Taking a ride on the wet side. THE GRASS IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PASS
Alan and Bev Abbs are ultra runners from Red Bluff, Calif. who came to Bend a couple of years ago to compete in the Raid adventure race held here. That same weekend, they read an article in the local paper about the secretly great trails in nearby Oakridge. They decided to check it out for themselves on their way home and ended up buying a house there. Why? They were impressed with the endless miles of trails available and liked the idea of a respite from the hundred-degree-plus heat of California. I caught up with the Abbs on a recent weekend in Oakridge. The previous weekend, they were supposed to compete in the Western States 100, the granddaddy of ultramarathons, but it was cancelled for the first time in its history because of the raging wildfires in California. Bev was nursing a sore knee from overtraining anyway, so they planned a weekend of mountain biking cross-training in Oakridge and invited me to try to keep up with them.
The trails of Oakridge, a 90-minute drive from here, represent a nice change of venue for Bend riders and trail runners as well. We seem to have a narrow window when our trails are snow-free, yet not dusty. Just on the other side of the Cascades, you find lush vegetation which keeps the trails cool and shady and in excellent condition all summer long (though mud is an issue in the shoulder seasons). The first day, the Abbs' took me on a 35-mile ride that started with a grueling 2,500-foot climb, but the twisty, wildflower-lined singletrack descent down the Alpine Trail made it all worthwhile. The next day we wound the spring again with a steep 1,500-foot climb in order to descend the Larison Rock Trail. There are rides with less climbing in Oakridge (apparently the Abbs' don't do them), notably the epic 30-mile long Middle Fork Willamette Trail.
I guess the cross-training worked. Bev came in second overall at the Tahoe Rim Trail Run last weekend and became Masters National Champion for 100-mile endurance running. Her description of the race: "Ugly, painful, hot, altitude sickness, knee/IT band flare up, vicoden, throwing up, almost passing out. Oh, but it was good."
If you are an ultra-runner and think that sounds like heaven, check out the Where's Waldo 100K Ultramarathon, coming up August 16, which will be the USA 100K Trail Running National Championship. It is a challenging loop-type course starting at Willamette Pass Ski Area at an elevation of 5120 feet, climbing up several mountains including Fuji, The Twins, and Maiden Peak before returning to the ski area. The route is 97 percent single-track trails with some fairly remote sections and has many incredible views of pristine Waldo Lake. For more information, visit www.wpsp.org/ww100k.
For ultra-mountain bikers, Oakridge is home to the Cascade Cream Puff 100 (I love that name!) endurance mountain bike event held in June every year. If you missed that, you can still sign up for Mountain Bike Oregon, to be held August 15-17. For more information about MBO, a fully-supported three-day tour, visit www.MtBikeOregon.com.
For those of you who want lots of both running and mountain biking, with a kayaking bonus, the Big Blue 24-hour adventure race will be held in Oakridge August 9-10. For more information, visit www.bigblueadventure.com.
HELP BUILD MORE TRAILS
Have you noticed how crowded it is at Phil's Trailhead these days? In case you haven't heard, a much-needed new 30-mile trail system is going in at Wanoga. Now is your chance to pitch in. The FootZone has teamed up with the trail-building gurus at COTA for some evening trail building work. RSVP to Superdave@footzonebend.com and meet at the FootZone at 5:30pm on August 7 to carpool up. Bring some work gloves, eyewear, long pants, sturdy footwear, water and a Can-Do attitude.