First Impressions of the Oregon Timber Trail: Travel day and Day 1
Nap and rally
The adventure began with a train ride on Thursday, July 13 from Portland. The adventure started as a dream and ended in a nightmare. We were stuck in West Fir for 4 hours due to a freight train vs car collision. Apparently we had to wait for EMS to clear and then for the freight train to be inspected. Needless to say we didn’t make it to Kalamath Falls where we had a hotel booked for the night until 2:45 am. We got checked in and to bed at around 3:15 AM and woke up the next morning at 5:00 to meet our shuttle driver Wes. You see, the start of this trail is not entirely convenient to get to (there is now a new optional start further south in California that you can get to via bus). So, here we were, this leads us to Day 1 of actual riding, very sleep deprived, and anxious to get on the trail.
Our shuttle driver, Wes, who works at Hutches Bicycles in Klamath Falls, instantly won a spot in our hearts as the biggest hero ever NOT ONLY for waking up at the butt crack of dawn to pick us up, AND for making us a communal cup of Portland-style thick coffee, AND for charging our group a VERY affordable price for the shuttle, but ALSO for being a super cool guy and providing the best entertainment on the three hour drive to Lily and Cave Lakes in California. We truly owe him a huge thank you in the form of beer, gifts, favors... whatever he wants, he deserves it! We stopped briefly in Lakeview to grab breakfast at Tall Town Cafe which was more than welcoming to and whipped us up some delicious breakfast to go. And who could beat a $5 breakfast sandwich special that comes with coffee? Total score!
Okay, so fast-forward three hours and a lot of curvy roads, laughs, and chamois cream later and we were on the go. The route begins with an immediate uphill effort, which basically means that I can stop talking about the entire day and and cut to the part where I remember saying, "This day is shit." Needless to say, the ride was difficult to begin with, got more challenging in the middle, and kicked my butt all the way until the end. With the highest point of the route at just under 8.5k ft. elevation and 3.7k ft. elevation gain over 27 miles plus crap ton of over grown single track, to say it was challenging would be an understatement. It took us (me) four hours to go 10 miles and another four hours to go the rest of the way. Why I say it took ME four hours is because I was definitely the weak link in our adventure train.
In my previous post (It's go time!) I may have mentioned that I haven't been doing a lot of training for this adventure because of grad school. Well, guess what? I suffered. I suffered bit time! My lack of fitness (both aerobic and strength cause I had to do A LOT of hike-a-bike, combined with the elevation factor meant that I was gasping for breath most of the time on this first day. My cohorts suffered seemed to suffer a bit less, but actually, they probably suffered just as much, they just went faster at it.
Both of my legs began cramping through my quads followed by bouts of hamstrings seizing up at about mile 12 (after much hike-a-bike). We were close to running out of water and I began to to experience symptoms of heat exhaustion. I took a break in what little shade that was and tried to gather myself while a couple of the others in the group rode ahead to see if the creek really had water or if it had dried up as did many of the other creeks along the way. Once I recovered, Heather and I took a shorter route to the creek and to our amazement, we were rewarded with the cutest and most refreshing trickling stream we had ever seen!
It is truly amazing what a little water can do for morale and immediately our moods were brighter and energies were up! We wisely decided to take the take the gravel road down into Squirrelville Cabins for the night instead of the single track, which was well worth it because we got there right as the sun was setting anyway.
Now, don't get me wrong, I said that this day was shit, and believe me, it was! The riding and the trails were incredibly difficult and there were many times when I pushed my mental and physical fortitude to the limits. But when you descend down that mountain that you've climbed and are greeted by some of the nicest people I have ever met, along with a beautiful sunset and an ice-cold beer, well, that's when you realize that it wasn't really shit, it was just a shit-ton of Type-2-Fun!
Written in collaboration with my fellow bike packer extraordinaire, Aliza Richman