Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Winter Shred!

Looking southeast across the Wilson River at Highway 6. 

This last weekend I braved the inclement weather along with the Hymanator to explore a portion of the Wilson River Trail. The forecast called for rain, so we packed up our mountain bikes and hit the road early in an attempt to avoid the worst of it. Unfortunately, we failed in that task. We did, however succeed in having a good ride and a good time.
 The Wilson River runs west along Highway 6 to Tillamook, starting just below the crest of the Coast Range at Brown's Camp. The trail runs for about 20 miles, starting at the Elk Creek campground and ending about 5 miles west of the Tillamook Forest Center. It's mostly single track, with a few short road connections and there are some significant elevation gains where you swing high above the river to traverse rocky outcroppings.
 We parked at the Footbridge trailhead, a few miles past the Forestry Center. This  is a popular swimming hole in the summer months, but on a rainy day in March, we had it all to ourselves. One of the reasons I had picked this particular trail was that even though the Coast Range receives heavy rainfall, the WRT (yeah, that's what I'm calling it now) has good drainage and is less susceptible to erosion and rutting making it a good option in winter and spring. We saddled up and rode a hundred feet down the highway shoulder to the actual Footbridge and crossed over.
The Hymanator warily modeling the spring selection of footbridges.
A short transverse trail connects the base of the bridge to the actual trail. A sign warned of a closure shortly down trail to the west, so we decided to head east and see how it went. It was already raining, but a fairly light drizzle that was barely noticeable under the trees. I had ridden a portion of the trail leading up to King's Mountain before and it had been a steep ball buster, so I was hoping this portion would be a little more forgiving. My initial hopes were briefly confirmed, but soon dashed as the single track quickly grew steep and rocky, but fortunately mostly rideable. After crossing a ridge about 300 feet above the river we began to descend.
This is looking up at a waterfall that crossed the trail at the top of the first ridge.
The trail was in surprisingly good condition for early spring. No wash outs or big branches across the trail. There were, however many tight switchbacks. We switchbacked our way back down to just above the river where the terrain opened out into a fairly wide and flat bench that made for fun and fast riding. Another mile brought us to the aforementioned Tillamook Forest Center. I would have taken a picture of this and a number of other things, but I didn't want to risk my new camera in the rain.
Apparently they have bats.

 We passed the Forest Center, and another mile brought us to the Jones Creek campground, followed closely by another sharp climb over a ridge to the Diamond Mill OHV area. OHV is a fancy guvmint term for motorsickles and other sweet gasoline powered recreation devices. Fortunately, the area was closed to motorized traffic so it was quiet except for the increasingly heavy rain. At Diamond Mill the trail crosses back over the river and climbs toward Kings Mountain.
The bridge leading to King's Mountain
We chose this as our turnaround point as the rain wasn't showing any signs of letting up, and we still had 6 miles and a thousand feet of climbing before we were back at the car. After wolfing down a sandwich and snapping a couple of pictures we headed back.
The river underneath the Diamond Mill bridge.

 On the return trip, the trail was noticeably wetter, especially on the parts closest to where we started. On the way out, we had passed through only a brief stretch of mud after Jones Creek, most of the trail was firm if a little wet. No longer. There were large patches of standing water, though little actual mud. I didn't realize until we arrived back at the trailhead that I was completely soaked, and more than a little muddy. Ahh, mountain biking!
 Wilson River Trail Map

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