Since we were seeing some nice fall weather here in Central Oregon and the mountains were still without snow a buddy of mine and I decided to get one last epic ride in for the season. While I call this ride epic for me, it may not be so for others. As primarily a road rider, I do not get as many miles on the trails but I have been trying to get out more this fall. My friend Matt and I decided it would be fun to finally ride the Flagline Trail. This trail begins up by the NW base of Tumalo Mountain and traverses across the north slopes of the mountain. The trail is actually closed to riding until August 15thmaking for a very short riding season depending on the fall weather. Neither Matt nor I had ever ridden the trail so we decided to get out on the last weekend of October.
Our plan was not overly ambitious. We were going to get a ride up to the Dutchman Sno-Park by Matt’s wife and would start the ride there. We would ride out through Dutchman Flats to the Flagline Trail. Take that trail down to the Swampy Shelter and head down the South Fork Trail to Tumalo Falls. From the falls we would ride up North Fork Trail to Happy Valley and then down the Mrazek Trail to our shuttle car in Shevlin Park. All told the ride was going to be around 33 miles of mostly downhill, so we thought.
We headed up in the middle of the day to allow some time for the weather to warm up. It was forecasted for a great day but when we arrived at the trailhead it was 45 degrees, windy and cloudy. We were up at 6,300 ft and across the street from the Mt. Bachelor ski area so I guess that was to be expected. It has obviously rained a little up high the night before as the trail and surrounding trees were much wetter than down in town. The Dutchman trail was a fun start to the ride with tight corners and lots of little trees. Once through the flats we had to start climbing up to the trailhead. Neither of us expected this climb as it was steep and much longer than it looked on the map. Funny thing is that I have hiked this area several times in the snow but it was different on a bike. We eventually topped out at just below 7,000 feet and had to take a break to let our sunglasses defog, I was generating so much heat that my anti-fog coating on my sunglasses could not keep up. After this break we finally began the downhill section of the Flagline Trail.
I had heard so much about the Flagline Trail I had pretty high expectations going into it. The trail itself was a bit bumpy this late in the season which would throw off my rhythm from time to time. The trail traverses its way down the hill with a good mix of roots and rocks for obstacles. Lower down the trail it got smoother and faster and we really enjoyed the section right above the Swampy Shelter. By the time we reached the shelter the sun had finally broke through the clouds and it was much warmer. We took a short break eating some Halloween candy and headed down the South Fork Trail. We both had ridden the South Fork just the weekend before and were able to bomb down it this time. This trail has lots of roots and is very bumpy. I would just lean back and ride down over the bumps the best I could, generally in control but not all the time. There are a couple jumps and small drops you can hop off while descending and the trail definitely keeps your attention the whole way. Upon reaching the small bridge at the bottom we stopped for a second to let the feeling come back into our arms as they were tingling by this point. The rest of the trail to Tumalo Falls is less steep and a bit more rolling. There are a couple rocky sections but for the most part it is pretty tame.
We stopped at Tumalo Falls to take a couple pictures and a small break before tackling the North Fork Trail. This trail is an uphill only trail along the creek that climbs up to Happy Valley. The trail is 4 miles long and climbs 1100 feet for an average grade of 5.2%. The North Fork Trail is a great trail to climb. The trail itself is relatively smooth and gradually steps up with a mix of steep sections and flat sections. Also along the trail there are several unnamed waterfalls along the creek to divert your attention from the pain of climbing. On the way up we passed several groups of hikers out to see the same waterfalls. Entering into Happy Valley there are several little water crossings that are bridged. The first couple were not an issue but the last one ended up leaving its mark. The bridge itself was unremarkable, a two foot tall log crossing the last little creek. As I rode across it was no big deal but at the drop off someone had slid the middle logs to the side leaving only two with a foot and a half gap between them. When I came down off the bridge my front wheel just stuck between the logs and I ended up just balancing on my front wheel trying not to go over. Well, eventually I lost the battle with gravity and over the handlebars I went. The fall itself was not too hard, the ground was packed mud and splat I went. When I went over I managed send my computer flying and hit my ankle hard on the bars. After a couple minutes and a picture, we were on our way and looking forward to the descent down the Mrazek Trail.
First we had to traverse a little bit on the Metolius-Windigo Trail. This trail is a bit of up and down through the trees and in the recent weeks several must have fallen because we had to lift the bikes over a couple. The Mrazek trail is 14 miles of swooping trail with jumps and the occasional obstacle. The trail was much smoother than the Flagline Trail and a blast to descend. The best section I felt was a straighter section with a couple small jumps where you could carry some speed and get some air. The Mrazek trail is so long that you actually start in the trees, go through the old bridge creek burn, and finish with a section trough open Manzanita bushes. It was by far my favorite part of the ride. The last section into Shevlin Park is a technical section of rock and tight turns. Once through that and down by the creek in Shevlin Park the trail traverses the western canyon wall to the parking area at the entrance. This section is fast and smooth and in no time we were at the entrance. After 33 miles and 4 hours of riding we were happy to be done but also had a blast. A good way to end the season in the high country. I definitely would recommend these trails as they all were a bit different and a lot of fun to ride. As always, your mileage may vary.
- Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration Pack – A solid MTB pack. Holds a bunch of stuff and 100 oz of water.
- Pearl Izumi Launch MTB Shorts – Stretchy and comfortable, they seem to run large though.
- Pearl Izumi Barrier LS Baselayer – Great for blocking the wind up high. I took it off at Tumalo Falls.
- Pearl Izumi Attack LS Jersey – Nice basic jersey, everyone can see me in it.