Sore Knees And Big Trees

The Gravel Epic is only 3 weeks away and with that in mind I dove into last week intent on burying myself in cycling pain for the next 2.

 

Tuesday got things started in the right direction when Jared and I decided to try to escape the smoke by heading out to Lost Creek Lake for a hot lap.  He had never ridden the loop so it was an easy choice between that or a positively smoke filled climb up Mt Ashland.

 

Our gamble paid off and, going counter-clockwise, we made quick work of the first half of the ride that includes a lot of pavement until you cross the Rogue River at the upper end of the lake.

 

From there, it was nothing but single track with a quarter mile of gravel road thrown in.

 

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Jared loving a little Lost Creek single track.

 

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There isn’t a lot of climbing at Lost Creek, but you can still get a solid workout if you push yourself.

 

Just shy of 18 miles later we had sufficiently satisfied our MTB craving for the day.

 

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The smoke wanted to smother us but we managed to finish before it settled in.

 

Thursday I spun out a fast 20 miles and didn’t stop once.  Pictures from around White City are pretty boring anyway.

 

But, Saturday.  Bam!  Jared and I parked in Jville and started the 1700′ climb up Reservoir Rd on our gravel bikes before dropping down the backside of John’s Peak onto Forest Creek Road.

 

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The leaves are slowly changing color, but there’s still plenty of green in the spots that don’t get a lot of sun.

 

Taking a right and heading west at the Forest Creek fork, we started the climb toward Mt Isabelle.

 

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Jared grabs some blackberries for sustenance before we tackle a beast of a climb.

 

The last time I had climbed up to the Mt Isabelle Saddle, I ended up carrying my bike the last half mile because the road was covered in snow and ice.  I sorta wish that had been the case this time.  It would have kept us from trying to ride up to the peak.

 

Holy CRAP!!!  Neither of us had been all the way up to the top and now we knew why.   From the saddle to the peak is 1 mile and 1000 feet of elevation gain.  But, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the gravel gods were not smiling on us.  In addition to the occasional 25%+ grade, we were also battling big, chunky, loose gravel.  We managed to ride a good 65% of the climb.  The bikes rode us the other 35%.

 

Don’t judge.

 

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We were a little let down with the view from the top, but at least there was something.

 

After frying our brakes on the descent back down, we continued on gravel until hitting a trail that dropped us down on the far side of Ruch via China Gulch Rd.

 

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Jared’s many hours spent studying his copy of David Blaine’s “How to Levitate in 10 Easy Steps” paid off. 

 

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For a couple seconds anyway.

 

From Ruch it was back over Jville Hill to the truck where we finished with just over 35 miles and 6000′ of gain.  It was a great way to kick off the holiday weekend.

 

Hoping to keep the cycling fun going, Ruth and I headed down to my homeland of Humboldt County with our eyes on at least one MTB ride.

 

We got that ride Sunday afternoon.  Turning off the Avenue of the Giants and onto Bull Creek Road, we parked at a pull-out just across from the start point of our planned loop, Look Prairie Rd.

 

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Ruth setting the pace from the outset.

 

The old logging road is now doubletrack and if you want a warm up before climbing, I suggest riding along Bull Creek Rd for a few miles.  Once you hit Look Prairie, you’re climbing for 7 miles.  And, it ain’t easy!

 

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It is scenic though. And, cool. The majority of the climb is shaded by a mix of Redwoods, Cedars, Firs, Madrones, and Oaks.

 

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We were a bit surprised at the number of burned out trees interspersed among big, healthy ones.

 

As we neared the ridgeline at the top of our 2700′ climb, the wind picked up.  Being so near the coast, combined with the deep shadows, the temp dropped down into the lower 60’s.

 

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One of the things I miss about living on the coast is the lush forests with their needle covered trails.

 

After Ruth not complaining about the climb at all (I mean AT ALL!  Not once.  Never.), we finally turned on to Thornton Rd to begin the 6+ mile descent.  I’m not sure how long ago it was a road, but it’s definitely single track now.  And, pretty dang fun.  So fun that I only stopped once and that’s because I had to take a picture of a cool grove of Madrones leaning over the trail.

 

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Of course the photo didn’t really turn out, but here it is anyway.

 

All good things must end, and this particular bit of goodness ended at Albee Creek Campground.

 

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Albee Creek is barely more than a trickle right now.

 

A mile of pavement later and we were back at the car, happy that the trail down made the long climb worth it.

 

Next time I’m in the area I plan to tackle the purportedly much more difficult Grasshopper Peak climb which is just up the road from the campground.  Why not?

 

Deciding that a hike sounded like a good way to spend Labor Day, Ruth and I started home with bikes on rack and boots on feet.  The plan was to hit 3 different beaches along Hwy 101 on our way back to Oregon, but we got trapped in the little town of Trinidad (one of my favorite places from my old stomping grounds).

 

I won’t waste too much of your time since the bike part is over, but if you have a couple hours to kill the next time you’re traveling down the coast, stop and check out the place.

 

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The mile long beach north of Trinidad Head is gorgeous. Bring a sweatshirt!

 

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The tide was coming in and we almost got caught on the wrong side of the rock at the far left of the pic.

 

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Most of the hiking trail around the big rock known as Trinidad Head has been cut through the brush, creating some cool tunnels and tall sidewalls.

 

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Yes, it’s heavily filtered, but the original pic was almost just as pretty. Lots of boats were anchored and had nets out on the other side of the pier you see here.

 

I think I got some good work in last week.  My legs still hurt from all the climbing so that’s a good thing. Right?   I guess I’ll find out in a few weeks.

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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