Monday, September 26, 2011

O'Leary Trail (9.17.11)

Update - July 2016:
For a newer ride report, which includes trail improvements and also includes the Ollalie Trail, go here

The O’Leary/King Castle Loop is a fantastic adventure ride that will kick your butt and reward you all at the same time. The variation that we chose equated to ~28 miles and ~5,700’ of climbing -- since our ascent was on a mix of paved and gravel roads it wasn't all that bad. When I say adventure, what I mean is that the trail is definitely overgrown and rough in spots, but this actually adds a bit to the charm, like some of the sections on Bunchgrass/Heckletooth, which it actually reminds me of quite a bit. One of best things about the trail is that it ends on King Castle, one of my favorite descents in Oregon and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The tracks from our ride, which can be
downloaded from Garmin Connect, here.

This was actually the second time I had ridden this trail. The first was last year, around the same time, with my wife Emily and our good friend Brad. I wanted to put together a ride report back then but I just got too busy and it slipped off my radar. This time around Emily and I didn’t have any other takers, but we were still committed and decided to just do it as a duo. On a side note, many of these pictures were from the first trip since I didn’t take too many pictures on this years' ride.

Our ride started out from the small parking area at the bottom of the King Castle trail. From there we rode east on King Rd, a nice paved warm-up with good views of the Three Sisters. After about four miles we tee’d into Horse Creek Road, where we headed southeast a short distance to NF 1993 where we began our climb to the start of the O’Leary trail. Luckily, NF 1993 is mostly paved (with some sections of gravel), which made the long sustained climb at bit more bearable. I know some people actually climb Olallie trail instead, which to me seems masochistic, but I guess it depends on how good of shape you’re in. Basically I just fired-up my iPod and took it slow and steady. At around the 12.5 mile mark we turned right on a gated gravel road that headed straight up the side of the mountain. Eventually it flattened out where we looked for our first opportunity to do a short bushwhack over to the Olallie/O’Leary trail intersection and the start of the singletrack -- a GPS is really helpful for this.

The spin on King Road

Starting the climb up NF 1993

Emily takes a quick break on the climb
to take in a view of Mount Washington

Climbing the last bit on the spur road off NF 1993

Even with a majority of the climbing out of the way, the hard part had just begun. The next 4.5 miles would consist of riding west along the ridge on a trail that has all but gone extinct, at least in some sections. It does open up in parts but never really gets “flowy”. Once again, this is what gives the trail its adventurous feel, and the wildflower and overall mountain scenery make it well worth the effort. That said, if more people would begin riding this trail (which they should), I don’t think it would take that long to clear a better path, making it much more rideable.

At the trailhead of the O'Leary Trail

There must be a trail through here somewhere...

Bearded trees on the O'Leary Trail

Lots of clover on this one

The brutal hike-a-bike climb to the top of McLennan (or Macduff?)

Bear grass too

The last bit of this tough part is straight up some pretty steep switchbacks, making it essentially a hike-a-bike section. We finally topped out at around 5,000' at the best overlook of the ride, Macduff or McLennen , depending on who you ask. Technically McLennen is correct, but a historical plaque for Nelson Macduff is located there, creating lots of confusion as well as some controversy. I'll let you decide what you want to call it, and if you're interested, here is an old newspaper article which goes into greater detail:

The scoop

Regardless of what it's called, it offers a great view for all your hard work. At this point we were both pretty hungry so we also used it as our lunch spot. With the high clouds hiding the sun, the temps were a little cool to stay for too long.

A quick climb to the overlook

Emily enjoys the best view of the ride

The misplaced plaque

From this point on the trail becomes much easier, with a nice clear path that contrasts with the first half of the ride. Furthermore, it's almost all downhill from here, excluding a couple of short ups. It should be noted that at one point you'll come out onto a road which you'll need to ride for a ways before you jump back onto the trail -- just keep your eyes open for where it drops off to the left. A couple sections of the descent are actually pretty steep with tight switchbacks and pitches that will have you sitting on your back tire. The last major pitch reminds me quite a bit of the ones on Eula, and is probably my favorite part of the O'Leary trail. Soon we could see Cougar Reservoir through the trees, signaling that we were almost to the Castle Rock intersection.

Starting our descent after a quick lunch break

Emily checks out the rock work by the CCC

More great mountain atmosphere

Some steep switchbacks on the descent

This section is a lot steeper than
this photo would have you think

A view of Cougar Reservoir through the trees

More descending...

...and great scenery

Once we reached the intersection we made a hard right onto the Castle Rock Trail. This is actually a 3-way intersection which is signed incorrectly, just make sure you head northeast. This trail was in great shape, and much better than last year, thanks to some young trailwork volunteers. It does climb gradually over its 2.5 mile length, but it's almost unnoticeable.

The Castle Rock trail intersection.
Don't let the signs lead you astray.

Somewhere on the Castle Rock trail

Soon we reached the road that climbs up toward Castle Rock and is used as an access road for the King Castle Trail, and as stated before, one of the best descents in the state. The only thing that stood between us and this beautiful piece of singletrack was "The Demoralizer", a name I've given to this steep section of the road which seems to beat me down a bit every time I ride it. I was pretty glad that we weren't planning to do the top section, which would have added another 800' or so of climbing. Don't get me wrong, it's worth it if you're not already too beat-down.

One last climb up The Demoralizer

The ride down King Castle only took us about 10 to 15 minutes -- in comparison to the earlier day's riding it felt like a sidewalk, with a buffed surface and banked corners to rail. You can build up some scary speed on this one, but it's fairly wide open so there is little risk of scaring hikers in most places; however, there are some blind corners to be aware of. By the time we reached the car we had been out for almost 6 1/2 hours and built up quite an appetite. We quickly loaded up and headed back to Eugene for some good ol' Thai food.

This trail needs to be ridden more often to break it in. If not for the first part being so rugged it would be one of the more classic rides in the area. Even so, it's still a great trail, with some interesting history, amazing rock work by the CCC, and excellent scenery. Go check it out for yourself and be ready for a workout!

Tracks from our ride:

And, our tracks from the full Olallie / O'Leary Epic, recorded on a latter ride:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pemberton (8.23.11 & 8.24.11)

Although Emily and I have been going to Squamish/Whistler to mountain bike for our last five anniversaries, we had never before ridden in Pemberton. It was only within the last few years that I had heard that the XC biking was superb there and rivaled that of Squamish. With that bit of news we decided that this year we needed to check it out for ourselves. A quick search online uncovered a really nice pdf map of the trails in the area allowing me to do some pre-planning.

Trail map for Pemberton. You can find the .pdf here, but make sure you
purchase the printed one on waterproof paper once you hit the trails.
It can be picked up at Pemberton Bike Co. and is well worth it!

It was now the 3rd day of our nine-day trip. Day one had us following one of our favorite routes in Whistler, which combines the Lost Lake/Zappa Trails, Cut Yer Bars, Emerald Forest, and A River Runs through It. (my ride report from last year can be found here). We actually sat out the second day due to a big storm that dropped 2” of rain in the area, which I had no desire to ride in. This ended up being just fine since it allowed us to relax and tour Squamish a bit as well as get in a quick hike to Shannon Falls. One of our stops was to the Home Depot to pick up a large blue tarp (aka the Oregon Flag) to cover our other one that was erected to provide shelter at camp, but had saturated through. Luckily this would be our only day of rain, and the sky actually cleared up that night.

Shannon Falls

Sportin' the Oregon Flag

Starry night at camp in Squamish

With the new (3rd) day, the sunshine returned, which did a good job of rejuvenating our spirits. After packing everything we needed for a day’s ride, we headed north ~60 miles to the town of Pemberton for some good ol’ shreddin’. Before hitting the trails we decided to stop by and get some additional beta and ensure we rode the best of them. It was good that we did, since we had planned to ascend the gravel road, which would have been a mistake since supposedly the road was pretty rough and there were some really good climbing trails.

Once at the parking lot near the trailhead, we geared up under the shadow of Mount Currie, one of the tallest peaks in the area and quite a spectacular backdrop. There were also a few more groups getting ready to ride, who further provided us with some good local beta. Now that we were all set-up, we saddled up and headed out on our ride.

As recommended, we rode along a dirt road that paralleled the train tracks until we came to our first bit of singletrack, Happy Trail. True to its name it ended up being a super sweet climb with more rideable switchbacks than you could count. As we made our way up the hill we were also given multiple views of Mount Currie, lots of other mountains, and the Pemberton Valley.

The parking lot with Mount Currie partially covered in clouds

Somewhere on Happy Trail

Emily rounds one of many switchbacks

A nice view from Happy Trail

Soon we reached the intersection with the Waco Connector trail, which provided the legs with a little bit of a break before another steep climb on another trail called Nimby. Basically Nimby felt like an extension of Happy Trail, as the switchbacks continued one after another until we had literally rounded 95 to 100 of them by the time we reached the top -- no exaggeration! Along with the dizzying amount of turns in the trail, there were also lots of fun technical features to keep us entertained. We eventually reached another intersection with the trail “Let it Go”, which headed northwest toward a paragliding launch sight, and what we hoped would be a good view. As we got close to our summit goal, the trail began to fork multiple times with no markings. Although we assumed we’d eventually find our way, we decided we were done climbing and were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor, a ~2,000’ descent!

A helpful cairn guides the way up Nimby

Bob Gnarly, one of the cross trails.

A ladder bridge on Nimby

More switchies

Another great view from up higher

Climbing toward the paragliding launch site on Let it Go.

The plan was to ride back down Let it Go, then ride a connector trail over to Mackenzie FSR to access Overnight Sensation. Once we had descended Overnight Sensation, we would review our options of getting back down to the car. The payoff for all our climbing didn’t last long, for after about ¼ mile of downhill, I was tossed over the bars by a root positioned at handlebar level that decided to grab ahold. The result was some minor bumps and bruises -- however, my bike did not fare as well and I ended up with a rim that looked more like a strand of DNA.

Is it supposed to look like this?!

After verbalizing my displeasure of the situation, I gave in to the inevitable and began my hike out. Luckily the connector trail to the road wasn’t too far away, and after a couple of miles of pushing my bike in the wheelie position, we reached Mackenzie FSR. Since Emily had the only functioning bike and she wasn’t too sure about her navigation skills, I saddled up the undersized bike, maxed out the suspension, and made my way down the rugged dirt road. It was actually a little sketchy as the dirt roads in BC are not nearly as smooth as the ones in Oregon. I pretty much felt like I was on the edge of control on a little clown bike. Finally I made it to the car without tweaking another rim, which I was sure was going to happen. I quickly loaded up the bike and drove back up to pick up Emily, which really tested the suspension the Suby.

At least there was a good view on the ride down the dirt road...

Since we had been coming up to BC to bike for many years now, I knew that 29’ers were not very common, so thinking ahead I had decided to bring an extra wheelset from home. Talk about forward planning actually working out and preventing a big trip buster! With that, we headed back to camp so I could setup the new wheel and ready my bike for the following day, where we would return to finish what we started in Pemberton.

A view of the Squamish valley on the drive back to camp

The next day we drove to the same parking lot as we had the previous day, although the sky was completely clear and the sun was shining bright. We had decided to only climb Happy Trail and Waco Connector, and instead of climbing up Nimby we’d head over to the trails by Mosquito Lake to see what they were all about. Once we got over to that area it became abundantly clear that my ability to put together a quality route using only the map wasn’t very good. Basically it felt like we were either riding the trails in the wrong direction or they were really overgrown, bordering on decommissioned.

We had started on a trail called Radio Tower which led southeast off the dirt road we had been on. This ended up being a great little trail until we reached a point were it started to climb up an unrideable series of pitches (at least for us). Next we went up Dark Forest, which ended up being more of the same. From here we took a quick traverse back to the dirt road we had previously been on. After a quick study of the map we decided to head up to Chair Traverse and Log & Rock, which were the overgrown trails and not much fun. My lack of map reading prowess then had us going up No Err, which is supposed to be a down trail. At this point we decided to cut our losses and start heading back toward the car. We had been told by locals that Cream Puff was an excellent trail and a good means of doing so. After a quick ride up another dirt road and Econoline, we reached Cream Puff, our descent back to the car.

Emily on Radio Tower

Somewhere on Log & Rock

Cream Puff ended up being a really fun trail, and I'm sure riding it in the correct direction helped out quite a bit. The trail was rated as a black diamond, which felt pretty accurate. I was able to ride a majority of it including some really fun granite pitches, but there were also spots I shouldered my bike to avoid destroying another rim (or myself for that matter). The views from this trail were also spectacular, with great panoramics of Mount Currie and some local farms. The trail finally deposited us at some train tracks, which we used to traverse along the base of the mountain back to the parking lot.

Cream Puff!

Emily takes in the view on Cream Puff

Finishing up a fun granite pitch on Cream Puff

The author takes his turn

A granite sidewalk

Emily rails the corner on Cream Puff

More good views near the bottom...

...and slickrock!

At this point is was still relatively early, and there was certainly enough time for another ride. We decided that we would head into town, get a quick bite to eat, fill up on water, and head over to the One Mile Lake trails. We'd actually gotten some beta on this area and were told to ride in a counter-clockwise direction following the signs for "Lumpy's". Located just south of town it was easy to find the parking area on the southwest side of the lake.

Even though I never saw it specifically signed, "Narin One Mile" was the trail we started on, at least according to our map. It was actually pretty technical with a lot of ups and downs along the way. I was starting to feel pretty pooped at this point and my legs were a little jello-y, which made the techie stuff a lot more difficult than it probably needed to be. Finally we reached "Lumpy's Epic", which started off with a pretty difficult climb, but luckily it wasn't too long. Once we reached the summit we had a choice between taking K2, the shorter route, or continuing around the backside along Lumpy's. We decided upon the latter hoping to get some more nice views of Mount Currie, and we weren't disappointed. This part of the trail reminded me a lot of some of the sections of Comfortably Numb, with a mix of technical features and fun granite slickrock along the side of a mountain. The trail eventually descended down to an easy path that we used to ride toward & along the lake, and back to the car.

Narin One Mile

A view of Mount Currie...

...and another

It had been a pretty full day, and I was super glad that we managed to get quite a bit of riding done in Pemberton, even with our slight setback the day before. I'm certainly excited to explore this area more next year, and hopefully we can become as familiar with it as we are with Squamish and Whistler, so we can put together a better linkup of quality trails.