The answer to last blog’s eggs in nest identification: American Avocet
June 24, Matt and I rode the Vernonia-Banks Rail to Trail. http://www.oregonparks.org/images/pdf/bv.pdf Vernonia is a small town in the Coast Range of northwest Oregon. In the past, a train used to transport timber from Vernonia to Banks on the way to Portland. Now the route is a 21 mile long multi-use path (horses, bikes, pedestrians). Most of it is asphalt pavement but there is a central section of ~3 miles that is packed dirt with some patches of gravel and ballast. Our trail bikes were perfect for the trip although we think our hybrid bikes could do it with some brief “portaging” likely on the unpaved section. Altogether our 17 mile trip took us ~ 3 hours and that included a number of stops for picture taking and exploring bridges, and one pause for lunch.
The drive to Banks and Vernonia is half the fun as we took 99w west of Salem to hwy 47 north . The scenery alternates from wheat fields, vineyards, and patch gardens to small towns we seldom see otherwise. It’s a beautiful trip, and we had no traffic issues.
The trail begins at Anderson Park in Vernonia. However, they have a day fee charge so we parked on a side street a block from the park.
We found a small café/brewery with Mediterranean menu and chose a gyro sandwich to go. It made a delicious lunch on the trail. I worried it would get soggy by the time we were ready to eat, but I was wrong; and it was great.
We started from Vernonia because we suspected there would be less uphill slogging involved. Turns out we were absolutely right.
The first segment of the trail, from Vernonia to Beaver Creek access, is the least interesting as well. It runs alongside hwy 47, and, although there is a small greenway buffer between, the road noise and traffic were somewhat distracting. It does have the most bridges, but the really spectacular high trestles are farther south. Bridge count for the trip from Vernonia to Manning equaled 11. (I love the bridges).
The trail has 5 access points- in order, north to south: Vernonia, Beaver Creek, Tophill, Buxton, and Manning. There is no access at Banks, and the last 4 miles between Manning and Banks was the most populous with mill noise, hwy 47 traffic noise, pedestrians, dogs, and other bicyclists. We ended our trip at Manning-17 miles total.
From Vernonia to Tophill the grade is very gradually uphill-we had no problems maintaining a steady pace with minimal effort-and we HATE hills.
The unpaved section, of course, is slower, and the sections that have looser rocks would be difficult on road tires; although they are short, intermittent and could be walked if necessary. There used to be a fantastic curved high and long trestle bridge at Tophill but part of it burned down and was not restored. A detour of sorts was built for the trail, and this is the crux of the unpaved section. The trail descends from the elevated railroad grade down to the highway and back up again on the other side. As a consequence there is a short but very steep downhill and equally steep (but short) uphill section with a highway crossing between that we walked.
You can follow a short dirt trail to the remaining horseshoe trestle ruin, and it’s worth the time. The trail cuts to the left from the top of the uphill section and is marked only by an orange and white post (some sort of utility marker). The sight of 100 feet or so of wood trestle towering over the trees and highway, ending abruptly without a connection, is eerily stirring.
After Tophill and the ascent to the railroad grade, there is another 1-2 miles of dirt/gravel. This seemed the most challenging piece of trail because of tires spitting the loose rocks, affecting speed and balance. Fortunately it doesn’t last long-perhaps a mile or so. Then the pavement returns and remains to the end. This part of the ride is through classic coastal woodlands, remote, beautiful, serene-stunning. The grade is downhill all the way! Passing through Stub Stevens State Park, the trail is brand new asphalt pavement, and it’s an effortless cruise! We were coasting at 15mph.
At Buxton, there is another huge curved trestle bridge that has been restored and is part of the trail. You can also reach the bottom of the trestle bridge, either from the trail or from the small state park at the access for a different perspective. Either view is inspiring. From Buxton to Manning, the trail passes through farmland and countryside vistas but stays well away from the highway until the access is reached.
L.L. Stub Stevens State Park has 2 campgrounds, although they looked to us like “California” campgrounds-small sites and no visual buffers. Anderson Park in Vernonia has camping as well, also small and crowded close together. We found a primitive campground next to the Vernonia airport (south of town), nestled into a small forested area that looked like it would make a great impromptu starting point from Timber Road; thus avoiding much of the initial highway distractions.
This is a great ride and, apparently, not highly used. We did avoid a weekend just in case. The shorter ride from Beaver Creek to Manning would include all the best features. And Tophill to Manning would encompass the largest bridges, the best scenery, the best pavement, and once you climbed up to the railroad grade—it’s all downhill!