Sunday, September 23, 2007

McKenzie River Trail

Saturday was my first ride on the famous McKenzie River Trail (MRT). BIKE magazine named the MRT one of the 10 best trails in their December 2004 issue, and I was excited to see why.

I heard about the ride on the DoD mailing list, and joined up. The DoDers have been good at showing me trails, and this was a great opportunity, especially since riding the MRT involves a shuttle. Nine of us met in Springfield to carpool: Candy and Steve, Laurie and Bianca (her dog :), Lee, Mike, Tim, Chris, Chris, and Chris (me).
Tim rode with me, on the 45 mile drive out to the bottom of the MRT, where we dropped one car. From there, the remaining cars drove another 20 miles up Hwy 126 to the top of the MRT.

We all saddled up, and headed out on the trail, primarily guided by Steve and Laurie (although I believe at least a few others had done the trail, and some had done parts).

About 10 feet into the trail, the stunning scenery starts. Right off we cross a bridge with a beautiful river and the beautiful color of the turning trees surrounding it. We jumped into the singletrack, and a short bit after, we're riding above a lake, again with just amazing scenery. We were barely even getting warmed up, and I was already wanting to stop every couple minutes to take pictures! This vibe was brought down a bit shortly thereafter when Mike broke his chain, for what would be the first of four times (yes, you read that right). Luckily he quickly fixed it, and we were off again.

Continuing on, was more stellar singeltrack - really fun stuff, great flow, super fun. A brief break next at Sahalie Falls, which is a really cool waterfall. It was hard to get a great photo of it, but was quite nice to see.

Bring On the Lava

The top half of MRT is known for it's lava sections of trail. This is a really killer, technical section of trail. Hands down this was my favorite length of trail. It's not as hard as somewhere like Grouse Ridge, but there are definitely a few tricky sections. I was able to ride everything, except I believe two or so tiny "climbs" (more like quick upturns in the trail). The lava took its toll on tubes though! We had several flats in the group during this section, and also found two people had tubes with tears at the valve stem of their spares. We wound up scrunching one of my 29er tubes into Tim's rear wheel.

I can't wait to get back to the MRT to ride the lava section again. While technical, everything still had a great flow to it, and you could really get after it. I was rocking this on my full rigid Niner, and just loving it! In my past cycling life, I would have thought I was nuts to ride a rigid, but the Niner particularly ripped it up through here. I survived without flatting, and couldn't wait for the rest of the trail.

Lunch at Blue Pool

Backing up a minute (got carried away thinking about such a great section)... A ways into the lava, we stopped at Blue Pool to eat. I sucked down a PB&J, while we waited for Mike who had stopped just a bit up the trail with a flat. I talked to Laurie while we hung out, and watched Bianca take after her (wink wink, Laurie). Mike had still not shown, so Lee walked back up to find him. This is when we found out his spare tube, had a rip at the valve stem, and then his pump broke! Dude was not having a good day, mechanically.

After the lava section, the trail turns more buff, and gets going faster. I was following Laurie for most of it. Laurie was spun out on her 29er single speed, with Bianca trailing close behind (man can that dog run!). We were pushing it nicely, and it's darn good I had someone in front of me to show the trail. We both could have gone faster (if Laurie had gears, and if I was being smart and knew the trail), but it was perfect as is. Somewhere along the way I think Mike broke his chain one or two more times. We were probably two-thirds of the way at this point.

The rest of the trail is pretty consistently super sweet, twisty, fast, flowing, fairly buff singletrack through the trees. We stopped occasionally to fuel up, and then got to a point where Mike broke his chain for the final time. He was about out of chain, and it was getting late. We had to send Mike out to the highway at this point. It was a bummer for him, but a good call.

Laurie and Bianca
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
Through the last sections of trail, it was gorgeous... The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the cool fall air had crept in. It cooled things down enough to rev up the goose bumps both from the cool air, and the great trail. This is the kind of ride that you really don't want to end. Ok, maybe stop for some monster burritos, then keep going.

After 5.5 hours on trail (although only about 2.5-3 ride time) we arrived back at the remaining car at the end of the trail. A really great ride, good company, and stunning scenery. The route (GPS data/info) was 25.5 miles, with about 1070' climbing, and 2700' descending. The drivers piled into Lauri's mobile, and retrieved the cars at the top. We all then hauled ass home, I'm guessing most of us thinking about what we'd ride next, or when we'd get to ride MRT again...

Full set of photos available here.

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