Wednesday, June 26, 2013

the cabin

Sometimes you don’t know when a perfect summer vacation is going to happen.  Scheduling, planning and syncing dates with your friends sometimes really gets in the way of making epic trip aspirations happen.   When my buddy Nathan invited me down to his family’s cabin near Mt Hood, I knew I pretty much had to drop everything and commit.  Situated in Zigzag, just a short bit up the road from Sandy Ridge trails, and a few miles short from Government Camp, there was a lot of shredding to be had.  His wife was out of town and the kids were to be dropped off at grandma’s down in Portland along the way;  = two bikes, two bros, three nights, four days and a cabin in the woods.

Upon friday evenings arrival, the bourbon and beers were cracked and games of old saw blade darts were thrown. 

and of course, a little klunking action back down from the well access trail was in order as well.

 Awaking in a national forest to sunny weather and the smell of bacon cooking downstairs, with the sandy ridge trail system on the agenda, was nothing short of vacation perfect-ness.   The amount of cars parked at the sandy ridge trailhead was impressive.  Road ride up, then an outside counter clockwise loop was our goal.  Once starting out on “communication breakdown” trail, the led zeppelin track was surely running through my head, as well as jim’s llmtn edit with said soundtrack.  But there wasn’t any orange soil here, this was deep forest, with technical rock and root, and upon reaching the high point, killer views...

We started the descent and immediately went into jedi mode.  Reaching “quid pro flow”, we discovered the trail builders had turned that old forest road grade into a singletrack slalom course, designed to consistently go up the left side to over and up the right side with little hip jumps thrown in all along the way, bad ass!  Upon hitting “three thirty eight” we ducked into a slight ascent with beautiful woods and oxalis ground cover.

which brought us to the point that I had been anxiously anticipating all along, the top of “two turntables and a microwave”.  I had watched some youtube videos of this trail and was stoked to have a “put your seat ALL the way down” kinda run.  She was pinned and flying, should have brought some goggles.  She wasn’t smooth and buff either, it was rocky and challenging, especially on the old chameleon.  Lots of high-speed close encounters with trees and my pinch flat well deserved at the bottom couldn’t take the smiles off of our faces.  We had only the last half of “hide and seek” trail left back to the parking lot.  The slits from the “snake-bite” style pinch flat that I had were just barely less wide than the width of the patches that I used to fix them.  I knew it was a gamble, but I figured even a slow leaky situation would be enough to get back to the car.  We started down, when we realized we were in bermed corner descent heaven.  Five or so minutes went by when I started to notice some squish from my rear tire.  How long could I ride on it?, would I make it to the car?, as it got squishier and squishier.  The berms started to not be as fun; as I felt my rear tire on verge of folding underneath the g-force berm hits (i hate the people that ride way too low psi for this reason).  We finally hit the last road crossing, and I decided to descend that last bit on asphalt, which was a good thing as it literally became un-ridable JUST as I reached the bottom...  Perfect timing and awesome ride!!!

Later that afternoon, after a fresh tube change, we were going to head up to Mt Hood.  The NWCUP was taking place at skibowl, so we opted to head up to timberline lodge for a little exploration, only to find large patches of snow in the woods 2/3rds of the way up, which made us call off our larger loop.  Sitting up in the high alpine, we enjoyed our sandwiches and energy bars as we looked across the valley to views of the skibowl. 

Knowing that we were missing all of the action, team tents and downhill rigs that were in attendance gave us an even greater feeling of peace and solitude as we sat on the meadowed slopes just near timberline lodge.

Waking up to rain the next morning - and the smell of bacon -, put a slight damper on the mood, but todays agenda had the syncline’s slightly eastward and more promising weather forecast in our benefit.

Driving through the dark clouds that enshrouded Mt Hood didn’t take away from the scenic beauty of that region, such a stellar mountain.  As our drive started its descent north the rain let up and we started seeing some mtn biker activity.  We realized we were in the Dog River Trail area, but we put that on the list for next time as the weather looked better and better as we approached Parkdale.  The vineyards and fruit orchards there were a welcomed sight, as we anticipated our approach of a sunnier and warmer “east of the cascades” climate.  Indeed, upon arrival in Hood River, looking west saw mass rain clouds and looking east saw clearing skies.  The magic of the Syncline was laying in wait, the slight overcast looked promising as we arrived at the trail head.  Nathan pulled into a spot pretty close to an edged drop off and remarked, before even getting out of the car, “John- don’t fall down into the poisen oak patch!”, his plant savvy was dead on, as we discovered lots and lots of said plant covering the bank.  We later discovered it all over the mountain, especially filling in the ground cover underneath all of the oak tree groves, and we were both wearing shorts and not very long socks:(

First time there, and not knowing any better, we rode up Courtney rd to the very top of the shuttle-able drop in point. 

There were a few sprinkles along the way, but once we hit singletrack, the day was ours.  2000+ feet of meadow filled scenic nirvana fastness awaited us, stoke time for sure.  “Crybaby” is the name of the first trail we hit off of the “Atwood rd” grade, and I immediately started implementing the verb form of that name.  I’m sorta vertigo-ish and was crying over how close the trail came to the cliff’s edge.  My brake levers were being held not by one finger, but by a full fingered death grip, with my left foot dragging through the top sided grass.  I was glad we chose on that day to take the most outer clockwise loop down, as we soon veered left, away from the cliff side trail over to somehow find the “Hidden Valley” trail.  This network of trails lacks trail name signage, but doesn’t lack lots of detours through private property cattle ranches, with turns and options that weren’t on the three different maps that I had brought.  We were lucky to actually figure out and get to the top of “Hidden Valley”. 

The term “bombing descent” didn’t quite fit the “Hidden Valley” descent.  It was more like a big game of  “don’t try to look out across the gorge valley views while riding the rock filled super technical sections; try not to let my legs swath the many, many poisen oak patches and try to focus on riding rather than trying to conceptualize the life changing experience I was going through.  The place is magic, with a hands down wow factor the whole way.  

That night after getting back to the cabin, Nathan insisted that we tromp through the pouring down rain (only about a ¼ mile away) to partake in the mandatory “cabin staying pilgrimage to visit 'The Sykway' restaurant and bar."

Good CALL! - as good people, a killer live band, good vibes, cold drinks and great food extruded from that place.  I would highly recommend it if you are ever in the area... 

Somewhere in that awesome nights drunken conversation, the thought that our existing plan to hit either the plains of abraham or yacolt burn on the way home would definitely be way rainy.  Fuck it! we thought, let’s instead go back to the syncline, HELLZ YES!, and high fives were given:)  I’m going to shut up now and let monday’s even more sunny epic ride’s pictures tell the rest of the story. 

 All hail “The Cabin”...

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