2-Day Bikepacking Trip in Bend, Oregon: Phil’s Trail and the Bend Trail Network

Stepping Up to a Threshold

This summer marks a major transition in my life: the transition from High School English Teacher to High School Counselor.  Having officially completed my teaching career last week, I planned to celebrate by exploring some of the trail network in Bend and allowing my overstimulated ‘school brain’ some time to unwind.

While I do some of my best thinking when on the trail, I also find that I am best at being present-minded while riding, and this trip proved to be especially helpful in re-positioning the cacophonous voices that compete for control in my life from clanging symbols to soothing white noise, allowing them to occupy an important, yet smaller, periphery of conscious space, which I took with me home.

This trip also occurred just after the loss of one of our cats, Syrah, who enriched our home for six years.  He had been missing for a few weeks, so our household wasn’t exactly hopeful for his return, but a rather mutilated paw I found while doing yard work provided rather irrefutable evidence that he was indeed gone. So, along with the excitement and anxiety of a new job, I also couldn’t help but dwell a bit on the loss of one of our beloved house members.  R.I.P. Syrah.

The Map

Day 1

Want a GPX version of the map, or just more detail? Click here.

Day 2

Want a GPX version of the map, or just more detail?  Click here.

Riding Solo

Since I did this ride on a Tuesday and Wednesday, none of my normal riding companions could join me, so I rode it solo.  While some people may see this as a bit irresponsible, I believe it is permissible if you are riding on somewhat well-used trails, and the trails I rode on this particular trip are VERY well-used.  I greeted and met a number of riders on the trail, and never felt worried about getting ‘stranded’ if something went wrong.

Bikepacking Rep?

A few of these meet and greets were worth noting, in my opinion.  As I chatted with an older mountain biker on my first day, he looked at my decked out bikepacking rig and said, “That’s the future of biking right there.”  I had to laugh to myself a bit at this comment, as I still get more confounded looks than friendly ones when I lumber by under 20 pound soft-tails with my behemoth bike.  Still, glad to hear of at least one bikepacking advocate.

Another notable chat centered on a Bend local who was enamored with my setup and said he had a friend who would have been drooling had he come along with him on this ride.  Apparently his friend loves the idea of bikepacking, but hasn’t gotten around to actually trying it yet.  So perhaps I’m wrong; maybe bikepacking is the future of mountain biking.

My final notable chat was with one of my favorite counseling professors, Chris Moore.  Ironically, I had an inkling to email Chris and see if he was available to join me, as he is also on the school schedule, and I have randomly run into him at various bike-related events, but this one takes the cake.  As I was getting my fire started and dinner ready, someone at the top of the trail yelled down, ‘Ben!’  After my unresponsive gaze conveyed an obvious lack of recognition, Chris yelled out his name and we then proceeded to check out each others’ sweet new rides (we both bought new mountain bikes around the same time) and chat about current sundries in our lives.

The Ride

The ride itself was a whole lot of fun.  It was one of the first rides in a while that I can say was actually successful in its intended route… at least mostly.  I did decide to cut out a rather large chunk of riding up closer to Bachelor and Tumalo simply because I was running into small patches of snow up at 6,500 feet, and those trails were all higher in elevation than that.

The first shelter I came across on my ride: Sector 16 Shelter.

And then the shelter I decided to stay at: Swede Ridge Shelter.

Not a bad view from the Swede Ridge Shelter.
I did a snow-bikepacking ride to this same spot this winter; Tumalo Falls definitely looks different this time of year.

Started running into snow patches at the top of North Fork and Mrazek Trails.

The end of the Mrazek Trail had some pretty cool technical ridge riding, as well as a STEEP descent.

Additionally, two sections of trail – the Mrazek Trail on day 1 and the Flagline Tie and eastern Flagline Trail on day 2 – were both infested with downed trees.  Those sections required more hike-a-bike than riding, which is always a bit of a bummer, but overall, I can’t complain.  After some of the mishaps in previous rides this winter, a bit of tree hopping is welcome respite.

Yep. The trail really is somewhere underneath this tree.

I stayed the night at Swede Ridge Shelter, a beautiful shelter that overlooks what I believe was Broken Top.  The shelters around the Bend Trail Network are all first come, first served, but I don’t know if they get a whole lot of use during the week.  Nobody had claimed any of the four shelters I came across throughout the course of my two rides at least.

While it’s always fun to share this kind of experience with a riding partner, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to be present in the solitude of my surroundings, allow the chaos of the future subside into calm, and find gratitude in the small comforts of camping and aloneness.  More of these to come this summer, I’m sure.

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