Sunday, November 15, 2015

The best trail I didn't ride

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the family on an epic tour this summer had us road-tripping down the west coast from Vancouver to the giant redwoods of Humboldt State Park in northern California. This was indeed Endor:

Pictures really don't do it justice. This was along the Avenue of the Giants, a 40km narrow road through old-growth forest with 300'+ trees. You'd want to ride this without a helmet--and slowly--to fully appreciate the view. 

Unfortunately, being bikeless (and renting was logistically not an option for me), it was pure torture to pass so many storied trail areas--particularly in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This was an area that I'd first read about in the late 80's and have dreamed about riding in ever since.

Although there are many fine rides in the Willamette, a headline destination has to be the McKenzie River Trail. It's a 40+ km epic along the Willamette River that's often voted the best ride in North America. Best I could do was stand at the trailhead, hold my hands out like they were on bars, and run like a little kid pretending I was on a bike.

No, seriously, just look again at that buff tread. Where's the clay? The baby heads? The snot-slick roots? I tell ya, these Oregonians are SPOILED.

On to practical matters. The start of the trail is an innocuous pull-out on the side of a 2-lane secondary road. We stumbled across it by accident; there are a zillion such pull-outs and we just happened to stop here, a small dusty parking lot after a rutted dirt track up near Fish Lake (the top of the map). And it was just what I was looking for!

Lots of history too. Can't imagine taking a wagon over this. 

From the parking lot it's onto this bridge and then downhill for the next 40 km. 

Locals said it takes about 3-5 hours to ride one way (downhill) and is technical in spots--especially over the lava. 

Hmm, while that trail did look way nicer than our stuff at home, we don't get much in the way of lava. This stuff was chunky, sharp, and nasty. Guaranteed to shred tires--or bodies, if you happen to wipe out. Here's a pile of the stuff in the woods. There were flows like this all over the area. 

There's really not much in the way of local infrastructure. The area is relatively remote, with a few seasonal services and not much else. This motel and restaurant were a few minutes away from the upper trailhead, but you'd need to arrange a shuttle to either end to make a day of it practical. Hard core riders start at the bottom, ride up and then back down. I'd be into that.

Good chow here and ridiculous huge portions.

Still not convinced? Watch this:

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