Into the Blue

Doomed enterprises divide lives forever into the then and the now. Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

How long, wondered The Logging Road Cyclist, as he lay prone on the massage table with his face puckering through the face-hole, did it take for the indiscretions of youth to ramify into one’s elder life? He was being worked on by the physical therapist he had stumbled on a few years previously. TLRC was not one to buy into woo-woo theories of healing powers, shamanism, crystals &c, but he had to admit this woman made him tend to give some credence to stories about women who could simply lay hands upon one and effect a cure. She seemed to be engaged in exactly this.

TLRC had long been plagued by recurring bouts of back spasms, and had been diagnosed with a Grade I L5-S1spondylothesis that might be the culprit. The latest round of distress was by far the worst he’d had, forcing him to put hands on knees just to get out of a chair and really bringing him to the ultima thule of decrepitude. This had gone on for more than a month. He moved and acted like an old man.

PT poked around a bit, had TLRC move this way and that, and pronounced a deficit in the action of the multifidus muscles, which she relieved by a bit more poking, and a silly, small excercise for TLRC to do. One visit cut the misery in half, a few days set TLRC well on the road to recovery.

On visit two, TLRC asked PT why the multifidi weren’t behaving. She mulled it over and     said that trauma to the area could well be the cause…

At the end of his last summer in British Columbia, TLRC was a confirmed Squamish crag rat. He and his main partner JB were looking to move out and do something different, namely some peaks rather than the usual rock. The obvious objective for TLRC was Slesse Peak, a granite tower on the border southeast of Vancouver. He had done the easy west face with a moron from the University mountaineering club a number of years before and recalled looking down the magnificant NE Buttress and the intimidating east face. It didn’t take much work to talk JB into doing the long, classic NE Buttress Route.

Slesse Peak. The NE Buttress (center) divides light from shadow.

They figured it would be easiest to traverse the peak and descend down the west side. Since the road up that side was about six miles from the road up to the east of the Peak, they needed some sort of shuttle, in this case an old and very funky bike of JB’s. The plan was to drop the bike off at the end of the west road, drive up to the east road, traverse the Peak, have one of them ride back to the car, &c, &c.

They got to the end of the east road and saddled up. TLRC took the keys and went to a large cut bank at the edge of the road that had one large tree root exposed. He took the keys and hid them at the right end of this root and showed JB exactly where they were so that either of them could do the shuttle, and neither of them would have to worry about the keys on the climb.

They hiked in. On the way, turning a corner, a sudden view of the Peak emerged. It stood out against the sky like a huge dark flame. TLRC had done a bit of Grade IV and V in Yosemite, and some real alpine rock in the Tetons and Sierra. Squamish Chief isn’t little. Even so, this first view of the route was spectacular and intimidating.

They bivouacked with stupidly inadequate gear and got started at first light, mostly because of the cold. The first part of the climb was class 4ish and went pretty fast. A steeper section reared up on JB’s lead and he took off up what looked to TLRC like an unreasonable choice of route, as in a whole hell of a lot harder than what was pretty obviously a whole lot easer just off to the right. But it was JB’s lead…

Eventually, JB flamed out in an increasingly overhanging crack splitting a narrowing rib, the whole affair looking a lot more 5.11-like than anything they were supposed to encounter. TLRC started to try to talk JB out of his folly. JB persisted, until TLRC felt the alarms going off at the base of his skull as he pictured getting JB out if something really went wrong and he, TLRC, finally just made so much of a fuss, telling JB just to goddamn put in a friend (back then a new camming invention, and very expensive), and one of TLRC’s friends if it came to that and get down and back on route. So JB did this, and they got on their way…

JB redeemed himself a little further on as they hit the crux of their climb. At about half-height, the climbing is on mangy, dirty, low angle rock, not too hard, but not easy to protect, given a lack of cracks. Just about the time the route kept all of this but the low-angle part, a violent thunderstorm erupted over the Peak. JB was well out on his pitch with nothing in to stop a fall as the water ran an inch deep, turning the dirt into mud. Rockfall commenced and TLRC huddled in his cagoule. Eventually JB found a belay about a rope-length out and TLRC came up. Water ran over his hands and his EB’s slipped in the mud. Holds were rounded and the pitch was likely 5.7 or 5.8 even when dry. JB had pulled it off with aplomb, the sun came out, and TLRC swung into the lead.

They got to the base of the final third of the route where the Buttress rears back and reaches for the heavens.

Upper part of NE Buttress (left skyline)

The Buttress here is fearsomely exposed and looks out over the spooky East Face into which a prop airliner slammed back in 1956, killing all 62 souls on board (the worst airline disaster in the world at the time; TLRC had found a few shards of aluminum at the base of the route and felt a Presence). The climbing was superb and well within range for TLRC and JB. They were loving it.

They summited as the sun was going down, and pondered for a while descending back to the east, but they were tired and did not like the idea of crossing snowfields and rough terrain in running shoes in the dark, so they stuck with the traverse.

They got to the steep trail off the west side just before dark and headed down towards the road. In the dark with their one headlamp it seemed to take forever. They were both exhausted and by the time the got on the road TLRC (who had heard of this happening to marching soldiers, or Marines anyway), fell asleep while walking. Finally he could take no more and told JB he was going to lay down in the road and sleep. JB, made of sterner stuff said he’d keep going and get the car. After some time, TLRC stirred himself and stumbled down to the main road to sleep some more until JB got back in the car.

Curled up in the dirt, TLRC was awakened by the rhythmic squeak of JB’s poorly maintained bike (even then, TLRC was fastidious about bicycle maintenance). “JB, WTF”, spluttered TLRC, “ou se trouve la voiture?”, TLRC having learned un petit francaise while having lived in Canada. JB looked frantic, apologetic, crestfallen, embarrassed. He had been unable to find the keys to the car. Groaning, TLRC got on the miserable bike and ground his way the six miles to the car. There he found the cutbank pockmarked as if a gopher had been at it, evidence of poor JB’s futile search. TLRC directly laid hands on the keys, collected the snoozing JB and, well satisifed with themselves they set off for home.

“That went well”, said TLRC and JB a little while later, “let’s do some ice climbing!” Since neither had done any more than a bit of snow, but both (like many rockclimbers TLRC knew) owned crampons and tools, they had the wherewithal, if not the ability. Being cautious and sensible, they picked what they were assured was a reasonable objective: the Coleman Glacier on nearby Mt Baker, in the States, as we said back then.

Mt Baker, Coleman Face

TLRC remembers only the salient events of the day. They got to where they needed to be, worked their way up to steepness and crevasses and roped up. An historical note is appropriate here. While climbing harnesses were available at the time, no one in TLRC’s circle used them. Rather, they used swami belts, 2″ webbing wrapped three or four times around the waist and fastened with a water knot. One tied in by knotting the bight of climbing rope through the belt. TLRC preferred a double fisherman’s bend for this, a tidy, compact and secure-looking knot. For some reason the folks that TLRC hung around with didn’t like the idea of depending on stitching for the last line of defence. On the other hand, in the event of  fall, one took the enitire force on the waist, small of back and ribs.

All that TLRC remembers of the climb is being roped, traversing around some crevasses and taking a little jump over a little crack. When he landed, he tripped and fell flat on his face, not being used to the total stopping power of his unfamiliar crampons. He immediately began to slide, feet first, down the suddenly very steep slope.

In theory, this shouldn’t have been a problem. One of the few things TLRC actually DID know about real mountaineering, and had actually become proficient at, was  self-arresting with his ice-axe, which he was indeed holding at the ready when he jumped, because he was preparing himself for a similar eventuality. The problem is it didn’t work, or to state the matter with more precision, TLRC failed to self-arrest.

A couple of frantic seconds ensued, after which TLRC flipped over backwards as he cartwheeled over the lip of a huge crevasse. To this day, when recalling it, he can see clearly in his mind’s eye the flash of perfect alpine blue sky as the crevasse swallowed him.

After a number of hard blows, including at least one to his head, TLRC was brought to a hard stop, the full force on his belt. He hung, and looked past the toes of his boots into a spectacular blue space that went down and down and down…

His headband flew into the depths. The left lens of his sunglasses had been knocked out by the blow and fluid was dripping down from his face away to a place he could not see. He assessed his situation while JB, in a much more serious tone than their usual banter, was demanding to know TLRC’s “situation”, which amused TLRC. A bit.

What the “situation” was was something that could have been an order of magnitude or so worse. TLRC had fallen down a narrow, less than vertical gully at the edge of the crevasse, and had stopped, fortuitously, just before it debouched into the true ghastly blue netherworld. TLRC was bleeding from his head, but it seemed to be just the left supraorbital ridge. He hadn’t broken anything, nor (perish the thought) snagged a crampon point and snapped an ankle. JB had in fact been belaying TLRC, but amateurs that they were, they had way, way too much rope out, like a half a length, which is how far TLRC had fallen before he pulled JB off his stance. JB slid helplessy another 20-30 feet before the rope drag on the edge of the crevasse stopped them both from dying.

JB reestablished his stance. TLRC was shockingly OK with the whole situation. Once belayed, he got himself turned around and pulled the ice tool off of his pack. With that and the ice-axe, he climbed himself out, and enjoyed himself, actually thinking that this ice climbing was really pretty fun and that he and JB should do some more of it.

He got over the edge, and JB was all business. He ordered TLRC around! (They usually had a much different dynamic.)  He made TLRC march right over to a designated spot and sit down and be subjected to a thorough examination. At this point, TLRC burst into tears from a combination of adrenaline collapse and the realization that by being an idiot he had nearly killed JB. JB held him like a child until TLRC collected himself.

They made their way off towards the standard route. TLRC had taped up his glasses to avoid going blind and was feeling worse as time passed. By the time they got to the approach trail, he felt like he had a horrible case of flu and could hardly walk. Stumbling slowly down the trail, a voice from behind asked if “We can pass, honey, because we’re going a little faster than you?” Two rotund, middled aged women with curlers in their hair and pails of mushrooms squeezed past him on the trail and clucked in a comforting way about TLRC’s awful face.

Back in Glacier, TLRC went into the store for hydrogen peroxide, gauze, tape and beer. In the pizza parlor, we went to the sink with mirror that served both the men’s and women’s toilets and examined his face. Black left eye, other bruises, bad cut over the left eye. He set himself and began to scrub dried blood out of the gash, which began to leak again. A fastidious patron came out of the men’s room and automatically turned to the washing facility, now awash in TLRC’s blood. Patron took a look, glanced at TLRC and left, silent and unclean.

In Vancouver, TLRC, now solidly anesthetisized by beer, got his unsympathetic quasi-girlfriend to take him to the ER. “You look and smell like a drunk who got in a fight” she archly informed poor TLRC. The ER doc was a young and handsome jive-assed sort of guy who apparently knew something about climbing. He said there’d be 8-10 stitches on the eye and was pretty relaxed about the whole thing until he asked TLRC how far he had fallen. “Fifty, seventy feet maybe.” “Belt or harness?” “Belt.” “Lie back down.”

This knocked the stuffing out of TLRC’s climbing. Maybe it was all this event, or it and other things like grad school-girlfriend-marriage-job, but TLRC just never got it back together. He and JB did a couple of midwinter climbs on the West Lion and Blanchard’s Needle. TLRC moved like a stud on the sandstone walls at Stanford, did some of the Squamish-like face routes on Middle Rock and some other things, but he never got his mojo back. Oddly, this had no effect whatever on his kayaking, for in the year after The Fall, TLRC did by far the hardest boating of his life and was unshaken. Who can fathom the mind, or the multifidi for that matter?

TLRC Coins an aphorism

Once you have learned to self-moderate, you have become old. The Logging Road Cyclist

The Logging Road Cyclist is humbled and awestruck by the dozens, nay scores of faithful blog followers who have welcomed his return to posting. They often ask: “TLRC, why are you writing stories about your macho, not to say studly, youthful exploits as opposed to your usual lyrical descriptions of your more cerebral explorations of Oregon’s decimated forests?”

The simple answer is that TLRC has learned to self-moderate while trying to recover from pudendal nerve damage incurred about a year ago. He has been madly self-moderating in hopes that he might ride again, and in spite of a lot of negative indications over the last year, he may well.

In the meantime, between trying saddle after saddle and even a full-suspension recumbent, TLRC, who has missed his blog himself will follow the prescription of the master of the short story, Jorge Luis Borges:

I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as ‘The Masses’. Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.

Another Saturday, Another Beating…

The thing about beatings is you never get used to them. Except you sort of get used to them. Jesse Pinkman

The Logging Road Cyclist enjoyed the little regimen of biking along one of the rivers he used to paddle and letting that morph into a story from the glory days. Or the salad days (which, TLRC, ever anxious to increase his reader’s erudition, will point out is a saying taken from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra).

The Quartzville story got TLRC in mind of another beating that he took at around the same time. Since biking is still a bit dicey for TLRC, and the roads around Crabtree Creek pass though clearcuts that are horrific even by his standards, TLRC figured he’d cut to the chase, omit the ride, and just tell the story. He begs his readers to be tolerant; this blog will still be mainly aboout biking. Probably.

That winter, one of TLRC’s common boating partners was JC (a different one). JC was a grad student, father and as bad a drunk as TLRC was at the time. Another new generation boater, JC had cut his teeth in the Appalachians and was trying to fit in with the Willamette Valley boating scene. It irked him no end that the Upper Echelon was fine with a paddler from the Jurrasic like TLRC, but that he was having to prove himself. TLRC, still slipstreaming on his steadily diminishing rep from the Golden Era was happy to pull JC along with him, but he was getting tired of the whining. TLRC was especially put off when, while doing an Upper Echelon run of Canyon Cr. that was top-heavy with big-name locals, TLRC had brought JC along, and JC was steadily complaining to TLRC to hurry up lest he, JC, get blamed for slowing things down when in reality it was a pretty scared TLRC who was taking too long to scout, etc.

But in general, JC was an amiable enough partner. He was more than competent; safe; knowledgeable; and most importantly to TLRC, JC was loyal. If TLRC got jammed up somewhere he knew that JC would do whatever could be done to bring TLRC back home. And that is really at the bottom of the whole thing. They paddled together a lot for a couple of winters.

Early during the first of those winters, when TLRC was still feeling his way back into a kayak, and slowly realizing that he wasn’t ever going to be a very large dog anymore, he and JC went up to run Crabtree Cr. It had the reputation as one of the sort-of-standard class III runs coming out of the Cascade foothills. Perhaps they went up there because they knew it would be stomping after the big storm they had just had. This seems likely because they generally were after bigger game that winter.

They found their way through the maze in the clearcuts to the North Fork and put in. It was small and very high and very woody. In a little while they had picked their way down to the confluence with the South Fork, and things got really big for such a small stream. JC took off over towards river right and once he was clear, TLRC followed, but more out in the center.

TLRC has a vague memory of a large hump of water left of center in the river. At the time, he didn’t think much of it, mostly because it didn’t look like much and he was pretty solidly focused on all the wood that could be in the river.

Cresting the hump, TLRC instantly shifted his focus from theoretical wood to the horribly real reversal hidden behing the hump. This thing was  absolutely huge and tossed TLRC in a quick backwards flip as soon as he entered it. Pulling himself into a protective rolling posture, the next thing he new he was upright through no intention of his own. Taking what he could, TLRC grabbed a brace on his weak left side, hung on, and assessed his situation, which was very bad indeed.

The upstream face was higher than head-high. He could hang on with his left arm bent at about 90 degrees, which wasn’t awful, but then the hole was violent enough that his boat was bouncing up and down about a foot at a time. TLRC reached into the usual bag of tricks…

He worked his way forward to see about getting out of the right end of the hole. He got there and it was too high to climb out of. Sliding back from that, his upstream edge caught and he was down, somehow flipped forward end-for-end and then righted, this time on his right side. This being his strong side, he backed up, flailing carefully and took a run at the left end of the hole. Same result. He tried to foward end-for-end out. He tried to backward end-for-end out. Each time TLRC wound up inverted, then flipped up. Somewhere deep within his lizard brain, TLRC was congratulating himself for being able to pull all this out of his hat after all these years; that he was staying pretty calm and had a plan. But that was, to say the least, the upside. The downside was that TLRC was rapidly running out of strength and air, and that sometimes he was simply getting flipped over by this violent reversal just because. Swimming was unthinkable. Between all the wood, the lack of eddies, and the very fast but shallow and bouldery streambed, a swimmer would either get pinned or beaten to death in short order. TLRC decided: if he didn’t wash out the next time he flipped over, he’d roll up, pop his spraydeck and see what happened. Not really a decision per se so much an an acceptance.

Soon enough he was over again, and not through his own agency. The usual harsh wash cycle disoriented him and he tucked. A sudden calming gave him hope and up he went blinking like a mole trying to find where he was.

Just below the hole as it turned out, getting sucked back in for another go. TLRC backpaddled away and quickly turned to see what he was drifting into. This was hard, since, having just been pounded into hypoxia, TLRC was seeing very double.

His four eyes were draw to the right bank, where an oblivious JC was scouting the next riffle, just below. TLRC scrambled over and jammed his boat up on the bank and sat there trying to re-oxygenate. TLRC had gone through the usual time-warp that getting really, really stomped in a big hole induces, and as a result, was pretty miffed that JC, who had only gone through, like 30 seconds of real time, hadn’t noticed that TLRC had been hole-riding for a few days…

As it happened, JC was looking downstream because what was there was what typified the day’s outing: a river-spanning log about six inches above the water that was too shallow to roll in. Thre were no eddies. Had TLRC swum, he would at worst been toast, and at best bludgeoned.

After all this, the rest of the run was nerve wracking. Any riffle whose bottom was out of sight had to be scouted, and just to be sure they never got slack, most of them had killer, or at least wounding wood in them with no place to roll underneath and no place to to stop. It was truly wierd to be boating class V on a class III run.

For the next few days TLRC pondered how ironic it would have been had his ticket got punched on little, out of the way Crabtree, after everything else he’d managed to skate through.

Quartzville Creek

If you are ever talking to someone and you find out they have ever run a class V rapid, stop immediately because they are probably an asshole.– DC

Trying to get out of his usual grind yet remain within the confines of what his injuries allow, The Logging Road Cyclist headed off to Quartzville Creek for a relaxing and pretty ride. For anyone seeking a paved glide along a beautiful river, this is the ticket. One can either do an out-and-back along the whitewater runs, or, since Quartzville Road goes eventally to Hwy 22 way up high, it could be a piece of a longer route. This area gets a lot of use in the summer, so TLRC recommends bad weather riding up here. In the rain, with snow a few hundred feet up, Quartzville Canyon feels remote and isolated. The aesthetics are helped when mist covers some of the more savage cutting.

Head of Green Peter Reservoir

It’s hard to reconcile this…

 

with this….

but there is mostly a lot of pretty riverside…

Besides getting out and fiddling with the Spongy Wonder’s adjustment, TLRC simply wanted to see his old stomping grounds. He had spent many days paddling on Quartzville and still has a strong attachment to the river and it’s canyon.

TLRC first ran Quartzville 25 years ago on the day after Thanksgiving. He was half insane from grief and alcohol following the rapid disintegration of his marriage only a few weeks before. He thought that he would seek relief in two familiars: alienation and paddling. Thus he took his open boat up to Quartzville for a bout of solo open boating on a river he did not know.

In the event the boating was great. The alienation not so much. The day was the traditional go-to-the-Willamette-to-cut-a-Christmas-tree-day for what seemed to be most of Sweet Home and TLRC hitched a ride back to his Volvo in the back of a pickup with a bunch of happy kids. He was cheered up for a while, and Quartzville became sort of a healing spot for TLRC.

After a hiatus of about 5 years TLRC was back in a kayak and started to spend a lot of time on Quartzville. The lower run of 8-9 miles is generally easy with a few rapids that reach IVth class. In spite of the heavy logging there are many very pretty spots along the river. The water is generally clear, at least one doesn’t get the feel that the headwaters have been as heavily logged as doubtless they have been.

The upper run is more substantial, containing many class IV-IV+ rapids and one bona fide V, the Double Drop. Double Drop was where TLRC first had to face and deal with the fact that, as a middle aged kayaker, not only was he not the paddler he used to be, he pretty much didn’t want to try anymore to be that either.

Double Drop from above. It’s bigger than it looks here.

As the name suggests, Double Drop consists of a pair of sequential steep drops. They are  not all that big, and singly, followed by a pool, neither would be all that big a deal, although the lower one does have a pretty nasty reversal in a narrow slot. The sum, however, is much more than the parts. TLRC ran it for the first time and got away with a spectacular tail stand in the lower drop, having hit the upper one just right.

At this point TLRC was pretty happy with himself. Not knowing too many of the locals, he thought that, given his own success, Double Drop was something the upper echelons of the paddling community did as a matter of course. It wasn’t. When he found this out, and given that Double Drop is actually a pretty scary little thing to run, TLRC found himself agonizing every trip down over whether or not to run it. This consistently ruined his Upper Quartzville trips, as he was, in fact, scared to run it again, and, on the other hand, didn’t like feeling like a pussy if he didn’t. The alchemy of ego: happiness at getting through it once transformed into self-loating at later demurral.

The second time through was when he set himself up for disaster later on.

TLRC was paddling with a group that included the local suicide kid DC. At this stage of his career, DC was pretty good, but ran stuff that was way, way above his level and generally got away with it. Like all 25 year-old male class V boaters, DC had an attitude, to say the least. He treated TLRC with a certain amount of respect (given his rep from the California Golden Age days), but it was pretty clear that TLRC was an artifact.

Just above Double Drop, the other members of the group as a matter of course took out to portage. TLRC was feeling hot that day. He had been boating well, and had run Canyon Cr. the day before. He and DC sat in the eddy above together and DC asked if TLRC was going to run it. From the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice, TLRC KNEW that DC did not want to run it, but in the nature of things (TLRC: artifact; DC: young stud) TLRC also KNEW that if he, TLRC, ran it, that DC was bound to do so too. TLRC simply couldn’t help himself. “Yes.” “Aren’t you going to scout it?” said DC, rattled. “No” said TLRC, twisting the knife (one almost automatically scouts something like Double Drop), and  just took off. TLRC had a perfect run, DC did well too, and better, from the perspective of TLRC, DC knew he had been played.

Not long afterwards, TLRC paid for this.

Somehow TLRC had hooked up with a travelling boater from West Virginia (he said Sweet Home reminded him of home). They went up to Upper Quartzville together. This guy was young and a better and much more modern boater than TLRC. He’d bomb down stuff sight unseen and pretty much do alright. When they got to Double Drop, the visitor just took off, much as TLRC had done a few weeks before. TLRC was feeling a bit out of it that day for some reason, tired, hungover, whatever, not really focused. Regardless, he followed.

TLRC hit the top drop about as wrong as one can and got spun around backwards between the drops. There is sort of an eddy in there, and he thought that perhaps he could scramble into it and recover himself, but all this did was lead to the worst possible outcome. He dropped dead sideways with no downstream speed right into the reversal in the lower drop.

TLRC found himself riding a horrible reversal with about every bad trait it could have. Upstream, water was dropping vertically from 4 feet up strait into the reversal, like a weir. Downstream, the water was rushing straight upstream, like a weir. There was about 6 inches of clearance off either end of TLRC’s boat. There was absolutely nothing he could do but hang on and not escape. He held on. Finally, he got flipped and held under to the point where the only option was to swim out, at which point he got flushed way under water and popped up 20-30 feet downstream. His boat stayed in for a long, long time, doing end-for-end flips, spinning around the long axis, disappearing and reappearing….TLRC cowered on the rock until he eventually got his boat back.

Afterwards, TLRC loudly proclaimed to himself and anyone who would listen that he was, as a matter of principle, never going to run that damned thing again. He didn’t, and also enjoyed every Upper Quartzville trip after that. Except maybe the one at 5000cfs, for which “enjoy” doesn’t quite fit.

Little Grass Mountain

Several years ago, on one of his endless MacDonald Forest training rides, The Logging Road Cyclist realized that he had long been ignoring the presence of an obvious objective. Looking due west from the steepest part of the 700 Road on the back side of McCulloch Peak there was a pretty large bump on the horizon. Price Creek pointed, arrow-like, straight at it.

Back at The Forest Estate, TOPO! and The Google Earth made short work of figuring out what the bump was: Little Grass Mountain. Per the name, large meadows adorned the summit. At 2700′ (about) Lil’ Grass wasn’t what TLRC thought of as one of the Great Summits of The Coast Range (>3000′), but it was close. An interesting peak. From the resources at hand, it appeared that there wasn’t a road to the top. Drainage-wise, it sat right at the top of both the Mary’s and Yaquina Rivers. TLRC and his old buddy D had passed by it on their way to Green Mountain, and TLRC had seen the road to Lil’ Grass (maybe), but beyond that the project lay dormant for a couple of years.

Enter 2016, with TLRC slowly dragging his way out of the latest pit of infirmity, and a very old biking buddy indeed likewise wanting a non-crushing ride. This one seemed made to order, as (barring getting lost) it seemed like summiting Lil’ Grass was at most an 8-10 mile affair without a whole lot of climb. Off went TLRC and Gnat to somewhere new.

They drove out past Summit, turned right at Nashville and shortly parked at the base of Green Mountain Road. Strait on up through some pretty second growth, they climbed steadily to Little Grass Road (yup, there are road signs with names and everything).

Then the ride got nice. It must be on federal land, because there was old growth.

 

Gnat in old growth, Little Grass Road.

Gnat sneaking under deadfall.

 

They stayed on Little Grass Road until they reached the saddle above the Luckiamute drainage, which was shrouded in fog. Wherever the summit was, there wasn’t a road. TLRC had been expecting failure and was ready to just bag it and go home. Gnat was made of sterner (or at least more curious) stuff. Spying a VERY faint trail just south of the big cutbank, he suggested they check it out. TLRC begrudged him this and followed into the wet bush. Looking around a bit, he suddenly realized that he could see light up through the trees, and really got with the program. Shortly the two stout explorers found themselves in the expansive summit meadows, and wandering around eventually at the summit.

Mary’s Peak from Little Grass Mtn.

 

This is an excellent and fun ride. At 13 miles and about 3000′ of climbing it isn’t the grind that most of the Coast Range peaks are. Navigation is simple, and Little Grass is a nice place to get to. Highly recommended for those wanting a taste of Coast Range riding.

Life in Hell

People often ask: “TLRC, you have such an awesome lifestyle! How did you get it? What can I do to be just like you?”

Well, to all these chuckleheads, The Logging Road Cyclist says: “You clearly fail to understand the thread running through the blog. Only an idiot would want the hellish existence of TLRC.”

For example, just today TLRC took off for a couple of days of paddling on Waldo Lake. Beautiful warm Fall weather. An absolutely stunning boat:

A simple plan: Since TLRC hadn’t paddled more than about three times since the Spring, and given his dickey shoulder, he would paddle a loop around the south end of the lake, car-camp overnight and explore the other end the next day. A relaxing trip, couple of days away from home, see how it all worked out.

On the road at 0430, TLRC, who had quit drinking coffee, thought he deserved a large nonfat latte, just to stay alert while driving. About half way through it (near the Brownsville exit), it occurred to him that a one-day circumnavigation might be a pretty good thing to do. He thought it through. The night before he had, as an afterthought, downloaded a map of Waldo and marked off some distances between prominent spots. It was about 4 miles from Shadow Bay (where he intended to start) up to the North Waldo campground. Why not, he thought, do that and see how long it took? See how tired he felt, how much the dickey shoulder hurt? If all was well, try another leg. Do it a bit at a time.

To an outsider, this seems a reasonable, stepwise sort of procedure, one that a cautious person might follow. For TLRC, however this was an ironclad commitment, for, if he reached North Waldo and decided to turn back for any one of a number of perfectly good reasons, he Would Have Failed, and thus Would Be Miserable and Suffer Massive Self-Recrimination. If, on the other hand, he continued all the way ’round, TLRC would have Accomplished Something Noteworthy and Honorable. See how it works? Where, an objective onlooker might reasonably ask, did the two days of quiet paddling go? They never really existed, get it?

In the grip of a full caffeine jag, TLRC stopped for another latte in Oakridge (being as it was still dark), and fully committed himself. Circumnavigation it would be.

It was cloudy but warm at 0745 when TLRC took off from Shadow Bay. Since the bike trail doesn’t follow the shore here this was all new territory for TLRC.

Looking North along Waldo east shore.

The view to the South.

 

Everything went well. TLRC had tired arms at the start, but that was typical before warming up. Shoulder felt ok. By and by he arrived at North Waldo and, inquiring of a camper, he found it had taken an hour and a half to cover the four miles. Seemed reasonable. He headed on, westward through the islands along the north shore.

About half way along, TLRC decided he could allow himself a compromise: Rather than strictly circumnavigating here, he would avoid paddling all the way into the deep northwest corner of the lake and instead cut across to the northernmost promontory on the west shore.

Offshore, the deep indigo for which Waldo is famous was spectacular.

 

The silky smooth indigo water and lack of shoreline for reference lent a surreal quality to the paddle, and TLRC  felt on the edge of losing his equilibrium. Flatwater paddling requires a very exact technique that takes years to master, and constant work to maintain. When tuned, it lets one fall into a trancelike state. Rather than arms, the power comes all the way from the feet through the hips and is accomplished by a smooth rotation of the torso, a rhythmic rotation of the shoulder blades. Arms are secondary. TLRC imagines himself to be a huge cat reaching out at each stroke, grabbing the forest floor and pulling through, a small leap at each stroke. In the middle of the lake, he felt himself fall into a small oblivion.

Twin Peaks and Maiden Peak. Nice Werner ad!

 

West shore in sunshine.

When the sun came out, TLRC found himself playing tag with his shadow on the lakebed.

TLRC was thrilled when his boat looked like a katana.

TLRC indulged himself in a little shore-cleaning operation:

Before.

 

After.

About 2/3 of the way around, the shoulder started to act up a bit. TLRC was pretty much helpless in the face of this. Since usually he only paddles for exercise, he has only two speeds: “Workout” and “Hard Workout”. Try as he might, he couldn’t dawdle, but had to content himself with a couple of sessions of sunning himself like a lizard, munching Tiger’s Milk bars.

In the end, he made it. This is truly an epic day, and much more immersive in the beauty of Waldo than biking, which demands a tight focus on the trail. A wonderful new experience, one he will repeat.

 

About 16 miles.

Massif Traverse

The first ride of Spring was an old project that had lain dormant for a long time. Since first coming to ride in the Laurel Mountain Massif, The Logging Road Cyclist had had an eye on a traverse right across, from the Siletz North Fork to Falls City. His old riding buddy D. had also had a jones for this one, but they just never got to it. Having scoped out the S Line road during the winter the last piece fell into place and TLRC had a big loop to do just the way he liked them: a set of pieces that he knew well enough to put it all together without glancing at a map.

This ride is moderately long, moderately hard, and is a good introduction to serious Coast Range riding. It has a couple of big climbs that are not inordinately abusive, reasonably easy navigation, and a real sense of the isolation available out there. One gets a feel for the size of the Massif: It’s 25 miles from Falls City to the start of the traverse back at the base of the S Line, and then a solid 20 miles over the Massif, most of which is behind locked gates. If something happens, no one is going to come and get you, and even the sections along the Valsetz and North Fork Roads are only lightly travelled.

On this ride, there was a nice display of the Coast Range aesthetic. On his way into Falls City and the Post Office parking lot, TLRC saw an older gent in a small and beat-up pickup pull up in from of the store. He had a huge, rufous dog riding shotgun. TLRC was puzzling over what breed this might be when he suddenly realized this was no canine but rather a goat! A while later, grinding up the Valsetz grade he found yet another wonderful display of art loggeaux:

Oregon’s Spectacular Coast Range where Industry and Art blend harmoniously.

The weather was supposed to be reasonable, and it was up to the pass, but beyond into the Valsetz Triangle a steady soaking rain greeted TLRC.

Spring in The Triangle

The weather got back to tolerable, even pleasant up the North Fork, enough so that some nice views into the steep canyon that hold Boulder Creek were obtained.

Looking over the Boulder-NF Siletz confluence.

Looking up Boulder Creek.

TLRC felt he understood how timber prices were fairing lately. There are some truly appalling new clear cuts, even by Massif standards.

 

Blog Lacunae: Regretted, Adumbrated

 Every fucking night, I, that could cut a throat and sleep the sleep of the just, spend six fucking wakings trying to fill a piss-pot with my dribble and wondering when I got to be so old. – Al Swearengen

Early last Fall, The Logging Road Cyclist was paid a visit by his Little Sister, The Machine. A cyclist since her teens, she rides circles around TLRC, and a ride with her is akin to running with a faithful dog who sprints ahead out of sheer exuberance, and then, feeling guilty at leaving the pathetic and slow one behind, zooms back to check on him.

TLRC had lured her to Oregon by the prospect of an adventure down the upper part of the Middle Willamette trail. TLRC had ridden the lower parts, below Sacandaga, and was anxious to ride down from Indigo Lake.  He had considered self-shuttling by bike, but since the trail was unknown to him, and the climb to Timponagas long and steep, he thought it better to car shuttle it, at least the first time.

The Machine scoffed a bit at this, and, while consenting to use two cars, she allowed, after the first few miles down the trail, as to how she might just go ahead and do the shuttle herself by bike, just so as to be sure to get enough exercise for the day, since the trail was, after all “all downhill”.

Well, of course it isn’t all downhill, and in fact the trail has a surprising amount of rather brutal “uphill”. A few hours later when asked if she still intended to ride back to the car herself  The Machine (never one to shrink from her delusions) declared: “Well, that was a blowhard statement.”

On this trip, TLRC and LSTM met their heroes for life at Campers Flat.

Vicki, Manfred, Otto, LSTM

Otto and Manfred, German expats who were in at least their mid-seventies were installed at Camper’s Flat in their mini-RVs. Manfred’s bike, a fully tricked out Ibis with dropper post lounged against a tree. Manfred was down from WA, and Otto up from CA had hooked up for their annual OR MTB trip. Manfred had just spent a week or so riding around Bend. These guys were old enough to make the siblings feel like kids, and they (the sibs) were in awe that these guys were still at it. M&O commented on how tough the sibs were in that they were still sleeping on the ground. This was nothing, thought the sibs, and for the rest of the trip they reflected on how amazing it was that M&O were still out thrashing around.

The sibs were directing towards their elders what TLRC often gets from the kidz whom he occasionally rides with. They (at 35-40) seem amazed that TLRC is still at it at his advanced age.

TLRC is learning what it takes to stick with it, and he will here share the secret: Stuff on your person breaks and one simply has to do whatever it takes to get it fixed, or find a workaround. It takes persistence. Sometimes it takes rest. Sometimes you just have to quit something to save something else. Hence Blog Lacunae.

Through simple attrition TLRC has had to quit most of what he used to do for fun and fitness. Shoulder gone: no more kayaking or mad Ninja skillz. Hips scoured: no more runs through forest or desert. Feet: problematic, no more rock shoes. TLRC sometimes feels like he’s been hunted down into a corner and cycling is what’s left, so when that is threatened, he gets pretty upset, especially since low exercise means low cookie intake. This is aging, kids, and it isn’t dramatic, it’s petty and niggling and leaves one feeling sorry for one’s self while others of your cohort suffer from some real, honest, serious stuff that they did not bring upon themselves (cf. TLRC’s former lifestyles) while you can’t ride as much as you want to. Add self-dislike to your mild depression.

At times like these, TLRC usually begins a frantic round of visits to orthopedists, PT’s, acupuncturists (but never podiatrists), followed by a period of gingerly feeling his way back into form, noting to himself that he has been worse hurt before and hardly thinks about that now, and finally just gets back to it. The present round, maybe dicky feet, maybe a bit of a disk problem, who knows, has left TLRC to ride a bit. In this circumstance, he loses interest in the blog. No riding to note, no riding noted. While he has been out, e.g. on Feagles Cr. on a spectacular winter’s day

Prairie Mtn looms above Alsea as seen from Yew Cr. Rd.

and back out behind Praire Mtn on the biggest rain day in two months

these were tentative outings, and not the explorations TLRC likes to document here. Being in his usual final stage of just getting on with it, he hopes to take up keyboard and exploring both again now.

 

 

Over the S-Line

The Logging Road Cyclist was a serious kayaker for most of his adult life. The first or second winter of his boating career saw the establishment of a long lived tradition: the solo Christmas Day paddling trip. The first one was a trip down the now drowned Warm Springs Creek near his Sonoma County home. Between then and the demise of paddling for TLRC, whenever he was near a flowing stream, off he would go on his lonely observance of the Baby Jesus’ birthday. For the last few years of his paddling life, Quartzville Cr. usually filled the bill.

Absent paddling, TLRC keeps the tradition alive with a Christmas Day ride. Getting somewhere does’t really matter, it’s getting out in the cold when no one else is that feeds the TLRC soul. This year, he tried to do a loop encompassing the SW part of the Laurel Mtn Massif: from the Valsetz Rd. up Sand Cr. to Fanno Ridge, thence to the S-Line (the 8-8-12),  past Sugarloaf and back along the N and S Forks of the Siltetz to the car.

Two legs of this were unknown. The climb up to Fanno Ridge looked straightforward. TLRC had been out to Surgarloaf a couple of times, and there were a few miles beyond on an unknown part of the S-Line down to the N Siletz.

He got an early start, and headed  into the Valsetz Triangle via Falls City, for the views. Even on Xmas morning there were a couple of loners out wandering about. It didn’t take long for TLRC to get on the wrong (but very main-roadish) path, which cost him nearly a thousand feet of steep climbing and a wasted hour. Finally on track, he got up to Fanno Ridge, and on known ground (cf. Finally Fanno Ridge) he made it to the major Fanno-S-Line junction, where he took stock.

8-8-23 below Fanno, Xmas, 2014

It was very cold, and to the west, beyond Surgarloaf, the weather looked to be deteriorating. He was late by at least an hour, probably more. Ahead lay 5 or so miles of road he had seen a couple of times followed by about the same amount of unknown road that dropped steeply into the Siletz. That concerned him the most. A mistake out there would leave him retreating all the way back over Fanno late on a winters day, cold, with his energy flagging. TLRC knew himself well enough to foresee the angst that would nip at his heals as he dropped deeper into the large canyon. Without remorse or self-recrimination, he bagged it.

Happily retreating, he pondered his hobby, and his earlier loves, climbing and kayaking. It occurred to him that in all three, in serious circumstances, when one set out into the mountains, up a big cliff or down a remote canyon, several clocks started to tick. The one for daylight. The one for warmth, and the ones for energy, strength and focus. He realized that he and his partners always moved with all deliberate speed through uncertain or dangerous territory. There was a cushion of time that it was comfortable to have just in case. Beyond that was the satisfaction of simply being able to do it, to move fast and strong and gracefully, at ease, but aware that  one was trespassing and it was as well to keep that in mind. On this Christmas, TLRC felt more like fun than boldness, and wanted a lot of time left on all the clocks when he got back to his truck.

Ten days later, he had at it again. Now that the Fanno end of things was sewn up, he parked at Valsetz and headed off down the South Fork, planning to reverse the loop and climb up the unknown part of the S-Line in the time-honored tradition of Not Exploring Downhill.

This was classic Coast Range riding. Rain. 40 degrees, remnant ice from last week’s freezeout slouching down road cuts and cliffs, surfacing puddles.

SF Siletz.

The Siletz forks were, as usual, stunning and served to distract from the destruction wreaked on the slopes above. The low clouds helped that too. Reaching the S-Line, TLRC doffed his wet outer layers and started to climb. Being a very major road, the gradient is not bad, and TLRC seldom got into his lowest gears. The road follows a scenic small creek, and, he imagined, must have some stunning views into the large canyon of Boulder Cr. on a good day. There was no useful visibility, nor road signs, and TLRC checked himself at a section marker once before he reached known ground. “Known” is a relative term. He hadn’t been here for two years and while things looked “familiar” he was still happy to find himself at the big signed junction he had reached on Christmas.

Yippie!

As usual, bad weather down low meant real Winter up on the plateau, and even though he had covered the Fanno Rd very recently, TLRC, now pretty wet, was acutely aware of both how easy and how devastating  a wrong turn in the dismal conditions would be. Again, Coast Range riding at its finest.

Back at the truck earlier than he had hoped, TLRC was well satisfied. New ground on the SW part of the Massif, a couple of good connections from the Triangle thither, and the ground laid for a full (and long-planned) Falls City- NF Siletz traverse to be done on a longer and warmer day. A good ride.

 

 

 

Warnicke Falls

The Logging Road Cyclist, the Curmudgeon of the Coast Range, had begun to feel just a bit jaded. He was redoing his old classic rides for the fourth or sixth time, and was feeling the lack of a partner who might infuse some new ideas for future forays. As luck would would have it, TLRC supped last Thanksgiving with a logger who REALLY knows the Range, and this guy showed TLRC a picture of this big waterfall nearby his recent worksite. “Warnicke Falls,” he said, “two hundred feet high”. A true lover of the Caost Range, this man had actually scrambled to near the base of the Falls (no mean feat) and gotten some clear and closeup pictures. A stunning sight. Having no maps to hand, and a balky phone, TLRC took a vague idea of The Falls whereabouts home and soon found it was near some familiar ground. Warnicke Cr., sponsor of the Falls, is a tributary of that old friend, the NF Siletz, next tributary up from Boulder Cr. (of Boulder Pass), and it debouches into the NF Siletz up by the Valley of the Giants, another known point.

Access was a whole ‘nuther thang. While there is a road that reaches part way up Warnicke, it falls short. No road, it seems gets to the Falls from the Siletz side. Short of some almost unimaginable intrigue from the West, the best ways in looked to be straight south from Grande Ronde on HWY 18, or via Boulder Pass at the head of Mill Cr.

The former seemed both shorter, and to contain some very interesting geology. Off went TLRC on a cold and foggy morning that he was sure would turn sunny once the heights were reached.

The ride follows BLM 6-8-13 8 miles or so to the top of a steep ridge, but the first few miles are along the scenic and very whitewatery Rock Cr. Were TLRC a younger man with two (2) functioning shoulders, he’d head back there immediately to run it.

View downstream from the first bridge over Rock Cr. That’s a 10 foot drop.

As the ridge crest nears, the road gets steep, and good views along this impressive scarp and off to the North are had:

View E towards Condenser Peak from the 6-8-13

Looking N down Rock Cr. and over Grande Ronde from the 6-8-13

In spite of this being a BLM-numbered road, this is emphatically private timber land, and just past the top of the ridge as one passes into the Warnicke basin, the gate is locked, but has a warm welcome for LRC’s:

TLRC had two goals. First he wanted to get downstream on the north side of the Creek in hopes of some views back towards the Falls. He got his wish, through the trees.

These shots, from about 1/2 mile away show how impressive these Falls are. Having taken this in, TLRC headed back to the head of the Falls. Not only did he want to look off of them, he was curious about the type of rock that could support something this impressive. So far, all that was visible in the local quarries and road cuts was the soft layers of the Tyee sand and siltstone, not the stuff of a big Falls.

The new clearcut at the top of the Falls was easy to find, and after picking his way through a bit of treacherous slash:

Warnick Cr. warms up with this pretty little falls just above the main event.

Lip of the Falls

More Lip and a bit of the runout.

The canyon below the Falls.

Creeping back from the lip, TLRC dug around in a tree root for a hand specimen that wasn’t water-emplaced. Sure enough, it was his old buddy Mr. Gabbro, that sturdy stone whose stong back was holding up the Falls! Climbing out of the clearcut, he spied some more in a nearby road cut, a clear sign that the local geology was of sterner stuff.

Gabbro outcrop at the head of Warnicke Falls

TLRC had originally entertained the notion of swinging over to Boulder Pass to tie in with the Mill Cr. road network in aid of future efforts. But, as always, when out this far by himself on a short winter’s day, he took the conservative course, and headed home while the getting was good, well satisfied with this great ride.

On the way back, he noticed some classic examples of art loggeaux, such as this,  “Gabbro Sur Fir” (unknown artist).