Archive for the ‘off road bike trails’ Category

Matt and I have just returned from riding the Weiser River Trail in southwest Idaho.  The trail ends in the small town of Weiser (wee-zur), Idaho on the Snake River near Ontario, Oregon.  This trail is the longest unpaved multiuse rail to trail in Idaho- 85.7mi.  We completed nearly the entire trail in 3 days.  You can learn more about the Weiser River Trail in Falcon Guides Best Rail Trails Pacific Northwest

True to our ethic of downhill-downwind bicycling, we began our journey at the northernmost trailhead, West Pine, just south of New Meadows, Idaho. 

not a fun surface and highway to right

I wouldn’t recommend starting there unless you simply must travel every mile of the entire trail as a point of honor.  This part of the trail is not completed yet and has very rough and uneven terrain. 

unimproved trail surface

gravel road-hated it

A section has been detoured onto a dirt road with the resultant hill climbing over loose gravel and ruts.  Not pleasant!

The switch from the road to the trail again is not well marked.  I was riding ahead and saw the turn off,  but Matt didn’t; so he went one way and I went another.  We lost each other, wasting valuable time and energy before hooking up again.  You can imagine the discussion that ensued.  We now have a pact to maintain visual contact at all times. 

alpine forest-much nicer terrain!

A better place to start if you want to ride the really good stuff is Strawberry Road intersection on the east side of Hwy 95.  The Pineridge restaurant and motel is on the west side directly across.  Just down from Strawberry Road, the trail enters the Payette National Forest. 

Matt liked the trailhead at Evergreen National Forest campground even better, which is just another 2 miles south on Hwy 95.  Either way, you’ll skip the rougher undeveloped trail that simply parallels the highway from New Meadows anyway.  Starting where the forest begins is much nicer, with the pine smells dominating the senses and the welcoming shade of the towering trees.  Have I mentioned how HOT it was?  No? Well, this will be a recurring theme on the Weiser River trail in July. 

The entire trail runs alongside the Weiser River as it winds its way down through the forest, through valley farm and ranchlands, and finally through a high desert canyon to finish in downtown Weiser. The first 2 nights we camped at Evergreen NF Campground between Council and New Meadows.  Evergreen is a tiny rustic campground right next to Hwy 95.  It has very good visual screening from the highway, which is not particularly busy; but, unless you have a Ruby Slipper with cooling fans to provide “white noise,” you will hear traffic sounds.  The camp host says the campground is a magnet for foraging bears, but we didn’t see or hear any.  The big advantage to camping at Evergreen is that it is high enough in altitude to cool nicely at night.  So much so that I was reluctant to start riding early in the morning before the sun could warm the air.  Matt says I’m too sensitive to environmental stimuli.

Once past the trailhead at Evergreen, the trail loops away from the highway quickly and follows the river through an alpine valley. 

trail passes under highway just before leaving forest

what a contrast from the forest!

A significant part of this section of the trail runs along and through meadows and ranchlands.  You definitely feel like you are the only ones out there.  We never saw another soul on the entire 25 mile section.   The guidebook claims a 1200 ft descent from West Pine to Council, so the ride is mostly downhill.  The nice thing about railroad construction is that everything is built to maintain a constant grade. 

I sooo love the trestles!

Trails can include high trestle bridges, tunnels, steep cuts and embankments- whatever it takes to maintain that constant grade.  That makes for some nice bike riding.

Our goal the first day was Council, Idaho, 26 miles south from West Pine.  We left West Pine at 9:45am and rode into Council at 1:15pm.  The temperature by then was 92.  We knew right away we’d need to have an earlier start the next day as the heat builds rapidly in this part of Idaho in July, and we were dropping elevation every day.  We also discovered that trains don’t like trees,  so shade was significantly lacking once we left the alpine forest south of New Meadows. 

After completing the first day’s ride and getting some lunch, we drove to McCall, Idaho just 12 miles from New Meadows, but a world apart.  McCall is an outdoor playland, with a big mountain lake complete with sand beach, hiking biking, off-roading, skiing-the list goes on.  All the amenities one expects in a happy outdoor-oriented town are there.  McCall, with a population of 2554 is also, with the exception of Weiser (pop 5222), larger than the other towns along the trail.  Council, for example, has only about 678  people .  [population data from city data.com] Nonetheless, It does have a great little restaurant, The 7 Devils Café, where we ate breakfast before beginning our ride the first day out.

On day 2 we changed our plans to start earlier.  No more luxury restaurant breakfasts before hitting the trail.  Instead we were up at dawn to eat toasted English muffins, orange juice, tea or decaf coffee in the Slipper- not too shabby a breakfast at all.  Then it was on to place the shuttle car in Cambridge and return to Council to begin the ride.  We managed to start the second section of the trail at 8:30am. 

The second segment of the trail from Council to Cambridge is just 19.7mi.  The trail starts straight and flat across farm and ranch land running right next to the highway. 

water is almost exotic here

mule training--Intriguing concept, isn't it?

We met a rider coming toward us within 1 mile of starting out from Council, and that’s the only person we saw on the trail in the whole 3 days.  

About 3.5 miles south of Council the trail loops away from the highway and drops into a canyon as remote as any we’ve ridden.  We scared a few cows along the trail as we passed by but none threatened us. 

I was relieved he was behind the fence

One bull did start talking ugly, but he was behind a fence so I felt in control and talked ugly back.   We stopped a few times to drink water and eat M&M peanuts and raisins.  We find we do better if we snack while on the trail and eat more heartily once we’re done.  We carry two 20 oz. bottles of water each and have not run out of water on any of our rides yet.

temporary bridge at spring washout

lots of sun and little shade

pretty wild country

Near the end of the canyon, we chased/followed 2 young coyotes that were travelling up the trail toward us until they became aware of our presence and turned and ran.  Although they were clearly panicked, they were reluctant to leave the trail for quite some time.  We were delighted and entertained by their escape antics,  but  I expect they’re still talking about their near-death experience encountering two humans who could “run” the trail almost as fast they could. 

We’ve added front and rear packs to our mountain bikes to carry all the gear, water, repair supplies, jackets, and food we need. 

mile markers on trail are made from railroad spikes-clever!

There is also room for any “treasures” I might find along the way.  I tend to fill both Matt’s packs, as well as my own, with these “treasures” so we end up traveling heavier and heavier as the ride progresses rather than lighter and lighter as we otherwise would.  I get comments, but he always finds room and takes the heavier load.  What a man!

our goal in the distance: Cambridge water tower

We finished the shorter second section of the trail early pulling into Cambridge about 11:30am.  We were glad to finish the segment before noon as the temperature was already 92 degrees.   The flat straight unshaded sections of trail that cross the valleys between the canyons are boring and hot.  We knew we’d need to start the last section of the trial even earlier- much as I hated to admit it. 

After we completed the second day’s ride, we ate way too much food at a great restaurant in Cambridge:  Bucky’s Cafe.  They have great burgers and fries but be sure to distinguish between the chili cheeseburger and the Ortega chili cheeseburger, or you might end up with both.  We did and felt obligated to eat both, in addition to the ham and cheese sandwich Matt ordered.  This was a huge mistake to eat so much food, but it was irresistibly tasty.  Some lessons one never learns.

That afternoon we drove to Brownlee Dam and reservoir in Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River.  The Snake River forms the border between Oregon and Idaho here, and we were interested in what the level of activity and chaos might be on the river in this area.  Turns out not to be a problem because there is no appeal for kayakers.  True, there is a grandeur of landscape with the rounded brown mountains surrounding and leading into the canyon, but the reservoir is without vegetation on the shoreline; and the water is filled with slimy thick green goo, especially along the edges.  No way would I find kayaking this waterway unattractive!   It was too ugly to take pictures.

We spent the night before our last day on the trail at the Presley Trailhead, 11 miles outside of Weiser.  This would be our final destination.  We scouted the trail between Presley and Weiser and decided not to include it.  It runs close to the road through flat farmland and consists of miles of straight, flat, unshaded (think hot and boring) stretches that we felt we could do without.  I’m a “start to finish” kind of person, so it was a bit of a struggle to forego some of the trail; but, for us, it really was the wiser decision.  These flat unshaded sections are just not FUN in July!

heading out from Midvale

pretty typical trail surface from here on

The last day’s ride started at 815am from Midvale.  With that early a start, we knew we could do this section before it got too hot.   We’d already ridden the last seven miles of this 23 mile section (see previous blog) when we first scouted the trail last spring.  

entering the longest, largest and last canyon of the trail

isolation and breath-stopping beauty-such peace

I could ride forever! If it weren't for those *** thorns.

This section enters a long canyon desert running alongside a beautiful rock-strewn river, high hillside walls and jutting rock spines.  No roads and no people!   I suspect no one else travels this trail in the mid-summer heat!  

Half way through the canyon, Matt got a flat rear tire (our first since we began this trip and due to the deadly goat horn seed).  Fortunately, we packed our emergency pressurized tire repair goo.  Matt attached the can it to the tube nozzle, squirted in the pressurized goo and rode a short distance to distribute it.   It held!  We were saved (at least from the loss of time and effort necessary to take the wheel off, remove the tube and either patch it or replace it)! 

Three miles later, I had a flat front tire-also from the dreaded goat horn seed.  We had one pressurized can of repair goo left.   Under Matt’s guidance, I squirted it in and rode on.  We were about 5 miles from the Presley trail head where the Slipper was waiting.  The tire seemed to be holding, but as I rode along, I began to feel droplets of rain on my thighs.  But the sky was clear, and my water bottles weren’t leaking.  I stopped to check my front tire and discovered my thighs were speckled with drops of the fluorescent green goo I’d shot into my front tire.  My tire was leaking green goo from the spokes.   My tire pressure, however, was still good.  We were still ~3 miles from the end.   I tried to speed up, but let’s be real:  I’m not going to go any faster than I have been.  I’m tired and I’m hot.  I became fatalistic.  Que sera, sera. 

This part of the trail was familiar so I knew I could walk out if I had to, or we could take the time to repair the tire and finish the ride in the blistering afternoon heat if it came to that.  But the green goo held, and I finished the trail with honor, if not dignity.  

sweat, dust, mud, grease, green goo-oh and a few bruises. Never felt better!

I cannot remember the last time I have been so dirty.  I was covered with sweat, dust, mud, and fluorescent green goo.  It felt great!    I just couldn’t be seen in public.  Once we returned to our starting point in Midvale, Matt felt compelled to hose me down using a water spigot in the local park.  Someone must have reported us, because one of the locals did a slow drive-by to see what the crazy tourists were up to, but he didn’t stop; as we were done with their hose and about to leave anyway.

My final thoughts about the Weiser River Trail experience and the lessons learned:  don’t let your partner out of sight.  It’s amazingly easy to lose track of each other, and voices don’t carry far in mountains.  I’m going to get a whistle.

Don’t even think about doing this trail on anything but trail bikes. Street bikes or even hybrids won’t cut it.

Pressurized tube repair works.  We’re switching to thicker tubes and liners, etc; but on the trail, cans are fast and effective.  They’re a mess to clean up later, though.  Ask Matt.

Heat is the number one factor in the summer.  On the one hand, the trails belong to you.  On the other hand, you better be done or somewhere with shade and water by noon or so, because it will be too hot to do anything until the sun sets.  You can‘t carry too much water:  we carry two 20 oz bottles/person and usually are into our fourth bottle when we finish.

you see the oddest creatures on these trips! Near Weiser ID on way to Presley trailhead

I love this trail.  I hope to do it again, although I will skip the first couple miles.  The Texas Caprock Trail is still my most favorite, but this is a great wild and scenic experience.  I highly recommend it.


Read Full Post »

Matt’s writing; my pictures but I can’t resist a few words (in parentheses)
Well, our three weeks of work before the next trip to Texas and the Bird Family Olympics is over and tomorrow we are on the road again.  This time, towing the Bootie and carrying mountain bikes.  We’ll need the Bootie to do the bike shuttles when we ride the Caprock Rail to Trail I described in the last entry.  We are going to ride it after the Olympics in Texas.  That will probably be my next post unless I decide to torture you with details of the family reunion (a not unlikely occurrence- so beware). (Don’t worry, I fully intend to share the details so brace yourselves! Pam)  Anyway, before we take off for Texas, I wanted to share a couple of rides we managed to squeeze in recently. 
A couple of weeks ago we got a run of nice weather and couldn’t resist taking time away from gardening and landscaping (things that just had to be done before we left for Texas again) (I’m the driving factor there. Pam) to ride the bike trails in Corvallis.  For non-Oregonians, Corvallis is the home of Oregon State University (the Beavers of all things) and as such is an all too hip college town with nice facilities, including beautiful paved bike paths perfect for your hybrid bikes.  We rode the path (Hunsaker Bike Trail) that goes from downtown Corvallis to the small neighboring town of Philomath- about seven miles one way.   Urban bike paths are nice in their own way.  You don’t get the big outdoors feeling you do on rail to trail paths, but it’s fun to glide past backyards, along creeks and through little city parks.  This particular path even had a section that was completely landscaped by a local group as a corridor small tree demonstration garden (The Small Tree Arboretum).  All the trees, many of them exotics, and many of the other plants are numbered to correspond to a guide- pretty and educational (especially if you are trying to redo the landscaping in your yard like we are right now).

lovely rural feel once you leave Corvallis

lovely bridgeview from the trail in Corvallis

beautiful violas in the Small Tree Arboretum

another bridge just outside Corvallis

The second bike trip, a mountain bike run, we tacked onto the tail end of a presentation Matt was doing for REALTORS in Baker, Oregon.  Baker is an historic Oregon Trail town in far eastern Oregon very near the Idaho line.  Just over the Idaho line is Weiser (pronounced weezer), Idaho the terminus of the 84 mile long Weiser River Rail to Trail.  The trail begins in the mountains near New Meadows, Idaho and follows an old railroad grade south toward the Snake River.  Weiser is a river town- in fact the last town before the Snake drops into Hells Canyon.  (Actually, there isn’t that much dropping any more because of the hydo dams, but that’s another story that will have to wait until we can get back and do a full scale pedal/paddle).  The Weiser River trail is all gravel with access points every 20 miles or so.  We decided to scout the trail for ride-ability by riding up the trail along the river from the Presley access point just above Weiser.  It turned out to be a beautiful place (understatement).   And, except for riding into a 20 mile an hour down-canyon wind for the first hour and half, it was a great ride.  ( To be honest, the wind was a definite drag-literally as well as figuratively)  The mountain bikes make all the difference on gravel trails (I (Matt) still have scars from the first gravel rail to trail we tried last year on our skinny tire hybrids).   As you can see from the pictures, the Wieser River trail is not developed.  It certainly isn’t crowded.  We were impressed (awestruck, enthused, ecstatic, etc)  and are planning to ride the whole trail this summer in a full scale pedal/paddle trip that includes tamer parts of the Snake.  (Note: the Weiser River is a tributary of the Snake River).

cutest little shade marker at trailhead

trailhead parking; trail is right and follows Weiser River

here we go! What a day!

scenery is spectacular

every bend brings another gorgeous scene

I can't help it, it's just all so beautiful

at last our turn around point in the distancetrestle bridge 7+miles from trailhead-it's a coast back.

Read Full Post »


“Hi dear.  I looked at the blog this evening after teaching all day to see if there was something new.  I remembered you’re working only after I got to blog.  Any way, we’ve left the poor readers hanging in Leakey some 10 or so days ago and need to get them home to Oregon.  I don’t think a big post is necessary, just something about how we left Leakey on a Sunday and arrived at the Caprock that night in shitty weather that stayed that way while we scouted the rail and trial and finally had to give up and flee south to avoid approaching thunderstorms only to end up in Bottomless Lakes, N.M. and then City of Rocks, N.M before dashing home behind the last Pacific storm and in front of the next one in two 15 hour sprints broken by a few hours of restless sleep at a noisy truck stop just north of Bakersfield (Don’t forget the ill advised run from Parker to 29 Palms.) You can carry the story with picture instead of text.  See you tomorrow afternoon.  Love.”

How crazy is this?  My husband is now communicating to me in email.  That’s how our lives have been since our return, and why I have not added to blog recently.  I do have pictures but little to comment on about our return home.  We remain excited about our return to TX in 4 weeks for the Bird Olympics 2010, but life, as usual, is diverting our attentions to work, yard, garden, etc.-you know the drill.  Here are pictures of stunning areas of Texas and New Mexico with lots of potential for little adventures under warmer and sunnier skies-hopefully next trip….

Texas is so vast, and the terrain varies tremendously east to west and north to south.  Hill country is beautiful rolling cedar and live oak hillsides rolling on forever to the horizon.   The river valleys are deep and wide with dramatic vistas.   Huge fenced exotic hunting ranches line the roads on both sides for miles and miles.  Glimpses of African deer can be seen at times-very bizarre.  Bluebonnets were blooming along the roadsides. 

hill country-it doesn't do it justice

roadside bluebonnets

bluebonnets-state flower

The plains are just flat, flat, flat-what more can be said. 

central plains

Still patches of beauty can be found.

hedgehog cactus flower

Texas panhandle

The panhandle is deceptive.  It looks scrubby and slightly rolling but hides beautiful canyons and washes.  They look grand for hiking if only we had had decent weather.  I suspect that’s a real problem there-either too hot or too cold; too stormy or too windy-with few days just right for exploring.  And the red clay/mud was unbelievable after the rain!  All the county roads except main highways are dirt surfaced and were unusable except for the biggest and bravest of the 4-wheelers! 

Caprock state park, TX

Matt at Caprock

We found a stunning state campground at Caprock near Quitaque (see pic for correct pronunciation).  I was dying to hike the canyons but between the cold and the storms and the wet mud, conditions were against a positive experience.  We had the tent campground completely to ourselves which was sooo peaceful. 

canyon hiking-see the mud and water!

entering quitaque

Quitaque is located on a 64 mile rail to trail that we hope to ride during our return next month.  We’ll break it up into three segments 20-22 miles each and take 3 days.  Can’t believe the weather has been so sucky!

rail to trail near Caprock. Tempting?

These small towns, like Quitaque, are delightful to drive through, with the occasional treasure to discover.

The Quitaque Hotel

Do you know what this is?

mackenzie lake reservoir, TX

We made a brief scout of Lake Mackenzie Reservoir for kayaking potential, enough to know it’s not for us.  It’s a relatively small but deep reservoir (when full).  The campgrounds were sad-looking with poor maintenance of bathrooms and showers.  Although the sites on the bluffs overlooking the lake had beautiful views, there was no privacy, except the spacing between was pretty generous.  Worst of all (from our perspective), waterskiing and skidoos are big attractions on the lake, AND ATVs are clearly tearing up the background.   Not what we’re looking for at all!  Time to get out of here.

Bottomless Lakes SP, New Mex

As we travelled into New Mexico, we stopped for one night at a very appealing state park near Roswell:  Bottomless Lakes.  This is a place worth returning to.  No we didn’t see any aliens or even suspicious lights in the sky. 

another bottomless lake

The lakes are a series of sinkholes, large enough to fish and swim in.  Each sinkhole has its own little style, and a few primitive campsites along the edges allow you to have a private little lake of your own. 

campsite with personal canyon wash

Between and beyond the sinkholes are dry wash canyons begging to be explored.  There is a short (1.25mi) flat biking/hiking trail to a larger lake that has RV hookups, protected swimming for kids and a main pavilion for picnics-probably has a concession during the summer.  Lake is too small to be of much kayaking interest altho it could work for wet entry practice and rollovers (!). 

Matt above canyon wash

We did hike a small canyon the next morning, and it was divine. 

I hope to see more of this country.  It’s awesome!

Matt on canyon bottom

my turn down

We drove somewhat leisurely south and west, stopping briefly at parks in Artesia and Las Cruces; Matt to check emails and me to practice photography.

Nice, huh? Too bad he was captive.

They paint murals under their bridges in Las Cruces!

City of Rocks SP, New Mexico

City of Rocks campsite

Next night we pulled into City of Rocks SP, New Mexico.  Picture islands of boulders popping out of a sea of flat desert surrounded by distant mountain ranges on the horizon.  Hard to believe such places exist.  Campsites are nestled in, under and around the boulder patches.  There are a couple short (1-2mi) bike trails (suitable for trail bikes only) around and between the boulder piles.  We were only able to try one of them before dark-I nearly crashed in an arroyo sand bank!  The night brought strong winds, but a bright half-moon allowed a midnight walk among the boulders near our camp.  It was both eery and beautiful to scramble (cautiously) around the rocks, gazing at the distant lights on the horizon at the base of the mountain range to the west and lightning strikes from the storm clouds to the north-life doesn’t get any better than this.  Even though we were sheltered in our campsite, the wind buffeted The Slipper half the night before easing in the early morning.

Hwy 70 near Virden, NM

Sheep Hole Valley, CA, hwy 62

Now we’re headed home for real.  There is so much beautiful country between NM and OR, but we are out of time.  Couple places I want to look into on another trip are  the Gila River area near Virden, NM and Sheep Hole Valley Wilderness Area east of 29 Palms, CA.  So many places; so little time.  We’ll be on the road again the last full week of May headed for Leakey, TX for the 2010 Bird Olympics.  We’re hoping we ‘ll get to do our first ever multiday rail to trail at Caprock after the Olympics!

Read Full Post »

Hi all! I just learned something new about this blogging stuff that I will pass on.  If you click to make a comment, at the end of the comment box there are 2 little squares you can check if you want to be notified when a new post (or new comment) is present.  It’s called an RSS feed, and with that, you don’t have to keep checking to see if I’ve added anything since your last visit.  Isn this a great world or what!?

Matt and I biked the Bear Creek Greenway www.bearcreekgreenway.com/ from Ashland, OR to Medford, OR and back 2 days ago in weather that just couldn’t be improved.  Along the way we saw Red-tailed hawks in full mating display.  We turned around at the northern trailhead where the Jefferson Nature Center www.jeffersonnaturecenter.org has a bird feeding station.  There we watched western bluebirds dance and twist through the riparian shrubbery.  We ate our first (but certainly not the last) Nestle’s Crunch ice cream bar of the season at a little quick mart just down the street.  On the return, we paused to watch and listen to two downy woodpeckers flirt and flit around the towering dead tree stumps along the creek’s edge. 

All was well until I became annoyed at a repetitive click that I thought was a small stone in my front tire.  I stopped and picked off what was actually a large thorn, which resulted in an immediate audible and palpable HISSSSSSSS from my tire.  Matt told me to ride as fast and as long as I could, and he would catch up; so I took off, pedalling as fast as my tired old knees would go.  Fortunately I was able to reach the Walmart store in Talent right next to the bike path.  We found pressurized tire sealant in a can, and it actually worked!  It was a little messy, but it got me back to the Ruby Slipper without further mishap.  We are now equipped with a patch kit, tire inflator, spare tube and, most importantly, not one but two cans of pressurized sealant.

Unfortunately, my camera battery had died since our last outing, so I have no pictures of the bike trail.  Also, we had just had our bikes serviced, and although they shift and run like a dream, my bike computer is not functioning, so I don’t know how far we travelled.  We think about 22 miles.  If you’re starting to wonder about my competency with technology, you have good cause-I’m a dunce. 

The trail has a couple short segments that are dominated by the I-5 expressway but most of it is quite lovely as it follows the riparian corridor.  It is fully paved but there are a few rough spots.  Someone has thoughtfully outlined all the bumps in bright green paint so they are highly visible.  Traffic was light with a few pedestrians, a few more bicyclists and even a horserider.  I love the way everyone smiles and says hi or nods as they pass us by.  I love it even more when I pass them-it doesn’t happen often.

We spent that night in the Valley of the Rogue State Park www.oregonstateparks.org/images/pdf/rogue_full.pdf  between Grants Pass and Medford on I-5.  Most of the campground was closed yet for the season but what was open was nearly filled by dark.  The I-5 road noise is moderately annoying but not so loud as to keep us awake-especially after that bike ride wore us out.   Bathrooms and showers were great! 

Thanks for all your comments and great support!

Read Full Post »