Sunday, July 24, 2011

Middle Fork Willamette Float & Alpine Trail Riding

Kayaking the Middle Fork Willamette
This weekend I had an amazing time in Oakridge, OR first floating the Middle Fork of the Willamette River with Miwa, Holm and Emily and then riding the Crown Jewel of Oakridge, the Alpine Trail with Scott, BD, Emily and Miwa.  We camped out overnight with Mischa and Danielle and the doggies deep in the Hills Creek Reservoir Area and even stopped by the Local Brewers Union for some dinner and few very unique pints of home brews.  With beautiful weather and cold beers always in the cooler we had a truly spectacular weekend despite my bike completely shitting the bed on the descent down Alpine Trail on Sunday and Emily adding more wounds to her legs....  Click the title or the "read more" below to see the full post.
Greenwaters Park Put-In
Because the ORC did not open until 1pm we got a good nights rest and got to sleep in a bit on Saturday morning before packing up and heading to Dixon to pick up our Kayaks and meet both Chris' for the drive to Oakridge.  We had a lot of gear to haul with us so we decided to take the truck and throw the bikes and inflatable kayaks in the back.  The girls working the desk at the ORC were certainly surprised to see how many people were showing up when they opened and they almost forgot to give us a pump for the kayaks which would have really sucked!

After a short 1.5 hour drive we dropped both Subaru's at the Black Canyon campground on the eastern side of Lookout Point Lake and piled into the truck with the kayaks for the short 10 mile drive to Greenwaters Park in Oakridge for the put-in.  We hadn't seen the park before and noticed that it was a pretty nice place with a small amphitheater for music in the summer.  After blowing up our kayaks and drinking a few beers we jumped in and started our float with just an extra beer can each for the ride.

Floating down the Middle Fork Willamette
The float was only class II rapids so it wasn't difficult at all.  I was in a red IK which sat lower in the water than the blue ones and Emily really hadn't blown it up all the way so I actually found myself swamped a few times but thankfully never flipped it as I had an open beer can in my hand for the first half of the ride, then my iphone in a Otterbox case for the 2nd half taking videos of all of us.  We had seen a huge bald eagle on the drive to Oakridge but unfortunately we didn't see it on the river although we did see a bunch of ospreys as well as a family of Hooded Merganser ducks floating down the river around us (ducklings were super cute).  I tried to get a photo but with the iPhone it didn't come out to well.  Holm and I tried valiantly to flip each other for most of the ride but couldn't do it while sitting in our own kayaks although both of us at different points had to jump into the frigid river to pee!

Negotiating some easy class II rapids
The float took about 2 hours total and we were able to stay in the sun on the river for most of it.  We passed a bunch of fly fishermen on the river and several small waterfalls dumping into the river on the way.  At the takeout we packed up the rafts into Miwas Subaru along with the bikes and headed back to Greenwaters Park and the truck saying goodbye to Holm who had to get back to Corvallis to float the McKenzie River with Tiffany the next day.

Once we got the truck and changed out of our wet clothes we headed to the Local Brewers Union in downtown Oakridge for some dinner and to try their brews.  The bartender who took our order I felt was not  happy to serve people who weren't locals and when we sat outside I could tell it was a VERY LOCALS ONLY spot where everyone seemed to ride up on their mountain bikes.  Oakridge I heard is going broke and the town seems to be mainly supported financially by the Northwest mountain bike community so it surprised me that he wasn't more friendly to us.  The food was great and good prices and I thought the beer was good too despite it being nearly room temperature without much carbonation (but I think that's just the nature of the taps they had the fresh brews on).  After we had nearly finished we got a call from Danielle and Scott who had found a campsite for us and met up with Mischa who rode to Oakridge on his motorcycle.  So, we waited for them to have dinner and few drinks with us before following Scooter to the campsite deep into the woods along the Hills Creek Reservoir, almost losing Miwa behind us on the way...

Campsite off Hills Creek Reservoir
The campsite Scott and Danielle had found was really nice and the mosquitoes weren't that bad at all. I quickly got a big fire going and we enjoyed the cool beers we had picked up at Rays Grocery in Oakridge after dinner.  I still want to throw the bullshit flag on Mischa's story about the Grand Canyon poop canister cleaner who he claims must make half a million a year cleaning rafters poop ammo canisters on the river.... We stayed up and chatted for a while before Emily and I decided to get some rest for the big ride the next day.  Apparently Scooter may have underestimated the ride ahead of him because he ended up staying up till nearly 3am drinking with Mischa by the fire.

Barn Swallows at red covered bridge
On Sunday morning I was sad to hear that Danielle had spent much of the night puking and still wasn't sure what she was going to do all day while Scott went mountain biking.  We left the campsite close to 9am and Mischa headed out of town on his motorcycle, which needed a jump from Miwa because he left his brake light on, and we headed to McDonalds for a quick bite to eat before meeting BD in West Fir for the ride.  Danielle and Scott headed to West Fir to hopefully get into their friend Isaac's house there where Danielle would hang out with the doggies for the day but unfortunately they couldn't find the key.  This left Dannielle in a predicament because she really didn't have anything to do while we biked but thankfully Miwa let her take his car (an automatic) back to Corvallis while we all went for the ride.  This worked out great because I knew the ride would be 5-6 hours, not the 4 hours that Scott kept telling her the night before....

Elk Camp on our ascent up Alpine Trail
Truck full of bikes ready to go
At the beautiful red covered bridge in West Fir we all piled into the truck with BD, said bye to Danielle, and headed up the 30 minute forest service road shuttle to the very end of the official Alpine Trail on the Oakridge bike map.  We passed a bunch of bikers who asked if we needed help finding Kates Cut-in.  I said no and we continued the drive out to the furthest point of Alpine Trail on the map to start there.  During the last 5-10 minutes of the drive we noticed we were going downhill a bunch but hoped that it wouldn't be that bad when we got riding... unfortunately it was.  Even though it would be uphill biking in the alternating shade of the single track had to be better than biking up the forest service road in the hot sun.  The rest of our group agreed with me about that.  I think in hindsight, especially having done the full trail now, we will skip that last section of uphill if we do it again...

BD cooling off
Miwa, always killing the uphill climbs
With it almost noon and the temperatures soaring into what felt like the 90's we started off on the very overgrown and narrow Alpine Trail to an immediate uphill climb for several miles and about 800 feet.  With the heat, narrow trail, and our packs full of heavy water for the long ridge ride we all felt like we were going to have heat stroke.  This was the part of the single track beyond Kate's Cut-in where everyone else we saw on bikes was apparently starting their ride.  But, in my normal fashion, I didn't want to half-ass it so we started from the very end.  Later I found out that the loop part we were on was by far the hardest part and isn't really suggested (click on the map here).  We had to climb up through several very open ridgetop meadows of beautiful Beargrass and Rhododendrons which unfortunately didn't make up for the unbearable heat upon us.  When we got to Elk Camp we all stopped to eat some food and enjoy the shade before the final push to the top of Sourgrass Mountain, the highpoint of our trip.

Section we should have skipped
Beautiful flowers on ridge single track
From the beautiful top of Sourgrass Mountain it was mostly downhill all the way back to the cars, except for a few uphills and a couple long traverses along beautiful hillsides.  We had also reached a point on the ridge where there was a cooler breeze and all of us instantly felt a lot better and ready for the epic descent.  The trail itself was beautiful and fast with the occasional rocky section that provided a little challenge for us.  There were banked turns and several hillsides covered with flowers and beautiful views towards the Sisters volcanoes and over Hills Creek Reservoir to Diamond Peak.  We descended quickly and were making fantastic time until my bike shit the bed... At first I thought it was the chain but when I looked and saw the chain on but my wheel refusing to roll when I pedaled I knew my drive train or hub was totally f'd up.  At the next intersection I met up with the group that I had fallen behind because I couldn't pedal any longer and found that Emily had taken a digger resulting in her front chainrings eating up her shin.. I gave her some band aides and took the chain right off my bike as it was hampering my downhill.

Top of Sourgrass Mountain
View towards Diamond Peak
From that point on thankfully it was mostly downhill and I was flying down it on my bike but when we did come across uphills or flats I was forced to push along the trail with a foot or run with my bike... which quickly tired me out.  Thankfully I got far enough ahead of the group going downhill that they caught up to me on the uphills and flats and I didn't hold anyone up... until I blew my back tire... yeah.. I was having bad luck. Thankfully with Brian's help I was able to put a new tube in and finish the steep descent back to the covered bridge, briefly losing Emily in the last section resulting in me biking back up the trail to find her and lead her out.  My bike was destroyed and all of us were exhausted but super happy with the beautiful ride and fun descent we had and thankfully the beers and Gatorade were still cold in the cooler for us.

Diamond Peak in distance from road
Sisters in distance from road
BD and I loaded up in his car to go fetch my truck over 3,000 feet up and 30 minutes away.  It took us a while and we actually took a wrong turn costing us 15 minutes but we finally got to the truck (almost hitting a fat little black bear along the way as well).  From there it was a fast, power-sliding descent down the dirt forest service road back to Scott, Miwa and Emily waiting below who had gotten the gear packed up to leave.  I stopped a few times to snap some photos of the peaks in the distance from the road on the way down as well.  I was pissed off at my bike but glad that it had taken all the bad luck instead of my body on several close calls on the trail.  Emily's shin didn't fair so well but I don't think it was deep enough to cause a scar thankfully as she's already earned a few of those learning her new clipless pedals.  After the ride home it sure felt good to take a shower and relax on the couch and I certainly had a good nights sleep after the incredible, yet very exhausting ride.  In total we rode 16.8 miles and it took us 5 hours although some of that was relaxing at views, fixing bloody shins, blown tires, and sitting on remnant snow... :)

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