Monday, June 20, 2011

Ashland Trails (6.11.11)

The Ashland MTB trail system has been on my radar for some time, but the long drive from Eugene had somewhat dissuaded me from making it a priority. So when Brad and Michelle sent out the invite for Brad’s birthday weekend down there for some shreddin’, I was pretty jazzed. However, since both Brad and my wife Emily have been training for the Cascade Cream Puff, and I wasn’t sure how much riding the others had been doing, I hoped I would be able to keep up and not put in the hurt locker as this would be my first ride of the season. As for the crew, we would have a group of eight, consisting of Brad & Michelle Bassi, Randy Rimby & Kim McGovern, Sarah Marshall, Kristin Alligood, and Emily & me.

The plan was to drive down to Ashland Friday night after work, camp out, and bike both Saturday & Sunday. Since we wouldn’t have much time to pack on Friday, I spent most of Thursday getting all my stuff together. This was not an easy task, since I couldn't remember where I had stored some of my biking gear. Luckily most was recovered and staged in the garage, ready to be thrown in the car the next day. I also did a light tune-up on my Big Mama, to make sure she would be in top shape for a couple days of riding.

The Ashland trail network

As work on Friday came to an end, I quickly headed home to do some last minute packing before Emily showed up. Once she did, we loaded the dogs in the car and headed south. It’s amazing that two people and two dogs with gear for a weekend can fill a whole Outback, including a giant gear bag strapped to the top of the car. By the time we reached the campground where most of the crew had already setup, it was 10:30pm -- enough time for a beer or two before heading off to bed.

The next morning, Emily awoke at the crack of dawn to start her ride with Brad, who would be doing 3x the riding we would be doing, ~70miles and 12,000’ to 15,000’ of climbing! This really goes to show how training for a big race like the Puff, is just as much work as fun, if not more. A couple hours later I woke up to the dogs lickin’ on my face, obviously ready to eat and do their business. When I climbed out of the tent, most of the crew was already making coffee and preparing to cook breakfast. After taking care of the dogs, I jumped in to lend a hand by cooking up a dozen eggs and sauteing up some veggies.

After we had all filled up on food and coffee we drove to Lithia Park to start our ride. Just about the time we parked the cars, Brad and Emily came riding into the parking lot, after completing their first lap. We quickly got word that the uppermost trails were pretty unrideble due to snow, so starting the descent at the top of "Missing Link" was advised. After hanging out for a few minutes, we wished them a good ride as they sped away for lap #2.

Gearin' up for the day's ride

Believe it or not, we had more girls than guys on the ride!

The first half of our ride consisted of both paved and gravel road climbing up toward Mt. Ashland. Since we had fairly diverse fitness levels within the group, we took a nice mellow pace, which I was certainly fine with. As we made our way up the hill I was surprised that I wasn’t hurtin’ too bad, which I can only attribute to all the bike commuting to work, and the more adventure-style kayaking I’ve been doing lately. For most of the climbing I was by myself, with some of the group either in front or back. Often I would stop to take photos for just take a quick rest, and our crew would regroup from time to time at obvious stopping points.

Starting the long ascent

Michelle still with fresh legs

Some of the climb goes through a neighborhood of sorts

Still climbing

Randy enjoys the "Gun Show" at Four Corners

Getting close!

By the time we reached the trailhead for Missing Link, I was ready for some singletrack -- it had been way too long since I’d ridden the dirt ribbon! I quickly opened up my suspension and lowered my seat, before jumping out ahead to find a good spot to setup for some more photos. As I weaved my way down, I could tell that my biking legs and balance were gonna need some warm-up. This first trail section was full of fun technical spots, banked switchbacks, and little kickers to get some lift off of -- really fun stuff! I was able to stop in a few good spots to snap off pics. After the last person had passed by, I’d jump back on my steed and giv’er hell trying to catch back up. All too soon we reached the road, signaling the end of Missing Link. I only hoped that the remaining trails would be as good.

Suiting up for the descent

Randy rails a corner near the beginning of Missing Link

Sarah gets some air early on

More banked goodness

Sarah was having a hard time keeping
her wheels on the ground...

Sure enough as we were regrouping, Emily and Brad came screaming down the trail and joined us for a quick break. While the others were talking and grabbing a snack, I decided to play around on the short log ride nearby. Once again I was reminded that I would need to get my biking legs back…

Regrouping at Four Corners
(photo by Randy Rimby)

Exit, stage right
(photo by Randy Rimby)

For some reason I'm leaning toward the side I'm falling off of...
(photo by Randy Rimby)

The next trail on our agenda was Catwalk, and it also didn’t disappoint. It didn’t have the fun techie bits, but it did have lots of fun switchbacks and jumps. There were also a couple of places where you could really open it up, to the point of, “should I really be riding this fast?!” Eventually Catwalk intersected with "Toothpick", a fun traverse that dropped us into a parking lot that we had ridden past on the ride up the road.

Emily enters into Catwalk

Why can't all switchbacks be this smooth?!

Sarah, all smiles on Catwalk

Kim rides toward the waning forest

Next up was Caterpillar. After a short climb up some singletrack, we were once again bombing down a fun flowy trail with more high-speed switchbacks.

Randy changes direction, again.

Speed zone

Deeper into the darkness

Kim, enjoying the ride!

As Caterpillar ended at the road again, I crossed over to hang a left onto Upper White Rabbit and toward the Wonderland trial. Before I could get too far Randy suggested that we do the trail down the other side of the road, which would also take us to the bottom. He said it was a fairly new trail called Jabberwocky, and that he remembered it being pretty fun. “What the heck, why not, they’re all new to me!” With that, we dropped down the steep entrance into a small creek drainage, where the trail traversed alongside it. This trial ended up being the most difficult of the trails we had ridden, and still very fun. There was one spot with a sketchy angled log-over that we all walked, which was also kinda sketchy. Before long, Ashland Creek came into view as well as the intersection with the bottom of BTI, so I knew we were pretty much done at this point.

Sarah builds up some speed on the Jabberwocky traverse

Randy leads the pack with Sarah in hot pursuit

Randy drops down a pitch near the end of Jabberwocky

Sarah on the final stretch

Almost to the beer!

When we reached the car, Michelle and Kristin (who had taken a different way down) were already having beer and some chips... "Ah yes, time for a cold one!” After changing into some comfy cottons, we headed into Ashland for a taco at Agave, and for a few more beers at Caldera Brewing. That night we BBQ’d up some meat and made a big batch of pasta, and afterwards sat around the fire to discuss all the great riding we had done. The best part was that we still had another day of riding, so after the fire died down, we headed back to our tents for another night’s sleep -- Man, I slept like a rock!

Michelle readies herself to drink
some of the best brew on the planet!

Relaxin' after a sweet day of shredding

Cupcakes for Brad the birthday boy

More bike talk

The next day we hit the trail again. Randy and Kim had left to bike with some friends who lived in the area, but Brad and Emily would be joining us, keeping our riding party at six. Another difference would be that we were planning to shuttle, which actually took longer than it was probably worth. Regardless, we had another great time on the trails. This time we rode the bottom stretch down Wonderland and BTI, instead of Jabberwocky. Wonderland was essentially a superfast double-track with some jumps here and there. BTI on the other hand was a lesson in switchbacks down tight steep singletrack, a super sexy trail that I enjoyed quite a bit. The following pics are from our second day of riding:

Michelle finishes up a fun technical stretch in style

Brad, getting close to the camera guy

Sarah goes for more air

Hey who put this log here?! The author makes the best of it.
(photo by Brad Bassi)

Sarah, still rockin' & rollin'

Brad drops a rock slab near the start of Catwalk

Emily takes the more technical route

Brad chases down Michelle in the leaning forest

Kristin lovin' the trail and new bike!

Sarah on Toothpick

Michelle on Toothpick

Looking good so far...
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

...D'oh! Yes, I went over the bars, and have the scar to prove it!
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Emily goes big on Wonderland

Michelle rounds one of the many corners on BTI

Brad descends BTI

Brad hits the corner with some speed

A typical view on BTI. Does it get any better than this?!

On our way to the end of a great trip

After one more stop in Ashland for food & drinks, as well as some time at the local dog park, Emily and I headed back home to Eugene. What a great trip! I’ll definitely be back to Ashland for more riding. Hopefully next time we can combine it with other rides in the area, since I'm sure there must be other great trails.

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