The folks over at Our Mother the Mountain (OMTM) sent word out for the first official “unofficial non-event” gravel ride of 2018, The Hell of the North Plains v3 loop was on tap. Pretty much the first half of this loop was the same last last year, but after we started the climb up Strassel Rd and banged a left onto Ridge Rd, it was a completely different ride. I have to say that I liked the change over last year.
This was my longest ride since the Klickitat ride. I’ve mostly been either commuting or doing 1.5-2 hour rides outside when I can. So the idea of 6+ hours in the cold and potential drizzle…sure why not?
The temps dropped decently by the time we topped out on wildcat mountain and hit the descent down to Timber Rd. This is where it started to get really fun for me. I love to rip those gravel downhills. Dropping down to Timber is a nice series of tight turns on gravel and mud. This year the middle of the road had a nice ridge to it from the logging trucks. Those ridges really made you have to choose the proper timing to setup for the turns. Choose the wrong moment and it could have spelled disaster.
The turn onto Ridge Rd started the all new section over previous year. There was one last impromptu regroup/food stop not too far before the fun crossing over the highway 26 tunnel. I loved this section, it was pretty wet and soggy with some gross mud, a little singletrack and more ripping downhills. This was also the last time I would be riding with anyone for any length of time. I was starting to suffer on the climbs and would then make up time on the descents. I had to pull over a couple times to stop some cramps in my quads and toss on another jacket and warmer gloves. The Hoffman climb was HARD! There was a very small ribbon of dirt on the far right (occasionally switching to the left) of the road for most of the climb, however any deviation from that placed you in some loose and chunky gravel.
We were rewarded with a nice long descent on Sherman’s Mill to Dairy Creek Rd. Once the pavement starts on Dairy Creek it is a subtle downhill to Corey Rd and the last of the gravel and a small climb. By now I was pretty blown. The bonus was that I was only about 45 minutes from home.
I did not stop to chat with anyone when we got back to North Plains. I just kept on slogging along to get home and go grocery shopping with Mia. I was dying every time the road tilted up even the slightest. The small Jackson School climb over highway 26 felt like a 20% grade at this point. I crawled the last few miles home and took a little bit of time to get some food and take a nice hot shower before heading back out for some Freddie Meyer people watching.
Thanks to Ryan and Ron for the work on the route!