Hammerfest Trails in Parksville, BC

After a few days exploring the Olympic Penninsula, it was time to head to Canada and mountain biking paradise!

Hammerfest Trail Network // tahoefabulous.com

We took the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, and we ran into some issues. We were leaving around the 4th of July and just after Canada Day, and we ended up not booking the ferry we wanted early enough. That meant that we had to rely on the first come, first serve spaces. We got to the ferry terminal almost three hours early, and we still had to be on standby. Luckily, we were able to get on the earlier sailing that we’d been planning on. Just something to keep in mind if you’re planning a similar route – buy your ferry tickets in advance or prepare to wait around for quite awhile.

The ferry boat ride (Greyson’s first ever car ferry!) was gorgeous, with views of the Olympics, the Cascades, Mount Baker, and the San Juan Islands. I was hoping we’d see some sea life, but nothing made an appearance. Crossing the border went smoothly, and we were quickly on our way north to the campground I’d booked outside of Parkside. We stopped at a brewery for a sampler and some snacks in Nanaimo. (I’m going to write up all of the Vancouver Island breweries at once, so stay tuned.)

I booked a campsite at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park because it looked pretty close to a trail network when I was doing basic research on TrailForks. I figured we could stay there one night, and if it sucked, we could move on. It turned out to be one of our favorite campsites on the whole trip.

 

You can literally ride from your campsite at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park to the Hammerfest Trail network, which is awesome. It’s super convenient, and the trails themselves are great. We only ended up riding there one day, which we regretted. Now we just have to go back!

Hammerfest Trails // tahoefabulous.com
Trail map via trailforks.com

I had a great time riding the Hammerfest trails. Obviously, in a single day, we could only ride a fraction of the network, but I found everything rideable. The climb up was a long fire road slog, but not nearly as bad as the climb in Ashland. The trails were fairly well marked, and we followed our chosen route using a combination of trail signs and the TrailForks app.

Hammerfest Trails // tahoefabulous.com
Trail map via Strava

Hammerfest Trails // tahoefabulous.com

@tahoefabulous getting after the dark and loamy on the #hammerfesttrails of #vancouverisland . #mountainbiking #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on

We got off the fire road on to Jughead. This trail started out heading down a hillside in a clear cut or burned area. The trail was a little rough – narrow and beat up with loose rocks, but still fun. You quickly got into the forest and the trail turned into the fun, flowy trail of my BC dreams.

Hammerfest Trails // tahoefabulous.com

Once in the cover of the trees, we switched from Jughead to Locomotion. Here is where we first encountered an issue that would cause us problems on pretty much every trail we rode in British Columbia. We’re used to staying on a single trail for miles, not riding spiderweb like networks with potential turns every 100 meters or so. Even the trail network I ride most often only has a few choices. Since we weren’t riding with locals, and we were just navigating for ourselves, that often meant stops at every fork in the trail to make sure we were taking the correct turn. This really threw off our rhythm sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, the trails are super fun. Just be prepared to do some stopping in order to stay on route.

 


The last major trail we hopped on was Dem Bones. I remember this one seeming really rooty, but it turns out it was just the first taste of rooty BC single track, and we’d encounter even more roots on trails to come. We popped out just down the road from the park and rode back to camp, giddy with our first taste of BC mountain biking.

Hammerfest Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park is an awesome campground – even if you’re not into mountain biking. It’s clean, the employees are super friendly, and they take quiet hours very seriously. These facts were true about every provincial park we visited in Canada, but this was a great introduction. The person driving around collecting fees even told us he was “so sorry” about our current leadership when he saw our California plates, which we appreciated.

After eating lunch and hanging around in the hammock, I decided that I wanted to hike down to the falls and check them out. Greyson wasn’t feeling great at this point, but he agreed to accompany me. The falls were small but pretty, and there was a perfect swimming hole (neither of which I got a picture of, oops). We were there late enough in the afternoon that it wasn’t very crowded and no one was in the water. Dipping my toes in, I could tell the water was freezing, but it was so beautiful and clear that I had to jump in. I stripped down to my underwear and dove in. The cold was shocking, but refreshing and I dove in a couple more times before I had enough.

Hammerfest Trails // tahoefabulous.com

I loved this park, the trail network, and the general area. I’d go back to visit this area in a heartbeat and I highly recommend it.

Mountain Biking Ashland, Oregon

One of the first mountain biking destinations we decided on was Ashland, Oregon. We’d heard that it has an amazing trail network, good beer and food, nearby camping, fun culture, and was a quick ~6.5 hour drive up I5 from our wedding location in Point Reyes.

Mountain Biking Ashland Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

We’d planned on camping at a free USFS campground on Mount Ashland, and, while the campground was open the access road was not. We had way too much stuff to make the hike into the campground, so we headed towards other campgrounds in town. We ended up camping at Emigrant Lake County Park, which wasn’t the best campsite on the trip, but definitely wasn’t the worst. For $20 for a tent site, it was fine. Plus, the bathrooms were really clean and it stayed quiet on the weeknights we were there. It was in the oak woodlands and pretty hot. We never ended up swimming in the lake, but there is water access. We also got this great sunset view.

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Ashland’s great access to the outdoors, a huge Shakespeare festival, and a university make it into a really cool town. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked exploring the city, but we’ll definitely be back.

Mountain Biking
We woke up eager to ride in Ashland, so after delicious bagels at Little Shop of Bagels, we headed to Ashland Mountain Adventures, excited to catch the shuttle. We arrived and the store was closed. That’s when we discovered that the upper part of the trail network was closed to riding, and, therefore, the shuttle wasn’t running. Oh, well, we decided. We’ll just pedal up – Greyson told me that the trail we were most excited about riding, Jabberwocky, was only ~500 feet of climbing.

Caterpillar/Lizzard/Jabberwocky // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Stats via Strava

As you can see, this was not true. We had to climb up and up and up and up a hot, exposed road, then a hot exposed fire road before we got to the trailhead we were looking for. It was really, really hard and we regretted not taking up the shuttle offer of the local we met at the bottom parking area. On the bright side, none of the climbs for the whole rest of the trip seemed as bad in comparison.

Caterpillar/Lizzard/Jabberwocky // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

We ended up riding Caterpillar to Lizard to our ultimate goal, Jabberwocky. The trails were all definitely well built, flow trails. Jabberwocky is the newest trail in the network, and has machine bermed corners, table top jumps and not much in the way of rocks or roots. It had a few super steep super tight turns that were above my pay grade, especially early on since I didn’t yet trust the dirt to hold me. It’s got a couple of small, easy rock gardens and rollable drops. I had the most fun on the Lizard trail segment. It was also a flow trail, but nothing that sketched me out as much as the steep corners on Jabberwocky, so I could just relax and ride.

Caterpillar/Lizzard/Jabberwocky // tahoefabulous.com
Elevation Profile via Strava

We’d originally planned to spend three days riding in Ashland, but since much of the mountain biking was inaccessible, we decided to shorten our stay and do an extra day on the Oregon Coast. We wanted to do a quick ride and get on the road for day two, so we drove up to the highest parking area and cut off almost 1,000 feet of climbing.

Caterpillar/Lizzard/Jabberwocky // tahoefabulous.com
Trail stats via Strava

This time, we rode Lizard again (which confirmed it as my favorite trail we rode in Ashland) and lower Caterpillar. Lower Caterpillar was still fun and flowy, but much easier and a little less “built” than Jabberwocky or Lizard.

Trail Stats
Trails of Note: Jabberwocky, Lizard, Caterpillar
Location: Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

Gear Used
Bike: 2016 Transition Smuggler
Helmet: Bell Super 2R
Hydration Pack: Camelbak Solstice
Shoes: Five Ten Kestrel Bike Shoe
Kneepads: SixSixOne Recon

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Ultimate Northwest Mountain Bike Road Trip Itinerary

After Greyson and I got married this June, we went on an amazing, ~4 week honeymoon. We road tripped with our camping gear and our mountain bikes from Point Reyes, up through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and back again. It was A LOT of planning, but I have to say that our route was just about perfect. I’ll go into more details about the specific destinations – the biking, the camping, the beer, and the other activities. I thought that I’d start with an overview of our route, in case anyone is looking to plan a similar trip.

Planning a PNW mountain bike road trip // tahoefabulous.com

Figuring out our route was a lot of work, but I knew there were some places that we definitely wanted to visit, places that friends recommended, some free hotel nights, and a few other requirements. The main resources I used for planning were:

  1. Trailforks
  2. Google maps
  3. BC Parks website

We needed to be in my hometown in eastern Washington exactly 4 weeks after our wedding, so our itinerary couldn’t be completely flexible. We wanted to not be too scheduled, though, so I broke our trip into a few segments.

  1. Oregon
  2. Olympic National Park
  3. Vancouver Island
  4. Sunshine Coast
  5. Whistler/Bellingham
  6. North Cascades/Eastern Washington
  7. Back to Truckee

PNW MTB Road Trip Route Map // tahoefabulous.com

The towns and regions we picked for mountain biking were

  • Ashland, Oregon
  • Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Sunshine Coast, British Columbia
  • Whistler/Squamish, British Columbia
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Hood River, Oregon

We had a few other must-do non mountain biking destinations, like Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park and friends we wanted to visit. Using the above lists and research I did on camp sites, I came up with a general itinerary and route:

Route Planning Spreadsheet //tahoefabulous.com

(Though this is our final-final itinerary the “final” one we came up with before the trip got a few changes along the way.)

We had a few places booked to stay – campsites when we thought it would be too busy to get first come-first serve, a few hotels, friends to stay with. This itinerary gave us some flexibility within our set dates. For example, we ended up leaving Ashland a day early for an extra day on the coast as a lot of the trails were closed.

Here’s what we ended up doing Point Reyes, CA > Ashland< OR > Oregon Dunes (via the Umpqua River scenic route) > Newport, OR > Lake Quinault Lodge/Olympic National Park, WA > Parksville, BC > Courtney/Comox/Cumberland, BC > Campbell River, BC > Powell River, BC > Roberts Creek/Seechelt, BC > Squamish, BC > Whistler, BC > Bellingham, WA > North Cascades National Park/Winthrop, WA > Reardan, WA > Hood River, OR > Bend, OR > Truckee, CA. It was an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to share more!

We got married!

I didn’t write very much (aka at all) on my blog in 2017 – turns out planning a wedding is a lot of work!

Photo by Marble Rye Photography wedding 4

wedding 2

wedding 3

All the great photos are by the super talented Melissa of Marble Rye Photography

After our awesome wedding, Greyson and I went on an even better honeymoon. We road tripped from Point Reyes, up through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and back, mountain biking, camping, and drinking beer across nearly 3,000 miles! I’m planning on writing about this amazing trip, now that I have a little more time on my hands.

Leavenworth Washington and Mountain Biking Freund Canyon

After Oakridge, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington, the next stop on our awesome OR/WA Mountain Bike Road Trip was Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is an adorable “Bavarian” mountain town in the Alps-like Washington Cascades. Leavenworth is on the east side of Stevens Pass (both the ski resort and the physical feature) on Highway 2. I drove Highway 2 across the state during college when I was traveling between my hometown of Reardan and Bellingham, so I’ve been through Leavenworth lots of times, and I’ve stayed there with friends and family several times.

Photo from here.
Photo from here.

While the Bavarian theme can be a little cheesy, Leavenworth is an amazing town. In the Leavenworth area, there is great camping (I’ve stayed at Lake Wenatchee State Park), epic backpacking and hiking (the PCT runs by Stevens Pass),  Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River flow through town, so there are swimming, floating and rafting opportunities galore, world class climbing, great food, wineries and beer, and more! The drive along Highway 2 from Everett in the Seattle area is beautiful and is almost worth the trip by itself.

Leavenworth 4
Photo by Greyson Howard

Greyson and I met my parents at Stevens Pass to caravan the last segment of the drive to the rental house. We stopped at a couple of points along the way to stick our feet in the gorgeous (and cold!) Wenatchee River.

Leavenworth 2

Obviously of interest to us this trip was the mountain biking, which Leavenworth is also on the map for. Nearby Stevens Pass offers lift serviced biking (sadly, only on weekends so we missed out by arriving on a Monday) and the epic, 24 mile, 3,000 foot climb and descent on the Devils Gulch Trail is on my bucket list, and there are many more trails in the area. We weren’t sure which of the trails we wanted to tackle! Luckily, two of my best friends from college, Morgan and Tommy, met us in Leavenworth, and Tommy is an avid mountain biker. He recommended Freund Canyon.

Mountain Biking Leavenworth WA // tahoefabulous.com

The trailhead for Freund Canyon is up a gravel road, off of Freund Canyon Rd, parallel to the Chumstick Highway.

Freund Canyon/Rosy Boa Trailhead // tahoefabulous.com
Freund Canyon Trailhead Map via Google Maps

Freund Canyon turned out to be an amazingly fun, featured, and flowy trail with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that are so beautiful, you are slightly distracted from the brutal climb.

Photo by Greyson Howard
Photo by Greyson Howard

It was pretty hot by the time we got on the trail, which did not make the 1,950 foot climb any easier. The climb wasn’t technical at all, just unrelenting. I’m in much better mountain bike shape than I have been in the last couple of years, but it still took me over an hour to do the ~4 mile climb.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

The hour of suffering (Type 2 fun!) was truly cancelled out by the incredible downhill. We lost those ~2,000 feet in about 3.5 miles of fun berms and jumps, well built out of Washington’s amazing dirt. This is one of my favorite trails I’ve ever ridden (even though I don’t jump my bike, except when I get a tiny bit of accidental air), and I was woo-ing it up with pure joy. Some of the berms are built so that you’re turning into the steep, downhill side of the mountain, which felt a little disconcerting (what if the berm collapses and I fly into space?), but for the most part I felt comfortable letting off by brakes a little and flying down the trail. Greyson and I were talking about it later, and decided that the downhill part felt a lot like resort riding without the crowds. It was definitely a very “built” trail.

Trail Map via Strava
Trail Map via Strava

Trail Stats:
Location: Freund Canyon Rd., Leavenworth, Washington
Mileage: 7.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,950 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate
Click here for my Strava route.

We spent a couple of days hanging out in Leavenworth – swimming in the river, drinking beer, eating good food, watching turkey vultures, ospreys and a bald eagle from the deck of our rental cabin, and we even had some very special guests on the morning we left – a mama bear and her two cubs up in a tree. Greyson got some great pictures with his nice camera.

Mama bear. Photo by Greyson Howard
Mama bear. Photo by Greyson Howard
Baby bear. Photo by Greyson Howard.
Baby bear. Photo by Greyson Howard.

Mountain Biking Galbraith: Bellingham, Washington

After an amazing time in Oakridge, Greyson and I pointed north (and west) towards Bellingham, Washington! I went to Bellingham back in February to visit friends and test ride a Transition Smuggler, the bike I ended up buying. I’ve been loving riding my Smuggler all over the Sierra, and I was excited to bring it back “home” to ride on the terrain that it was designed for.

Mountain Biking Galbraith, Bellingham, Wa // tahoefabulous.com

 

While there is a lot of seemingly awesome riding in the Bellingham area, Greyson and I decided to keep it easy and head back to the trails at Galbraith that we had ridden in February. Hopefully, with less taking the wrong trail, backtracking and bonking. Galbraith is an amazing trail network located in the city of Bellingham, just a quick pedal from downtown. The trails of Galbraith have something for everyone – flowy single track, long climbs, wooden features, jumps, drops and more on the sticky, perfect Bellingham dirt. There are more than 50 miles of singletrack on 3,000 acres of privately owned land. Galbraith trails are built and maintained by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Club (WMBC), who have more than 30 years of stewardship on the property. They also have the Joyriders, a women’s ride club that I follow jealously on Instagram.

Galbraith Trail Map
Galbraith Trail Map

I had such an amazing time riding at Galbraith that I didn’t stop to take pictures, even of the gorgeous views of the Olympics and Bellingham Bay, so apologies for the text heavy post. We started at the trailhead on Birch Street, the Galbraith Mountain Bike Park North Entrance, heading up Miranda to the Ridge Trail. When we did this trail in February, we missed the correct entrance and ended up pushing our bikes up a steep, punishing slope (a huge reason that I think I bonked) to join with the Ridge Trail. This time we figured out that we needed to go left up some tight switchbacks, and our hunch was confirmed by a very friendly woman at the trailhead with her dog.

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Trail Map via Strava

After climbing up for ~1.4 miles and ~500 feet, we were back at a familiar trail marker with a detailed map at a nexus of several trails, including Family Fun Center, Upper Bob’s and Cedar Dust. We rode Family Fun Center, a ~0.25 mile trail that’s mostly downhill (with a short climb at the end) until it intersected a fire road. We remembered from February that turning left on the fire road would bring us to an intersection with SST, a Galbraith classic.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

We stopped on the fire road to gear up for the downhill. I probably didn’t need to, but I had just gotten some new, lighter weight kneepads before this trip (SixSixOne Recon, highly recommended, review coming soon). I also had had so much trouble with watering eyes on the Alpine Trail that I wanted to put on goggles to see if that would help. After I was geared up, we hit the trail. I had so much fun on SST this time! At this point in February, I was completely bonked and my confidence was so shattered that I ended up walking so much of this trail, despite it being entirely rideable for me. This time I rode everything, and I rode it well. I could tell this is exactly the type of trail my bike is made for. The twenty-nine inch wheels rolled over all the rooty and rocky drops and the geometry was perfect for the downhills and the short, steep uphills I encountered.

After SST, we rode Backdoor to the road crossing, carried our bikes cyclocross style up a couple of flights of steps and we were back on Miranda for some tight switchbacks on the way down. We ended up the at the trailhead with huge smiles on our faces, and ready for a beer! I had so much more fun riding at Galbraith this time around. Last time, I was on an unfamiliar bike, out of bike shape and not nutritionally prepared. I’ve also improved my riding a fair amount this summer.

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If you’re looking for a short (<4 miles), intermediate loop, this is a really fun one. I got a lot of bang for my buck (aka a lot of fun downhill for the climb) and it showcases the kind of riding Galbraith is known for, with well built trails, a little bit of unpredictability with rooty drops and narrow trees, nice views and great dirt. P.S. Don’t forget to stop by Aslan Brewing Company for a beer after your ride!

Trail Stats:
Trails Ridden: Miranda, Ridge Trail, Family Fun Center, Lower SST, and Backdoor
Location: Bellingham, Washington via Birch St
Mileage: 3.7 miles
Elevation gain: ~750 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate

Mountain Biking in Oakridge, Oregon: The Alpine Trail

I just got back from an amazing road trip, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and beer drinking across Oregon and Washington. I had a great time at all of our stops, both those I’ve visited before and those that were new to me. I’ll be recapping our whole trip over the next couple weeks. Our first stop was Oakridge, Oregon.

Mountain Biking the Alpine Trail in Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Oakridge, Oregon is a small town nestled in the heart of the Cascades and parallels the Willamette River, about an hour east of Eugene on Highway 58.  Oakridge had been a busy logging town, but since the down turn in the logging industry, it had struggled, with many businesses closing and families moving away. Oakridge is a beautiful place, with trails for hiking, camping spots along Salmon Creek, rafting and fishing opportunities on local rivers and streams, and, more recently, trails for mountain biking. Oakridge has become a popular destination for mountain bikers – only 2.5 hours from Portland and a “quick” ~7 hours from the Bay Area and Tahoe. (Greyson and I stopped by the local brewery for dinner and literally everyone eating on the patio was visiting from California.)

Mountain biking and other outdoor adventures are helping to bring some much needed money and business to Oakridge. However, it’s a much more complicated story than “mountain biking saves dying logging town!” – check out this interesting article from NPR:

For decades after World War II, the small town of Oakridge in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon was a booming lumber town. But by the early 1990s, the lumber industry had collapsed, and Oakridge has struggled ever since, losing families and businesses. Now, residents like Randy Dreiling are trying to reinvent the place as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Dreiling owns Oregon Adventures, which offers mountain bike tours. Some 350 miles of trails have earned Oakridge the self-proclaimed title of “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest. Mountain biking is just a piece of the pie. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s what we got. And it’s been good to us,” he says. “Anybody that’s being honest to themselves can see the amount of people mountain biking is bringing to town — more and more every year.”

Greyson found us an awesome campsite, Salmon Creek Falls Campground, about five miles outside of town. We snagged one of the last few first-come, first-serve campsites and set up the tent. This campground has some amazing spots right along the river, but I’m guessing you have to get there early on a weekday to get one of them.

Salmon Creek Falls Campground Oakridge OR

While there are a ton of trails in the Oakridge area, mostly built and maintained by GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), we had decided to shuttle the Alpine Trail, booking a shuttle with Oregon Adventures, a local shuttle and tour company. They describe the Alpine Trail as

Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine.

I pre-booked the shuttle for 8:45 am the next day, so we decided to head in from our campsite for an early dinner and to scope out where we’d be meeting up. We (surprise, surprise) ended up at the only brewery in town, the Brewers Union Local 180. The brewery only has cask ale (or as they claim, the only “real ale” in Oregon) which undergoes a secondary fermentation in a wooden cask. These ales are much less carbonated that a typical IPA (it reminded me of a beer on nitro), and both of the ones we tried were tasty. This was by far the most popular restaurant in town, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a long wait for food and beer, but both were worth it. We even met a group of people we’d be riding the shuttle with (and the Oregon Adventures owner!) at the brewery that night.

Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava
Alpine Trail Elevation Profile via Strava

We met bright and early at the Oregon Adventures parking lot to drop off bikes with the shuttle van, and carpool to the bottom of the trail, a few miles from headquarters. We reconvened with the ten or so other riders, loaded into the shuttle and were off on the ~30 minute ride. The shuttle driver was very helpful, pointing out road crossings and landmarks that we’d use on the ride back, and soon arrived at our destination. While shuttling the Alpine Trail means a mostly downhill ride, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any climbing. In fact, you start off the trail with a ~350 foot climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs.

Alpine Trail Map via Strava
Alpine Trail Map via Strava

After less than a mile of climbing, you come to a flat, grassy field with a narrow trail cut out and beautiful views. I remember commenting to Greyson about how it was hard to ride in such a narrow trail, and that I kept bumping my wheel on the edges. Little did I know that this was just a preview of the majority of the trail width to come!

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Alpine Trail Oakridge Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The day was cool and cloudy, which was nice but I had a real problem with my sunglasses fogging up for most of the day! After the meadow, we rode into the trees and the first of the many downhills. At this point, we stopped to put on kneepads. This was the first of many stops – we definitely did not break any speed records on this trail. One of the coolest things about this trail was that it had some of everything – awesomely sticky Oregon dirt, miles of fast, flowy sections, rocky and rooty drops, long climbs, steep exposure, loose rocky sections, epic views and closed in forest canopies.

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I’m used to the wider trails of the Sierra, so the narrow, more overgrown trails took some getting used to, and I definitely walked some sections of narrow trail that had steep exposure. Luckily, the Alpine Trail seemed to be about 85% fun flow on good dirt, with a smaller percentage of steep climbs, loose rocks, and only a few sections that I needed to walk.

Alpine Trail // tahoefabulous.com

According to my Garmin, we climbed about 1,224 feet over the 13.8 miles (the shuttle cut off some climbing and mileage from the full, official Alpine Trail.) The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. We got a little confused at about 12.5 miles in, where there was a junction. The MTB Project app told us to go right to stay on the Alpine Trail, but we were pretty sure we needed to go left to get back to our car. One of the things our shuttle driver told us at the beginning was “when in doubt, go left.” We went left and followed an obviously newer trail (I think called A.T.A.C., but I’m not 100% sure) that did bring us back to our cars.

We quickly loaded up and headed straight for pizza and beer. The pizza wasn’t amazing, but we were hungry so that didn’t matter all too much. After buying some cans of local beer, we went back to the campsite and spent some time lounging in my birthday ENO hammock for national hammock day.

ENO Hammock // tahoefabulous.com

Salmon Creek Falls campground is next to (no surprise) a creek and a small waterfall. Just upstream from the waterfall was a great, but cold swimming hole. We tentatively waded in, and, once my feet and legs were numb, the water felt great!

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We stayed two nights in Oakridge and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more trails! The town was beautiful, the people were friendly, the beer was good and the mountain biking was phenomenal. That’s all I can really ask in a destination. I loved camping at Salmon Creek Falls, and there are a number of motels in downtown Oakridge. The Alpine Trail was worth traveling for, and it’s a trail I’d love to do again with a little more confidence now that I know what it’s like.

Trail Stats:
Location: Oakridge, Oregon (shuttle with Oregon Adventures)
Mileage: 13.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,200 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate

Weekend in Bellingham Part 1: Mountain Biking and Portlandia

I went to college in (what I consider) the best college town in the US – Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

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Photo from here.

It’s nestled between the North Cascades and the Puget Sound and between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s got easy access to skiing, mountain biking, paddling, hiking, climbing, local beer, live music, art, theater – really something for everyone. Luckily, I have a few friends who have made Bellingham their permanent home, so I have friends to stay with when I go visit.

Flights were cheap, so Greyson and I headed up after work on Thursday for a long weekend jam-packed with activities. Here are just a sampling of the fun things we did.

Thursday:
We got in late on Thursday night, so we headed straight to meet Stacey, Jodi and Beth at the Beaver Inn. The Beave (as we called it in college) is a true dive bar. The drinks are cheap & strong, there’s free popcorn, and don’t bother trying to make friends with Don, the locally-famous bartender.

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Readers Make Better Lovers Book Club meeting at the Beaver.

Friday:
One of the things I really wanted to do while in Bellingham was to test ride a Transition Smuggler. I’m in the market for a 29-er trail bike, and the Smuggler is on my short list. (More on that in a later post!) It’s hard to find Transition demos down in California, but their headquarters is located in Bellingham! They offer bike demos for a $20 donation that goes to Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition for trail building and maintenance.

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Greyson and I got set up and headed to a trail on Galbraith Mountain recommended by the awesome people at Transition. We started from the Birch Street trailhead in a light rain, where we tried out our new Smith goggles.

Full Enduro

I’m so not used to riding in mud and roots and it took me awhile to get my riding legs under me. There are a bunch of social trails, and we ended up climbing up the wrong one! There was a section that was so steep – maxed out at 46% grade! We did eventually make it to where we wanted to be.

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I wore myself out on the climb and bonked a little – I ended up walking more than I should have until I forced down a granola bar. When my blood sugar stabilized I had a blast riding the down SST. The Galbraith Mountain trails are super fun and well built. I really wished I had gotten into mountain biking while I was still living in Bellingham. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to come back to visit a lot.

After biking, Greyson and I met back up with the group for dinner at On Rice. We gorged ourselves on delicious Thai food, and headed to Bellingham Circus Guild to see one of my favorite local musicians, Jason Webley, perform. We didn’t quite know what to expect when we walked in, but I told Greyson that he had to experience the weird parts of Bellingham, as well as the outdoorsy adventure parts. Jason Webley was as awesome as always, playing fun songs on his accordion and guitar. I’d never heard of the headliner, Andru Bemis, before, but he was really talented and I enjoyed his set as well. The other acts…well, as Greyson put it, “That was more Portlandia than Portland.” There might have been a tiny piano, a Huck Finn themed aerial performance, and some truly un-fathomable interpretive dance. We ended our night with a stop at Mallard’s Ice Cream, where I had an amazing scoop of chocolate lavender.  Stay tuned for part two!

Have you ever been to Bellingham? How amazing is it, right?

Trail Report: Mountain Biking Foresthill Divide Trail, Auburn, California

I am lucky enough to get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off, so I had a four day weekend this weekend. I packed a lot of fun into this weekend, and I managed to fit two of my favorite things (beer and mountain biking) into Valentine’s Day. We’ve been having a bit of a dry spell up in the mountains, and while it’s led to fun, spring-like conditions for snowboarding, I was ready to get out of the Tahoe area and find some real spring weather. Greyson had heard some good things about the mountain biking around Auburn, and with the forecast calling for 74 and sunny, we decided to check out the Foresthill Divide Trail.

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Photo via Strava

The trailhead for the Foresthill Divide trail is easy to find – it’s 3.7 miles east from the Foresthill Bridge on Foresthill Road. (Note: Google Maps has the trailhead in the wrong location). From Auburn, the trailhead is on your right with enough parking for 15-20 cars. If you don’t have a California State Parks Pass, it will cost $10 to park. There are porti-potties, but not permanent bathrooms here. They were very clean porti-potties though! There are signs up reminding you to hide valuables and to lock your cars – locals we talked to agreed with that recommendation. Apparently, there have been break ins and thefts at the trailhead. The Foresthill Divide trail is open to horses, hikers and leashed dogs (but not OHVs), so be aware and practice good trail manners. We saw lots of hikers out yesterday.

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Some nice hikers took this Valentines Day picture for us.

The Foresthill Divide Trail is a lollipop with a very short stick, and it is very well marked. There are easily read “Foresthill Divide Trail” signs at every major intersection. As long as you follow these signs and stay on the main trail, you will be fine. After you leave the parking lot follow the signs, you’ll ride about 0.6 miles before hitting the loop part of the trail. The sign here points right, and follow that to do the loop counterclockwise. Pretty much every biker we encountered was doing the loop that direction. You’ll get the harder climbs out of the way sooner, and the steeper sections will be downhill.

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I’m feeling pretty out of shape bike wise, and the thought of lugging my heavy Sanction up ~1,600 feet of climbing sounded pretty miserable to me, so I did some research into whether this ride would be a good candidate for riding my hardtail. To be honest, that is my number one question whenever I am thinking about riding a new trail. Can I ride my hardtail, or do I need suspension? The research I did had me leaning toward hardtail acceptable, so that’s what I brought. Spoiler alert: the trail is definitely doable on a hardtail and it was enjoyable, but next time I will be riding a full suspension bike.

The Mountain Bike Project describes the Foresthill Divide Trail as “A very good intermediate Level XC Trail. Rolling singletrack that’s very well designed and maintained,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. The trail is hard packed dirt for the majority of the length, with a few rocky and rooty sections. The trail definitely had some erosion damage when we rode it yesterday, but it is generally a well built, FUN to ride trail.

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While I enjoy the more technical, rocky trails that Tahoe has to offer, it is just so FUN to be able to let go and ride fast on hard packed, sticky dirt. There are also long, straight downhill sections with lots of visibility ahead, so I felt safe getting my speed up and not worrying about coming up on unsuspecting hikers or horses. While there were rocky sections, none lasted more than a few hundred yards, and there was only one steep, rooty section that I felt like I couldn’t have handled on my hardtail. (There were definitely other sections that I chose to walk due to out-of-bike-shapeness). I said earlier that next time I’d choose to ride a full suspension bike, and that was more due to the bumpy erosion damage and hard packed dirt than the size of the rocks.

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Photo via Strava

While the ride had ~1,600 feet of climbing (according to Strava), none of the climbs were too steep to ride. I definitely stopped for many breaks, but I also haven’t been on a bike since October. You spend most of your time riding through classic California oak woodlands, but you pop out for gorgeous views quite a few times along the way, and we caught a glimpse of the American River a couple of times.

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The only major downside to this trail is the couple of times you have to cross a major road. You cross Foresthill Road at 5.6 miles and again at 10.3 miles. Cars are coming fast, and the corners are a little blind for my taste. We obviously made it across safely, but be careful, because there are no warning signs for cars about bike crossings.

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We had a great time riding the Foresthill Divide Trail, and I definitely recommend it as a good intermediate cross country trail. It would be a challenge for a beginner, but doable, especially if they’re in good cardio-shape. It’s rideable for an intermediate rider, and there’s enough going on that an advanced rider would have fun. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff to do around the Auburn area, and I plan on writing about that in the next week or so.

Trail Stats:
Location: Foresthill, California
Mileage: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,600 feet
Difficulty: Beginner
Click here for my Strava route.
Nisenan Land

My Favorite Helmets – Bikes

I really love my brain. And I do a lot of activities that could damage it. So over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of helmets that cover a range of activities. I’ve tried good helmets and bad helmets, and I thought I’d share my favorites with you. Note: I have a pretty small head for someone as tall as I am – I’m usually a women’s small or medium in helmets.

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Biking

I do both road riding and mountain biking (with a heavy emphasis on mountain biking) and I have different helmets for each pursuit. You can easily wear the same helmet for both, and I did for a long time before purchasing any mountain bike specific helmets.

Road Biking

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I have a Giro Indicator that I bought 4 or 5 years ago for about $40. It’s a great basic helmet for road riding. It has enough vents that it doesn’t get too hot, light enough to be comfortable and adjusts to fit a wide range of head sizes. Giro doesn’t seem to make it anymore, but it looks like there are a few still available around the web.

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For something comparable, Giro TrinityGiro Revel, and Giro Bishop are available at similar price points.

 

Giro Trinity, Revel, Bishop

From L to R: Trinity, Revel, Bishop

Specialized Sierra
Photo by Greyson Howard

Update (July 2016):  It was time to replace my Indicator after 6+ years, and I bought the Specialized Sierra. I wore it for the June Lake Triathlon and I really like it so far.

Mountain Biking

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The first mountain bike specific helmet I ever bought was a really awesome, light full face helmet by Rockgardn for more technical riding, like at Mammoth Mountain, Northstar or Downieville. Many people do rides like these without a full face, but I prefer the extra confidence I get from having my face covered. A couple of summers ago, I crashed at Mammoth hard enough that I needed a new one.  Unfortunately, Rockgardn stopped manufacturing helmets, and I was on the market for a full face helmet that was light, comfortable and safe.

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I got a really amazing deal on a DOT certified One Industries Atom Helmet and tried that out at Northstar last summer. While it does have some advantages – it’s very heavy duty, sturdy and can be used on a motorcycle or dirt bike (neither things I’m interested in), I find it too heavy and uncomfortable for frequent wearing. I’m keeping it around, just in case I decide that I’m going to ride something super hardcore. It would be a good choice for someone who rides bikes and dirt bikes and does steep, high consequence downhill riding.

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This year, Bell came out with a helmet that is basically perfect for my kind of riding – Bell Super 2R. This helmet has a removable chin-bar that can take it from a basic mountain biking helmet to a full face with just a couple of easy steps. (The Bell Super 2R has since been upgraded into the Bell Super 3R, and it’s just as good)

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from bell.com

It’s also got 27 vents, so it’s super cool and really light. The Super 2R is only 24.5 oz, while another light full face, the Giro Cypher is 40.3 oz and the One Industries Atom is 47.6 oz. The Super 2R also has adjustable padding on the inside so you can get the perfect fit.

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I love this helmet and I’ve worn it a bunch of times since I got it earlier this summer. I felt totally protected while riding at Mammoth and while doing the Downieville Downhill. Despite the name, Downieville has a few sections that require sustained pedaling, and it was about 90 degrees the day we did it. The Super 2R stayed comfortable even through that! Another cool technology that this helmet uses is MIPS (or Multi-directional Impact Protection System). MIPS helps to reduce rotational forces on the brain. The Super 2R is available in MIPS (which I have) and non-MIPS (which Greyson has – it fits his extra large head better) versions. Also, if you already have a Bell Super 2 helmet, you can buy just the chin bar to add on.

Mountain Bike Helmets Gear Review // tahoefabulous.com

My last bike helmet is the women’s specific Giro Feather. I wrote a long review of this helmet last summer after I’d been using it for a couple of months. More than a year later – I’m still loving it!

Note: I purchased all of these helmets with my own money, and I didn’t get any discounts beyond sale prices. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!