Finally, Fanno Ridge

Thanksgiving day was wet and dreary, and a session of uncontrolled gluttony loomed, so, undeterred by the weather, The Logging Road Cyclist hauled himself out of bed and headed off on his usual Holiday Escape. Gingerly pivoting around the corner at the bottom of his hill (where, during the Unfortunate Event of 12/31/11 he had incurred his comminuted fracture of the right acetabulum), he headed on out to Mary’s Peak and beyond. The final stretch of his ride over Cardwell Hill Rd. was a pleasant surprise: The Powers That Be had rocked and compacted what used to be a veritable swamp in the winter so that this steep finale to the ride was simply that, rather than a test to see if one could make it through the mud lakes that used to comprise the “road” here. He paused at the top to admire his mud spattered De Salvo, with its new TLRC-made “Rattle-Free” ™ fenders:

This bit of exercise was certainly worth the several pieces of pie TLRC allowed himself that evening.

TLRC was back in love with his cross bike. As exciting, promising and new as the Lynskey was, it was simply outmatched on the Logging Roads by the DeSalvo. The Fall maintenance program had put the latter into tip-top shape, and she rode without a sound, shifting almost at the thought.

Thus TLRC got back into an exploring mood and he resolved to right an old wrong. Last March he had attempted a loop out of Falls City via Fanno Ridge, from which he was chased, whimpering in chilled misery and confusion, by the dogs of winter. Well, Sunday was wintry, but at least it was dry and clear, so TLRC had high hopes that he could avoid both hypothermia and becoming lost, so he headed back.

He left Falls City on this sub-freezing morning, well equipped for the cold. The grind up to the pass above the Valsetz Triangle seemed both easy and not really tedious. Likely the scenery improved with sun:

or TLRC was simply at peace with his surroundings. On a clear day, one gets a great view of the Laurel Mtn Massif proper:

Riley Peak and Laurel Mtn from the Valsetz Rd.

He reached the base of the Fanno Ridge Road in good order and relative warmth, and headed into the unknown. In contrast to the last time here, there were spectacular views off the ridge

Looking over Valsetz Lake from Fanno Ridge.

The road climbed up into winter. Soon the riding got tricky, with apricot- to peach-sized rocks and various sticks and branches hiding beneath a thin layer of snow. Frost heaves grabbed tires, and icy sheets lurked in the shade. The wind came up and TLRC found himself in full gear with double gloves against the cold. His water bottles froze. The navigation was tricky enough to pose a challenge but not to cause incipient panic, although TLRC was acutely aware of how quickly hypothermia would get him in the event of any unpleasantness. He was happy: this was exciting riding.

Mt Hood beyond the Little Luckiamute, Rickreall Cr. and the Willamette.

Sugarloaf Mtn.

A fortuitous BLM road sign gave him a fix, and soon TLRC was in the well-known ground behind Riley Peak. The steep descent to Falls City soon took him out of the land of ice and back to firm riding and a warm drive home.

In spite of the massive cutting going on in this area, this is still a worthwhile ride.

Another Dead End

It always seemed, The Logging Road Cyclist mused as he geared up in Mill Cr. County Park, to be colder in this part of the world than it should be. Even accounting for the Laurel Mtn Massif to the south, blocking much of the paltry winter sun, it  was cold. TLRC was better prepared for this than usual, having brought actual rain gear and padded jacket. No more freezouts for him.

He was back to try to drop into place yet anther piece of a long-standing puzzle: a gravel circumnavigation of Laurel Mtn. This was really the last bit, connecting Rickreall Cr.  to Mill Cr. Over the last couple of years, TLRC had familiarized himself with the Massif to the point where he could pretty much go map-free where he liked. If he could cross from Rickreall into Mill Cr., a Dallas-intiated route could go through all on known roads.

He had tried this crossing  two springs ago from the other side. All the maps showed a road coming up from the Aron Mercer Reservoir and descending Cedar Cr. to Mill. At the top of the divide, TLRC could discern not a hint of a road heading north, and, after casting around for a bit headed back down, where he ran into a little group of four (1-2-3-4) adolescent cougars lying about in the road, like TLRC enjoying the sunny spring day. As he stood there watching (cats between him and where he needed to go), they gradually in ones and twos sauntered off down the road and up into some dense new trees, about 15 feet away from where TLRC needed to pass.

Today’s task was to try from the north and see if he could find a way over. Google Earth showed a tantalizing trace through clearcut and trees, so off again up the scenic Mill Cr., today kayaker heaven with ample water and open gates.

Reaching Cedar Cr., he turned up it and headed for his goal. After a couple of pleasant miles up this surprisingly large creek, things got nasty: washouts, lots of debris that required walking. TLRC was wondering how long he was willing to do this, when a pair of bowhunters coming the other way told him that it got worse soon: the recent ice storm had brought down a lot of trees, and even for them, bikeless, it was pretty much impassable. An unridable road is just as worthless as no road at all for a long circumnavigation, so TLRC (lamentably hyper-caffeinated today) walked back with them to their truck, and doubtless they felt better informed on any number of issues by the time he mercifully left them to their lunch.

As it was, TLRC got a nice 20-mile ride out of it, and a cool look at a remnant stand of old growth up Cedar Cr.

They haven’t gotten all of it yet.

A Couple of Things That TLRC Just Cannot Understand How He Has Managed To Live This Long Without

The Logging Road Cyclist is one of those folks for whom a common occurrence is to get out of the house and down the road a ways when suddenly it occurs to him that he just might not have shut off the stove with the kettle on it. He then has to struggle do decide which is the stronger: 1) The honest fear that his house will burn down with his dogs inside, or 2) An unwillingness to give in and admit that he is in fact slightly neurotic. Generally the latter prevails, but, having once had a neighbor’s house burn to the ground quickly and spectacularly, it is often a real fight. Just the other day, TLRC put on the kettle to liven up an otherwise tense morning at the computer, retreated to his lair and promptly forgot about it. A whistling teakettle, it had always warned TLRC when it was ready, and for years it had done its job well. But lately, the top hadn’t been shutting all the way, and sometimes the whistle failed to whistle when the water boiled. So it did again, and the water all boiled away, and TLRC came out to a red-hot kettle whose plastic top was just shy of falling off onto the stove.

For years both TLRC’s buddy Stump, and TLRC’s mother had advised him to get one of those auto shut off electric kettles. TLRC, not a fan of counter top appliances in general, had for years fought off getting a toaster (only to find how much he enjoyed toast), and likewise eschewed the electric kettle, until this last straw. Out went the faithful whistler, and TLRC hauled himself off to BiMart, where for less than a new whistler, he got a Hamilton Beach electric.  What a treat! Fast safe hot water! Who would have known.

Last weekend on Praire Mountain, the TLRC feet were getting cold, and as a tactic to keep himself from getting driven nuts by an incessant snick-snick-snick and a seat post that simply would not tighten, he pondered how he might keep them (the feet) warm without using foot-cramping heavy socks (not an option for a variety of podiatric reasons) or cumbersome neoprene overboots. “I wonder” he mused while listening to neither the snick-snick-snick, nor checking the seat post gradation once again, “if someone makes a light, windproof sock, maybe Goretex?”. A number of other options coursed through his brain against the backdrop of the noise and slippage that were on the verge of having him chew through the side of his cheek (more later).

Well, as it turns out, there are Goretex socks, even ones specifically for cycling. TLRC got a pair and aired them out today. After a couple of hours of rain and muddy road, with a creek ford thrown in for good measure, the TLRC inner toe socks were dry enough to wear home and into the evening. How he managed to ride all those winters past without these babies is something TLRC cannot fathom.

Prairie Mountain, East Summit

UPDATED, 19 April 2016: There is a gated section on the descent to the SF Alsea Rd. below Prairie Peak. This is a new red gate with a forbidding sign and cameras. One can get through, but doing so pretty clearly constitutes trespass.

Readers of the website will recall The Logging Road Cyclists’ fondness for Prairie Mountain.  He has been all over it, with one glaring exception: the high point lying roughly east of Gunsight Pass. When looking at Prairie from around Corvallis, this is a prominent feature, but TLRC had always just gone to the more glorious and higher (by 100′) Prairie Peak with it’s spectacular views, or miserable weather, depending. Short of geographical curiosity, there isn’t much reason to go to the East Summit itself, unless added in as a little bonus to the Prairie Mountain Loop. There is a nice summit meadow, disfigured by antennae, and a subsidiary lower meadow that does have nice views to the east.

Feeling adventurous, but not too much so, TLRC headed off up the well-trodden Tobe Cr. Rd. with the East Summit as a goal. The day was bright, beautiful and very cold. Still besotted by his new mistre…uh, 29er, he had left the old faithful Desavlo hanging in the garage. The had had a lot of good days together, to be sure, but (TLRC mused), perhaps like so many steadfast couples they has begun to grow apart of late. Nothing serious, but the shiny new light Lynskey, with its comfortable big tires and promise of trail excitement not easily gotten on the Desalvo had turned the TLRC head. Was he fickle? TLRC thought not, but was considering taking up the issue at his next men’s group meeting, or perhaps in the drum circle. He would eschew discussing it after yoga. Given the high percentage of female practitioners he felt unsure about getting a fair hearing.

Not that the new philly was without her little problems. There was a persistent snick snick snick coming from somewhere. It was hard to pin down on gravel. Not a brake pad…not sprues on the new tires…hopefully not one of the brand new King hubs…TLRC’s excitement with his new ride held off the inevitable loss of temper for a good ten miles or so, after which he was on and off the bike trying to reproduce the sound while walking so as not to bean himself by riding while trying to get his ear down by the front hub, all the while trying to remember that he was probably the most patient fellow one could meet. At the same time, he was also checking for slip on the new carbon seat post that had also been providing a wonderful tool for cultivating calmness. He had carbon-pasted it, ever so carefully crept up on the torque, to no avail. Finally he cut a piece of seat post shim and affixed a second clamp on the seat post above the seat tube. This seemed to be holding, and incidentally guarding TLRC against encroaching insanity from the snick snick snick, until, when leaning forward to listen once again, his thigh hit the nose of his saddle and the seat swung about 45 degrees out of alignment. But it didn’t slip down.

It seemed a longer than usual ride up to Gunsight pass. Heading east, TLRC found the road up to the East summit without much trouble and briefly enjoyed the sun and weird antenna array.

Summit facility, East Prairie Mtn.

Closeup of bizarre antenna array.

TLRC decided to risk the ice on the Alsea Falls road and make a loop of it. Buttoning up, he found his way down Coleman Creek and then picked his way through the ice patches on the paved road back to the truck. On the way, he determined that the snicking was a loose valve stem with no nut on it. In Philomath, he bought some brass shim stock which seemed to snug up the seat post…..


Et Reversus Est

For a while now, The Logging Road Cyclist has not been much of a cyclist of the logging roads. There are a number of reasons for this: an excess of stuff at work, the acquisition by the Long Suffering Girlfriend of a live-in granddaughter, the building and maintenance of bicycles, some logging at The Forest Estate with the various concomitant tasks thus entailed, an obsessive re-watching of The Sopranos. The granddaughter in particular has placed some demands on TLRC’s hitherto mostly open life schedule. He found himself, at various times, waiting in the middle school parking lot with all the other parents (most of whom, truth be told looked like children to him), attending a meeting about a forthcoming school trip, hauling her around to after school activities, even indulging in the occasional coffee/scone date. While certainly out of the usual course of events, TLRC found himself enjoying his new responsibilities.

At the same time, he felt his usual Autumn timidity. No lightweight, TLRC winter rides with the best of them, but something happens in the transition from bright, hot summer days on flowing trails to moist cold ones on unforgiving rattling roads. He tends to withdraw for the first few weeks of poor weather, indeed finds himself making excuses for not riding at the merest hint of a cloud.

Thus TLRC. He has, it must be said continued his usual local training schedule, while eschewing “TLRC” rides. Finally, he bestirred himself and a good goal, it seemed, was Grass Mountain.  TLRC usually does this ride at least once a year, but for some reason it fell off the 2013 schedule, and so it was time for a visit. Plus, it seemed a good ride to give the New Bike a longer shakedown:

Lynsky Ti 29er, TLRC Red Wheels, etc, etc.

This bike was great on a short local ride, but it needed a longer test, so off to Grass.

The weather had been mild of late, so TLRC was not expecting much in the way of misery. He has, however, learned the hard way not to underestimate the potential for it on damp days on the higher Coast Range Peaks. Grass Mtn did not disappoint. Climbing up the steep grade out of the Alsea, conditions deteriorated to steady rain and gusty winds. Soon things were looking like a winter day, welcoming the New Bike to it’s future:

November in the clear cuts…

Not having been out for a while, TLRC pondered the nature of his hobby. Heading further up into the blindness of a Coast Range storm, hoping he remembered all the right turns, he  thought how sketchy this was, all by himself out there, and the fundamental weirdness implied by the pleasure he took in it. Doubtless as the season progresses, he thought, this will all seem more normal…

The summit forest was as serene as he remembered, and he enjoyed the walk. His soaked and squishing shoes faded into the background as he marveled at the ease with which the Lynskey was hoisted over the various downed logs and road “decommissioning” tank traps. The summit meadows held psychedelic treasures but no view.

Huge Amanita?