Since moving to Oregon, Ian and I have taken to the road south and spend a long weekend in Sunriver with a group of his work friends. Ranging anywhere from 10 to 18 people deep, these trips have become an annual tradition for us and are known to get pretty rowdy – both in the skiing and in the apres-ing. Suffice it to say, a good week of detox is usually necessary after the yearly trip and I have yet to get home on Sunday without a lingering hangover and aches all over.
The skiing conditions range year to year, as is typical for February in Oregon, and we’ve had everything from epic pow weekends at Mt. Bachelor to rainy mornings, designated drinking days, and sketchy backcountry tours. In preparation for a less-than-ideal forecast going into this year’s trip, Ian made the call to pack our bikes – and I’m so glad he did. Taking advantage of the dissipated weekday crowds, Friday was spent hot-lapping groomers and hitting the mini park at Bachelor. Despite some snow showers throughout the weekend, the avalanche conditions showed dangerous melt crust with a dusting on top and paying $109 for a day ticket didn’t entice us to spend more than one day at the resort.
So come Saturday morning, while the majority of the group opted to spend the day in Bend, three of us took to the local trails. Luckily, a mellow morning and the residual late departure left most of the overnight freeze thawed and the conditions down the road at Horse Ridge were ideal for some two-wheeled fun. Our expectations weren’t high, and so we were pleasantly surprised to find that the dirt was tacky and even the remaining ice on the singletrack was firm and ridable. We did make the mistake of taking the ‘shortcut’ to the top, which included a 2 mile hike-a-bike up almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain sporting plenty of slippery mud, but once we caught our breath and grabbed a much-deserved snack at the top the day unraveled into a great time complete with fast, flowy trails broken only by the occasional rock garden or impromptu photo session.
Sunday ended up following a similar suit, as both Ian and I hate are stingy paying ticket prices to spend a day dealing with crowds and lift-lines. And since a backcountry snow mission was still not looking like the best option, we loaded up our bikes again, recruited two more friends to join in, and set off for the Smith Rock area.
Upon arrival, Ian and I had a fun little photo session near the Misery Ridge Trailhead. True to the area, fun rocky steps and awesome dirt lined a short section of trail and Ian warmed up his bike legs with a few laps down overshadowed by the legendary, looming rock walls of Smith Rock. Things were looking up for the day, and the group stoke was tangible in the air as we began to make our way over to the Gray Butte Trail – a ride that we had done once before a couple of years back and had loved!
Little did we know we would be embarking on one of the, if not the, worst rides to date. A slight snow flurry combined with gusts of icy wind met us at the trailhead, and we hustled to get ready so that we could start moving and keep warm. The uphill was slated to be approximately three miles on the access road followed by another few miles of singletrack up to the top of the trail before beginning the incredibly fun down. But soon we found that the access road was in terrible shape. No joke, within a mile of the progressing uphill climb all of our tires had become so caked in mud that our fenders were rendered useless and wheels were jammed. Even walking your bike became impossible once gears were coated, and regular stops were required to carve the gook off our bikes with sticks and reassemble our chains.
At the transition point for the trail from the access road, we all opted to switch plans and hit a shorter trail that would avoid more uphill and allow us to still have some fun enjoying some downhill. Or so we thought…fast forward to 30 minutes later and we were back walking our bikes uphill on this so-called downhill route, only this time the thick mud was complimented by a whole lot of horse shit.
In all, we rode around 9 miles in 2 hours – and only around five minutes of this ride had provided what we had set out for initially: the downhill! You know when people say it was “uphill both ways, in the snow…”. Well I can officially say that we had one of those days, only the snow was missing and all we were left with was shit on our shoes and a very Type-B adventure story that we’d hopefully laugh about one day. The ‘funniest’ part: the skiing at Bachelor was REALLY good that day. Ha. Ha. Ha.
The moral of the story here is to roll with the punches. Weather is never controllable, and adventure plans are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. To be prepared for poor conditions is always key, and taking advantage of those conditions to make the most out of every day is always on our minds. Poor snow? Go biking, even when it’s a ski trip. Looks like decent snow but you don’t want to pay for a lift ticket? Go biking. Just be ready to deal with the retrospective possibility that you likely should have just given in, spent the cash, and gone to mountain.
And despite Sunday being a brutal day that could have easily been avoided and replaced with for lift-service pow turns, I can honestly say that I am happy we went biking. You can’t win ’em all, and hard days just make the good days that much better.