Potato Mountain … A Loop Around Which Mountain?
The Potato Mountain Loop was recommended to me by Bruce from Backcountry Mountain Sports. I had already enjoyed one of the rides Bruce had recommended (Redfish Lake Loop), so I knew this one would be good too.
After passing through the miniature town of Stanley I traveled 4.1 miles west on Highway 21. Then I turned right onto the dirt “highway” called Fire Road #653. As Bruce had told me, “You can’t miss the turnoff … it is just opposite the turnoff for Stanley Lake.”
Driving about five miles on FR #653 brought me to a junction with FR # 431 and the parking area.
I found only one other vehicle in the parking area, most likely a hiker since I saw no bike rack.
After riding only .3 miles down the Little Basin Creek Trail I came across a smashed cabin.
I saw no signs of fire. (I did find plenty of burned trees on the ride but not in the area of this cabin).
Wind, snow pack or both just flattened it. The chimney was still standing perfectly. I wondered what they were doing there. Searching for gold? Raising cattle? Homesteading? How long ago?
I got an eerie feeling when I looked at the mantle and wondered if it once held family photos. How long ago? Where the residents in the cabin when it collapsed? Was the cabin used as a residence? Just a summer place? Was the cabin an outpost for hunters? Miners? What were the people doing there?
Just less than a mile into the ride I crossed my first stream and began my only significant climb of the day.
At first the Little Basin Creek Trail began to rise steadily. The biking was easy and the beautiful forest made the trip very enjoyable. Nevertheless, at about the two mile mark the trail designer lost his head. I can usually tell when trails are not designed for mountain bikers. I think this one was probably not. Why?
Even though I only climbed 546 feet I had to hike-a-bike some because my skinny little legs couldn’t hack it. Either that trail was too steep or I need a few gear ratios lower than my present 28 to 42.
When attending IMBA’S trail building class the first thing they taught us was to avoid constructing a trail on the fall line (straight up a hill). The main reason being to avoid erosion.
Another principle was to keep the trail under a 10-12 percent grade so people can ride up and not be too steep for riders coming down. Sure, short sections might exceed 10%, but not six tenths of a mile straight up! My calculations for this section are as follows:
546 feet (elevation gained) divided by 3,168 feet (six tenths of a mile of trail) = .1723 = 17.23% climb!!! Enough whining!
Potato Mountain Interactive Map
- Below you will find a map for Potato Mountain.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailhead(s).
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info.
Once at the top the forest cleared and I thought I might finally get my first photo of Potato Mountain.
Which Mountain is it?
But which mountain was Potato Mountain? Since I the first time I had looked at the map (with Bruce) I noticed my entire ride was a large loop around Potato Mountain. My question was, what does Potato Mountain look like? Does it look like a Potato?
I did a Google search and found no photo. Not a single photo of a Potato Mountain!
I found a “French Fry Rock,” the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall found in Denmark. Here in San Diego we have a most popular natural attraction called “Potato Chip Rock.”
But Potato Mountain? Could one my photos below show the true Potato Mountain? How will I ever know!
Riding the Basins
After taking my photo I turned and sped down a narrow, green valley which eventually evolved into a wide, green meadow. I crossed my next stream (called Little Basin Creek) via a small bridge, and then proceeded to ride along the northeastern bank of said stream.
Eventually the meadow narrowed and I found myself pinched between the creek and a rock cliff. In a few places the rock cliff had piled itself in the middle of the trail.
Several side streams joined the Little Basin Creek, gradually adding more inertia to the gently flowing body.
Despite at least 5 stream crossings my feet stayed dry (except for sweat). But that changed when I reached (big) Basin Creek. I walked up and down the shore of Basin Creek, but could not find a log or line of rocks I could use to cross.
As I picked up my bike and began to wade across my mind instantly flashed back to the first time I remembered walking across a creek … the North Umqua Trail with my buddy Steve Wolf. I like to carry my bike above the water no matter how deep. I never want my derailleur or bottom bracket to be submerged in water.
Riding along Basin Creek involved a gorgeous spin down a fire road. Riding the road was quite pleasing until, once again, I found myself walking across the creek. My feet were already soaked from the previous crossing so no big deal.
At one point along Basin Creek Road I came upon a huge rock slide. Fortunately the slide did not cover the road and I was able to easily pass by.
I had to ford the creek one more time when I reached my turn off for Kelly Creek.
The remainder of this Potato Mountain ride entailed ascending along Kelly Creek.
Return to Truck
A gentle three hundred foot climb took me to FR #431, which I knew would bring me back to the truck. After another hundred feet of climbing the road topped out and I was rewarded with a great view of the Sawtooth Range off to the west. I also turned and took another photo of what might have been Potato Mountain behind me.
This Potato Mountain loop is the perfect length for a morning or afternoon ride. I think a person might find this ride to be very difficult in the spring due to higher water levels for the many creek crossings. I loved every aspect of this ride except … not knowing which was Potato Mountain!
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 73 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for this ride … just click on the box below.
Would you like to try this ride? You can copy my GPX file from the Strava Link below.