A weekend at Oakridge

We don't know how to relax anymore. To solve this, we took a weekend off of house construction and business & social obligations, and we went to Oakridge.

Friday morning, 9 am, found us in a shuttle vehicle, travelling up the mountain side to the top of the town's flagship trail, Alpine. With us were two speedy gents from Iowa & Idaho, who disappeared when the shuttle dropped us off, a Seattle net ops named Ryan who was regaining strength after a month long illness, Katy from South Tahoe who worked in mortgages and had been riding just over a year, and her friend Sue the civil engineer from Truckee. We all chatted on the way up – Sue's book group is reading 'Unbroken' and she's not enjoying it – and our driver pointed out trail crossing intersections as part of the scheme to not leave lost riders on the hill.

Alpine starts with a 1/2 mile of gentle switchback climb, followed by another mile of even gentler climb. And then you ride predominantly down hill until you hit town, 13 miles away and 3000 feet below you.

We didn't stop much, so I don't have many photos. I do have memories of a meadow of waist tall grasses with a view of blue mountains. Climbing beside trees as broad as a VW. Swooping through the forest to the next viewpoint.

Speaking of viewpoints, that's where we lunched with our compatriots, as we caught the ladies there, and Ryan silently rolled up behind us. Wind Pass overlooks the valley, and you can see the reservoir and peaks spread out below.

We played leapfrog with Sue, Katy, and Ryan, but eventually the ladies outpaced us, and the only reason we kept seeing Ryan was thes long breaks he took to recover from the climbs. He was ahead of us by likely a leg or two of distant switchbacks when the underbrush below us moved, and Scott assumed Ryan had panicked a deer that was now rushing uphill. Right action, wrong critter. Not 20 feet in front of Scott, the mountain lion crossed the trail and kept going, long tail stretched out behind it. I was just a bit behind Scott, and only saw the motion in the undergrowth as it disappeared.

We rode pretty close together after that.

The trail drops down to the suburb of Westfir at a lovely covered bridge (which looks like it has a solid flooring, but you can dizzily see the water below as you ride through). Our van had been left at the park n ride, which was across from the B&B where Sue & Katy sat drinking beer & fruit juice, so we loaded our bikes, changed out of bike shorts & joined them for lunch – the now kilted Ryan wandering up shortly as well. We sat at the unlit fire pit …contraption…artwork…thing. It started out life as an ore car, but now had tractor seats welded to it via heavy chain, and wooden bar tables. Anyway, the sandwiches were good, and our waitress a delight, and we chatted away.

Returning to our camp and got some real practice relaxing in: we set up the hammock creek side and read. There is a developed campground up Salmon Creek, but we have a bandit site we know of that is reasonably private and closer to town – indeed, Thursday night we had pedaled from camp to the pub for dinner. This afternoon was spent in Dolnick's Clockwork Universe, Lafferty's Shambling Guide to New York, and Lake's Mainspring. You know, the variety of our books speaks to the flexibility of our brains. (For those not following links, that's a text on Newton's era, a zombie/vampire story, and a steampunk with angels novel)

But we continued on the togetherness theme and made salads and spaghetti in camp, setting up a table and chairs under the canopy of maples, and chatted about science fairs and bicycle rides. If you don't think this is romantic, you don't know us.

***

The Middle Fork of the Willamette flows through the long, thin reservoir and past town to join with its other branches to water Oregon's bread basket. Way above the lake, beside the cascading river, a bike trail called Middle Fork wends through heavy forest. Saturday at nine a.m., we're back in an Oregon Adventures shuttle with Danny our driver, heading up to Paddy's meadow, from which Katy & Sue talked us into doing. At the drop point, they were going to ride up trail, then turn around and descend. We were just heading down, and expecting 20 miles of technical singletrack to beat us enough. Ryan followed the hard core riders, but then turned back at the first stream crossing and rode with us a while.

 

Our ride started feet wet. Long shallow water crossings just about hub deep, followed by deep understory trail. Yesterday's ride, I wore dark lenses in my sunglasses, today I changed to copper, which let me see more in the dense wood and dappled light. Yesterday's ride was almost completely down hill, or down mountain. Today trended down hill, but was more cross country, with short steep climbs and flat meadows interspersed with fun descents. The trail at the beginning was a bit sketchy – a field of knee high flowers, with no path beat down, showed us tht no one had been through here of late. Another area had been burned a few years back, and was all dead, standing trees and blooming fireweed. (We stopped for a bite here – a breezy spot to keep the bugs down). The crews had been through at some point to restored a bridge over a mossy cascade and benched in a good trail through the scorch, but the trail went back to belong less obvious on occasion.

 

We did a bit of way finding. Getting lost wasn't an issue for us – we had a GPS going, and we had the trail map, and the track was between river and highway. In fact, it was actually beginning to look painfully familiar as we hit the double black diamond section near Indigo Springs. Our favorite Texans had been here with us, and we could still hear Susan cursing as we hiked bikes over the mossy, loose rockfalls in slippery conditions – this was the trail we nearly turned back on, and where (much farther down) her Ryan broke a finger.

We carried the bikes carefully, and kept an eye out for the Seattle Ryan, who was now riding alone 'somewhere' ahead of us. Scott managed a small fall while riding a switchback, and caught himself with his left hand, jamming the shoulderblade – we suspect that will be a week in healing, and he had to use the other arm to heft the bike onto bridges. Of which there were a lot. The mighty Willamette starts as a hundred trickles, and we crossed forest service spec bridges (3 steps up, wide, solid, and with right corners both entering and leaving the structure), old hiking bridges (an old growth log, planed down on the top, sometimes with a rail on one side), and mountain biker bridges (level with trail, often made out of pallet lumber). We also crossed stepping stone fords, waded more shallow creeks, and crossed water on deadfall logs. And in between, we rode miles of creek side swoopy trail.

 

Lots of miles, actually. We had two highway bridges over the Willamette that were supposed to divide the route at 10 miles, and then another 5 miles on. Alas, we were at 15 miles in, had not yet hit the first one. And we running low on water.

 

So we decided to cut our losses, and when we found the first highway crossing, we stayed on the highway and pedaled down to the nearest campground for a water refill, then continued down to the second trail-highway intersection. At this point, we'd done 16 miles of hard Singletrack, 5 miles of speedy road ride, and looked to still have 5 miles to go to get to the van. We stayed on the road.

Back at the van, the solar shower had powered up to triple digits, so we dumped the remaining campground water from camelback to shower and cleaned up – the bottom of the trail was likely full of poison oak, but we think we missed that, as we passed the 2000 ft elevation sign while road riding. Ryan rolled in convinced it was all he'd been pedaling through all day, so we handed him some Technu before we started driving back to town.

Checking in with our shuttle service let them know 2 were still on trail (and we were a smidge worried – they were faster riders and should have passed us on the descent, even with our road excursion), we then went to the town's living room.

 

Oakridge's Brewers Union Local 180 is a public house where everyone goes. When we had pedaled here for dinner on Thursday, we brought a chain & lock, expecting there would be a rack to lock the bikes at. There were, but there were also high end bikes just leaned against the side of the building while their owners sat under umbrellas with their suppers.

Today, the bikes were already loaded onto our van, so we parked and went in (I'd had enough sun). Dinner would be a large spinach and apple salad and a bun-less burger with provolone and garlic for me, and a chicken sandwich with house salad for Scott, and a mound of shared french friends. We practically licked the plate clean. Scott was trying out a bottle of orange zinger (“wow orange!”, he said) while I had a glass of the cask ale East West (smooth and non hoppy), and we companionably read Facebook separately on the bar's wifi.

As we finished up, Randy, the owner of Oregon Adventures, came in, and I bought him a beer while we discussed trails, life, and if we should be worried for our lagging bikers. Luckily, the ladies texted Scott as they got into cell coverage again, and we did not have to send out the rescue party.

Randy left with friends, and we waited for Katy & Sue, who came in with tales of getting lost on trail – actual wrong turns, as well as having to do way finding in vague meadows. They had also been swarmed by mosquitos and Sue had a little melt down moment – I don't blame her a bit, as the skeeters were heavy for Oregon (but still slow & dumb. We used DEET based jungle juice, and the bugs hovered about 5″ from skin – annoying. The toxin is why we were in a hurry to shower at the van, though).

Sitting outside while they ate, we were joined by Eugene, who wrenches at the Mercantile, during the busy rush at the public house – everyone local stopped to say hi to him. He says thet happens a lot in the small town – everyone knows everyone, and the public house is where you hang out or play scrabble or get gossip. The ladies had hosted hosted the bike shop for dinner at their camp last night, but now had someone they knew to grill about local trails – they were into long mileage, and Eugene had an event for them – look up the Fat 55 if you are into that thing, I'm not.

Just as Eugene was talking people into going to a party and swim at the reservoir, our friend Ben finally arrived. We hung out at a barrel with him & beer while the swimmers took off, and heard about problems with a beer delivery system in Westfir (for the want of a $2 part…) and the work he was doing on local trails. Alas, the handlebar mustache is long gone.

At 10pm, I noted we'd been at the Brewers Union for five hours and we were both yawning, so we headed back to camp and fell over. The end.

 

 

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