Sunday, November 10, 2013

COD Mountain Bike Trails and Smith Rock Climbing

This weekend with Emily traveling for work and back home for Julia’s baby shower and Sophie’s Christening I headed to Bend with Leo to meet up with Chris and Paris whom I hadn’t seen since Jason’s wedding in August.  I loaded up the car with my bike, Leo and enough gear to last the weekend and headed out for two great days of amazing mountain biking and sunny rock climbing at Smith Rock.

I decided to leave early on Saturday morning instead of Friday night as it was a long work week and I wanted to relax.  After packing the night before and getting Leo all set we left Ridgefield at around 9am and made it to bend by noon to meet up with Chris and Paris on Century Drive on the way towards Bachelor.  It took a little time to find them and then to find the trail and get geared up so we didn’t actually start biking until around 1pm.  I knew it would be too much for Leo so I left him in the car.  It was cool enough out and cloudy enough that I left the windows shut to keep him warm while we rode.  
The trail system we took was simply amazing.  It was completely new and built by the newly formed Central Oregon Trail Association (COTA) which apparently has been building a ton of new mountain bike trails.  No horses are allowed on the trails and although hikers are allowed it was clear that the single track trails are primarily for Mountain Bikers.  The terrain just east of Mount Bachelor is very gradual which makes for pleasant riding without too many strenuous uphills and the high desert of Central Oregon means that the trails are very smooth with very little bumpy roots or rock gardens.  There were various technical sections but they felt great as they came here and there without a continuous stretch which is common on river trails like the Lewis, Umpqua or McKenzie.   

I was happy to have taken my GPS to record the route we took because it was perfect.  It took us up Funner to Tiddlywinks where we bailed on the quick return to go out the Larsen Trail to Tyler’s Traverse.  We then descended down Conklin Road and returned through the woods on Storm King back to the trailhead.  All in all it was just under 25 miles of riding but we did it all easily before dark in about 4 hours.  Although I usually hate uphill climbs at the end of rides the trail up Storm King was so gradual that I didn’t even notice or care.  By far, the best trail of the day was Tiddlywinks as it was built purely for fun with tons of banked turns, rolling dirt jumps and table tops.  I didn’t notice any wooden bridges built but there were a few cool log rides and I’m sure the trail and terrain will be improved up on year after year.  Because it didn’t have the usual steep uphill and fast quick downhill that we usually bike in MacDunn or the Coast Range it made for a wonderful day of relaxing biking on well maintained, and fun new trails.  

After riding and packing away our bikes we headed into town to grab dinner at the Deschutes Brewery where I had several yummy nitro stouts, chicken chowder and a huge Elk Burger for dinner.  It was great to catch up with the Chris Paris and hear about his cruise and Paul and Mo’s honeymoon where he played 3rd wheel a little.  After dinner we headed over to the St. Francis Mcmenamins to soak in the pool for $5 each and to meet up with Hartz who was there listening to some free bands playing in the conference hall.  After the day of riding, drinks, and dinner the three of us were exhausted and relaxed from the soak so we didn’t stay too long.   We said goodbye and headed off to a dirt road on the way to Bachelor to set up camp for the night with Leo who had a long day alone in the car.  After setting up the tent and them crawling into the back of the Subaru we all passed out around 11pm.  

We slept in Sunday morning and got a very late start heading to Smith around noon after stopping for some breakfast burritos and a guide book in Bend on the way.  Smith was busy but we were able to find parking in an overflow lot.  Leo was very excited to be coming with us on a hike and I was glad to not have to leave him in the car again.  We hiked over to the “buckets” area where we met up with some friends of Paris, one of them happened to be the girlfriend of Tim Nortz, who I didn’t find out about until after she had belayed me on my climb.  

We settled in under the very popular Five Gallon Buckets route which I was told I should climb because I had never climbed at Smith before.  It looked like a lot of fun and I was happy that my feet still comfortably fit into my climbing shoes.  It was a 5.8 and I thought it was a pretty easy climb.  There were huge hand holds and plenty of places for my feet and I didn’t feel too tired after it.  On the way down Leo was so excited to see me coming back down to him.  I think he was a little freaked out seeing me climb the wall.  

Chris and Paris climbed a bunch of times and practiced leading both Five Gallon and a harder 5.9 route next to it.  Hartz showed up after a bit to say hi to us but when I got a few texts from Emily saying she was trying to catch an earlier flight home I decided to leave around 4pm to make it back in time.  It was a beautiful with plenty of sun on the walls which made for warm climbing but I was happy with my one ascent.  I’m not a big rock climbing fan but I must say that it sparked something inside me again… perhaps Em and I will pick up a 10mm single rope and a belay device this spring… It was an easy drive back under a beautiful sunset and I had plenty of time to put away the gear before Emily’s delayed flight got her back at just after 11pm.  It was a great weekend in Bend and I’m definitely going to make sure we always bring our bikes over for those amazing new trails Chris and Paris introduced me to!

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