Friday, August 15, 2014

Youngs Rock Trail, OR (aka Moon Point)

Moon Point is one of my favorite descents in the Willamette National Forest -- with a mixture of tight switchbacks, steep pitches, and open sightlines to build up some serious speed. The name itself is sort of a misnomer, since most of the ride is actually on the Youngs Rock Trail, which forks off about one mile from the start of the singletrack. Whatever the reason, Moon Point has stuck and is usually how it's identified by the locals and even in the guidebooks.

I try and do this ride at least once a year, but it had been a few since I'd done it; therefore, it was one of the first things that came to mind when my wife (Emily) asked what I wanted do on Saturday. She was game, but surprisingly we weren't finding many other takers. Em was able to convince her good friend and endurance race training partner (Erin) to join, so I knew I'd have to bring my A game to keep up, or at the very least, not make them wait too much for me on the climb.

Since the temps were forecasted to be pretty warm the day of the ride, we decided to get a relatively early start, to beat the heat. From Eugene, it's about one and a quarter hours to the bottom of Youngs Creek Road (NF2129), which we'd be climbing to reach the upper trailhead. After quickly changing into our riding gear, we saddled up and settled into the long relentless climb. Basically, the road climbs with authority for about 7 miles, then flattens out for a mile or so, before another pitch takes you to the start of the trail. Although the road rarely lets up, the views of both Youngs Rock and Moon Point, as well as a small waterfall (courtesy of Youngs Creek), helped to distract from the suffering. The wildflowers and sporadic vistas along the roadside also made it a little more pleasant. As predicted, both Erin and Emily were in beast mode and left me in the dust, so I had to play a bit of catch up. They did wait for me in a few spots to regroup and probably make sure I hadn't blown a lung.

Startin' off the climb

Youngs Rock, looming in the background

Followed by Moon Point

A small waterfall on Youngs Creek, which can be found
off to the side of the road during the climb.

Looking back down the road
Where's the trail already?! Hey, look at the pretty flowers!

By the time we reached the Moon Point TH, it was ~12:30pm and the temperatures were still pretty pleasant, granted we were at just over 5,000'. We took a few seconds to relax and make some final adjustments to our bikes before heading up the trail. The first part of the singletrack has a little bit of climbing and is also a little overgrown, although not to the point that it's unenjoyable. In fact all the undergrowth adds to the beauty, which this top part has plenty of, especially as you pass by a few small meadows. After a mile or so, we reached a fork, with the right heading out to Moon Point and the left following Youngs Rock Trail, toward our car. Before starting our descent, we opted for a quick lunch stop at Moon Point, which was just a short ride and a quick scramble away. From the rocky vista, we noshed while taking in the view toward the west, were we could see some small fires that had been started by a recent lightning storm. Once we had gotten our fill (literally) we headed back to the intersection, this time turning onto the Youngs Rock Trail.

The singletrack begins

Emily, near the start of the trail

Some great meadows along the way!

Faint trail

Youngs Rock, from Moon Point

The view to the west, from Moon Point.

Pretty ladies

Emily and Erin heading back toward the trail intersection

Right out of the gate we had a short climb, but it eventually dropped over and started heading down, beginning with a few switchbacks between some short traverses. The first switchback was pretty easy to clean, but the next few were quite challenging, both from how steep they were as well as the trail being off-camber. I actually took a pretty good spill off the first lefthander, but I was able to get my head back in the game and make the next couple.

Starting the short climb up Youngs Rock Trail

Finally, the descent!

Erin rounds the first switchy


Not far below the series of tight switchbacks, the trail started a long traverse in the direction of Youngs Rock. At one point the trail became soaked and we had to ride through some shallow/rocky puddles, which were formed by Youngs Creek, as it ran down the mountain side. It was also at this point that the trail made a left bend and started up a short but rather steep pitch. I was almost able to grind it out, but I ended up with a "dirty dab" as I clipped out on the downhill side, only to find myself falling into a small/wet culvert. With the only thing damaged being my pride, I kicked the water from my shoes and hopped back on my bike, ready for some more downhill. As we wrapped around the back of Youngs Rock, we had to navigate a steep/loose scree slope, which can prove a bit sketchy if you drop in unknowingly with speed. There are also a few large boulders smack dab in the middle of the trail which will require a quick hike over, unless you can shred like Danny Macaskill.

Emily drops slowly down the Youngs Rock scree slide

Just below the scree, the trail made its way through another series of switchies, with these ones being much more forgiving. From this point on, we were treated to a steep fast descent, which alternated between tight forest settings and sun exposed meadows. The long sightlines allowed you to build up some nice speed, but the sun-beat trail was dusty and loose, so you had to hold back a bit in the turns -- in hindsight I wish I would have let some air out of my tires, to get a little more bite.

More fun switchbacks!

Emily finds some shade in the meadow section

Hooten, giving chase

More exposed trail

Too much fun!

Dropping back into the forest

This area also shows remnants of a forest fire and an oak savannah restoration project. With the lack of tree cover and since it's south facing, the temps can get pretty warm, especially in the middle of summer. I actually lost hydraulic brake pressure the last couple times I rode this trail, due to overheating from the warm temps and constantly being on the brakes to scrub speed.

Somewhere in the savannah restoration

Enjoying the ride

Nice sightlines!

After a couple of road crossings the trail drops down a rutted out section, forming sets of small natural drop-offs, which are actually quite fun for practicing wheelie-drops. Just below these stairs, the trail reenters the forest setting and continues for a short distance, before dropping down to the paved road and the end of the singletrack, which seemed way too soon. Now at the road, we had ~2 miles of pavement back to the car, which was uneventful but allowed us to talk and reminisce about a great day's ride!

Emily enters the stair step section

Erin, all smiles!

Parting thoughts:
Youngs Rock Trail (aka Moon Point) is a Oakridge classic and a must do if you're in the area and the season allows. It's certainly one of my personal favorites and I try to get on it at least once a year, unfortunately it doesn't always happen. A good workout on the climb, a nice viewpoint, and a sweet singletrack descent -- what else do you really need?!

The tracks from our ride:

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