Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mary's Peak, OR (7.15.12)

Mary’s Peak is one of my all-time favorite rides in Oregon. It's often overshadowed by the riding in Oakridge and other local classics such as the Mckenzie River Trail. In fact, I have friends that have been riding in this area for years and have never done it – what the %$#! With a fun climb and rippin’/technical descent, all in a spectacular forest setting of large Doug Fir; Ferns, there’s just no excuse for this.

Utilizing the East Ridge, North Ridge, and Tie Trail, there are a few different combinations for riding at Mary's. Probably the most popular option is to park at the bottom of the North Ridge Trail, traverse over to the bottom of the East Ridge Trail, climb it to the parking lot on top, and descend down the North Ridge back to the car. On a clear day, it's worth riding from the upper parking lot to the summit to take in the view – Mary’s is the tallest point in the coast range, which gives a great panoramic of the Cascades/Willamette Valley to the east, and the coast to the west. Unfortunately on this day the top was socked in with fog, so we didn’t even bother.

The crew for our ride would be four, 3 gals, me. I actually really enjoy riding with the girls, it’s all about just having a good time, none of the machismo B.S. gettin’ in the way. After everyone meeting at our house, we (with Karly and Kim) headed northwest toward Mary’s. The drive takes a little over an hour, and we parked at the bottom of the North Ridge trail at the end of Woods Creek Road. The forecast for the day was into the high 70’s, but that’s not what we found when we pulled into the parking lot. We were stuck in a cloud layer, where it was cold and misty – I thought it was mid-July for cryin’ out loud?!

After suiting up we started the traverse to the East Ridge parking lot. Although a traverse, it’s actually quite a bit of climbing (~1,000’ worth) and acts as a good warm-up for starting up the trail. It didn’t take long to warm-up and before long the weather turned from foggy to partly cloudy. Once we had finished the gravel road portion, we rested for a couple minutes while I made some adjustments to my seat position.

Kim and Emily climb over to the East Ridge Trail, from the Woods Creek parking lot

Jumpin' onto the trail

Like previously mentioned, the climb up the East Ridge Trail is quite fun, with only a couple short hike a bike sections. This section of trail is also the most popular with hikers, another reason why it’s better going up than down. We stopped at a few points along the way to session some of the tricky bits, which allowed me time to take some photos and rest my unconditioned lungs.

Lush forest setting

We encountered a couple of blow-downs along the way, but the trail was in great shape overall.

Lots of wild flowers along the way, including wild Iris

Emily rounds a tough switchy near the Tie Trail intersection

Karly takes her turn

Followed by Kim

The trail near the top offers some of the best forest scenery, the Doug Fir forest is nicely opened up and completely carpeted in fields of fern. As we neared the top parking lot, the fog moved in once again. Now at the lot and out of the shelter of the trees it felt like winter, with the mist and wind completely dampening any motivation to ride all the way to the summit. With that we rolled back under the forest canopy, only this time, down the North side of the mountain.

Emily leads the charge around another

The gals climbing the trail through the ferns

Hitting more pockets of fog near the top

One of my favorite spots on the mountain

Not a good day to summit for the view...

The first part of North Ridge trail was pretty sloppy, with standing puddles and soaked branches that acted like a drive-through carwash. We were also riding down through the cloud layer, which created some pretty cool lighting effects. Once we got past the intersection with the Tie Trail, it started to dry out a bit, and continued to do so the further we descended down the trail.

Karly and Kim on their way back down the mountain

The North Ridge / Tie Trail intersection

Before long the fog peeled back a bit and gave way to some sun breaks, once again creating some fantastic lighting -- I was really glad I had brought my camera after almost deciding against it. This was also the point where the highly technical root features presented themselves, and luckily they weren't too slippery. These roots are actually what make the North Ridge trail one of the most technically challenging in Oregon, and one of the main reasons I love it so much. You'd have to be a very skilled rider (and maybe have some trials background) to do the whole thing without dabbing -- for me, I just try and pick off a different drop each time I ride it, but there are some I'll probably never bag. The cool thing is that a lot of the trail is still fast and flowy, with the techie bits easy to walk over or around, making it accessible for intermediate riders as well. In other words, you can pretty much make it has hard as you want.

More switchbacks on the way down...

...more fog too

Karly rolls up on another walk around

Emily finds one of the many fun root drops

More cool lighting

One of tougher root sections -- rideable, but steep & technical

Dropping into my favorite switchback of the ride (photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Kim rails another root step

As we approached the bottom, I had one more quick stop, the log ride. Basically it's just a fallen log that has a built up entrance, is about 30' long, and has a wheelie-drop exit. Nothing too difficult or dangerous, but a fun way to end the ride and work on your skinny riding skills. My first attempt had me littering Snickers bars onto the ground (thanks for picking them up Kim!). Luckily for the girls, I made it on the second try and we were able to continue on, avoiding a prolonged session and bruised knees.

Entering the log (photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Emily nears the bottom

Now back at the car, the weather was beautiful, and nothing like we had left it -- we almost decided to do a second lap... Okay, not really. What a great day on the trail with ladies that shred! Once again I confirmed my love for this trail, I only wish it was just outside of Eugene instead of Corvallis.

The Forest Service Map

The tracks from our ride (via Emily):

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a beautiful trail, the kind us PNW'sters are use to riding in any kind of weather!