. Feel the burn. And as Brad says "I am in good shape for someone that is not in very good shape."

  7. I enjoyed your rail trail trip with my morning java! Thank you very much!

    Beautiful area and some wonderful photos to capture it all...just like being there.

    Glad you guys had fun!


    1. Thanks Deb. I am glad you enjoyed the little tour.

  8. Wow. Stunning photos. That ride would have killed me. You should be proud that you made such a trek. "Stand By Me" is one of my favorite movies. "The Body", the Steven King short story upon which the movie is based, is one of my favorites, too. I would have been super-tickled to get my picture on that bridge.

    1. Thanks Kathy. The bridge looks so different without railroad tracks running over it.

      The ride didn't kill us, but my legs were sore for days after this ride.

  9. Quite beautiful. Were it not for winter...

  10. Beautiful pictures! I love Italian prune plums, they are my favourite plum. I particularly like trails where there are free snacks! The trail organizers probably realized it was an uphill trail and the trail users would need sustenance to make it through to the end and back. Were you sore the next day at all? It looks like it was a lovely day.

    1. Free snacks along trails are the best. Always a nice surprise.

  11. Jeeezzzz! How beautiful is that! At first I thought the plums were purple rocks and I wanted them. If you see any send them :)

    1. For you, I'd mail a box of rocks. I'll keep my eyes out, but I don't think I'm going to find any. :-)

  12. What lovely photos although I don't think I would like to ride a bicycle that far! You mentioned that 28 degrees was quite cool, that's our average warm temperature here with occasional jumps into the mid to high 30's and we nearly die if it gets into the low forties! I would love to do a trip in the USA, it's on my list but from what I've seen and read it's a very hot place, I would have to research the right time for a ride there. Thanks, a nice read.

    1. The 28 was cool compared to the summer we've had. I'd much prefer that to the 35˚C it will be this weekend. For some reason we've had a really hot dry summer. Temperatures in the USA just depend on where you are. The eastern or western seaboard is going to be cooler than the valleys, midwest, plains and the south. Spring or fall would be your best bet for cooler temperatures, but still riding weather.

  13. When you were saying you rode uphill both ways I kept thinking about the Zero (electric motorcycle)... :) Looks like a nice (but strenuous!) day.

    1. Oh, a wee electric motor would have been welcomed on the way back to the car. Going out didn't seem too bad, but we were really hoping to a downhill glide on the way back.