Going Off The Rails Of The Swasey Train

Things started off pretty good last week.  Choosing a road ride over a mtb race at nearly the last minute on Tuesday, I found myself in a group of 9 riders when I had thought there would only be 4 of us!  Awesome!  While I had planned on just Jacob, Destry, Jeff, and I, it was a pleasant surprise to be joined by some good friends and good riders from the Marty’s team.  As luck would have it, 4 of us were wearing our Oregon Triple Crown jerseys.  Photo Op!!




Despite everyone vowing to make it an easy ride, we ended up putting in a good effort and after nearly 50 miles, I felt like I had a solid workout.


Wednesday night I joined my son, Tanner, some friends, and a bunch of other riders for the annual Ride Of Silence.  The ROS is a slow and (mostly) silent ride to both commemorate those who have lost their lives in cycling accidents and to bring awareness to the community that cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists.  It was a somber event and rightfully so.


After that ride and a couple days off the bike, it was time to remember why I ride.  Fun!  With the weekend weather forecast calling for less than stellar conditions, I scrapped plans for a trip to Bend and 2 days of Phil’s Trail happiness.  Instead, I headed to Redding with the hope that the weather may be a little better and a little warmer.


It was.  But, only slightly.  Meh….  Oh well.  Whatcha gonna do?  After a little research, a little driving, and a little luck, my travel buddy and I found ourselves at the Brandy Creek trailhead near Whiskeytown Lake.  We were ready to do what, apparently, is known as THE CHIMNEY route.  The trail started with a fun, rock-filled ascent along Brandy Creek for a short distance before it popped us out on a fire road.


Little Fall



After a few miles of somewhat boring and not too difficult climbing we were ready for more single track and we found it when we reached the Brandy Creek Falls trailhead.  Once again, we were picking our way up the trail through, and over, large rocks and tree roots.  As someone that enjoys the climb more than the descent, this was a real hoot, and before long we came to a fork in the trail.


To continue on The Chimney route, we needed to take a left, but since we were so close to the falls, Ruth and I decided to play tourist and see the sites.


Medium Falls

Ruth Pose


Yeah yeah.  I didn’t get a good shot of the big falls, but trust me.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth the ride and subsequent hike necessary to reach the upper portion of the falls.  But, be ready to scale up and over obstacles using your hands at times.  The slick rocks and tree roots are lotsa fun in bike shoes too.  Just sayin’.


While the sites were nice, they had been seen, so we made our way back to the fork we had passed earlier and started our last climb up Rich Gulch trail. It wasn’t long and we were in the middle of a mildly fun and sorta short descent back to the fire road we had climbed earlier and back to the car.


In case you couldn’t tell, The Chimney left me less than fired up.  Maybe we’re spoiled here in Southern Oregon, but with a boring climb and a descent that doesn’t even come close to what we ride all the time in Jacksonville, Ruth and I were both disappointed.  I admit, we cut out a couple sections (upper and lower Icebox) that we didn’t find out about until a local, prepping for his own ride at the trailhead, told us about them.  Maybe they would have made the ride better.  Probably not.  At least the falls were cool.


Sunday was a different story.  We made the slightly shorter trip out to the Swasey Recreation Area, a system of trails located on BLM land just west of Redding.  Getting an early start, we were on Wintu Trail by 8 am and climbing immediately.


Wintu and Meiner’s were both full of more rocky goodness and short, fast descents.  They were a perfect way to start out a morning on the bike.




Do it



After listening to my riding partner complaining (only half jokingly, I think) about no views, we finally came to a spot where we could look out over the Northern Sacramento Valley.


Cycle A


After climbing Escalator, it was on to the Mule Mtn Ridge Trail.  Both of those were fun easy climbs that if one was so inclined, one could drop the hammer and get one’s heart rate up to it’s max while smoking around some sweet uphill curves.  However, on this ride, one, nor the other, were so inclined.  Instead we enjoyed the nice wide and smooth trail surface.


Mule Mtn


Ready to head back to the big city for some chow, we welcomed the end of the climbing as we turned down Black Bear Pass trail.




Next, we hit the short connector known as Snail Trail before reaching the final section of our loop, Mule Mtn Trail.


Snail Trail

Cougar Water Hole


Although Sunday’s ride at Swasey was only 10 miles, it was SO much better than the previous day.  The climbs were either rocky and fun, or smooth and fun.  The final descent, starting with Black Bear Pass’ and Snail Trail’s steep switchbacks, and ending with Mule Mtn’s beautiful creek crossings and green grass all around were not only a blast but pretty spectacular to behold.  Ruth and I both agree there’s no question we’d go back in a heartbeat.  But, next time we’re throwing in more of the system’s available trails and turning it into something closer to 20 miles.


I mean, come on.  If you’re gonna have fun, you may as well have LOTS of fun?  Double miles always means double fun, right?


One last thing.  I have to thank Ruth for some of the pics this week (the good ones), and for being an awesome riding partner.  Now, if she would just slow down long enough for me to catch my breath, I might be ok.

Aaron Mock

Local cyclist, crazy mofo, and good-natured masochist, Aaron Mock, is a Team Cycle Analysis rider with a penchant for taking the road less traveled. Sometimes, that isn't the best choice. Follow his weekly blog series for the latest on his never-ending escapades and exploits!

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