Sunday night I called Bob Keeney to see if he was riding on Monday.
1:00 on Monday afternoon I met up with Bob Keeney and a couple of other riders, Lance Ritchy and Shaun. Bob used to work in law enforcement and both Lance and Shaun also work in law enforcement so most of the talk for the day was about guns and ammo.
Bob led the ride, we headed up the gravel to cross the bridge and climb on gravel until we reached a trail that started with a steep rocky bank climb into a hemlock forest. The track running across a network of exposed roots, leading us over to the Skeleton trail.
Bob led us all over the southern part of the Stella trail system, through such places as Fern Gully and the Sunny Glade, and the glade was sunny today.
From there we headed over to pick up some of the more maze like trails, Lumpy Bumpy and Pioneer trail to name a couple. You may be riding east and pass the last person in the group riding west, just a few feet away but still fifty feet behind you. The track taking advantage of every lump, bump, and rooty feature the forest has to offer.
We racked up three hours of trail time then headed back to the rigs.
On Tuesday, Bob Horness called me and asked if I wanted to ride out at Growlers, early Wednesday morning, 9:00 am at the gate. I posted our intent to ride on Facebook, then Bob called and changed our plan, we would meet at the gate, then shuttle to Stella and ride the Spike trail back to Growlers.
I pulled up to the parking area at Growlers to find Bob sitting in his car waiting, it was 8:15 and he was ready to roll. We talked for a few minutes, then the faint sound of a car distracted me, I wondered if someone might join us.
A vehicle pulled up to the gate and turned around. There were two small excited dogs bouncing around in the passenger's seat. Backing in next to us a man got out and as the two dogs started running around, inspecting the area and us, Bob smiled as he approached him, extending his hand and a greeting, Bob said "Tom" and asked what he was doing here.
From what I could gather, Tom was a teacher who had worked in Oregon, retired last year and since he lives in Castle Rock, comes up to the trail system a few times a week to walk his dogs, do a little trail maintenance, and sometimes ride his bike.
The interesting thing here was that although Tom knows who Jim LeMonds is and has purchased both Jims books, listened to him do a reading of one book before it was published, he did not know him. Jim, the board of director for Growlers, is the person who has been putting on Growlers events for over a decade. Jim has probably worked on every trail in the system, scouted or helped to scout and develop the line for the majority of the trails in the system.
Before we took off, we gave Tom, Jims web site URL and told him he should contact Jim about getting a tour and becoming involved with the Growlers group. At least get on the mailing list to find out what is happening at Growlers.
Bob and I were at Stella and riding up gravel by 9:00. There was a chill in the air, the temperatures in the 30's and even though we were both pushing hard up the road my hands were cold and the chill passed through my polyester clothing.
We discussed riding the road up to the point where the Spike cross but since it was so cold, I suggested we climb up onto the Stella ridge and ride the trails out. Riding the trails would slow our pace and put us in the trees where we could warm up a bit.
We caught the double track on top of the ridge and rode it until we hit the first section of the Spike trail. The start of this section is a tough rumbling line over exposed roots and a few downed trees through a hemlock forest. Then the trail breaks into smooth single track with a couple of log over features until it hits the gravel.
We headed up the gravel road for a quarter mile, just past an intersection to the start of the second section of the Spike trail. The trail to the top comprised of eight sections.
The second section, Bob and I agreed is one of the better sections, that's probably because we are still fresh and feeling strong. Lots of nice single track to start with then the line drops onto an old railroad grade and flattens out until it exits to cross gravel and the start of the third section.
Each section has something that makes it stand out. There is the railroad grade where the trail runs along a sharp ridge, a good ten foot drop off either side and the line weaving back and forth around trees and stumps. Followed by a short section where the trail drops off the ridge to hit a steep that I have never seen anyone make. Bob took a good try but spun out on a root.
Then there is the section that climbs through a series of switchbacks, a head down and crank it out section where at each switchback I would shift up a gear to increase the torque and hammer it hard for a few seconds, followed by a quick shift down and drop right back into my cadence.
After a couple of hours of hard climbing and negotiating the line, the final two sections present themselves. Log overs, busy, and off camber is the short description. It is a two and a half mile track of twisting, off camber, and rocky trail with a little over 200 feet of elevation gain. The high point on the Spike trail with an elevation of 2,160 ft is reached in this section, just about a half mile before the clear cut.
The line across the clear cut can be a little hard to spot, once we hit the gravel road going through the middle of the clear cut we headed up to take in the view then rode back to find the trail, riding by it at least twice before spotting it.
Across the clear cut to the edge of the woods, then a turn to run along the edge for a few feet and then the trail takes a hard turn into the timber and starts the descent.
The trail drops 800 feet over the next two miles. Switching back and forth through the woods the trail takes advantage of some great rolling terrain. With fast tight turns and screaming descent as it traverses the hillside.
The run starts with a smooth descent down to a tree that has fallen across the trail. The bark on the section over the trail gone and the wood displays scars from all the chain rings that have gouged it. As I approached the tree I pulled up on my handlebars as my front tire kissed the log. My chain ring stabbing through the wood just before my rear tire slammed against the tree, causing the back of my bike to shift suddenly sideways as my tire skidded down the incline of the log and dropped back onto dirt.
A couple of quick cranks and I blasted down through the woods, the trail turning to cross the slope of the hillside and bounce over the back side of some big old stumps. All too quickly the trail dumped me on an old logging road.
A fast smooth shot down an old gravel road to where it looks like the road ends to find the next section of trail. I had to stop and put on my rain coat because the cold air rushing through my shirt was giving me a chill.
A super fast flash down around some big fir trees and across open spaces created by the now leafless deciduous trees. The trail completely covered in some areas by the bright yellow and orange leaves. Stopping a couple of times to drag a broken tree top or an old snag off the trail.
After almost ten minutes of screaming down through the woods we hit the bottom of the second downhill section. Bob started across the road and was about to head back into the woods, when I hollered that I need to shake out my hands, they were going numb. To which he says you must me using your breaks too much, to that I could only reply that I didn't want to run into him. We had a good laugh and started to hammer the next section.
The third section is a short run of a couple of minutes under a nice stand of fir.
That was followed by another five minutes of fast swooping track, still under a canopy of timber across a forest floor carpeted with dry brown fir needles. A break in the timber every now and then would give way to the line running through broad leaf trees and waist high ferns.
Finally at a double track that we follow for a few hundred yards to pick up the trail as it re-enters the forest to cross a couple of low rocky ridges. The line crossing the terrain to descend to a small creek where there is a nicely built wooden slat bridge, with some roofing shingles nailed to the center of the bridge.
The line ran up onto another ridge to follow it down and around to the other side where there are a couple more small bridges, the first leading out onto a little island supporting some large broad leaf trees with the trail running up close to the trees. The track following the contour of the small land mass as it circles the trees within inches of a sharp drop off on the water side, the second bridge ten feet away, and crossing back off the island.
The trail follows a line across a couple of more small ridges to cross a small creek, then crosses the major creek in this water shed, the Mohan Creek. The crossing made by carrying your bike while walking a large log; there is a rope stretched across above and roofing strips nailed to the log.
A short climb up to a spur road then the trail follows the road out.
We hit a couple more of the Growlers trails on the way out and were back at my car by 2:00 pm. Five hours of riding with just a couple of short breaks and we covered well over twenty miles, the distance I have heard was anywhere from twenty two to twenty six miles.
Just as I was dropping Bob off, back at Stella, Paul Norris called me to ask how the ride was. He said that he had given some newbie's a tour of the lower trails at growlers. Paul had posted on Facebook that he was going to be riding on Friday with a young man named Andrew. He was going to show him some of the more advanced trails. Paul told me that Friday looked like it was going to be wet so Andrew rescheduled for Thursday at 10:00. Would I be there?
Thursday 9:45 am, I pull into the parking area at Growlers. Parking next to the one car there I see a young guy looking over at me, no doubt asking himself what this old guy was doing, I know I was asking the same question.
I introduced myself and after changing and making some small talk, Paul pulled up.
As we cranked our way up the power line hill, I zoned out and tried to see how low I could keep my respiration and heart rate.
We rode down the gravel as Paul pointed out the trails on either side, giving a narrative about the origins of the trail names, until we got to Carnage.
We let Andrew take the lead, Paul using the trail teaching strategy of letting the student discover the trail and get a feel for it without being focused on the wheel in front of him. Just telling him to stop when he reached the road and keep to the right line on any intersection.
Paul pointed out the other trails down in this section then we rode up to gravel and started climbing.
We took Little Sister up to the Rail Road grade and then followed the road up to Creation.
The lower part of Creation isn't too bad of a climb but the middle sections really challenged me.
We hit the tank trap and rode up to the exit of Legacy, where I told Paul and Andrew that I would meet them up on top. I was going to ride up the back (short) way to the top.
There was a strong breeze in the clear cut and I knew it was going to be windy on the top, so I stopped just before getting to the top, figuring I could eat a PB&J sandwich while I waited.
I was sitting on a stump just below the trail after finishing my sandwich when Andrew came riding by on the trail below me. I knew the trails rain close to each other along here but he was just a few feet away. Intent on the line he rode past without seeing me, then Paul came up the trail and also rode past without seeing me.
I mounted up and finished the climb, just in time to be there when they arrived. We turned and rode back to where I had taken a break so they could also take a break.
We bombed down Legacy; from here the downhill has got some great swooping actions that drops over a ridge with a stupid steep down that is followed by some rumbling across breaking bumps. A quick traverse across a well developed bench to roll over a huge mound and into a stand of very young trees, trees that are maybe twelve to fifteen feet high.
Legacy turns into WTF when it crosses the climbing road. The entrance to WTF is a rock garden that intimidates a lot of people, but the key is momentum, all the rocks are close enough together that with just a little momentum the bike just rolls across the rocks.
Once back on gravel, we turned our attention to the descent on Vortex, a super fast and swoopy run down through young trees that has banked corners and a good line.
We followed this by ripping down Jekyll to the lower KMA. Jekyll, now a well developed and mature line is smooth with some great features. It flows down through some small banked corners to rumble through some roots and rocks and over a big mound. A new connector across the top of a culvert makes the flow continuous down around an impossible looking switchback to cross a stream on a short piece of canoe log. With a short crank up a few feet through the trees and a turn back down across another creek and then some very steep downhill sections.
The Jekyll trail intersects middle KMA after a short but intense climb.
We continued down the KMA trails to Secret Garden, probably one of the best sections for big rollers, as Paul put it; it's like riding a roller coaster in the woods.
As we hit the end of Secret Garden, we spotted some Chanterelles and had to stop to pick a few.
After filling up my tote bags I told Paul I was going to get a head start on them, I could see they were just wrapping it up and would be hot on my trail. I wanted to take it as easy as I could on this climb. My last out on Bitter Bitch was very slow and easy, keeping my focus on powering just the short intense stuff, like the fifteen switchbacks, and maintaining an easy cadence on the rest of the climb.
We regrouped at the gravel and headed back toward the car.
Paul took Andrew up False Hope while I rode the road trail just above it, dropping down to their line toward the end.
We finished the ride by following the road trails back to Mr. T (T for technical). A fun line, that years ago, when it was put in was the most technical line out here, now it is just a hoot. Running along next to the road rolling up and down, following the terrain along the top of a ridge, with a couple of quick drops.
Guy Smith, Paul Norris and I had set up a ride at Stella for Friday at 12:00. Paul called Bob Horness to join us and thought the meet time was 10:00
At 10:15 and I was making a sandwich for lunch. The phone rang and I see Paul Norris was calling me. 'the ride was not at 10:00 was it? Bob (Horness) and I are at Stella. We'll do some riding and meet you and Guy at 12:00'
I met Barry at the park and ride and we made it to Stella by 11:45. Paul and Bob were there just hanging out.
Guy pulled in a few minutes later and we started cranking up the road. I headed up the trail off the first spur rode to climb into the Haru. I believe this is the Ed Wetter trail. It is a good climbing trail, has a switchback go around for going up and a steep decline for going down. I knew that Paul would like these trails better then the maze of trails on top of Stella ridge.
We rode one of the lower trails across to Ed's Texas trail #3 and took that down to intersect the road side trail and followed that out to the bridge.
After crossing the bridge, I suggested we climb up the Gateway trail, a good climb and a better descent. Ken Pearson has put in some real fine banked corners that work equally well on the up or down run.
After Gateway trail we rode out to the 10 trails. A little discussion and we headed up the Chicken trail to the battery, then over to blast Fast and Furious. Made a sharp left and headed down Seevom. This is where things went wrong, about half way back I suggested we take one of the trails up and ride the main line out to scream down Gateway.
As we stood there I could hear a rushing sound, faint at first, then louder and louder until the sky opened up and dumped on us.
We were soon wandering around the mouse maze and totally lost. I recognized some of the features in the area but could not remember which way to go. We regrouped and tried to ride back the way we came in but got lost again.
We headed down a wide track, almost a double track until I saw a trail going off to the right. I dropped down over the bank and after a few twists and turns, proclaimed 'this is not the Seevom trail'.
Just as we hit the double track again, Barry broke his chain. He pushed a pin half out and reattached the chain, putting us back on the tread and heading down the double track.
The line we were following was a bit rugged; it had not seen tires in a while. There was a road grade down and off to the right so we just kept heading down hill until we found Seevom trail.
We rode the line out until we hit the bottom of Gateway and dropped down to the gravel.
Riding down the gravel, Paul and Guy had called it good for them. Bob, Barry and I headed off the gravel onto the road trails to finish our ride.
A couple a hundred feet down the road trail and I saw a line heading up into the Haru, a line that I had never ridden, so I told Bob and Barry I was going to follow this trail and see where it led.
Barry followed me up into the Haru, Bob continued on down the road trail. The road trail is a tough trail in the best of conditions, winding up and down. It is a tight twisty trail that will have you cranking like hell for fifty feet then throwing your weight back as you break over a crest to negotiate a quick drop across exposed roots on an off camber line. The track I chose to follow looked like it was going to be a mellow climb. The line angled across the face of the hillside, taking to a quick ascent in a couple of places but overall an easy climb.
The trail made a junction with a fire road a few feet from where we had crossed just hours before.
The Lakeside Trail was just a short connector ride away. The connector hooked us into the last third of the trail, possibly the best part of the trail. The line runs out and back in a big horse shoe shape. The terrain flat but with lots of features like swooping rolling sections and short burst pump sections to make the loop a fast run.
From there the trail drops over a log and shoots down and up again to twist its way over to the fire road.
Barry said he was in need of carbs so we dropped down to the gravel by way of the same trail we had first entered the Haru on.
Another Ride on the Wanna Trails
I get a tour of the Wanna trails by one of the architects of the system, Vaughn Martin.
I received an e-mail from George Barnett asking if anyone wanted to ride on Thursday. Vaughn Martin responded that he would like to ride the Wanna trails if anyone was interested. Vaughn had opened up a new trail and someone else has developed two more trails.
The next day I got a call from Barry DeSemple and he had Thursday off.
I met Barry at the park and ride then we headed for the Clatskanie Safeway to meet up with Vaughn George and Bob Horness.
Bob had to take off early so we started by riding the lower trails first. The last time I rode here we headed up hill and did these trails last, I was kind of happy to do them before I was wore out since they are extremely rocky, large loose rock and rubble.
These lower trails require good weight distribution and plenty of power for bumping through the rough.
Our first trail was a small loop that had a rugged line that was easily missed, exampled by Bob and me riding past two different turns and having to be called back.
The first line had lots of starts and stops, an up and down trail with very short sharp descents and equally short sharp ascents with lots of moss covered rocks that were getting kicked up.
After about 10 minutes we hit the gravel and headed up the road to work our way through an area known as the playground. A very steep climb up and over a small rocky ridge with plenty of technical rock on the descent, a place I was happy to have the dropper seat.
We splashed through a small creek and climbed some more technical rocky trail, my rear tire making a loud popping noise as it slid off the edge of a rock at one point.
The climb put us onto the gravel once again as we crossed the road and headed back into the woods. The line is somewhat hard to distinguish as it serpentines through the woods, bouncing over logs and following a track through the ferns, at times thinking we are just riding around and there is no real trail.
We exit the woods onto a wide double track that is covered with grass and leaves and has a faint track down the middle.
We had been riding for maybe thirty minutes when my chain sucked and got wedged between the frame and the ring gears. I was unable to pull it free so that meant that I would have to break the chain to get it out.
This chain is a hollow pin chain and I had used the Sram Powerlink so that I could pull the chain if I had to, without having to carry a chain break and pins.
No matter what I did, I could not get the link to release. I twisted, pushed, and tried my leatherman tool. George tried and failed also. We finally broke the chain, Bob had a chain break tool and I pushed a pin out.
Back in business we rode out onto gravel and up to a gravel pit, where we crossed some more large rocky sections and headed back into the woods on a trail that you would never spot from the gravel pit.
The trail is one of the better fast runs in the lower trails; it twists and turns down through smaller fir trees with a couple of logs to cross. We head back down gravel and take a quick line, a very swift run down a straighter path, almost a ditch to finally hit the bottom of the lower trails and make our way back up to where the cars are parked by way of gravel and a push your bike trail (some much rock and gnarl you can't get more than 20 feet before having to get off and push).
Bob is coaching a cross country team and had to take off. Vaughn asked if we wanted to ride up to the top and hit the upper trails, which sounded good to me.
It was a slow grind up the 800 or more foot of elevation gain on gravel road, mostly low gear stuff with the angle of ascent quite steep along a lot of it.
The first trail we hit was the maze trail, seems there were a number of looping trails in this section at one time. A straight forward trail that was mostly more climbing, with a big push toward the end of the trail, trying to climb it on my bike was futile, it was just too long and steep.
We crossed a gravel road and took a trail called Ed's loop. It is a good climb up a double track for a couple hundred feet to turn onto single track. The line is well established and runs through the woods across a fairly level section to drop into a small valley with a steep climb to push out. Crossing over the ridge the track is a good steep descent to end with a quick sharp uphill of just a few feet but awkward because the lead in is on a strong corner.
Another small valley to cross with a steep to push ascent then some strong downhill to a trail junction and a turn that is very hard to make, almost a switchback but the line for switchback has never been developed.
After we hit the gravel again, we headed up the road a few feet and turned into a section that I think was called flint flats. The tack varied between flat and uphill climbing, without the pushing.
Next we cruised down the road a few feet and turned into Dan's Delight. It is a quick ascent up the bank onto a somewhat technical trail that winds and drops down through the woods. The features consist of log over's, a rocky mound and lots of negotiating rocky terrain. This is probably one of the more technical trails on the route back to the lower section.
We followed the gravel downhill for a quarter mile or so, almost to the end of the spur road to turn on to a trail that I think was called Pork Burner. The trail starts with a couple of drops, at the entrance there is a small drop off of a foot or so, then just a little ways further there is a drop of about ten feet with a sharp right at the bottom of it.
A short run through the woods and the line makes a sharp downhill turn. The angle of descent will put you back off the bike, positioning for a very steep descent. Appling enough break to hear the rumbling noise of the modulation but not enough to lock up the wheel and cause you to skid. There is a sharp drop off to the left and a narrow course down through small spindly trees the descent requiring you to make a lot of quick adjustments to your line.
A quick shot across a wide spot as the trail levels off and heads down an old dirt double track that continues out to the gravel.
We turned and headed down the gravel through an area that Vaughn told me they just never could find a way to make a trail because the hill was so steep. Vaughn also tells me that years ago when the logging company had clear-cut the section we just rode, he took a fall off the steep side and landed on a stump, cracking a couple of ribs, and putting him in a lot of pain.
Back down the road we picked up one of the trails we had ridden earlier and rode it in the reverse direction.
The whole Wanna area is very rocky, the trails are primitive for the most part. Knowing the architect I know that in most cases his style is to remove the limbs but leave most everything where it is.
After I got home, the chain wrap incident led me to do some research on how to remove the Sram Powerlink. I found a couple of videos on the internet and after watching them, I saw our mistake, you have to squeeze the link while sliding the two halves away from each other.
Up to the garage I went to give it a try, after fifteen minutes of squeezing and twisting and cursing I finally got out a pair of slip jaw pliers and needle nose jewelers pliers and was able to open the damn Powerlink.
Checking the internet again, this time looking for a tool that will remove the Powerlink. I found one that was made by Park Tools and sold for about $15.
Looking at the problem, I thought I should be able to come up with something that would be simple and small, I don't want to carry a pair of specialty pliers around with me.
I took some measurements and came up with a little device that fits down behind the roller on one side of the link and has a short arm that slides behind the other roller and as it is pushed in, squeezes the link together. It works pretty slick, measures just over an inch square and weighs almost nothing.
Paul Norris was going to be in White Salmon to see his daughter run in a cross country race. Paul is always looking for a new trail systems to add to his list of systems ridden this year. Since I had ridden the Buck Creek trail a few years back, I suggested we test my memory and see if we could find our way through part of that system.
The plan was to retrace the route Ted Dodd had taken me on about five years ago. We would ride up the Nestor peak road until we got to the camping area where I remember Ted leading me. Then we would take a screaming steep downhill run to follow that line through a section of narrow single track running across a very steep, almost cliff like, hillside.
As we headed up Nestor Peak road we started to overtake a couple of riders on horseback. They saw us coming and galloped up the road to take a turn off to the right.
I told Paul that I didn't think that was the road we wanted so we continued up Nestor Peak Rd.
After about twenty to thirty minutes of climbing we came upon a sign that read Trail Head #1 and had an arrow pointing up what I thought was a spur road off to the right. After reviewing maps when I got back home, I now realize the sign was pointing us up the main road and the spur road went straight ahead.
Just before making the turn I spotted a trail off to the left, and then another trail just after the turn that crossed the road. We continued up the road until we came across the trail on the left that had crossed the road down below. We reviewed the map and thought we were further up the road than we were so decided this trail made a short loop and came back to pass through the camping area.
We were wrong; the trail headed down the south side of the ridge and had been well used by horses. It was steep but still very controllable.
We ripped quickly down through the scrub oak until we saw a trail junction that led off to the left, back toward the main road. The track did not show evidence of horse use so we headed down that line. Steep, it ran a little left then dropped straight down the hill.
The tread was firm and smooth as the line ran through tall grass. Within a few seconds we came to a sign board. This was not an identification sign board or mileage board but the kind that usually has a no trespassing sign nailed to it. The board was blank and we continued on.
After some more fast trail we hit another horse trail, most likely the one we had left just a couple of minutes ago.
We turned and followed that until it dumped us on a dirt double track that ran north and south. We decided to take a left, since that was the direction of the Nestor Peak gravel road. The double track was level to slightly downhill.
As we rode down the double track a chrome grill from an old Chevy, with a rusted hulk of a truck attached to it, caught my eye. We noticed, half hidden in the scrub oak, more old cars and pieces of equipment in different states of decay. I was getting the feeling we were on someone's property.
A trail leading off to the right down through the oak grabbed our attention. Figuring that it would head down and out toward the road, we started down the track.
The first thing that I noticed about this trail was that there were not any horse tracks on it, there had been horse tracks on the trail down to the double track and on the double track.
We rode on for maybe a couple hundred feet. The trail ended at an area that had a large tank and some other equipment. There was a long work surface with a sink at one end, a bathtub kind of hidden behind the tank and a couple of industrial sized propane burners. The area was very neat and orderly, a large pile of wood off to one side and a big fire ring.
Seemed like a good time to backtrack and head on down the double track, follow the horse tracks, hopefully back to the gravel road that was Nestor Peak Rd.
Less than a quarter mile and we were back on the gravel, a short climb and we took the turn we had seen the horsemen take earlier.
The road led to a trail head that had a sign that said Buck Creek Trail, please register, but there was no place to register.
The trail that leads downhill from here starting off as a single track on an old double track bed, swooping around the ridges and across the hillsides until the width disappears and the line narrows to form a single track.
The track cut into a steep bank that falls away sharply on the right side. The tread is a mix of rock and firm mud. I felt my tire slip a couple of times as I transitioned from rock to the wet dirt.
The line running high on some of the inside corners, turning out of the berm to a narrow track supported on the outside by timbers.
The trail was a fast descent along a steep, approaching vertical, hillside. It was a narrow line with a sharp drop off that forces your focus to the track.
The trail finally dropping down the hillside to hit a wide course that appears to have a water line buried under it. There is a pipe sticking out of a fitting in a much larger buried pipe line, supported on one side by a chunk of log wedged against a piece of plywood and a couple of more log chunks forming a cradle to hold the exiting water line.
The trail follows the pipe line, running up and down. Above and away from Buck Creek, the tread is anything from smooth dirt to rough rock and rubble.
Some very stiff climbs followed by short fast descents to climb again.
After a few miles of rough riding the trail turns to descend a short distance and cross Buck Creek on a bridge where it exits into a parking area.
A single track leaves the gravel road just down from the parking area, fifty to a hundred feet. It is a quick climb up off the gravel and a couple hundred feet into the woods to find a sign with mileages posted on it. I found the sign confusing but did glean that the Buck Creek loop was 26 miles.
Turning our attention to the trail, we continued to climb in a low rage gear, grinding it out but at a very steady rate for the next five minutes until we hit a trail junction, going uphill would be the direction to take if you were going to do the loop.
We headed down a double track for a couple hundred feet until we hit a dirt road. The road looked well traveled but I did not see any horse tracks heading up the road.
Just as I was about to head down, Paul pointed out that there was a trail marker, in the form of a white diamond on a tree up the road, we headed up to the marker and spotted another up the road a little further. About a quarter mile away the trail turned from the road and back into the conifer forest.
The track was clean, the ascent was slight and we were able to crank along at a good mid-range gear pace. In and out of the rolling terrain, climbing through a conifer forest of large trees until the line finally broke over a ridge and started to descend.
The descending track picked up speed fast as we left the conifer to run through the much sparser oak forest.
My seat post all the way down. Pushing my weight back, now supported by the pedals as the saddle pressed against the back of my thigh. I had to rotate my pedals 180 degrees every few seconds, to shift my weight back and forth from one leg to the other.
I could hear the rumbling sound of the breaks modulating and the smell of the brake pads burning as I rocketed down the hill, looking for every opportunity to release the breaks for even a second to let the air flow cool them.
Reaching the bottom, Paul is waiting with a big grin on his face knowing that this is the intense downhill section I remembered from my last ride up here and had been talking about all day.
A short quick little descent from here and we are back on gravel, the Buck Creek Rd where we headed down the gravel and back to the cars.
Hunters On The Road
I posted up to Facebook that Barry and I would be hitting the trail at Growlers at 9:00 and that this was the first day of modern rifle hunting season so wear bright clothing.
As Barry and I headed out county road PH10 we caught up with a white pickup that was carrying a couple of bikes in the back. It had to be Greg and Miles, and then a dog, Mercy popped up in the back which confirmed it.
We were ready to ride and making last minutes adjustments when I saw Jim LeMonds cranking his way up the pavement. We climbed over the gate and all headed up gravel toward the power line hill.
The power line hill is a good warm up and I have taken to seeing how slow I can make the climb. Attempting to keep my respiration at a nice steady pace and just grinding up the hill. I steadily fell back as the others pressed on at a higher rate, Miles making the climb in mid-range gears. Just as the hill started to break, I pumped up the speed a little and relaxed the torque I was applying so that I could shift up, then stand up and power out the short stretch to eat up the distance I had fallen behind.
I dropped into Predator with Greg and Miles right on my back tire; a nice quick trail with short fast downhill runs that turn into a burst of climbing followed by another quick blast down the hill.
We exited onto the gravel and hit each of the road trails in turn, then started up the long gravel climb toward the upper trails.
We had only seen one hunter's pickup going down the road this morning, and we had a couple of more pass us as we climbed gravel.
We hit the Jekyll and Little Sister trail heads and opted to take Little Sister for the climb. The track is finally starting to firm up and it was a good solid climb.
From the top of Little Sister we rode out on the Rail Road grade and headed over to climb up Vortex.
When we exited the woods from the climb, the air was thick with fog. It was a dense fog that chilled me as we stood and talked about the climb and the hunters.
We headed up the spur road and had another hunter pass us by, driving around in a pickup looking for game. A young guy in a Nissin pickup, he was very stone faced, looking at us like we were impinging on his hunt.
Jim had a great story about a couple of bow hunters that were so drunk at 10 AM, that when they saw a buck standing on a knoll, that one of them literally fell out of the truck while trying to arm his bow. Really scary stuff.
After rumbling across the rock garden that is presented at the entrance to WTF, we rolled through the young trees, a solid line with lots of twisty, pumping stuff that crosses the top of a plateau to be followed by some screaming downhill.
After hitting the gravel we pumped it up the road a few feet to drop back into Vortex, the line we had just come up. A very fast and fluid track with some great banked corners, corners that with a lean of the bike and a single stroke, sling you down the trail.
When we hit the second section of Vortex, Greg, Miles, and Barry were cranking it hard. They hit a couple of big banked corners that are followed by a kicker. Miles hit the kicker so hard that he overshot the trail and landed on the other side of a berm, which caused him to turn around and climb back up the trail and take another shot at it.
We screamed down through Jekyll and Hyde, stopping once before the road intersection then hammering down through the woods to regroup once more at KMA where everyone was commenting on how slick the canoe log over the creek was. My wheel hit it and turned a little, but the momentum I had just pushed me across until my tire made contact and I took a sharp turn, causing a little wobble but still under control, I popped my seat up and cranked up through the next turn and back on track.
One at a time we dropped onto the KMA line, blasting down the first hill, just on the edge of control. Swooping through a small swale to turn and crank across a slope, negotiating a couple of root sections to hump up over the end of a small outcropping and again blast down through some muddy turns.
One final push up the twisting line in mid range gearing to hit the end of this section of the KMA. A section of trail that just a year ago was covered with skid bumps from riders breaking too hard on the steep. The line now different; big banked corners to tame the speed and rail first left then right, happing so fast that I hardly have time to shift my weight.
After hitting the second section of the middle KMA we head over to Bitter Bitch, we are going to ride down the trail which was built for climbing up with some 14 switchbacks.
Jim has a big trail build day planed for November 13th and Greg is going to be working on a new line that will be paralleling Bitter Bitch but laid out for going downhill. Jim walked us through a small section of it at the top, which looks pretty benign but I know that it will have some real screaming sections.
The main goal of the trail build day will be to increase the trail mileage in this section, making it more of a destination, with the hopes of having enough trail down here to ride for a couple of hours.
The trails in this section of Growlers don't see a lot of wheels. There are four trails down here now, one of which I rode for the first time today, Little Bitch (it spurs off of Bitter Bitch). A fun trail that was surprisingly firm and clear. A nice meandering trail that unless you know where it is would be hard to find.
Before we started down into this section Miles had split off and headed over to ride some of the trails around Beauty and Belly. Greg said he was also going to take off since he had another engagement this afternoon.
Jim, Barry and I went on up to take a lap around PMS (Paul and Mel's Secret). A great interval trail, when they laid this out they utilized every foot of real estate. The line rolls over a couple of large humps then sweeps down through the trees on a couple of lightly banked corners to drop over a large log and hop across a small creek. Then it climbs instantly and catches most people because the transition is so fast and acute.
After climbing back up and working some steep downhill back to the creek, the trail crosses on a canoe log. We stopped here to take a look at another of the proposed trails to be put in on the trail build day.
The Hog trail was laid out last fall by Paul and Melanie. I spent an afternoon working on it with Paul last winter and know what we are facing on the first part of the trail since I have only worked my way through the first half of the trail. There will be a little dirt work and bush whacking for the first hundred feet then the line opens up. From this direction it will be a steep climb, but from the other direction there were a number of good options for the descent. It will be a nice trail with a couple of spots for views of the Arkansas creek.
We made our way on around the PMS trail until we spotted some Chanterelles. Barry and I picked the mushrooms while Jim scouted the area for more of them.
As we headed toward the climb out on the ridge trail, we made one more detour to take in the Beaver Pond trail. I had ridden it once before with Vaughn and wanted to show it to Barry.
The trail starts with some strong twists and turns to drop through a couple of large dips and make a turn around a tree and head straight down; to steep to be able to climb under any conditions. The line turns left and flows at a level to slight decline through the forest, presenting a few simple log over features and winds back around to end on a skidder road that acts as the return path.
Back on the double track we rode another quarter mile or so to reach the entrance to the ridge trail. A solid climb up and over a small ridge to start the ascent on the main track that climbs up the ridge and back to the primary gravel road. Jim told me, as we were grinding our way up the climb, that Lance Brigman has made the climb in under seven minutes, and told Jim that he can't understand why he prolongs the pain. Jim's best time is just under ten minutes, to which I commented that mine is probably somewhere around twenty minutes.
Back on the gravel, we rode up to Mr. T (Mr. Technical) and hit it for the exit run. A great little trail that when it was first put in was the most technical trail they had, now it is just plain fun. There is a short section about half way in that is the best little section of natural pump track of any of the trails out here.
Back at the parking lot, we were a little surprised to see that our rig was the only one there. Jim said, just wait until it starts raining, then the place will be loaded.
Tacks in tires at Stella
There have been as least a half dozen riders that have gotten nailed with upholstery tacks on the Stella trail system.
I received this e-mail from Bob Keeney; I rode yesterday around 12:30 start time. I didn't see anything suspicious at that time. Just after getting back to the gate I had a flat back tire. When I checked it there were 2 tacks in the tire. They were a bronze color so very hard to see on the ground. Later I received an email from Lance Ritchie. He rode later in the afternoon and had flats caused by tacks and ran into fishing line on the Haryu side trails.
That was followed up with an e-mail from Ken Pearson; the first tacks were picked up by Joel last Friday and both me and Bob Stanton last Sunday.
Paul Norris posted up an event on Facebook; Flash Mob/Cleanup @ Stella/Harmony.
I showed up just before 9:00 am and pulled in next to Jeff Muldoon and Vaughn Martin; parking on a gravel strip at the end of Haryu Rd. Within minutes Jim LeMonds and Dave LeMonds showed up, followed by Brad Burger and Carla Mitchem with Joel Rogauskas pulling in just as we were leaving.
A couple of months ago there was an altercation between a non-local mountain biker and one of the land owners at the end of Harmony Rd. The local residents were very upset by this incident and our use of a graveled area on private property was taken away. This leaves a small area at the end of the road with enough room for four or five vehicles.
We rode about a mile up the pavement on Harmony rd to the gate. Ken and Nancy Pearson were there and Ken had a very impressive collection of magnets. He had one that was mounted on wheels and attached to the seat post on his bike. But most impressive was another that was at least three feet long and about four inches thick, he handed that over to Paul to mount on his bike trailer.
Ken told us he had picked up two tacks last week and when he removed them he noticed that both had leaf material pinched between the tack head and the tire. His thoughts were that whoever planted the tacks was placing them so that they were sticking through a leaf, this would hold them in an upright position and make them very hard to see.
We split up into groups and headed up the gravel towards the trail system. Five of us, Jim, Dave, Vaughn, Jeff and I were going to go over the main trails on the Haryu side. Vaughn was armed with a magnet suspended between a couple of wheels and Dave had a rake. They headed up the main trail. While Jim, Jeff and I took off on a secondary trail with rakes. Our plan was to meet where the two trails converged.
As we were raking our way up the trail, we ran into Brad and Carla. Brad told us that they had found a few small strips of rusty barbed wire but thought they had probably been laying there for years. Brad figures the best way to find the tacks was with the rubber magnets, the 26 and 29 inch rubber magnets. If we all just rode around for a while, stopping and checking our tires every few hundred feet we would probably be able to find them pretty fast.
We raked all the areas that contained broad leaves and walked the rest of the trail. It took us about an hour to get up to the top where the trails converged.
Vaughn had found a few old rusty nails but no tacks. We agreed on a second meeting place then took off to do some more clean up.
Jeff and Jim were unfamiliar with the trails in the Haryu. Jim, being the Board of Director for the Growlers trail system, tends to focus his efforts and do most of his riding at Growlers. Jeff told me he has only ridden a couple of times at Stella on days where there was an event like the Harmonic Convergence or passed through Stella on his way to do the Spike trail ride. The Haryu is a fun, challenging trail system.
The Stella system is divided up into a couple of different styles of trails. The trails on the top of Stella ridge have more of a winding twisting technical nature. The trail is designed to take advantage of every feature and will require the rider to be breaking, turning, and power stroking all at the same time to drive through a well, pop up over a small log and rumble down through some exposed roots under a grove of hemlock trees. These trails seem to be the first introduction to the system that most riders get. But there are lots of trails that follow a line more like a Growlers trail, more linear, but still taking advantage of the natural features presented by the area.
The trails on the Haryu side are more linear in nature. There are lots of trails on the Stella side that are also more linear but you have to invest some time with riders that know the system to find those trails.
Another hour of raking and looking for tacks and we met up with Vaughn and Dave. No one had found anything.
While Vaughn and Dave went back to get their bikes, we worked our way on through the rest of the Haryu, mainly concentrating on the Lakeside trail.
We found nothing, but the trail was nice and clean.
As it turns out, nobody found any of the upholstery tacks but they did find a couple of tack strips that were painted camouflage.
Sunday on the Siouxon
I met up with Paul and Melanie Norris at the Chelattchie Prairie store, an interesting place.
We headed up NE Healy Rd, it's about ten miles of forest road to get to the Siouxon Valley. The Valley is a roadless area, which has a feel of pure nature as you drive into the valley on the one road that goes down to the trail head.
There are two trail heads for the Siouxon trail. The road into the Siouxon valley is three miles long. There is a trail head at the upper end of the road and another trail head at the lower end of the road.
We parked at the lower trail head and rode back up the road to the upper trail head. The road is paved and a quick ride with the last mile or so a little uphill.
Hitting the trail; the trail drops off the road with a quick descent to a sharp switchback. I have almost always walked the switchback because the side hill around the switchback has a very steep slope. With the dropper seat post already down I just stuck my foot down as I swung the bike around the switchback.
The line of the trail is a fast descent down through seasoned timber, the timber in this area at least seventy years old. The trail drops quickly with lots of root steps. My seat was all the way down and I positioned myself so my weight was over the back wheel. My bike hopped and bucked under me as I bounced down the root steps and blasted through short sections of smooth compacted trail.
Breaking as needed on the steep fast side hill run, then releasing the breaks and holding on as the line crossed a plateau on a gentler slope, the track swift and smooth.
Almost a mile down the trail, Paul stopped and pointed out an orange growth that was poking up through the dirt alongside the trail, a Lobster mushroom. This variety of fungus is a parasite that grows by attaching to and consuming other mushrooms. From the research I have done on line, it specifically attacks Lactarius and Russula mushrooms.
We stopped and picked the Lobster mushroom and put it in a stuff sack I carry. Then we took off again, down the trail until we passed the site of Hickman cabin and had crossed the first two small creeks, the second of which has a nasty little drop off of a few feet if you miss the crossing. Then we saw another Lobster, then another and soon we were foraging, emptying Melanie's pack and stuffing it full of mushrooms.
We finally hit the trail again and when we got back to the lower trail head we stopped to drop off the bounty.
When we rode up into the parking lot, Jerry and Andrea De Ruyter were there with another friend and I failed to get his name. We talked about the trail. They had ridden the same route we were taking and said the forest was beautiful earlier, the sun light filtering through the trees. We were not seeing that, it was a heavy mist when we started, that turned into a light rain and now it was just overcast but dry.
We unloaded all the mushrooms we had collected, including a few Chanterelles we had found along the trail.
We mounted up and slipped back into the forest. The tread was firm and covered with lots of fir needles. The track along here is wide and well traveled; the line runs at a moderate grade down around a large curve until it drops over the edge of a very steep hillside.
The trail turns to traverse across a steep hillside. The track still very wide and it is easy to maneuver around a couple of stumps and through a couple of rocky patches. The line has a steep pitch to start and end but eases off through the center of the descent.
Once at the bottom of the descent the trail crosses a creek and heads off over a small ridge. The next three miles are mostly smooth wide track with easy climbing and descending.
We spotted a couple of more Lobsters along the trail but planned on picking them up on the way back.
We quickly rode the three miles up to the large pool and water fall.
Following the line around the pool, along the narrow track that was high above the water, we started into a section that was filled with interval climbing and descending and contained numerous rock garden features.
Another few miles brought us to the bedrock feature that had a small stream spread across it, covering about fifteen feet. The feature was slick but sitting back a little and following the lead of the bike, not over steering, it was just a matter of being in mid range gears and cranking across. I did get off the line a little on the way back and had to step down about half way across.
This is the turnaround point for a lot of riders, but the trail continues on for a couple of more miles of ride-able trail.
The trail climbs up away from the creek, a low gear climb that required a lot of strength and endurance. I stopped about half way up at a place where the angle of ascent decreased substantially to catch my breath.
After about five minutes of hard climbing the trail crosses the front of a rock face and breaks around the edge to flatten off for a second then blasts downhill across the face of the hillside, the trail in places a mere shelf cut into the steep hillside, positioned well above the creek.
We stopped for a minute to regroup and Paul noticed some Chanterelles next to the trail. I pulled out my knife and stuff sack and sliced off the few that were there and walked the area looking for more.
The track presented a narrow gap created by the steep rocky hill on one side and a giant root wad on a fallen tree on the other. I dropped down into the well but was unable to surmount the muddy steep incline on the other side. Pushing my bike up onto the narrow ledge, I mounted up and cranked my way past the wet bracken ferns that hang into the trail off the rocky face.
The trail crosses a small valley on a nice downhill slope as the line turns and heads back up through the woods to climb again at a steady pace.
Paul pointed down as he shouted Chanterelle. I stopped and again pulled my knife and stuff sack to pick some mushrooms.
Another half hour of riding brought us to the end of the trail, at least for bikes. The trail does continue on, across the creek but the pitch of the grade is far too steep to ride.
We have spent a lot of time collecting mushrooms, Melanie's back pack is again full of Lobster Mushrooms and my stuff sack is stuffed with Chanterelles.
A quick break for a peanut butter and banana sandwich and we head back to the car.
The rain started with a few sprinkles then turned to a steady drizzle. Paul took the lead but soon pulled up and yielded to me, saying he is going to sweep and to just head out hard.
The track is now wet, the tread in many places turned to mud with a thick fir needle covering.
I blasted as fast as I could back down to the bedrock shelf where we had started the last leg, dabbing down once as I crossed it. I cranked it up through the next section finding myself off the bike in one of the rock gardens but staying in mid range gears to stand and pump up each ascent.
When I hit the large pool and water fall, my riding clothes were soaked through and this last section is mostly downhill so I stopped and pulled my orange rain coat off my pack to act as a wind break.
Back on my bike I took off in tall gears and cranked it up as I headed down through a deep swale, the trail here is wide and easy to navigate, there are no more rock gardens and the tread is firm but the rain had formed puddles in every little dip.
Weaving and dodging the puddles I ran into another rider heading up the trail and he yielded for me. As we exchange greetings he says he didn't think anyone would be out in the liquid sunshine, I could only grin as I headed off.
I crossed paths with another rider and passed a couple of hikers that were dressed in full rain gear as I approached the last climb.
The tread, rocks and roots were wet but the climb was solid, un-weighting my front wheel to clear each root but shifting my weight forward as the back wheel crossed I climbed the grade to the top. Stepping off to push over the last big root drop, this one stops everyone.
Back at the cars, I was loading my bike on my rack, when I saw Paul cranking up the hill with Melanie close behind him.