Friday, October 9, 2015

Sunday - Hitting the Dirt Ride

As some of you may know from facebook, on Sunday a few of us went out for a wee ride in the dirt.

On Saturday afternoon Troubadour and PolarBear went for a mountain bike ride and plans were hatched for a dirt ride on Sunday.  I decided to forego housework and grocery shopping and chose to go ride some dirt instead.  We managed to convince Melissa, fearless instigator leader of our Dam Ride, to join us.  Mel had never ridden off road before so we were curious to know if she would like it.

The guys chose the Santiam Pass Motorized Vehicle Area as the venue of the day.  Here is a link to the trail MAP.  From Corvallis the area is east on Highway 20 and up Tombstone Pass to Santiam Pass.  

(The route)
If you make a right turn (south) at the Hoodoo Ski Area on Big Lake Road it will take you around the ski hill and into the OHV area.

The alarm was set for 6:30 Sunday morning.  We got ourselves ready, had breakfast, and then I packed us a lunch while Troubadour hitched the trailer to the Subaru and loaded the bikes and gear.  We arrived at PolarBear's in Lebanon promptly at 9:30 on schedule.  PolarBear had already loaded three bikes on his trailer and soon we set out to Waterloo to pick up Mel.

We arrived at the staging area just shy of noon.  Traffic wasn't heavy heading up the pass, which was nice and the sun was shining brightly.  I believe it was 50˚F (10˚C) when we left the house. Luckily, as we climbed higher in elevation the sun warmed a little and hovered around 60˚F (15.5˚C) most of the day.

While the staging area was all gravel, the trails and forest service roads were a soft sandy dirt. Most places a few inches deep.  This was a new riding surface for me and I was a little hesitant. Okay, probably more than hesitant.  Loose on the bars..... loose on the bars..... was my mantra for the day.

We set off down one road and while looking for the 'green' rated newbie warm up loop PolarBear accidentally led us down the rabbit hole.  Not that it was a bad trail but there were banked corners with loose soil in the bottom and Mel and I weren't quite up for the task at that point. Did we still ride it?  Yes!  Did we fall over and hit the dirt?  Oh yes!  Did we have fun?  I believe we did since we were smiling most of the time and laughing as we picked up bikes.

(Troubadour in orange - PolarBear in blue - Where is that warm up loop?)

(Selfie taken as they were reading the map)

(Wait, if I turn the camera just so I can get Troubadour in there too)

(PolarBear's trials bike - Hayrick Butte in the background)

(PolarBear pointing at the Hoodoo Ski hill)

(Photo by Melissa - Troubadour, Trobairitz, and PolarBear)

(Troubadour on an XT)
We eventually found the warm up loop and had quite a bit of fun going around and around through the twist and turns learning to keep our speed up around the banked corners.

(Trobairitz in white - Mel in black)
The picture above was taken at the entrance to the green learner's loop.  The post over Mel's shoulder is the exit.  When you make the left hand corner to re-ride the loop there was quite a bit of loose soil in the turn.  On one occasion I was stopped at the intersection and went to turn left. I revved the throttle a little too hard and rode up onto the grassy area.  No big deal other than I went to put my foot down on the low side onto the trail.  Not a good plan and over I went ending up flat on my back.  Luckily, not only was the soil really soft, but I was wearing my inflatable chest/back protector so I didn't feel a thing.  Sure wish I had that on camera. 

By this time it was 2 pm so we rode back the staging area for lunch.  Peanut butter sandwiches, lunch of champions.

(Hayrick Butte mirrored by the TW200)
I had one more fall for a total of 3 that day. The guys decided we were good to ride the blue (intermediate) learner's loop.  Same type of banked corner's, some tighter turns and more of an elevation gain/loss.  On my second run through the loop I got a little too much speed in a left hand corner and instead of pressing the bars more I target fixated and rode up the right side of the bank.  The bike slid out from under me.  Again, not hurt.  I think there is an art in falling off a dirt bike so the bike lands away from you and not on you.  On Sunday I seemed to have mastered that. I think Mel must have too as we both had a few get-offs usually in about the same spots. 

We rode a little further down the dirt forestry road intending to make it to a viewpoint.  There were trucks out on the road (mostly hunters in their camouflage and orange vests - although why they are allowed to hunt near an OHV area is beyond me).  They were polite and moved over but we still had to squeeze the bikes past them.  At the turn off for the viewpoint the road went up and turned at the top.  PolarBear and Troubadour decided to ride up and scope it out.  I hear a rumor Troubadour tried to ride up a sand pile up there some where, but that might just be an urban legend.

They came back down and decided we'd save it for another day.  We headed back to staging to load up the bikes and strip off all the extra gear.  As we were leaving the park we turned to check out Big Lake campground.  We stopped along the way and took a picture of the Subaru/trailer combination.

(Trusty Subaru Forester pulling the bikes)

(Boat launch at Big Lake Campground)
The campground looked like a nice spot.  There were a few trailers parked there and a few people milling about.  While we didn't see any bikes or quads, we did see gas cans sitting by trailers which would indicate they were off playing.  Some campsites had kayaks as well so people were there for the water.

We left the campsite and headed back towards the highway.  The photo below is Three Fingered Jack to the north of the ski/riding area.  You can actually see where it is on the map at the beginning of this post.  Three Fingered Jack is a Pleistocene volcano.  Click the name in the caption below for more information.

(Three Fingered Jack)

(Heading north on Big Lake Road leaving the area - following PolarBear's rig)

(Our bikes followed us down the road - TW200 and XT250)
We arrived home around 6:30 pm and the temperature was a balmy 75˚F (23.8˚C) in the valley.  I went inside to start dinner and Troubadour grabbed a beer bottle of motivation to get the bikes unloaded and trailer put away.  

(TW200, XT250 and a Portland Brewing Noble Scot (Scottish Ale)
I think we all had a good day and we look forward to doing it again.

- Au Revoir

" It is the blessing of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hiking Opal Creek Trailhead to Jawbone Flats

How can one not be drawn into a hiking area that leads to an abandoned rustic mining camp named Jawbone Flats and wanders through the abandoned site of the Little North Santiam Mining District?

We were intrigued since first hearing about the area some months ago.  On Tuesday September 22nd  Troubadour and I had the opportunity to go explore and enjoyed just under an 8 mile hike/walk in the woods.

According to
"Jawbone Flats was started some time around 1930 as a mining town. Mining continued in the area until 1992, when the Shiny Rock Mining company donated land in the area to the fledgling Friends of Opal Creek. In 1996, the area surrounding the town became part of the Opal Creek Wilderness and Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area.
Today the town is run by the same group, now renamed the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. The town is being restored as a historic center and outdoor museum of the mining era. The cabins here can be rented."
We left the house taking the trusty Subaru, and an hour and a half later were at the trail head. Our route on the map below.

On the map below you see a close up of the awesome road we took when heading North out of Mehama.  It was called Little North Fork Road.  Beautiful and twisty.  The pavement was perfect, well, all except for the mile or so of gravel where they were repairing the road from a slide.  

We arrived at the trail head and were surprised with how many cars were already there on a Tuesday.  We expected less mid week.

(Trail head at Opal Creek)

We put on our jackets and headed out.  The weather was pleasantly cool and the sky just clearing to brilliant blue.

The way to Jawbone flats is an abandoned/primitive mining road.  Still the original route the miners took back in the day.  A few bridges have been repaired and half bridges added where the roadway gives way to a steep canyon.

(Tall trees in those forests)

(New looking bridge)

(Series of half bridges so no one falls into the canyon)

(The longest half bridge)

We strolled along taking in the fresh air and smells of the forest stopping here and there for photographs.  We were in no hurry.

(The Santiam One Mine)

(Closed by a bat-friendly grate)

(Some beautiful old trees in this area)

(Some had very interesting bark)

(Some had fallen some time ago)

(And some were covered in moss)
About 2 miles in we encountered the rusting abandoned machinery of Merten Mill.  The mill was operated for a brief period of time during the Depression. They used two winches from the battleship USS Oregon, but the mill folded after two of the lumber trucks fell off the narrow canyon road.  All artifacts of the mill are protected by federal law.

"Originally Merten Mills produced lumber for the Amalgamated Mines.  Lumber was also transported to a lumber company in Lyons, Oregon.  Remnants of equipment used in the sawmill are on site and include two steam driven capstans salvaged from the battleship Oregon, the original steam boiler, tracks, wheels, axle assemblies, and log carriage."

(Steam capstan believed to be from the battleship Oregon)

(Steam Boiler)

(Crumbling base of steam boiler)

(Old equipment storage shed dating back to original sawmill)

Another 0.2 miles and we came to a fork in the road.  The right fork would lead over a 100 foot bridge to a trail or the left fork, which would stay on the road to Jawbone Flats.  We peeked at the bridge and then took the road.

A little further and we officially entered Jawbone Flats; home to 12 residents during the summer that work at the camp.

"The most ambition development of the Little North Santiam Mining District began in 1930 by the Amalgamated Mining and Milling Company led by James Hewitt.  Between 1930-1934 the company employed a crew of about 70 men who constructed and lived in Jawbone Flats and Upper Ruth Camp and built four miles of road, an ore mill, a log dam, a flume line, and a sawmill that processed 20 acres of timber supply lumber for these products."

(Opal Creek got its name from Roy Elliott, a District Ranger on the Willamette National Forest
 from 1923-1934. he named it after his wife Opal after a visit to inspect the mining work taking
 place in the area.  Opal Creek had formerly been known a Boulder Creek)

(Anyone remember David Bradley plowman/tractors?)

(Company Store still open on weekends to sell snack and drinks - notice the Campbell's Soup barrel on the porch)

(The Commissary - where miners would get supplies like digging equip, drilling gear, 
and explosives - now a classroom and laboratory space)
As we walked through Jawbone Flats the signs said to cross the bridge, walk beyond the Pelton Shed Building then turn right and walk through the meadow. "Jawbone flats is off the grid so they are not connected to any municipal water supply.  Inside the shed is a Pelton Wheel, invented in 1870's to convert rushing water into electricity."

(Troubadour and the Pelton Shed)

(Water exiting the Pelton shed)
We walked by the shed and made the right turn and this is where things got interesting. Before we could get to the meadow we encountered a graveyard of all things steel.

This was just a few of the many items that had been abandoned.  If Jawbone didn't give off such a weird non-welcoming vibe we might have hung around and explored a little longer.  As it was, not one person said hello while we were there.  It was just odd. We were hoping to find a nice spot to have our picnic lunch, but someone had music blaring so we pressed on.

We were glad we did.  Along a little trail we came to Opal Pool.  There wasn't much of a pool after the dry summer we've had, but there was a neat bridge and a log with a view for dining.

(Cool old bridge over Opal Creek)

(Opal Pool)

(Lunch view to the left)

(Lunch view to the right)

(View a little to the right - Opal Pool)

(Troubadour photographing a chipmunk - we sat on the log to have lunch)

(Photo by Troubadour - chipmunk was eating a piece of bread with seeds in it)
After finishing our lunch and talking to the chipmunk, we decided we'd follow the forest trail instead of heading back towards the gravel road and Jawbone Flats.  We knew if we kept the river on our right we'd be heading the right direction.  We were pretty sure the trail would end up back at the fork in the road with the bridge a mere 2.2 miles from the trail head.

(A nice deserted forest trail)
There were even several campsites nestled amongst the trees.  Quite a hike to pack your things in and out though.

(Troubadour in one of the campsites)
We saw one large fungus on a tree along the trail.  And one small fungus of a different type along the ground.

(Fungus on the tree)

(My hand for size reference)

(Fungus on the ground - Wild Coral Mushroom perhaps)
The further we walked the more intrigued we were by the scenery.

(The bridge looked rickety but was stable)

(Photo by Troubadour)

(A look ahead at the trail)

(Old wood and stumps were covered in varying shades of green)

(A little log bridge)

(To practice my balance skills)

(and, it made a nice place to sit)

(And had a nice view of the creek)

(And of the trees - photo by Troubadour)
We arrive at the bridge by the road.  At least our navigation skills aren't lacking.  The lighting was different by this time of the afternoon. The sun was lower in the sky.

(The bridge back at the gravel road)

(I thought the trees reflecting in the water was quite pretty)
From here we took the gravel road the 2.2 miles back to the car.  Along the way we realized how much of a difference there was in walking on the gravel as opposed to the spongy forest trail.  We much preferred the trail, as did our feet, knees, and hips.

It was close to 5 pm when the car came into view.  We took a quick break and headed down the mountain.  We went out for dinner when we got back into town and didn't get home until close to 8 pm.

It was nice to get out and hike for a few hours and see some history at the same time.

- Au Revoir

" Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature's sources never fail." - John Muir