Biking Capitol Forest in November means sharing the trails with numerous orange-clad, rifle-bearing, F-350-driving, generator-roaring, base-camp glamping, hunter folk whose incessant gunshots echo around the canyons, ridges, and hillsides of the trail, keeping the leery mountain biker and hiker always on their toes. However, one does not ride Capitol Forest expecting to have the entire place void of inhabitants, and the few hunters we did interact with turned out to be a rather unexpected delight; respectful of our space at the campsite – perhaps due to the comparatively minimalist camp setup we had (no generators, RVs, spotlights, or meat rotisseries for us), and awe-struck by our flippant disregard for the muddy, wet conditions November heralds in the pacific northwest.
Mountain biking and hunting are two very different cultures, and after the rather devastating result of the election, it was nice to interact with people likely on the ‘other side’ of the debate who are hospitable and accommodating, a hopeful observation when deflated by the inhospitable and xenophobic rhetoric propagated by the very candidate they support. It’s important to notice the humanizing interactions that link us together in times where dehumanizing language and media coverage attempts to tear us apart.
This was not the focus of our ride, however. If anything, this weekend was a chance to detach from the frustrations of the present state of affairs in our nation and escape into a world of bike nerdery; A chance to detach from our at times stressful professional lives and recharge a world of adrenaline rushes; a chance to build community around common interest and forget about some of the uncontrollable elements of life, if only for a weekend. For outdoor enthusiasts, mountain biking’s chemical cocktail of endorphins and adrenaline is the purest form of therapy.
For outdoor enthusiasts, mountain biking’s chemical cocktail of endorphins and adrenaline is the purest form of therapy.
The Map (Day 1)
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The Ride (Day 1) – Capitol Forest’s Scenic Singletrack Byway
I left work at 3pm and got to Fall Creek Campground around 7:30pm, a normally 2 1/2 hour drive stretched into 4 1/2 hours due to horrendous traffic in Portland. Just as I was scoping out a good campsite, two of our Seattle crew, Brandon and Dan, rolled up and helped in the search as well. We settled on a spot with lots of floor space, as we would eventually have 6 riders in total and four tents.
After setting up camp, starting a fire, and cracking the first of many beers that evening, we all drifted into camp and bike gear talk, our universal language. By 11pm, everyone had arrived at camp and we all grew acquainted through the aforementioned universal language that brought us all together in the first place.
After setting up camp, starting a fire, and cracking the first of many beers that evening, we all drifted into camp and bike gear talk, our universal language.
It rained intermittently throughout the night, but the trails proved to be in pretty rideable condition, all things considered. We started the day with about 10 miles of climbing, after which our least bike-experienced member, Drew, decided to turn around and head back to camp. the rest of us spent the afternoon riding along varying degrees of muddy singletrack, with the occasional shower incapable of dampening our spirits and the ever-present gunshots of hunters and recreational shooters keeping us humble and alert.
We rolled back into camp around 3:45pm, just beating the enveloping darkness of evening, and fell into our regular routines of cleaning off the mud of the day as best we could, cooking, conversing, swapping various brew favorites, and somehow starting a fire despite the rather consistent rainfall that would continue throughout the course of the night. this was the pattern until eventually we all headed for bed.
The Map (Day 2)
Want the GPX version of this map, or just more detail? click here.
The Ride (Day 2) – Larch Mountain Freeride Area
The next day we all woke up to the continued drizzle from the previous night, a precursor for the even wetter conditions we would experience during our ride. After the morning routine, the rain let up and we all enjoyed an entire morning of riding rain free. We spent the morning riding Larch Mountain’s Freeride trails: repeating sections after we became familiar with their various routes, admiring our two downhill expert’s – Dan and Nigel – riding and jump skills, and even foolishly attempting big air ourselves, with mixed results.
While the upper portion of Larch Mountain was quite rideable despite the rain, the lower portion was a muddy mess. We spent the majority of our time repeating the upper portions before calling it a day and heading back to camp. Four of us decided to continue our ride with a short loop, which ended up being an out-and-back due to logging, which for me ended up being a walk back to camp because of a broken chain.
Four of us decided to continue our ride with a short loop, which ended up being an out-and-back due to logging, which for me ended up being a walk back to camp because of a broken chain.
The three remaining riders got back shortly after I did, saying the trails were really too muddy to enjoy anyway, so they didn’t complete the intended route either.
After heading back, packing up, and heading out, we all stopped at Little rock Saloon for some greasy diner food, a great place for those in search of digestive decadence, but for a relatively straight-laced vegan, onion rings and Jo-Jos were a digestive defeat. Still, the place had great beer and was an awesome avenue for reflecting on the weekend’s rides and future rides we could take now that all of our MTB riding community had increased a bit.
I think all of us left this weekend’s riding with a sense of renewed energy and enthusiasm, and a few more MTB riding contacts to add to an always growing list.
Throughout our weekend together, conversation only went down the political rabbit hole a handful of times, usually abruptly cut off with a sardonic quip or dismissive reminder of the weekend’s goal of escape and renewal. I think all of us left this weekend’s riding with a sense of renewed energy and enthusiasm, and a few more MTB riding contacts to add to an always growing list.