Ride Report Archive May 2012
Growlers Gulch 5k, how hard could it be?
The 5k is a yearly event put on by the unofficial group called Growlers Gulch Racing. They are unofficial because there are no meetings, no dues, just a bunch of people who love mountain biking and share in the development and maintenance of a system of trails called Growlers Gulch.
Each year since 2006 there has been a 5k event. The event consists of five thousand feet of climbing over a course that is 23 to 26 miles, depending on who you talk to. I did get a copy of a GPS file from one of the riders and ran it through a script that just added the footage whenever the next reading was higher than the last, that calculation turned out to be 7,600 feet, for what that is worth. His GPS length totaled a little over 22.63 miles.
The route is different every year, partly because there are new trails added each year.
This was my first year of riding the 5k, last year I just took videos of the riders and stood in the rain to support the event.
I think this may have also been the first year that the event was not done in the rain.
I was pretty anxious about the ride. I have been riding portions of the route on a weekly basis since the first of April, but had never done the whole route.
My last training ride had me taking the climb to the top and checking my time when I got there. I had not pressured myself at all, just slow and steady climbing. I was right at two hours to make the climb. Then I circled the Legacy loop a second time for both training and timing. It took me twenty five minutes. I bombed my way to the bottom of the system and again checked my time. With one more climb up the lower section of trail, bitter bitch and a check on the time, then back out on the ridge trail and back to the car.
As we drove to the official start, at Jim LeMonds house, I told Barry that I had calculated what I thought our time would be to finish the event. I told Barry that based on the timings I had gotten off my last ride that I figured our time to be just under six hours.
There were two scheduled start times, eight for the slower riders, and nine for the hammer heads. Though there is no set start time, participants can take off any time they want, just sign in and take off.
Barry and I showed up a few minutes before eight thinking there would only be a few riders there, not the case.
The place was swarming with riders getting ready to take off; most leaving before I even had a chance to get my helmet on.
Just about the last of the eight o'clock crew, Barry, Jeff Muldoon, Kevin Knorr, myself and another rider all took off down Jims driveway to hit the road to start climbing on pavement for the next half mile.
The climb went fairly fast and by the time we hit the gate and started up the gravel, Barry and I were by ourselves.
We plodded up heart attack hill and road into the first single track trail we would ride in the event, Big Wow.
I was very anxious about this trail, I had never ridden it until this year, and most of the time I had been taking the alternate route to bypass the big steep. I have heard lots of tales about advanced riders that nail the tree in the middle of the trail on the slick steep descent. Although I have to say, other than having to dodge the big tree, the alternate entrance is longer, just as steep, and more uncontrollable with a sharp turn at the bottom.
We dropped into Big Wow; I kept my eyes focused on the line as the trail presents an eight foot long canoe log spanning a large sink hole right at the start.
A few quick turns on a fast line then the trail drops through a bowl to roll up on the top of the big feature on Big Wow. The steep descent is broken into two parts, a quick short drop to a narrow shoulder. It is a narrow shoulder that is too narrow to stop on but enough to allow you to reduce your speed before dropping down into the narrow grove that has been formed by countless tires; dropping into a rut as you blast between the two trees and scream down the steep trail.
The trail continues to descend, dropping and running down through the timber, the cool morning air chilling my fingers as we descend over three hundred and fifty feet in about a half mile.
The track ends at a spur road that we take for another half mile, the gravel descending and climbing to the start of the next section; the climb up Bitter Bitch.
Barry leads the climb, taking it very slowly as he is determined to maintain a pace that will yield results without depleting his energy stores. A mile long climb that gains four hundred feet.
We hit the gravel again after twenty plus minutes of climbing.
On the road we passed by some supporters and Joel, who had broken a chain on his single speed, out of the event this year, he would spend much of the day taking pictures of the riders as they came down a section of KMA that had a couple of very tight fast banked corners.
We continue to climb on the gravel for the next half mile until we reach the entrance to Little Sister, on the left as we climb, just after the road crosses a creek.
I have found that the entrance to Little Sister trail is best attacked in a mid range and for me it is usually middle ring and second sprocket gears.
I take the lead here, standing up and powering my way over a bumpy section, weaving through a couple of turns to drop my front, ring gear to low gear and leaning into the short but steep climb over the next hundred or so feet.
I like to ride this trail in a low range, third sprocket works well for me. I am able to roll along at a moderate rate and still have the power to push through a couple of deep wells.
As I start approaching a break in the trail, I notice that Barry is not behind me, he has dropped back or I am pushing it a little too hard.
After a short wait, I spot Barry and I start off again, I have to attack this section the way it works for me so I press on in the low mid range gears until I reach the rail road grade.
We take a few seconds to fuel up before attacking the next section, a short section of the ABC loops. The line along here is mellow and it gives us a chance to crank through without busting our asses.
The trail deposits us on gravel again for a very short fifty feet before we take on one of the toughest sections of the climb, Creation.
Amazingly the GPS file for this section show a gain of just over a hundred feet but while doing the climb you would think it was five hundred.
There are lots of difficult features that challenge you while on this trail. I have never cleared the trail, the log crossing is one of the places that I have to get off and walk across. But, I did clear all but the log crossing on my last lap and felt pretty strong on the climb.
We were passed by Paul Norris on the climb, we were about a third of the way in when I heard someone call out, we pulled over and he came cranking by. Paul was on his second lap, having started at seven that morning. After he passed Barry asked me, what was Paul riding and I had to admit that he went by so fast it was all a blur.
Just before reaching gravel Bob Horness caught us, Bob had started forty minutes after us and was cranking hard.
Back on the gravel, we followed Bob up to the tank trap where he took off while we grabbed some more fuel and took a short break.
It is a very beautiful climb up the spur road that leads into the Legacy trail. The small alder curve over the top of the trail forming a mellow green tunnel, it is a nice moderate climb that covers about the same elevation as creation but is very smooth and even.
The approach to the Legacy trail from the spur road is a bank about five feet high and requires a low mid range gear, I prefer the forth sprocket and the small ring gear but I have done it in the second sprocket and the middle ring gear. It takes a few good hard cranks to build momentum then just leaning strong on the pedal as the bike rolls up onto the bank.
The Legacy trail is another of those very busy trails; it bounces and twists around to make a loop of almost two miles with just over two hundred feet of climbing.
Barry and I had decided on a strategy that seemed like a good idea at the time and in the end I think it worked out well for us. We decided to loop around on Legacy a second time, and then on the second climb from the bottom we would just shoot down the WTF trail. Our reasoning was that we would be fresher on our first lap and therefore be able to bang out the Legacy loop faster.
One of the unexpected benefits was that the faster, 9:00am riders were starting to catch up as we made our first loop around Legacy. Then while we did our second loop on Legacy they were all finishing and heading downhill so we only got passed by two riders, other than Paul and Bob.
When we reached the top of Legacy for the second time, I pulled aside and let Barry take the lead. Barry is much faster than me on the downhill so instead of having him on my back tire I just get out of the way and enjoy the downhill at my own pace.
Legacy is a screamer on the downhill with a nice flowing upper section that rolls and swoops with just a few rumbling spots to turn and drop off a steep that gets you screaming into a series of rumbling bumps that can be hard to control. The line makes a fast traverse to be followed by a drop through a dip and launch up over a huge roller. Finally weaving down through a dense section of young fir trees, dropping over a couple of technical features that will dump you over the bars if you are not prepared and miss the line.
The exit of Legacy flows right straight into WTF. The trail winds across the top of a hill for a ways in the small dense fir trees to drop through a couple of nice fast descents to run through a series of swooping benches and finally head straight down and out onto gravel.
It is just a short ride up the gravel to the top of Vortex, a great trail to ride in either direction. The Vortex is broken into two major sections, the first with some nice small berm corners but the second section has some major banked corners. Just after entering the second section there is a big banked corner that is followed by a large roller where you can get real speed and launch off the roller and into another big banked corner.
Barry was waiting for me at the bottom of Vortex.
Another rider came down the road, he was having tire issues and Barry offered to help with a tube.
At this point I didn't have anything to offer since I was riding a 29er and told Barry I would meet him at the bottom if he didn't catch me first.
I dropped into Jekyll and headed down hill, only to be stopped by the big log over. This line makes me uneasy since the penalty looks big if you make a mistake and fall. I have been walking the log over and the narrow line up until it parallels the road again.
As I hit the road, Vaughn Martin was there taking pictures so I pulled in my gut as best I could to pose for a shot. Then after a brief conversation (Vaughn has been on injured reserve for a torn meniscus and missed the 5k, he is the senior rider in the group and I am sure he misses not doing the event) I dropped back into the descent.
The tread was so perfect that I had a hard time holding myself back. My strategy here was to try and get some saddle time where I was not hammering but it did not work very well. It was just too screaming!
From Jekyll if flowed right into the middle KMA trail and down to drop out onto gravel, Joel was there and got a shot of me as I tried to lean through the big banks on the bottom of the trail.
The second KMA is another quick line that shoots you across from one gravel road to another. The trail dumps you on the road by way of a very steep bank to pick up the lower KMA straight across the gravel.
Now lower KMA makes a marked elevation change in a very direct line; it starts with a couple of big turns at the top then traverse the side of the ridge in a steep run that requires good break modulation to keep you on the line and prevent you from skidding. The traversing line soon follows the top of a wide ridge down through the trees to drop down a steep bank and onto old gravel.
The Secret Garden trail is just a few feet down the gravel and starts with a track that runs through a split stump to negotiate a sharp turn, it's a little tricky.
Secret Garden trail then flows into a great set of rollers that lead into a fast straight run to the junction of Plan B.
I stopped to change my helmet cam battery when Barry came flying down the trail. Probably the best place for me to stop since Barry has missed this turn a couple of times, though it's no big thing since he would end up at the same location anyway.
The Plan B trail was just put in this last fall. The trail runs back and forth across the hillside taking advantage of all the natural features. It has some great banked corners and fast lines. Turning finally to head straight down a moderate incline the line offers a couple of stump rolls and one large log over on the descent.
At the bottom we turned our attention to the climb back up Bitter Bitch. I led the charge this time, grinding it out at a pace that was comfortable to me.
Following the line up some steep climbs to tackle the thirteen switchbacks, to which I have found that I need to grab a low mid range gear again to power around the switchback.
I stopped a couple of times and looked back to see if I could see Barry but he was ridding at a pace that was comfortable to him.
I made the top and rode up the gravel to the aid station where I found John Kowalski and Ryane Olin, along with some ladies that I did not know. I mixed up some energy drink and finished off Ryan's beer, just as Barry was showing up.
A refill of my hydration pack and I was ready to go. After a short discussion with Barry, I decided to take off and do the second lap on my own.
I put a little more power into the climb and rode at a pace that was comfortable to me.
Reaching the bottom of the second lap I ran across a couple of the Growlers Gulch Girls, Melanie and another young lady.
I headed for the ridge trail for the final big climb out, catching up to a couple of guys making their way over to the ride line, I passed them and held to my pace up to the gravel.
I rode the rest of the ride out to the power line on gravel but decided to take the grassy trail down through the power line; it's not very long but by far better than riding gravel.
Down the pavement and back to Jims house where there was a large crowed waiting for us stragglers.
I clocked in at five and a half hours for the ride, Barry came in about thirty minutes later and we all headed for Porky's to drink some beer and swap lies.
The Hog Trail.
The Hog Trail is in the Growlers system. It was laid out by Paul Norris and built during the 2011 trail building work party.
Located along the Arkansas Creek, the trail affords some idyllic and tranquil spots to stop and reflect.
This trail is an interval style trail, there are not any long climbs but the trail has plenty of short climbing and descending. We were able to clear all of the climbs on a dry clear day in spring.
The trail head is actually located on another trail, the PMS (Paul and Mels Secret) trail.
Turning from the gravel, the PMS trail starts with a fast and moderately technical downhill run. A large roller, followed by a second smaller roller leads into a narrow single track that drops into a banked corner.
After a couple more fast turns the trail presents a large log over. The old log has been laying here for many years and the crew that installed the trail fortified it with smaller logs on either side, making the feature look formidable. The first time I saw it I stopped and walked my bike over it, I have since fond that if I push my weight back off the saddle and over the back wheel while rolling over the feature, it rolls very smoothly.
Another small log feature is just a few feet away but the line offers an option of rolling past the log and on down to cross the creek.
The creek crossing catches almost everyone off guard the first time. The line is fast and I like to keep my gears in a mid range on any descent in case I need to ratchet or crank through or over something but the climb right out of the creek is steep, low gear and head down, weight balanced steep.
After grinding out the climb; a balancing act that requires twisting and turning the handle bars while the front wheel skips back and forth to maintain the line and maneuver the sharp corners.
The trail levels off very briefly to present a large roller before it turns back downhill to weave and wander across the hillside until it approaches the small creek again.
The creek crossing here is on a short piece of canoe log, a fast descent to shot across the log then jump up and press the short climb until the trail levels off.
The Hog trail starts here. The trail splits and the Hog bears right, a descent down a bench cut line to a wide shelf twenty or thirty foot above the Arkansas Creek.
Turning away from the creek the trail runs up a mellow line through some deciduous trees, alder I think, with a couple of root crossings and starts the first climb on the Hog trail.
The climb can and should be done in a low mid range gear, to give you the torque required to make the switchbacks. My first attempt on this climb was in a low gear and I could not spin fast enough the make one of the switchbacks.
There is one switchback that rolls up and over a mound then the line then drops through a small swale to present another switchback around a tree. This set of switchbacks is the primary challenge on the climb.
Once on the top the trail drops down with a quick short run and climbs again to turn and head out to gravel following the natural form of the ridge as the terrain drops away into a gully on one side.
The Hog trail starts again a hundred feet or so down the gravel, just the other side of the gully.
The track has an optional log over just before a switchback across the face of the hillside and a quick descent to cross a marsh on a cord wood bridge. The crossing was made by stacking split wood to from a path across the soft wet marshy area.
The exit from the marsh is a very sharp turn up a short benched section and out onto the top of a wide ridge.
The trail flows down the front of the ridge through a series of five switchbacks. The descent went well but I was off my bike a couple of times on the return ride, not by the switchbacks but by root steps in the straight sections. This section would need to be ridden a couple of times to figure out the best attack.
The descent finishes on a narrow ridge with a sharp switchback at the end. Rolling the switchback to make a sharp right turn and cross a small creek on a bridge that is one of three bridges crossing three small channels at the bottom of this little valley.
The bridges are well built and wide enough to be comfortable to ride. The crossing on my return trip did not go as well, I had a good line going across the first bridge but after bumping across a small root drop as I rounded a tree on the return run, I got off line and dropped off the edge of the second bridge. A quick hop and a couple of skips kept me on my feet as I danced along the edge of the creek bank.
The trail rolls up over another small ridge; a couple of good cranks to cross another small bridge, narrower than the previous three but the approach is straight.
The line flattens out and runs through a lush green area, thick with flowering clover, grass, and small broad leaf trees.
The trails follow a path that keeps it next to the creek.
The Arkansas Creek is flowing with a high volume of water this time of year; it is clear blue and slightly murky from the high runoff.
The trail dips through a small tributary, just a trickle of clear water running down a small valley.
The trail along here is pleasant, a meandering line that rolls along with a couple of small log hops and very easy climbs until it turn away from the creek.
The trail starts an ascent that has one small log over, that can be cranked straight through, and a large step up.
The step up is a stack of small three or four inch logs stacked three high, just one big step up onto a dirt landing. When I approached it, I leaned back and pulled my front wheel up, rolling onto the step and as I rotated my crank arm around, my pedal struck flat on the top of the lift. I stopped and dropping my other foot to the ground I leaned forward and pulled my bike up onto the landing.
The climb turns to angle up the face of the hillside at a moderate grade to make another steep but short turn and gain the top of the ridge.
Across another ridge and down through a small creek, where the line continues to descend down around another turn and drops into another small creek. The bank drops off on this side into the two foot wide creek. The other bank has a stone work path crossing some soft marshy ground before climbing up the dirt bank.
The trail flattens out again and runs through a lush area that looks like it is seeing a lot of use by the elk, there are tracks all over the trail and surrounding area.
One final climb up through the clover brings us back to the gravel.
There is a steep bank to traverse right at the end of the climb that has a narrow track across it.
Once on the road, you can chose to ride back by gravel or return on the trail. We chose to return on the trail.
My return trip was not as smooth as the ride out. I was pulled from my bike at the little creek crossing, when I fell off the bridge and had to push across a couple of roots steps in the switchback climb.
The trail is young and green but is firming up quickly. This day was exceptional because we had clear weather for a number of days preceding, so the ground was firm and the tread was tacky.
New trails at Scout Lake.
Bob Horness and I were riding at Stella on Tuesday and he asked if I wanted to see a couple of new trails that Vaughn Martin had put in over at Scout Lake. How could I say no?
We met in Clatskanie and drove out to the secret trail head.
A short trip up a gravel road and we turned into the forest on a well established trail, none of the trails here have gotten any names yet. This trail crosses a ridge and loops around a small unnamed lake.
But we take a turn off the main trail and ride down to cross some gravel and climb up to the top of a hill on a young trail. I don't know how long it has been here but I rode it for the first time last fall and I think it was established just before that.
As almost all of the trails in the Scout Lake area do, this one weaved its way up the hill, going around downed trees and stumps, catching features like tree wells and log overs while working its way up in short burst climbs.
There were a couple of spots that pulled me from my bike this time, just like last time. A spot that has a double log over, the logs are spaced almost a foot apart and I just balk when I hit it, putting my foot down to step off and bounce my bike over the logs.
When we reach the top of the line, the trail dumps back out onto gravel. It continues on the other side of the break but we turn and head up the old gravel road.
Bob tells me that Vaughn left a plastic bag with three small rocks init to mark the trail head, which is up the gravel and around a bend.
The trail starts off on an old overgrown skidder road, a northwestern jungle. A large fallen tree that is busted in half lays across the line, giant bracken ferns surround the area and if you didn't know there was a trail here you would be hard pressed to find it.
After a few hundred feet we turn off the firm old skidder road to weave our way around some very sharp turns while trying to climb. The tread here is nonexistent; soft loamy soil giving way under our tires as we grind our way up the hill. The only evidence that there is a trail are the trees with the limbs knocked off one side and small logs cut in two and pushed away to open up the line.
Bob picks himself up and adjusts his saddle which is turned off at an angle from the tumble he took while trying to weave around an old stump where his front wheel slide out on a moss covered root.
As we climb the undergrowth thins out, the ferns seem to be in little clusters, and there is Oregon grape, thick in places, the sharp pointed leaves scraping across my legs.
The line weaves its way across the top of the ridge around and through lots of downed trees, from a thinning operation years ago, to turn and head down the other side.
The line becomes a steep descent that is accented with the little plateaus formed from tree wells and quick turns around old stumps and trees.
The line runs up close to a steep drop off that was formed when the gravel road that is down below us was cut into the hillside.
A few more turns and we picked up an old line that is developed enough that the track can be plainly seen running through the woods, a fast line that is straighter as it runs down through large patches of clover.
A couple of turns and we hit the trail that circles the small lake. We are near the end of the trail and follow it until we reach the junction where it turns and starts the lake loop.
We followed the trail along the edge of the lake, to turn away and head up over a ridge and drop down the back side to intersect with an old abandoned spur road.
The trail follows the old road for a little ways then turns up the hill to climb back up the ridge to cross a couple of spurs roads, where we take a turn from the trail and ride up an old gravel road.
Bob told me that there is another trail up the road where it breaks to flatten out, the trail will take us back down to the lake trail one more time.
We reach the break and turn off the road to roll some big swells as we launch into the woods.
The line follows the path of least resistance and minimal impact taking advantage of the natural contours to present an exciting and challenging descent.
Right after we hit the trail, Bob stops to point out a couple of very large old rotting logs that are laying just a few feet off of the road. He tells me that Vaughn has laid out another line that runs along the top of the logs; he has scrapped the rotten material off the top, down to solid wood.
We continued our descent down through the timber. The trail is a rolling line that weaves back and forth through the remnants of the logging operation from twenty years ago. Again there are lots of small, fifteen and twenty foot trees lying on the ground from a thinning operation many years ago.
This line is a little more technical than the last new trail we rode, a couple of large wells that will develop into good swooping turns in the future but are soft and hard to clear now.
There is very little under growth, a few ferns but most of the ground is soft forest floor with large patches of clover.
There is a very steep section near the bottom that runs down through a wet area that is filled with elk tracks and droppings, an area thick with clover.
The trail descends until it intersects with the trail that goes around the lake.
We turned and rode up the trail opposite the normal flow. The climb was tough and had us off our bikes a couple of times to push up short sections.
Back at the road, we cranked our way back up to the start of the new trail again, Bob wanted to try the new log ride and there was also another section of trail that started at the end of the new log ride.
Bob took a run at the end of the log and rolled up onto the top. He made a couple of cranks and started to slip off the edge, dabbing down, he pushed himself along the top with his foot and glided down and across from one log to the next, then clipped back in and rode the second log on out. Me, I slipped and fell just trying to climb up on the log to walk my bike to the other end.
The new line was a little rugged and we had to do quite a bit of hike a bike.
We reached the gravel and crossed to another trail that was more mature but still a young trail, we had ridden it back in February when I was here last. This was a connector trail that took us over to another gravel road.
We cranked our way up to the top of the system. To a trail that was really an old skidder road.
The skidder trail is steep and very slick at the start. Bob and Vaughn had been up there and cleaned the line, raking it down for a fast run.
We blasted down the skidder trail, slipping and sliding through one section that has a spring flowing across and down the line to roll a couple of big berms that have been put across the skidder road to keep vehicles off.
The skidder trail finally leveled off and we turned onto a trail that ran through the trees, weaving in and out on a well established line. Large sections of the forest floor are covered in a bright green carpet of clover.
The trail meanders along and follows a ridge above an old gravel road for a ways, then drops down to cross the road.
The trail access from the road is impossibly steep but somehow Bob manages to clear it after making a charge from up the road, I just got off and draged my bike up the embankment.
We followed an established line through the woods. The trail varies from deep timber with a forest floor covered with fir needles to sections of deep green moss and ferns. The trail down through the timber and thickets of deciduas trees, where the tread changed from solid forest floor to a muddy muck that had me slipping and spinning in spots, throwing the muck on my bare legs.
We hit a junction with the lake trail, on the back side of the ridge and rode up over the top on the same trail we had ridden earlier, to cross the gravel road and blast down the trail we had climbed just an hour before.
We were following a trail we had ridden many times, one that I would venture to say was the first trail built in the area. We made our way along the edge of the lake until we were almost at the end, where Bob turned to follow another new line, one that I had spotted as we entered the system but had never ridden.
The trail took us up and over a ridge to loop around and deposit us back on the lake trail.
The climb back up and over the ridge from the lake is a challenge, I cleared it last time I was here but ended up off my bike once on the assault this time.