S.S.Litson's blog

On the singletrack with greatness...

What is the measure of greatness? Is it unmatched skills at an event or task? Is it a trophy case full of medals? Is it concurring a feat not thought humanly possible? Maybe each or all of them, but what if someone could do those things and still be humble enough to enjoy the company of relative mere mortals and just ride a friggin bike.

Saturday in the blistering summer heat nine of us joined a ride with ultra-endurance pro mountain bike rider Sonya Looney. The goal was to have a fun ride and learn some things about endurance mountain biking from a pro. Some of us met with her the night before at Hop Valley in Eugene to share a few pints and bs. Saturday morning was a fantastic breakfast at the Westfir Lodge and prep for the soon to follow ride.

We chose to shuttle up to Kate’s cut-in and head out to Chrome toilet. We arrived a bit past 11am and temps had already surpassed 80. It was going to be a long hot day. A quick loop around Chrome Toilet and back to Kate’s and we were back to Alpine and our trek to Tire. Smiles were everywhere because of the incredible hero dirt. Love riding OROR after a week of rain!

From dropping the old growth forest in tire to grinding back up the Windberry and North Shore Tie trails…this was an extreme test of endurance due to the heat. Some of us were bonking hard…but in the end we made it back to the Shiggy shack where ice cold Ninkasi awaited us.

It was a great day on the trails, spent with great people. Sonya may be a pro, but some of her greatness is not in her physical on bike abilities but more in how she is as a person. We all are great at something, and we all are people…so why not strive to be great people. If I took anything from her this weekend I hope it was that.

A trail for the little rippers

We mountain bikers love a trail that goes on for miles through lush forests, tests our skills, pushes our boundaries, takes us away from civilization yet is fairly close to home, and has scenic beauty right? I am sure each of us have that perfect trail in the back of our mind that we long to ride again and again. What if though you scaled that trail down in size…for say a 6 or 8 year olds skill and endurance level. What would that trail look like? Where would it be?

Well, my challenge as a father of three little shredders as of late has been just that. How to find a trail that will not only push my 11 year old and his growing abilities, yet also allow the 6 & 8 year old to enjoy the trail and gain confidence on a bike without getting discouraged because it was too difficult.

Well 13.5 miles west of the town of Monroe in a place called Alsea Falls I may have discovered such a place. I have been here many times passing through on the way to the coast. But never really to fully explore the trail system until Sunday.

Upon arrival I noticed a map marked by the BLM. To my surprise there is no equestrian designation anyplace on the map. While there is some hiker only trails, the distance is short and the vast majority of the trail system seems to be biker only or a small section shared with hikers.

This day however I chose not to ride but to hike instead to thoroughly check out this trail and relax in some much needed sunshine that blessed the valley Sunday. I parked my Subaru and started hiking and noticed right away that the ground was in great shape. Having just spent the day before in sloppy trail building conditions on Goodman / Eagles, it was amazing to not even see a hint of mud here.

On this trail that is maintained by the BLM and a voluntary youth core, you will eventually cross two large metal bridges that span the slow flowing Alsea River and five smaller wooden bridges that cross over the smaller tributary streams. There is a hundred or so foot board walk that crosses over a very marshy section, but on the approach and exit is completely dry.

The entire loop that I completed was approximately 3.9 miles and in it I gained a whopping 167’ of elevation. While most of the DOD faithful might find zero joy in that minuscule amount of climbing…if you have little 6 year old legs it is a big deal. Thankfully the trail is mostly flat and rolls up and down five feet here and twenty feet there. It gives the youngest rider the skills to look down the trail and prepare for the upcoming hill climb yet they are small enough that little kids can actually make it up and over and not be discouraged by failing the summit.  

While the trail system is mostly sanitized, it is not a sidewalk. There are occasional small roots to traverse, and the trail does meander through the forest as it ebb's and flows up and around the many trees.

There is plenty to do and see on this short section of trail as well. Most of it runs parallel to the Alsea River so you always have the gentle sound of water flowing in the background. It is my personal experience with young minds that learning the herbology of the forest is fascinating, so pointing out the many plants can be fun on the ride as well. Of the plants that call this trail home, there are ferns (Sword, Licorice, and Bracken), berries (Thimble Berry, Red Huckle Berry, and Oregon Grape), moist forest plants (False Lily of the Valley, Bleeding Heart, False Salomon’s Seal, and my kids favorite Skunk Cabbage), all tucked under the canopy of trees (Douglas Fir, Pacific Yew, Big Leaf Maple, and yes even the Vine Maple) dappling the rays of the sun on this voyage through the woods.

The parking lot for this system is paved and large enough for many users.  It has two double occupancy permanent pit toilets, a multitude of picnic benches and fire rings, as well as at least one spigot for running water. There is of course a small fee to use this area, but for the amenities I find it well worth it with the kiddos.

The waterfall is small falling maybe twenty feet vertical before turning into a slide of sorts that goes on for a hundred feet or so. You have to park your bike to view it, but it is a very short hike to the water’s edge and you can get right up and personal with this waterfall.

All in all I think I may have discovered the perfect mountain bike training trail for beginning youth mountain bikers. Four miles might not be enough for advanced kids, so encourage them to take another lap. But it may just be the right distance for some soon to be shredders waiting to get the confidence in their bike handling ability nailed down. I can’t wait to take my team of three there and spend a day in the forest, on bikes, enjoying a single track trail.

The Crown Jewel

Some people would say that the Crown Jewel is located far up forest roads 1910/1912 and is formally known by the name Alpine. While this would in fact be correct…I have another thought of what the term Crown Jewel is. I feel that the actions of the Disciples of Dirt in partnership with GOATS, USFC, and CCP has shown character in the face of certain adversities and that warrants in my mind the status of a “Crown Jewel” bike club.

Leading up to the annual 100 mile CCP race for instance, several teams of volunteers readied the course and made preparations for this event. Even when some disgruntled local “CAVE” people attempted to sabotage the event, the quick thinking of Chris and Scott made safe this event by notifying law enforcement instead of taking into their own hands this situation. The July 1 event was held in almost perfect race day conditions…however the trail was very muddy and some of the sections, even though properly prepared, were subjected to severe wear and in need of some serious help.

Almost immediately following the event, members from the conservation group Oregon Wild made a trip up to “survey the damage” done by the mountain bikers prior to their scheduled wild flower hike. Through an email OW reported, "I have to say I am pretty impressed it did not look worse after all the use and all the June rain. A testament to the maintenance work that goes into the place." While OW was satisfied with the trail conditions, we were not and so a work party was formed.

Through techniques learned at a recent IMBA training held at Whypass, we flagged a heavily damaged fall line section of Alpine for repair. The two local IMBA chapters, DOD & GOATS, along with CCP, USFC, and Oregon Adventures spent a weekend hauling rock, digging drainages, and closing off sections permanently to avoid further wear. Kevin and Benjamin brought up a Ditch Witch and two powered haulers and Randy hauled rock from the quarry to the trail head. Many of us cut trees, pealed bark, and created a permanent sustainable solution to this extremely problematic section of trail just below Windy Pass.

While all this work was going on, a large group of Oregon Wild hikers on their way to Tire Mountain stopped and gave thanks for all the hard work that was being performed by the mountain bike community. Following posts left on FB and the DOD website by those that have ridden Alpine in the weeks following this project, nothing but happy thoughts and experiences have been reported.

Hats off to all the hard work of dozens of people and to the sponsors that provide the needed tools. This trail and many more are still open today and in fantastic condition because of the dedication and hard work volunteers continue to put into them…so keep up the great work!!!

Now it's time to Let us Ride!!! 

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