Preriding for the Black Dog, 6/20&23/02

By Tom Niemela

(click on thumbnails for larger picture)

DAY1: For this year's Black Dog Sunday course, we wanted to use an entirely new area.  This new location was between Estacada and Timothy Lake.  It had all the good ingredients: scenery, quality experience for all skill levels, and gas/lunch at Promontory Point.  So Walt, Randy and I hoofed it on to Promontory Point, unloaded and made our way up the proposed route.  Walt had ridden a number of trails in the area and knew many of them by heart. 

After getting on our way, we went up some single-lane tarmac, then to gravel, then finally to the good stuff - trails.  We had snaked our way through about five miles of it, when I noticed my front end was acting funny.  Sure enough, I'd taken in a nail out in the middle of nowhere.  Probably one nail on the entire mountain and I had to find it! After searching around for a good stump, I found a couple of attached wooden beams that were perfect for a bike stand and started to change the tire. I don't have a clue how the beams got there, but they were put to good use. Of course Randy had to steal my camera for a Kodak moment! Then we soldiered on up the trail, only to be stopped by incredible amounts of snow.  Weird.  This is almost the end of June and there was snow at this low level (about 2400')?  So we went back and took the road around to where the trail was supposed to end up, but the road was even blanketed with yards and yards of snow as far as we could see.  We're talking three-foot drifts!  

We then went all the way back down and started up the main gravel road that eventually ends up at High Rock, only to hit more monumental snow drifts.  Out of all the years that we've been using Mt. Hood National Forest for the Black Dog, we've never seen snow down this low at this time of year.  Eastern Oregon and the rest of the nation seem to be having drought issues, but from the Cascades, going West, the snow pack is huge.

The next plan was to try to scout out a particular 'A' trail.  After searching in vain, we finally found it and made our way down.  This trail rocked!  Suddenly though it started to become very steep and was more like AAA level.  Being the intelligent gents that we were, we parked the scoots and started hiking.  Whoa, some serious switchback trail, that resembled some of the nasty stuff at Gifford Pinchot N.F.  Ultimately deciding we didn't want to head down the trail and realize that way was also the only way out, and then having to spend the night in the woods, we decided to call it a day.

Summary? The ride was killer: Walt kept making only left turns with his blinker, Randy kept dropping the camera, radio, and his bike, I got a flat and dented my radiator, and this year's Black Dog will have to make some serious compromises for routes due to the snow.  We know we can still provide the usual, awesome course, but this particular area will have to be used another year.  We'll keep you posted!

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We think that Randy would be better off pulling his Geo with the XR650! It probably has more power, lol!
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Walt getting his gear on.
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Now THAT'S a nail! Notice the weird twisted-wire design.
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I'm thinking I might as well get the first flat of the year over with.
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Randy demonstrates a taste of things to come - SNOW!
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Trail exploring...
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Yet more exploring...
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Randy on one of the fun sections of the new trail.
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Walt passing through in the same spot.
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This was one nasty switchback, although the picture doesn't do the steepness justice.
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Randy negotiating one of the switchbacks.  Notice his wheel is pointed the wrong way...
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Moments later Randy picking up the beast from the downhill side - ugh!  Of course I had to take a picture before I helped him!
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Randy tip toes through one of the pond-sized mud holes that were everywhere.
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Walt styling for the camera.
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Randy lofting the front wheel.
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Tom just before take off.
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Tom out to launch.

DAY2: Randy and I went to Hood River to check out some reopened trail opportunities for the Saturday course.  This turned out to be a much more fruitful day than the prior one.  We met some friends, Rick and Joe, then left them to go exploring above Parkdale.  It was a bodacious day! We saw four doe, one fawn, one hawk and one quail.  The hawk swooped down and almost took off with me!  A helmet cam would have been ideal.  A strange twist regarding Mt. Hood: the North side of the mountain has typical snow packs, but the South side has about twice as much as normal.  Looks like this year will be called the Snow Dog!

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Rick & Joe
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This fawn's mother ran off and the fawn laid motionless in the middle of the trail for about 20 seconds, then chased after Mom.
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On our way to Gumjuac Ridge we encountered the usual stuck people.
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Bikes go through this stuff a lot easier than 4WD's!
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A vista point at the beginning of Gumjuac Ridge.
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But the same spot looking up the road was not quite as greeting. MAJOR snow, it looks like the classic Gumjuac Ridge Road won't be used this year.
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Plenty of windfalls everywhere for us to clear after this last Winter.
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Just a scenic shot of Randy by Surveyor's Ridge.