Bunchgrass Ridge Trail … Second Best in Oakridge?
The Bunchgrass Ridge Trail was suggested to me by the worker at the Willamette Mountain Mercantile as the second best ride in Oakridge (the first being the Alpine Trail, of course).
He suggested I start a little more to the west than I ended up starting. I chose to start at the Owl Cabin Way Trail. I wanted to enter there because it would add an extra 2+ miles onto the recommended route, and the trailhead looked like it would be easy to find based on the map. WRONG!
Finding the Trailhead
Finding the trailhead for the Bunchgrass Ridge Trail took Cindy and I about an extra half hour, at least! The trailhead was poorly marked and the little sign was only facing the east … we were coming from the west. We drove by it once and never even saw the trail or sign … but noticed it right off on the way back.
The ride was all singletrack through old growth forest. The part I added was a struggle. I did a lot of climbing and the trail was rough and littered with fallen trees. I can see why the bike shop worker hadn’t recommended the Owl Cabin Way Trail.
At one point I came to a picturesque bridge … almost all bridges are beautiful to me. I always take photos of the bridges someone else built so I can cross.
When I reached the intersection of the Owl Cabin Way and Bunchgrass Trails the conditions improved dramatically. Like a skinny, brown thread sewn through a green velvet blanket, the trail wove its way through the forest.
Eugene to Pacific Crest
The trail also became well marked as these segments are all a part of the Eugene to Pacific Crest Trail. I had never heard of this trail and made a vow to check out some of the other sections.
I have since visited the USDA Willamette Nation Forest site for more info. Here is what they had to say about the Eugene to Pacific Crest Trail:
“This concept of providing a continuous trail beginning from Eugene, Oregon to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail began in the early 1970’s. Not all segments of the trail are connected or completed. Eventually it will connect the cities and towns of Eugene, Springfield, Jasper, Dexter, Lowell and Oakridge. Many trail segments already exist, as they are part of the Forest Service trail system.
A variety of terrain is covered as experienced in an elevation gain of 5,100 feet. It follows the Middle Fork of the Willamette River, other streams and goes by numerous lakes, mountains and meadows. The many access points allow the hiker to plan single or multiple day trips.”
About halfway through the ride I began to hear thunder. Before the end of the ride the sky turned a real dark gray and I experienced strong winds. I knew heavy rain was on its way but did not plan on a pounding hail storm!
I met a family when we were at the top of Heckletooth Mountain. We shared the miserable weather … for the top of Heckletooth is where the sky broke loose. I learned they were from Portland. So I guess they were a little more used to this type of weather. In San Diego, we seldom get more than ten inches of rain per year.
I fell a couple of times coming down from Heckletooth. Once, in the middle of a driving rain I passed by the base of an upturned tree and felt (and heard) a loud thud as one of the roots hit me in the right side of my helmet. I had been looking down at a slippery trail and didn’t even notice the appendage. I felt severe pain shoot down the top of my right shoulder and I fell to my back on the opposite side of the trail.
I just lay in the rain and let my body recover a little. I could still move all limbs and I regained my strength quickly … so I got back on the bike and rode.
The other fall came on the descent toward the Fish Hatchery Road. I hit a steep section of trail that angled down and seemed to be composed of clay. My tires didn’t hold and I lay the bike on its side, sliding on my right hip. No pain, just muddied up my shorts!
We came to a couple of junctions near the bottom that were marked, “No Trespassing,” so I waited for the family to come down and asked if going straight was the way. Each time going straight was the correct way … and eventually we ended up on Fish Hatchery Road.
I took photos of my new biking friends, then headed back to town … and then to our RV park.
I was very concerned about the effect of the rain on my electronics. My Contour video camera was exposed to a lot of precipitation as were my Garmin 800 GPS and my Android phone, that I was using to take photographs. Luckily, all managed to make it through the storm and reward me with nice photos, video, and tracking.
I can only remember one other ride where it rained and hailed so hard … that was in Brian Head, Utah. As I recall I was doing Bunker Creek Left Fork.
The following is a slide show for Bunchgrass Ridge … 27 photos in all. I suggest you view them in a full screen.
The map and stats in the following entry were generated by my Garmin 800 Edge GPS unit. You can download my GPX file should you want to follow the track of my ride. Just click on the ride name below and then click on the gear at the top right of the window.