Coup up a bunch of Portland Metro area bike riders with snow and frigid temps for a week and they’ll come out in droves for a questionable route and weather forecast. The Hell of the North Plains ride was originally scheduled for last Saturday January 14th, but given the dumping of snow the ride was postponed for 1 week.
I personally had some serious doubts about the ability to ride sections of the route based on my ride and hike up at Stub Stewart on Sunday and Monday this past week. The amount of snow and downed trees had me thinking (and rightly so) that there would be some hike-a-bike sections.
I rode out from my house with John, a fellow commuter to my office building and he lives just down the road from me too. In North Plains it wasn’t long before I saw some familiar faces in Trevor and Carly.
There wasn’t a lot of dilly dallying which was good. We were all quickly on the road as a group and the pace was pretty brisk from the start. A couple “starter sections” of gravel mixed in with flat paved roads started things off.
The first of the climbing started out towards the Kansas City area as we paralleled route 6 (Wilson River Hwy). This was also the start of some of the longer gravel sections and blessedly an almost total lack of automobile traffic.
By this point I had settled into a good little group with Carly, John and Susannah. We were catching some others and being passed by others too.
Once we hit the Wildcat Mountain Rd area we hit more of the “real” gravel sections. I generally think of these areas as no houses and are mainly used by logging companies or forest service personnel. Wildcat was also where I figured we’d run into some of the more questionable conditions……..Yup, we did. Icy roads in a few of the more shaded areas , some trees down and lots of broken branches.
The next few miles were definitely what I expected. Where the logging trucks had yet to travel there was a lot of snow and lots of snapped limbs and trees from last week’s storm. There was also some dicey descents on packed ice as we headed down towards Timber Rd. If you crashed and burned out here it would be awhile before help arrived.
Luckily the hiking section didn’t last all that long. We cut over to another passable logging road and started a long descent running into lots of ice covered roads. I personally found riding the crown of the road to be the best choice as this was at least somewhat clear of ice. The key was no hard or sudden braking and relax!
This was more or less the last picture I took. The long descent to Timber made me wicked cold. Luckily that was soon remedied by the long climb up Strassel Rd. John and I rode the climb with three kids who came up from Eugene. One of them was wearing just shorts! Another had no shoe covers, I felt bad for them. I think they were pretty cold and we didn’t see them again after the next long frigid descent.
The last long climb I was familiar with, but I have done it in the opposite direction. By this point nothing I was wearing was dry or even remotely warm. The climbs helped you be somewhat comfortable (if slow) and the last long descent down Sellers Rd put the nail in my coffin. I was damn cold as we headed into Banks. I used the hand dryer in the bathroom at the Banks-Vernonia trailhead to try to get some of the moisture out of my gloves. It temporarily worked, then it started raining again….
John and I skipped the last few small hills and gravel sections of the official route and headed back the quicker, and flat, way to home. It is still almost 15 miles back to our neighborhood from Banks and we were both pretty beat at this point. This is my longest ride in several months and I was feeling it.
The consensus was definitely to head back in the drier months to do this route again. I look forward to it!
Thanks for reading,