Monday, October 25, 2010

French Pete Trail Backpacking Trip

Well, well, well.  Another week, another trip to tell you about.  I am afraid this dog won't run much longer but let's keep it going while we can!

Graham, Jake, and I took another trip last Wednesday to the Three Sisters Wilderness.  We spent quite a bit of the morning procrastinating around the house but finally got my backpack and other gear loaded around lunchtime.  We headed out of Springfield to the east toward Cougar Reservoir.  After a quick stop at the McKenzie Ranger District's office we were off to check out the French Pete Trail (#3311) along the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, a beautiful 60 mile segment between McKenzie Bridge and Blue River to the north and Oakridge to the south.  I'd been on the Aufderheide many times before but had always buzzed right by the French Pete trailhead.  I knew from years past that there was a bridge somewhere along the trail (which goes over French Pete Creek) that had been washed out and so that usually deterred me from stopping to hike.  It being the very end of the dry weather from the summer, however, made me confident that whatever was left of the creek wouldn't be too menacing to ford.
Aufderheide Scenic Byway

After arriving at the TH, I was delighted to see not a single other car in the parking lot.  I let the dogs out of the car off leash (rare that I do this at the TH) and they seemed to know that we were in for a great hike and camping trip.  They ran around like lunatics for the five minutes or so it took me to ready my gear.  Once the pack was donned, we were off to explore new sights!

French Pete Creek
Oregon's State Flower

One of two log crossings

Vine Maple leaf

The trail is only open to hikers (horses are strongly discouraged) and being that it's a wilderness area, bikes are a no-no also.  The trail was heavily used from the car until about the second mile of hiking, then it became a nice mushroom-lined path that paralleled the creek below us.  Graham and Jake loved taking any opportunity to run to the water and take a quick swim.  We made good time hiking and by about 4:30 in the afternoon we were at would become our campsite.  The river was about 150 feet from the trail which was perfect, all the wonderful sounds from the flowing water were in the background and the dogs were happy to stay close to me and out of the water (so we could all be dry when bedtime came).  It's been a while since I've camping in such a beautiful spot.  Judge for yourself:
Our campsite

I put up the tent while the dogs chased each other and I arranged my bedding.  I knew that it was much too early to start dinner so we hiked another 1/2 hour down the trail to explore.  I got a few great shots here due to the lighting and was happy I spent the extra time walking, especially without my heavy backpack!

After returning from our outing I started dinner, some leftover tuna casserole from home and a spinach salad.  After I had my fill it was time to feed the dogs...and boy were they ready!  Something about being in the woods makes all three of us particularly hungry I have found.  With the three of us happily stuffed I debated about what to do next.  It was about 6:00 and light was fading quickly in the western sky.  I opted for the tent and we piled in.  I was very happy the dogs were dry- though the tent is HUGE they insist on sleeping on top of me and I really don't like wet dogs on my stuff.

Last of the day's light
I played a bit of solitaire (never did win) while the dogs figured out their sleeping arrangements.  After a while I became bored and decided early or not it was time to sleep.  We were all three out quickly, enjoying the kind of tired that comes easily when tromping through the wilderness.  I slept pretty well but woke up about 9:00 for the requisite bathroom break.  I noticed when my head returned to the pillow that the moon was rising, casting the last of the maple leaf shadows on the tent near my head.

I woke around 5:00 or so, and noticed that the shadows were now at the other end of the tent as they followed the setting moon.  A few hours later I awoke, ready to start the day.  Graham and Jake got fed first this time, and I wasn't very hungry so I just had some fruit.  We broke camp quickly and by 8:30 we were back on the trial, heading to the car.

I ended up hiking about 10 miles total over the trip and loved nearly every minute of it.  There were two log bridges that I had to cross, both of which made me nervous about falling in the creek below.  The trial was nice in most spots, but at times became surprisingly steep and thin.  There were more mushrooms on this trip than on any I've ever been on, averaging about one every 4 or 5 feet I would wager.  Also the fall leaves here were at their peak and I took full advantage of my new camera to shoot the colors.  The dogs and I returned to town and unpacked the gear (they watched, I unpacked), content knowing that even a short trip to the woods is better than no trip at all...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Little Cowhorn Mountain Lunch

Claire, Scott, Emily & I went for a hike a week or so ago and I wanted to share our trip.  We went to a trail that leads to Little Cowhorn Mountain, in the Willamette National Forest.  The rain was relentless, but we didn't mind too much.
After we started on the trail we noticed that there were a lot of mushrooms out.  We saw many varieties including our favorite, Chanterelles which make for wonderful eating.  These are NOT Chanterelles in the photo, but it's the best shot I got that day of any mushrooms.
 The woods looked nice, as they usually do when it's raining out...misty, quiet, and isolating.
  The trail was short, only about 1.5 miles in length total.  The elevation is about 4,000' so usually you get a wonderful view at the top...that day it was simply too cloudy.
  The lookout cabin at the top of the peak provided a great spot to shed our rain gear and have lunch.  The dogs stayed outside while we ate, played a game of cribbage and relaxed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oakridge Mountain Bike Trip

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Hello friends!

Yesterday, October 14th, was a special day for me and my mountain biking hobby.  A friend of mine, Arthur, who is a VERY skilled cyclist took me on a trip to Oakridge to do some mountain biking.  I've gone in the past to places like Goodman Creek and the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail (MRT), but I'd never rolled over the dirt in Oakridge until this trip.  Billed as the "Mountain Bike Capital of the Northwest", I knew that Oakridge had a lot of trails to explore via two wheels but I had no idea at the quality of the riding until yesterday.

Arthur and I decided to take advantage of a great service when we got to town.  A company there by the name of Oregon Adventures provides guided trips but also has a shuttle service that prevents the masochistic need to ride up the gravel road to begin each route.  I had previously won a gift certificate for Oregon Adventures so it was obviously the route I wanted to use to get to the top of the mountain!  The owner of the business, Randy, was one of the first enthusiasts to really get the Oakridge trail system going for mountain bikers and his enthusiasm for riding was obvious when I met him earlier this year at a conference.  I felt while getting in the van to start our drive to the trail that there was more than one reason he was responsible for my mountain biking adventure that I was about to have.

The route that Arthur and I rode was the Alpine Trail, a 15 mile route that is the crown jewel of Oakridge-area mountain biking.  This trail is fast, varied, and incredibly scenic to boot so I knew from the webpage that I would be in for a real treat.   What I didn't know, though, was how much I would enjoy the ride with Arthur.  I expected to have fun, but he was the perfect person to take me down this trail the first time, always bombing down a steep path in front of me providing ample motivation to follow.  At other times he'd be calling out "switch" or "heads up" just in time for me to change gears or navigate a hairy turn.  Arthur's patience was also incredibly forgiving, as I lost my chain multiple times and often had to walk up the steepest parts of the trail due to poor planning or lack of gumption.

The trail description from the previous paragraph's link can tell you all about the Alpine Trail's attributes but I got so much more out of the trip that I didn't expect.  I was very nervous when we started due to the trail being a brief 1/4 mile uphill right off the bat.   I remember thinking about how I should have prepared better by riding more before today's trip.  Next, as we flew through the Jedi section of the ride I remember thinking, all I want to do when we get to the bottom of this ride is give Randy a huge hug (I think the adrenaline was doing funny things to my brain)!  I was stoked at the wonderful views afforded from the trail and also at the fact that 90% of the trail was downhill...I was in mountain biking heaven for those two hours.

After finishing the Alpine Trail, we still had a four mile ride back to town where our car was parked, so we hopped on the pavement for a bit and connected to our next trail.  The last section was very different from the Alpine Trail but still enjoyable.  The terrain went from steep, conifer-lined dirt to a mostly flat and rocky, river-view path with lots of maple leaves on the ground.  The difference was dramatic and provided yet another reason I love Oregon- diversity in nature.  Arthur navigated our way back to Oakridge and we headed back down the mountain to Springfield, enjoying a well-earned beer and bite to eat at one of our local breweries.  Perfect end to a perfect day?  I'll say!

Check out our trip route and detailed summary here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Goodman Creek Mountain biking

Hi folks!  It's been a while since I've posted but I've been busier at work (boo) and have also been busily reading the house for winter (yay!).  In the meantime, Graham, Jake, and I went to a wonderful place called Goodman Creek a few times last week to explore the single-track mountain biking trail there.  Here's the website for the trail.
The very green forest
The Goodman Creek Trail is in the Willamette National Forest just about 25 miles from my front door.  I loaded up the dogs and we quickly got out of the valley, which was filling with low clouds and fog.  The trail itself is only about four miles in length, so I make a loop of the area that connects a parallel road with the trail.  I almost always ride up the steep gravel for about three miles, then race down the single-track awesomeness for four miles.  Not a bad deal considering  the best part of my mountain bike rides is the downhill!
Graham checking out the tall grass
 On our way up the gravel road, the dogs had a lot of energy and played rambunctiously as I huffed along, dragging my body up the path.  I was tired after about two miles and the dogs still were running at a good clip, always ready to run faster if I would only speed up.  I was jealous to put it nicely.

Once at the top of the road where the trail met back up, we took a quick break and the dogs got a drink from my water supply.  We all panted and huffed for a few minutes before diving off into the woods to ride and run the trail back downhill.  This is always my favorite part of the trail because I know that most of the work is done.  At this point it's switchbacks, some rocks and roots to jump over, a few uphills, and then I'm done.
Great section of the trail with leaves on the ground.
 After about two miles or so we passed Goodman Creek itself and took a break.  The dogs played in the water as I took off my very sweaty pack and relaxed for a few minutes.  At this point, the dogs were starting to become more tired than I was.  Finally!  We had a quick photo shoot and then back on the bike to finish the trail.

Graham (left) and Jake (right) panting away.
 We had a great day here and I expect that it was the last time we'll mountain bike Goodman Creek in 2010.  The rains have started this week and the trail is simply too muddy now to run safely or ethically as it tears up the path to ride on it when it's wet.  Good memories were made on this trip and I'm sure that Graham and Jake have no idea how spoiled they are.  Shouldn't we all be so lucky?
Tired and sweaty at the finish!