Alpine Trail … Fastest I’ve Ever Done
“We are going to be riding the Alpine Trail,” said Steve, as we cruised north in his Honda Element. I knew we were going to ride some epic trail in Oakridge, but had no idea what it was called. “The guy assured me this was their best trail,” Steve continued.
Steve had made the shuttle arrangements and had agreed to pick me up at our campground, the Twin Rivers RV Park, 4 miles outside of Roseburg. We had decided to drive just his car to Oakridge, and then hire a shuttle to bring us to the top of the Alpine Trail. Cindy liked the shuttle idea since she could sleep-in, and then use our Tundra for her activities later in the day.
Length: 19.89 miles
Steve was not real happy with the shuttle departure time … 9:45 am, for he liked to hit the trail by 6:30 am. I was actually glad to hear we would be starting late for I had scheduled some work to be done at the Willamette Mountain Mercantile (bike shop) in Oakridge. I had replaced my chain before my previous ride which had caused a lot of trouble. Many people will tell you to replace the chain rings and cassette when you replace the chain. I didn’t do that (couldn’t afford it).
The problem was the small chain ring. That ring didn’t want to let go of my new chain (often called “Chain Suck”) so I couldn’t use my small ring. I had done 36 miles of the North Umpqua Trail with 10th gear being my lowest. So I had to have my smallest chain ring replaced.
So Steve picked me up at R.V. park at 7:00 am to set out to Oakridge, over 100 miles north east of Roseburg. I enjoyed the commute as it gave us time to rehash our North Umpqua ride (two days previous) and talk about the upcoming Alpine Trail.
We arrived in Oakridge 45 minutes early so we went to a McDonald’s to get some decaf. Steve got the last of the pot so I had to wait for a new one to brew. When I got my cup (10 minutes later) I looked to see which table Steve had sat … at but I didn’t see him anywhere. Finally I looked outside and found him pacing back and forth on the sidewalk by the front door, probably anxious to get started.
The Bike Shop
At about 8:45 we went over to the bike store to be the first in line. The worker had promised me I could get the ring replaced in plenty of time to make my 9:45 shuttle.
While waiting, another fella pulled up and jumped out of his truck. We noticed he had a racing Cream Puff sign on the front of the bike in the back so we asked him about the Cream Puff race that took place the previous day. He was an older man, in fact he said he had competed (and won) the 50+ age bracket.
While speaking with this guy, a young kid that I estimate to be 18 years old came and opened the shop. Just as he cracked the front door open, this overweight, ridiculously dressed 50 year old man pushed his way in. I can’t even describe the hat he had on.
He immediately started asking the kid questions, like, “Is my bike ready yet.” The kid went to look for it and came around the corner rolling this pink and white beach cruiser. When the kid told him it was going to be $142 he said, “That can’t be right! The guy yesterday said it would be $100. So the kid studied the work order stuck onto the bike and said, “It looks like maybe they had to do a little more work on it.” The round guy then said, “Why did they put those tires on it?” The kid asked him what kind of tires he wanted, and the guy told him some brand I had never heard of. The boy said, “I think they must have put these on because we don’t have any of the ones you mentioned.”
I Tried to be Patient
All this time I am standing at the counter waiting, hoping I don’t miss my shuttle to the Alpine Trail. Then the big man asks what kind of lock he should get. The kid responds by walking around the counter to the section of wall next to the front door, where the locks are hanging. The round guy says, “What kind do you think I should get?” The kid shows him a cable lock with a combination. The big guy then says, “Don’t you have this type but with the key instead of the cable?” The kid says, “No, we don’t carry those anymore.” The man replies, “but I have got to have a lock with a key, I can’t remember a combination!” Then the kid says, “Then buy on of these,” holding up the big “U” shaped one. “No, I have to have one with a cable!”
I had finally had enough. I interrupted their conversation saying, “I hate to interrupt, but I have a shuttle leaving in 20 minutes and I was promised I could get my small chain ring replaced in time.” The kid looked up, and immediately left the guy at the locks. I admired the kid for his patience but I think he was glad to have an excuse to leave the big guy and help me.
They had set aside the chain ring the evening before, as they had promised, and the kid did the job quickly. The chain ring, including installation, cost me $15. While the kid was working on my bike another bike shop employee came in and I noticed the big customer following him around, demanding to be served.
We made the shuttle (a couple of blocks west of the bike shop) with plenty of time to spare as the tour people didn’t show up until exactly 9:30 (we were told the shuttle would leave at 9:30). This really irked Steve.
As we began to check-in I asked the shuttle guy about the trail we would be riding. He said we would be doing the Alpine Trail (TR 3450); a 15+ mile piece of Oakridge’s finest. I bought the area map for $12 (same price as in the bike shop) so he could show me where to start. Steve then asked the guy how we could add more miles, so the guy took my map and showed him where we could do an extra loop at the top, a part of the Alpine Trail the rest would most likely choose not to do.
Please enjoy this interactive map of the Alpine Trail. We were shuttled to Kate’s Cut-in by Oregon Mountain Biking.
- Below you will find a map for Potato Mountain.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
Have you done the Alpine Trail? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
To do the extra loop we would enter the Alpine Trail at Kate’s Cut-In (like everyone else) but go 3 miles east on the Alpine Trail (while the others headed west). We could then ride the 3 miles back on a fire road (FR 1912) to complete a loop. Steve liked the idea, and then asked how else we could add miles. The fellow showed how we could travel to a place called Cloverpatch Butte by riding the Tire Mountain Trail (TR 3485) and then loop back to the Alpine Trail taking the Cloverpatch Trail (TR 3457) and then climbing up a newly constructed trail … adding another 4 to 6 miles.
Our bikes joined 11 others on the back and top of a large van. The shuttle cost $25 per person. I paid Steve’s portion to compensate for the cost of gas for his car.
I ended up getting a window seat in the van and was joined by a young, tall, athletic looking man. He said he and his family (wife and 3 kids) were staying at an RV park in Oakridge and had visited Crater Lake the day before (the same day Cindy and I had visited).
We talked about how the lake all but disappeared in late afternoon due to the smoke from the various forest fires around Grants Pass (to the south). He seemed like the nicest young man, but I never asked his name.
Once we made it to Kate’s Cut-In the van stopped and we all piled out, anxious to get on the Alpine Trail. Some people jumped right on their bikes and took off. The rest of us kind of hung back, waiting for someone else to initiate some action.
We entered the trail, turned right at the sign, and rode up a hill to begin the extra loop. We were joined by a man and woman, who we quickly learned to call Lee and Nancy. Everyone else turned left at the sign not choosing to do the “extra credit.”
Lee the Rider
Lee proved to be a very nice guy and a very fast rider. I tried to keep up with him … I gave it my best effort, but only occasionally caught clouds of (his) dust. I got a good chance to speak with Lee as we waited for Nancy and Steve to come along. They were about the same speed and hung together well.
We hit a couple of unexpected fire roads which temporarily threw off our navigation, but Lee figured it out and then off we went.
The upper portion of the Alpine Trail passed through several small clearings with thick wildflowers … maybe as thick as the ones I had encountered in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Lee … The Teacher
I thought the climb up the fire road wasn’t bad. Lee and I rode side-by-side and got a chance to know each other a little. I found he was a structural engineer and had a consulting business in Seattle and another office in San Diego. He also seemed to know a lot about forestry. He showed me how certain sections of forest contained huge (old growth) trees while other sections had trees only 20-40 feet tall.
He said the lumber rights were mostly divided into rectangular pieces of land … and that was why I could see straight lines dividing old and young trees.
He also taught me something about the forest I’d never known. At one point he said, “Why do you think the trunks of those trees are bent like that,” pointing off the trail. I said, “Because they accidentally started growing at an angle, then had to straighten to reach up to the sun?” He then went on to explain.
“A tree starts growing straight up, like normal. But then the soil and root ball slumps,” (slides part way down a hill), “leaving the tree growing at a sideways angle. The tree continues to grow, but once again must grow straight up. That causes the curve.”
Shuttle Still There
When Lee and I got back to where the shuttle van had dropped us off (Kate’s Cut-In) we were surprised to find … the shuttle van. It had not moved since we had vacated. We tried to remember whether the driver had brought a bike … maybe he had ridden down Alpine Trail and would get the van later … or … or maybe he had gone for a hike? Did something happen to him?
The next person to show up was Nancy, then Steve. When Steve rode up he told us his bike was making grinding noises from down below, in the lower bracket. So I offered, “When my bike was making a grinding noise down there my lower bracket was shot.” I added, “I had to have a shop in Mammoth replace it … summer before last.”
Lee said Nancy’s bike had made a similar sound and he tightened the bolt on the crank which seemed to solve the problem. Steve’s cranks and chain rings were quite different than Nancy’s, but Lee offered to try to tighten a bolt on the end of a crank coming out of the lower bracket. Lee got out his hex wrench, found the bolt was indeed loose, and tightened it. Steve got back on the bike and tried it, then came riding back saying that Lee’s work hadn’t solved the problem.
“Will it hurt it more if I keep riding it,” he asked. I grew up watching my dad and older brother fix cars, as they are both auto mechanics. But in no way do I claim to be any kind of mechanic. But I offered, “If it is your lower bracket, then I think it could cause some real major damage if the outside part of the bearing (the race) starts to turn. If the bearings bind up … it could turn the race … and … if the race spins I think it will damage the carbon fiber structure around it.” He decided he would keep riding it and see what would happen.
Climbs … Then Downhill
As we got ready to leave Lee stated that he was glad we had done the extra loop, that he had really enjoyed the downhill part. I told him I liked following him down. I had tried to keep up with him but each time he had quickly pulled away.
Just like the extra loop the regular portion of the Alpine trail starts out with a couple hundred feet of pretty steep climbing. We were a little gassed when we finally reached the top, but with a little rest … and a whole bunch of downhill … our spirits were quickly restored.
We waited on the road next to a pick-up truck and a guy who looked to be camping. We already knew the next section of the Alpine Trail was supposed to be the best of the day. (During the shuttle our driver had pointed out how we would enter in front of the pick-up truck. The young fellow sitting next to me had asked, “Is that the section called Jedi?” The van driver confirmed that statement and said, “The Alpine Trail doesn’t get any better than the Jedi section.”)
Click Jedi to read about the best piece of trail in Oakridge, and the remainder of the Alpine Trail.